Cult membership

Cult membership is actually a cop out from life. The proselyte who enters a cult thinks he is boldly stepping forward to commit himself wholly for the Lord’s cause. In actual fact, he has unconsciously chosen a way to flee from having to make decisions, to have to stand to the consequences of free choices. He has in effect said to Moses, “Take me back to slavery. I can’t stand freedom out here in the deserts of life. At least I knew how to behave there because everyone told us what to do. I didn’t have to think, I only had to behave.”

– John & Paula Sandford, Transforming the Inner Man

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April 2, 2017 · 9:00 pm

Has the Word become rare in Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship?

stuartpuraminvitation

God rescued the people of Israel from slavery with mighty wonders and brought them into the Promised Land. But after Joshua and the elders died, “they abandoned the LORD God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Judges 2:12) and Israel plunged into a dark period of 350 years. The book of Judges contains some of the worst accounts of the degradation in Israel and ends with the sad note that “each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion”. “The LORD would speak unto Moses face to face, as anyone would speak unto their friend” (Exodus 33:11) but by the time of Samuel was born, the people were gone so far away from God that “the word of the LORD was rare in those days” (1 Samuel 3:1).

The Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship (LEF) started with revival in many churches in South India during the days of N. Daniel. After his death, it expanded under the leadership of his son Joshua Daniel. Instead of encouraging independent leaders and a formal structure for the expanding church, Joshua Daniel concentrated more and more power on himself and turned it into an exclusive cultish organisation. He maintained its exclusivity by many practices including publicly cursing defection, forcing people to marry inside LEF, stripping authority from those who did not toe the line, portraying himself as a special man of God (or prophet), etc. After Joshua Daniel’s death, his son John Daniel and his widow Lily Daniel have taken authority but seem to have no interest to leave the USA and come and minister in India. The few weeks that they minister in India, a lot of gossip and garbage gets preached. Just as “the word of the LORD was rare” in the dark ages of Israel, there seems to be nobody anointed to preach and lead the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship in India. So they have resorted to playing recorded videos of Joshua Daniel in public meetings, in the LEF centres and in their TV programs. They even seem to be deceiving people by making it appear as if Joshua Daniel is still alive. An invitation to their recent meetings in Stuartpuram, as posted in the LEF Whistleblower website and reproduced in the top of this article, shows as if Joshua Daniel is still alive and speaking! The people of Stuartpuram are “simple rustic people” (Christ is Victor, Feb 2017) and LEF seems to be openly deceiving them. Another big issue with the lack of leadership is that if there is a problem, there is no authority who can address it locally. If you refer it to those in the US, they will shrewdly pass the buck back to India. So it appears as if “each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion” (Judges 21:25).

When Jesus ascended up above the heavens, “he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11,12). Has God stopped blessing LEF with these gifts that they have to recycle the old messages and refuse to appoint new leaders? Has LEF reached the sad state of Israel when “the word of the LORD was rare in those days” and “each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion”?

As a disciple of Jesus, we need to ask God to “keep giving us every day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). Just as the mercies of God are “new every morning” (Lamentation 3:23), our bread should be new every day. We should not be like the people of Israel who tried to retain the manna for the next day and “it produced maggots and smelled bad” (Exodus 16:20). Since “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God”, let us make sure that our food is fresh and balanced and is served by people that have received the gift from Jesus. Let us stop going to places where old food is served. If a specific person’s teaching edifies you, read or listen to it in private. Let it not be forced on the church.

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Jallikattu

jallikattuSouth India has a bull taming sport called jallikattu in which a bull is released into a crowd of people and one or more person try to hold onto the hump of the bull while the bull tries to escape. In 2014 the Supreme Court of India banned this sport as it was cruel to the bull. The bull tamers and spectators regularly get killed. Strangely people all over Tamil Nadu have been demanding the ban be lifted, risking human life and continue the cruelty to animals. Although most city residents have not watched the sport yet thousands have been protesting that the ban be removed.

The situation reminds me of the riot in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19. Paul had been ministering in Ephesus for two years and “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul”. But Demetrius who made silver shrines incited people saying “Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods …” Immediately there was a great riot and “some were shouting one thing and some another, since the crowd was confused, and most of them didn’t know why they were meeting.”

Although the history of jallikattu is skimpy, it appears that the shedding of blood during this sport was a form of blood sacrifice to appease the local deities during the Pongal harvest festival. Looking at it from this angle, there seems to be a good explanation why people who have no connection with this sport, have been taking to the streets for days and nights to keep it alive. It appears that evil spiritual forces are unhappy with the ban and have whipped up frenzy in the minds of the people to ensure that blood continues being spilt every year.

Ancient Rome had extremely violent games where gladiator fought against others or against animals or against slaves, wild animals including lions and bears fighting other animals or mauling slaves. Christianity slowly brought an end to these violent sports. In the 5th century, monk Telemachus when he witnessed the gladiators for the first time was so appalled that he jumped into the arena shouting “In the name of Jesus stop”. Though he was killed, the incident shocked the spectators and the emperor who immediately issued an edict banning gladiator sports. Let us not loose our saltiness in Christ and be “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people.” (Matthew 5:13) Let us be the salt and light of our world.

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Baby Jesus has become the King of Kings

I wish the readers of this blog a blessed Christmas. At the Christmas season, there is a lot of focus on Jesus as a baby and the incidents surrounding the birth. As God has put in us an instinct to love babies and children, it is very good to remember Jesus’ birth and show love to one another. But we should not stop at baby Jesus. Jesus grew up, studied the scripture, preached the gospel, did great miracles, drove out demons, was crucified, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God. Within 40 years of the birth of Jesus, Stephen no longer saw Jesus as a baby but saw Him at the right hand of God: “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts 7:56 (ISV).

The Bible teaches us that we need to wait patiently for the rewards of faith. “Moses preferred being mistreated with God’s people to enjoying the pleasures of sin for a short time. He thought that being insulted for the sake of the Messiah was of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Heb 11:25, 26 (ISV). David said “I waited patiently for the LORD. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure. He placed a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:1-3 (GW) “We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.” Heb 12:2 (GW).

If life is filled with seemingly insurmountable challenges, don’t lose heart! Keep praying and praising, waiting patiently for the Lord to act. Just as the baby was made the King of kings and Lord of lords we can overcome our challenges and the evil one. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (ISV).

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Blessed is the one who considers the poor

God consistently shows His concern for the poor in the Bible and ask us to be considerate to them. Jesus showed his concern for the poor in his message in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Thousands of years ago, the Bible set strict rules for lending and stricter rules if the borrower is poor. “When you loan something to your neighbor, don’t enter his house to seize what he offered as collateral … If he is a poor man, don’t go to sleep with his collateral in your possession. Be sure to return his garment to him at sunset so that he may sleep with it, and he will bless you. It will be a righteous deed in the presence of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 24:10, 12, 13 (ISV) .

Still the poor are often abused and exploited.  There is a crisis in India for a few weeks. Overnight, the majority of the currency notes have been made obsolete and people are facing difficulty in converting their own money into valid but difficult to find currency notes. People have died in the crisis and the poor who have limited access to banks have been put into a great predicament. The government claims that it has to restrict their citizens from withdrawing their own money for their own good and most people seem to be infatuated that this move will somehow stop “black money”. Very few seem to bother about the hardship that many are facing. Farmers are unable to sell the produce or buy seed, poor people especially those who live in remote areas cannot repeatedly leave their work and families in search of a working ATM or bank, those who need medical help do not have the “right” notes to pay. The list is endless.

Among the people that I have personally communicated about this difficult situation, those voicing concern for the genuinely disadvantaged are generally Christians. It is encouraging to see that the message of the Bible has touched these people.  Some of the verses protecting the poor and oppressed are “don’t take advantage of a hired person who is poor and needy” Deuteronomy 24:14 (ISV), “defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy” Psalm 82:3 (KJV) and “oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor” Zechariah 7:10a (KJV). I hope the Bible will transform you and give you concern for the poor, the needy and the afflicted.

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Gossip and garbage from the pulpit

garbagedumpThe late Joshua Daniel use to warn people not to gossip in the retreats of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship and likened such people to garbage trucks dumping their garbage. But the reality is that people like me got more garbage from the pulpit than from those “garbage trucks”! Joshua Daniel regularly talked about LEF members from the stage. Since he didn’t reveal names he probably though it was fine, but it was often possible to guess. He called people satan, demon possessed, etc.  His messages were often negative and therefore made the listener negative. Often as I would return home, I would start viewing others including family members in a negative light. His messages were also designed to make people feel sinful and worthless and provoked the crowd to cry after the message.

His son John Daniel, trying to entertain and retain the crowds, seems to be going down the same path imitating his father and copying mannerisms of the disgraced John Branch. John Daniel seems to relish sharing gossip from the pulpit. I wonder if they know the Bible’s declaration on such people: “A worthless person concocts evil gossip” (Proverbs 16:27 ISV). Strangely both father and son speak negatively about Indians forgetting that they are Indians! It is also a pity that they are unable to get better translators. The Tamil and Telugu speaking people sometimes hear bizzare messages!

“The words of a gossip are like delicate morsels” (Proverbs 26:22 ISV) but as Christians it is our responsibility to feed ourselves with “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is acceptable, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy” (Phillipians 4:8 ISV). So I encourage my esteemed readers to stop feeding on gossip and garbage and switch to solid food since “solid food is for mature people, whose minds are trained by practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14 ISV).

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God is not a genie

God is all powerful and can fix our problems. A genie is a fictional magical being that carries out the orders of a person.  God wants us to pray at all times but His response seems unpredictable while a genie grants three wishes.  Many people, Christians and non-Christians, want God to behave as a genie. We pray fervently with faith, expecting Him to miraculously solve our problems. If He fails to respond, we may wait longer in faith. But sometimes God never seems to reply, especially in the way we asked or wanted. If we expect God to respond like a genie, our faith can easily be shipwrecked.

Unfortunately the image that I have been having of God was closer to a genie than the Biblical picture of God. I have been going through difficult circumstances in my life. It feels like family, church and society are unable or unwilling to help. God seems to be silent. I waited patiently for the Lord for years but He doesn’t seem to take me out of the miry clay and set my feet on the rock. My soul is cast down within me. I am unable to blog anymore. Life itself is a challenge. I have been frustrated with God. But I am learning that He is not a genie but a parent who disciplines His child.

If a parent always shields a child from problems, it will struggle to become a mature adult. God our eternal Father is interested in our development and maturity. So He allows storms to hit us. In fact the Bible says “the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges” (Heb 12:6 AMP) and also “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful” (Heb 12:11 ISV).  This is no genie! If God answered our prayers just the way we wanted, we will pray away all His discipline and remain immature. This is one of the many reasons why God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers however fervent or critical they may seem to be.

If you had pictured God as a genie magically changing circumstances, just as I did, it is time to repent. Instead of sulking and feeling sorry for ourselves, we are commanded to “strengthen our tired arms and our weak knees, and straighten the paths of our life, so that our lameness may not become worse, but instead may be healed.” (Heb 12:12,13 ISV). God does not offer a magical way out but we are exhorted to exert ourselves and take courage and the effort will be worthwhile “for those who have been trained by it, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace” (Heb 12:11b ISV).

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Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship a year after Joshua Daniel

It’s a year since Mr. Joshua Daniel, president of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship passed away. The leadership has passed on to his son John Daniel. Most leaders when they take over an organisation bring in new ideas, organisational structures and steer the organisation forwards. With John spending most of his time in the US, there is little indication that he plans to directly manage the oraganisation from India just as his father failed to do or atleast go around preaching the gospel which his father did. Instead LEF seems to be looking backwards with their never ending admiration of the Daniel family and seems to continue as a personality cult.

LEF TV programs are still featuring Mr. Joshua Daniel. If LEF is the greatest and the best as we were made to believe why isn’t there anybody else in LEF who can preach on TV? Transcripts of Mr. N. Daniel’s messages were read in many centres for decades. Now they are playing back recordings of Joshua Daniel. The head quarters where live preaching happened in the Wednesday prayer meetings has switched to recorded messages of the dead man.

Their magazine Christ is Victor (Indian version) hardly had any articles by living people except for Joshua Daniel’s articles. Other articles were generally by people already dead or about people who were already dead. (There is nothing wrong with such articles but the problem is the imbalance) Now even though Mrs. Lily Daniel has taken over as the editor, editorials are being penned by the deceased Joshua Daniel! Articles by Lily Daniel, John Daniel and Lydia Daniel appear sporadically. It is sad that the magazine is unwilling to open itself to non-Daniel living Christians but continues to prop up N. Daniel and Joshua Daniel. In the September issue, Mrs Lily Daniel writes about an incident where an immigration officer mentioned to her that he knew and appreciated Joshua Daniel and then she correlates that incident with Hebrews 11:4 “he being dead yet speaketh”. Abel had sacrificed a more excellent sacrifice than his brother Cain and though he was murdered, God Himself approved it and this speaks to all humanity. I am unable to see how recognition in an airport can be compared to the glorious recognition of Abel by God Himself. This reminds me of Liz Van Camp who wrote on Facebook saying that her father was interceding in heaven. This shows either a total lack of understanding of Christianity or a blatant way to deceive gullible people and perpetuate the personality cult of the Daniels. John Daniel quotes “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. “ (Prov 22:28) in the October issue while describing his father achievements.

It is interesting to note that “JD” in the editorial of the September issue of Christ is Victor has called LEF “as a place which gives a little dose of opium to people” and that “some people are beginning to use the fellowship as a place where they get a dose of religious opium.” This is apparently a reference to a quote by Karl Marx which is often condensed to “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Marx’s contention was that religion gives people artificial, illusory happiness; like opium does to a drug addict. LEF with Daniels as leaders seems to be giving an artificial, illusory confidence to many people. And as usual the leaders are not culpable but it’s the people who are to be blamed. It is sad that people are unable to open their eyes even after such disparagement.

As always, I encourage my readers not to be deceived. Paul warns us in 1Timothy 4:7 (ISV) “Do not have anything to do with godless myths and fables of old women. Instead, train yourself to be godly.” Just as sportsmen train themselves for the competitions train yourselves in godliness. Seek Biblical preachers, teachers and churches.

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Christian Gurus – Part 3 – Joshua Daniel

The book “Christian Gurus: A Study of the Life and Work of Christian Charismatic Leaders in South India written by Dr. Werner Hoerschelmann was introduced in part 1. The empirical enquiry of the author into the phenomenon of the “Christian guru” was highlighted in part 2. In this 3rd part I have reproduced the section on the author’s enquiry of Joshua Daniel.

This is a very long post, probably the longest that I will ever post. The reproduction of this complete section un-edited on my site does not mean that I agree with every sentence but it is amazing how the author has made such excellent enquiries into the phenomenon of the “Christian guru” while many of us were blinded. I hope that blind eyes may be opened. Later I hope to give my formal comment on some important issues regarding the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship and Mr. Joshua Daniel highlighted by the author.

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The unbelievable story of all time

A Google search for unbelievable stories brings up a list of odd stories, but the story of Jesus Christ is the unbelievable story of all time. The creator of the universe leaves His heavenly abode to become part of His creation. He could have appeared on earth as an alien or a special being but He chose to be born as a (helpless) baby to an insignificant family in an insignificant town. At least when He grew up He could have boasted to the world about His heavenly credentials but he avoided talking about it and generally kept off the limelight. Without any fanfare he performed amazing miracles, made the blind to see, healed the lame and raised the dead. He made no effort to escape a horrible death. After three days, His tomb was astonishingly found empty but still He revealed Himself only to limited friends before returning to His heavenly abode.

This story seems so utterly far-fetched and bizarre but still millions have believed in this story and even given up their lives for this story. I am grateful that I knew this story from childhood. Sometimes I wonder if it was because of early exposure to this story that made me believe it. What would have happened if I grew up in a hostile environment? I can’t say; but even though the story about Jesus Christ seems unbelievable, I know that I am drawn toward it by Jesus Himself so that in spite of problems that arise due to my faith, my faith strangely gets deeper.

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