Cultic Christianity Part 2: Signs and Signals

If you find yourself looking for a church or you’ve suddenly become wary of the Church you are currently in, here are some signs to look for to make sure you are not walking into a twisted scripture type-of church. If you want background as to why I am writing this series check out this  Post, Cultic Christianity: Part One.   If your church does any of these things or a mix of them, there is a possibility that you are in a “twisted truth” church.

  1. They say “We are THE church”, or “We are the TRUE church”, etc.
    1. This one is the most important because there is no such thing as a true church. God never instructed one specific church to attend in the Bible, in fact, he addresses his believers as the church. This means the church is a metaphorical symbol, not a building. You can have church in the forest, a classroom, and even on a boat. All of His believers are his TRUE church, not any specific congregation.
  2. Telling you that other churches teach false doctrine.
    1. This is important because remember that no specific church holds this ultimate power to perfectly translate the bible. Most people have come to the same consensus about what it means so if one particular group has an entirely different stance they most likely are twisting it for their advancement.
  3. Demanding you to tithe
    1. Tithing means to give 10% of what you earn to the church (an Old Testament Practice)
    2. New Testament says we should give the amount that the Holy Spirit calls us to give
    3. Demanding payment vs graciously giving is a sign that they just want money. It also erases any room for the Holy Spirit to work on your heart. Giving to the church is important but it shouldn’t be a standard requirement for your membership/attendance
    4. If you are unsure about your churches stance of giving monetarily, talk with your pastor, priest, preacher or elder in your church
  4. They have particular rituals for how you get saved
    1. For my church it was baptism, anyone without baptism did not go to heaven (Which, biblically speaking, is wrong)
    2. If they say without doing specific tasks you will not go to heaven, check your bible!!! Never take what your pastor or priest says as complete truth. Sometimes it is just a mistake or confusion. Talk to them about it and if it still seems off, do your own research. Pray about it!!
  5. They command to know every detail of your life
    1. Discipling is good and healthy but being intrusive and strict is unhealthy. Know the difference.
    2. If you can’t come to a specific event due to conflicting schedules and they demand to know why not.
    3. If they show up at your door, school, workplace, or blow up your phone for not being at service and respond with guilt or shame. That is not okay
  6. Family
    1. If they say that it is okay to abandon your family for the church
    2. If they say your family is not going to heaven because they go to a different church
    3. That your family needs to attend this specific church to be saved.

These are just some of the big signs you should be looking for. If you are not sure about your church, check to see if it is on Cult Watch. Seek advice from other Christians and pray about where you go to church. Be safe and keep seeking Jesus.  – Lex

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List the People You Most Want to Be Like.

  • Jesus Christ
    • This one is clearly obvious
  • Audrey Hepburn
    • for her classiness and charity work
  • Alyssa Bethke
    • Her devotion to the Lord and her positivity about marriage in an anti-commitment society.
  • Sarah Lemkus
    • Her love for Jesus, Children, and a conscious living lifestyle
  • Mary – the mother of Jesus.
    • Her obedience to the God to carry His son.
    • Her willingness to go against cultural norms for the Lord.

I think it is so incredibly important to have positive role models in your life. These role models should embody your beliefs.  A role model should be someone who leads you closer to God and doesn’t become your God. Evaluate who you surround yourself with, if you don’t want to be like them, you don’t need them in your circle. God bless – Lex

 

Cultic Christianity : Part One

At this time last year, I was in a cult. Shocking huh? What I had believed to be my forever church ended up being a place of captivity. Those who I believed to be my friends, ended up being commanders of how I decided to live my life. This life I had been living for a year ended up being one of most concerning eras of my life. The International Church of Christ had me in chains, attached to their doctrines and twisted scripture.

I started attending the Pioneer Valley sector of this church (Chicopee, MA) around March of 2016. I went in with hopes of finding a Bible-based church and was recommended this place via my psychology teacher in high school. I remember stepping into the lobby of the church and everyone was overwhelmingly friendly. I was handed a little goody bag full of essentials, a Bible, a free hot chocolate with a pastor and resources. I sat in the worship hall alone until my teacher plopped down next to me and embraced me. I felt loved. I stood up to sing these modern and awesome songs. They were upbeat and in modern English which is something new to me. All the speakers were so excited to be there and ambitious. The hip pastor gets on stage. He is funny. Intriguing. Modern. All the things that draw us in. After service is done, all the members stay and fellowship for an hour. The sense of community there was incredible. I had never seen church members actually become friends. I wanted that.

I continued to attend service for a few weeks and then I witnessed an event that would change my life. I saw a member get baptized and everyone cheered. I mean, they said he entered the kingdom of God. It was beautiful so I turned to my teacher and asked what I had to do to be baptized and she said: “You have to go through Bible Study”.

This is where I start getting sucked in. I had never opened a Bible before, so whatever they told me, I took word for word. I was told baptism was my only way to become a true Christian, that this church was the only one going to heaven and that all other churches were fraudulent. I believed it because I had nothing to compare it to and I trusted my teacher to steer me in the right direction. I continued these studies until August which is when I had my last one with the head pastors wife. She explained that in my future relationships there should be no kissing until the wedding day because it was not pure. She gave me okay to get baptized and I was dipped into the water.

While at that time I thought I was being cleansed of all my sins and entering the Kingdom of God, little did I know I’d be drowning in their strict doctrine and excessive man-made rules. I was baptized on August 22nd, 2016 and I moved into school August 26th, 2016 where they made sure to set me up with their sister church in Fairfield CT. I met with the kids on campus who were part of the church and felt so at home. I had built in friends, a family even. This is where things start to feel heavy.

During my first week there, I met with the Campus Ministry leader of the Southern Connecticut Church of Christ. She told my anxiety was a sin, that I needed to share regardless of my anxiousness, and that in fact what she was doing (sharing on campus) went against the law. I also heard from one member that it was okay to break the law as long as it Glorified God. Interesting, I know. On top of all this, I was handed a calendar of events from the lead student on campus.

We met every Monday for activities on either my campus or Southern Connecticut State University. Wednesdays were mid-week. We would drive a half hour to Fairfield CT and sit with all the women of the church and discuss topics. Thursdays were Bible talks, a half hour session of Bible discussion in the heart of our campus. Friday’s were another campus crew get together where we met and played games and had fun. At this rate, I only had Tuesdays and Saturdays to myself. Those two days, however, were utilized to recruit and invite people to our Thursday night Bible talks. This is how we were expected to “share our faith” even though it felt more like a business venture. Having to hit a quota of ten people every time I went sharing.

This all seemed fun at first. I was making friends, I was surrounded by people who loved Christ, and I got to enjoy being a Christian. This was all until good until we hit October. In October we have this event at my school called Midnight Madness. I wanted to attend our school’s pep rally instead of an out of the blue church activity but my church group had other plans, I was bombarded with phone calls that consisted of guilt trips. I was made out to feel like if I did not attend the get-together I was going against scripture about meeting with the body regularly. I spent the night depressed.

So, this kind of phenomenon continued until I went home and decided to do my own research on the church I so blindly followed and joined. Come to find out you can find MULTIPLE sites consisting of “ICOC survivors” and they even landed a slot on cultwatch.com, Obviously I was concerned and wanted out but I wanted to leave respectfully. So, that being said, I scheduled to meet with my campus ministry leader to discuss why I’d no longer be attending events. She convinced me to continue going to church and suggested we’d continue to meet once a week. I agreed to it out of being lost for other options. These people knew my number, where I lived on campus, and way too much personal information. After constant back and worth, I took the advice of my family and stopped attending the meetings and cut off all forms of communication with the church. I was ex-communicated which means any friends I made within the organization cut me off from their lives and I was left feeling like I was no longer going to heaven. The ICOC warped my perception of God and I am grateful to be at a very loving and respectable church now.

 

This is part ONE of a series I will be doing on this church in hopes of spreading awareness of the organization and its deceiving tactics. Look out for more!

Love That Lasts by Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke review.

Book Title: Love That Lasts: How we discovered God’s better way for love, dating, marriage, and sex.

Authors: Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke.

Publication Date: October 10th 2017.

I was blessed enough to be chosen to be apart of the launch team for the Bethke’s new book Love That Lasts. I received advanced readers copy and I have just completed my reading. I was excited from the day I was picked to be apart of this launch team and when I finally received my book I was ready to dive in with a lot of expectations. I have already read both of Jeff’s other books (Jesus > Religion and It’s Not What You Think) which were inspirational for this generation of Christians. When I found out Jeff and his wife Alyssa were writing a book together about a more God centered way to pursue marriage, sex, dating, and love, I was ready to learn their perspective because they appear to be the perfect example of what it means to allow God into your relationship but I was wrong. Jeff and Alyssa are not perfect. How do I know that? Because Jeff and Alyssa took the next step and brought teaching to another level by being completely transparent and open with their readers so that the person on the other side of the pages could reap the benefits of not only their accomplishments in marriage but also their failures.

Alyssa tells her tales of longing for a relationship all through high school and college. She goes into depth about her eating disorder and struggling to love herself. She shares about how much of a gift Jeff is to her but how she struggles with giving Jeff some of the reigns in their marriage. She takes us on her journey of waiting and trusting in the Lord through her season of singleness all the way to discussing her fears and expectations with sex within her marriage with Jeff. She covers topics most of us are curious about but is either too scared to share or too afraid to ask. Alyssa is genuine, honest, and sweet but also is truthful, bold, and courageous in her ability to share with us her struggles and success in following the Lord’s way for a happier and healthier (and more intimate) relationship with her spouse. I give her chapters in the book a complete 10/10. She is relatable in every possible way and she gives us hope by pointing us in the right direction which is to God.

Jeff dives deep into his messy and impure past with girls. He talks about struggling with sex, porn, and how he viewed women in his teenage years. He also goes in depth about how those problems from his past can seep into his marriage and can be a weight on his shoulders. He continues in following chapters to tell us about how he pursued Alyssa in a purer way and how that positively affects their relationship. Jeff guides us on how to treat our significant other with respect, love, and kindness but to also to remember to not make our s/o our everything. He reminds us that our relationships on earth should make us look more like Jesus. They should remind us of Jesus’s love for us. Jeff shares the details of his past relationships with women so that we can see how not to treat women or how to not let guys treat us. You can see Jeff grow from the first chapter about him losing his virginity at 16 all the way through marrying Alyssa and actively pursuing her in a different way than he was pursuing women in his teens. Jeff provides us a lens to see how we can be different and not get stuck in the “sex is recreational” culture but also not get stuck in the “sex is dirty” culture either. He gives us the option to see the in between. Jeff’s story is proof that God loves us regardless of what our pasts look like and that we have the power to tell Satan that we are now clean and free from those things we may have done.

My thoughts? Buy it. Do not hesitate on it either because it is for everyone. It is for the single, the dating, the married, the divorced, and everything in between. Even if you never plan on dating this book will still teach you how to pursue relationship better even at the friendship level. You will learn and grow in your relationship if you are in that season or you will learn to trust in the Lord through the example of the authors if you are in the season of singleness. Their transparency and ability to open their hearts and let their genuine thoughts and feelings flow out onto paper is incredible and the way they write sounds like you are having a one on one conversation with them. It’s personal. It’s intimate. It’s real. They don’t just tell you the good parts but share the messy parts too. They don’t pretend to be cookie cutter and all perfect but show us that they are completely one hundred percent human and that they mess up just like the rest of us. This book is unconventional because rather than listing the top ten things to never do in a relationship, they come down to our level, they address the most common issues in a relationship (or singleness) and give us ways to work through them better or what we can do to make it even more special and God centered. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking advice in whatever stage of life you may be in. Jeff and Alyssa are truly gems and God truly used them to help us find a better way for dating, marriage, sex, and love. Thank you.

What Happens When You Fall Away From God?

Sin: an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.

Love: an intense feeling of deep affection.

Worldly: of or concerned with material values or ordinary life rather than a spiritual existence.

Godly: devoutly religious; pious

Isn’t it amazing how much sweeter and more beautiful the nice definitions look? As Christians, we know these words like the back of our hands and yet we turn these words into actions every single day. We turn a three letter word (sin), into a living, breathing, thing. If God was standing directly in front of us and asked us what we’d rather have….we’d choose Love and Godliness over Sin and Worldliness any day. So, why is it that we chose them over God on an average day. . . because God isn’t here? Wrong. He is here. He’s living, breathing, working. So what is our issue? Why are we so easily pulled away from God?

Sometimes it is hard to remember that God is watching our every single move, crafting the paths before us, writing the next page of our book before we’ve even turned the page, and sculpting this glorious life for us as we are in the midst of committing sin. Personally, I feel like I’ve been drowning in an ocean of sin since being home for the summer and certainly, I know I am at many disadvantages for being a young Christian. I don’t have a spiritual family, I don’t have a schedule, I don’t have a strong church family, and I have zero Christian friends. I am basically set up to fail but I can’t use that excuse anymore. I chose not to read my Bible, pray, or make the choices that are going to set me up for spiritual success and give me a deeper relationship with my Lord. I am so grateful that I worship a Lord of second chances and mercy but I feel the call of the Holy Spirit to help young people redirect their eyes on Jesus and keep them there because I know I struggle in this area of my faith as well. I want to call attention to what is happening in the moments from when we take our eyes of Jesus to when we finally restore our sight because this is the biggest danger zone for any Christian.

Sin is brought on by temptation which is produced by the devil. Literally. It is actually impossible to not sin and I’m not saying we are supposed to be perfect but the issue is when we consecutively sin WILLINGLY and stray away from the core of our beliefs. The issue is when we start putting faith in our own choices and not in God or when we think we know better than God. We don’t dictate our lives, God does. Temptation arises in times when the devil knows we are most vulnerable. When we are home alone and suddenly the computer starts calling you to watch things you shouldn’t be or when we are at a party and we are the only ones not pounding back beers and suddenly alcohol looks so much sweeter. When we are at a family party and the gossip starts and we have to choose whether to join in and be included or to get up and not participate in hurtful words. The devil tempts us when he thinks he can win. It is so much easier to not sin when we are surrounded by strong people of faith or when we are deep in the Word or when our prayer game is strong because our relationship with God gets deeper and harder for the devil to penetrate. When we stop reading, praying, hanging out with disciples of Jesus, and stop fixating our eyes on things above, the devil makes us his little puppets. We are no longer strongly attached to anything sturdy or sacred, making it easier for Satan to manipulate us to stray further away from what is most important. Truthfully, the more we stop doing things for the Lord, the harder it is to start again. We skip reading our bibles for a day and all of a sudden it’s been a month since we’ve read. We have to be stronger than this! We can’t make ourselves bait for the devil. We can’t put ourselves in these vulnerable spots so Satan can rejoice in our misery. . . and his victory.

Someone told me once that we get two choices. . . you either do something for God or for Satan. There is no in between and how incredibly true is that? The issue here is Satan has this way of making everything seem so pretty and easy. Fitting in seems easy, pleasure seems great, and focusing on ourselves seem glorious. Satan is like a sugar coated piece of garbage. At first, it seems wonderful and unimaginable but as time goes on things become bitter and harsh. He pulls us down this path that is full of gum drops and so-called rewards just to drop of off at destination hell. God is different. His path seems more rocky, more dangerous, more unknowing, more sacrificial but his destination is warm and loving and full of peace. When we stray away from God we miss out on moments of grace, peace, mercy, hope, love, and fulfillment because we thought we knew better for ourselves. We realize this mistake after we begin to feel empty again. After we find ourselves depressed or blue because the reality is that Satan doesn’t care about us. He cares about himself. He cares about making God unhappy and we satisfy this every single time we give in and travel down his path and the farther we go. . . the harder it is to turn around and find God in the midst of all the darkness.

Straying away from God is like sitting in a float on a lazy river, everything seems fine at first and it’s calm. You decide to take off your life vest and just enjoy the ride without the extra weight and rules. The farther down the river you go, the stronger the current gets and you start getting a little nervous but you keep telling yourself it’ll pass but it doesn’t. The lazy river streams right into an ocean. You float into the middle of the sea and wonder how you got there. You are confused, lost, and do not have a life-saving vest. The only option you have is to try to swim back but the waves are too much, you keep getting sucked under water because you don’t have your life vest. The only things you can do is hope the coast guards find you and save you before it is too late. You know how you can prevent the drowning in your own sin? By having a durable and protectant life vest, being God. The issue is we want God to save us after we’ve done so damage already. We prevent sin by being strong Christians. Sure, God is forgiving and merciful but we take it for granted. He pays our bail every single time but wasn’t his blood enough? We as Christians need to stop straying away because God has never, and I mean never, taken his eyes off of us for a second even when we lose sight of Him for months or even years. We need to stop putting the nails back in Jesus’s hands and start putting the Bible in our own.

Choosing the world over God not only hurts our souls and your faith but it hurts God as well. It saddens Him to see us follow the world instead of his magnificent plan for us. We have to trust in him even if the path seems scary. We have to stop giving the devil the glory in our everyday lives. We have to stop thinking it is okay to go months without reading his perfect Word because it’s not. What happens when we fall away from God? We lose sight of everything that matters in this life. It doesn’t matter if we fall away for an hour or three years. Falling away from the creator of all things wonderful is one of the biggest tragedies in any believers life. We have to fixate our eyes on Jesus, keep our hands together in prayer, make our tongues soft, and turn our hearts to God long before we dig ourselves into trouble. God wants the best for us and we have to give up our pride in thinking that we know what that is. The Lord is unpredictable and without warning but that is what makes Him so amazing. He gives us things when we need them most and at times when we least expect it. Remember this. The world can’t do that for us. Jesus is the only answer for what we need.

Be in your Bibles. Be deep in prayer. Build deep relationships with believers. Get a sturdy life vest and do not drown. I love you all. It is never too late to turn around re-create your relationship with God, He is waiting for you. I’ll be praying for you. – Lex

Where I’ve Been

I have been really slacking in my blogging career these last few couple weeks and I’d just like to explain myself. This past month has been hectic and crazy. As a college student, I was in the midst of finals, moving out, moving back home, saying goodbye to my boyfriend, switching churches, my boyfriend visiting at home, and participating in a two-week social media cleanse. *sigh*. Okay. So, yeah that’s just the summary of everything I’ve been handling since May. Praise Jesus for my survival. This time off from writing was sad but needed. I needed time to focus on the important things in life and get through it, which just so happened to work because in this time I also accomplished a lot. I finished my freshman year of college with a 3.4 GPA, I started working again, I got to sightsee New England with my wonderful boyfriend. I got to throw my sister a birthday party, take my brothers to numerous soccer games and swim meets, and spend so much quality time with my grandparents. Life is too short to spend it behind a screen 24/7 but I’m back. I’m ready to write and I’m ready to use this platform as a source of the good news of Jesus Christ. New posts will be on MONDAYS, as I will be using Sunday as a day of worship and work. I appreciate every single one of you that continue to support me and read my work. I love you all endlessly. Keep me in your prayers and I’ll keep you in mine – Alexis

Week 18: List the Things That Motivate You

  • God
  • My boyfriend
  • My friends
  • My future family
  • My future career

 

Motivation is something I lack in a lot of places in my life because I enjoy living in the now but my brain can’t help but wonder sometimes and think about what my future holds. I do well in school to glorify God but also to make sure I can provide for myself and my future family. I want to make sure that everything I do has a positive effect on my future life while also glorifying God. . . which can be difficult. This means I can’t cheat on tests or copy someone’s homework to cut corners in order to receive a good grade. . . I actually have to study and work hard. When it comes to my health, I try and maintain a healthy lifestyle so I am able to glorify God with my temple but also so my future husband has a nice piece of arm candy (partially joking). I also just wanna make sure I am healthy enough to be able to run around with my future kids. I never want my health to hold me back from being a good mom. Motivation is something some people struggle with more than others but I thoroughly think if you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, that’s all the motivation you really need. – Lex

Week 17: List Difficult Times That Have Made You a Better Person.

Well essentially all of life is a difficult road but I will share with you the three biggest life changing moments thus far in my 18 (almost 19) years of life.

  1. My parents had once gotten ahold of my twitter and didn’t like what they were seeing so they forced me to work in our family restaurant as punishment. I suffered from a lot of anxiety, missed out on a lot of school events, and missed out on the joys of high school because I had to serve some sort of punishment. Working there gave me so much more confidence and boldness. I had to talk to people, yell, get things done, multitask, and all while not losing my cool. It was not always easy but I can certainly see how much more confident I am now compared to three years ago.
  2. Being bullied all through my school career. People are just downright cruel and mean in school! I was picked on for everything from my clothes, my hair, my body, my face, who I was talking to. It didn’t matter. Those times taught me about perseverance and fighting for justice.  I kept going to school and learned to face these people head on and to eventually just let whatever they say roll right off my shoulders. I treat everyone equally and with respect because I know how it feels to be treated like a “less than” simply because I wasn’t like everyone else

3. I believe when my brothers born was a difficult time for me as a child. I had divided attention between my parents, my sister was already stealing the show, and now two little bundles of joy had come in to scoop up the scrapings of attention that were left for me. My parents worked a lot after they were born so I had to step in and be parent #3. It’s stressful and overwhelming. I always felt like I had to grow up so fast because my parents needed me. Although I was having the joy of being merely seven years old ripped right out of my life, helping raise those two little dweebs was probably the most beneficial to my life. I became more patient, compassionate, loving, and nurturing. They helped shape me and now even at eighteen years old, I still love seeing life through their eleven-year-old eyes.

When times get tough, trust me when I say God has plans for you. He will take care of you! He can turn dust into diamonds. He can use difficult situations to make us BETTER. Trust in the Lord. He’s got this. – Lex.