Points to Ponder

Christian Deception & Monopoly “House Rules”

Monopoly board with horse and rider on Free Parking symbolizes Christian deception.
Image by J. Howell from Pixabay

There probably aren’t too many American adults who have never played the game Monopoly. In fact, people from all over the world have experienced hours of fun (and in some cases friction) rolling dice, buying properties, and generally trying to bankrupt their closest friends and family members. But if you have ever stepped out of your immediate family group and tried to play with others, you probably heard someone say, “We don’t play that way.” While the official rules remain the same all over the world, “house rules” can change drastically depending on who is playing. In Christianity today, we see that many churches have added “house rules” that appear nowhere in the official playbook of the Bible. Christian deception has become pervasive, and people are adding to and taking away so much that they really aren’t even still playing the same game.

House Rules Can Make the Game Easier

Monopoly has lots of rules about loaning money. Properties can be mortgaged to pay debt, but the money must be paid back with 10% interest. Houses may be sold for quick cash, but they go back to the bank for half the price. And, no loans may be made to other players outside the banking system. I don’t know about you, but we never played by any of those rules at all. We bought and sold property and loaned money to each other, but the bank never saw a penny above what it loaned to us. Houses were sold back to the bank at full value.

Some people in the church world today are making Christianity easier by ignoring what the Bible says. Greasy Grace says that sin is inevitable, but that’s okay because the more you sin, the more grace God has for you. Once Saved Always Saved says that if you said the “Jesus prayer” one time in your life, you are saved forever no matter what your conduct is or how much or little fruit you produce. The idea of the “Carnal Christian” says that people can live like the world six days per week but go to church on Sunday and they are still on the narrow path to heaven. This is Christian deception. Christianity is not supposed to be easy, and all of these bypass God’s mandate for holiness to the Lord. We must take up our crosses and follow after Him. We must seek Him and submit to His will for our lives.

House Rules Can Make the Game Harder

But while some people make up rules that give more money and chances, others make up rules to make the game harder. Some people play that you can’t buy property your whole first way around the board. This is in direct opposition to the rules that actually state that no property, once landed upon, will remain unsold. If the person who landed on a property doesn’t have the money to buy it, there must be an immediate auction to sell it to the highest bidder. For those who allow the property to remain unsold, some make up additional punitive rules past that. They actually bar players from future purchases if they can’t pay the first time.

In the church world today, the Hebrew Roots movement has a large and growing following. In it, people are going back to the Old Testament and obligating themselves to follow as many of the 613 rules found there as they possibly can. All those old rules were supposed to do was to show us how impossible it is to be perfect by the hand of man. We need God to make us perfect, so Jesus’ sacrifice for us took away our sins in a way that the blood of bulls and goats could never do. Our righteousness now depends on our relationship to Him. Going back to the Old Testament laws takes things back out of God’s hands and puts it into the hands of man to be right with God. It is also in complete opposition to most of the book of Galatians in which Paul warns us not to go back to that particular yoke of bondage. This is Christian deception. Their success can lead to pride and independence instead of humility and submission. Their failure can lead to hopelessness and takes away the power of Jesus Christ to save them.

House Rules Can Make the Game More Fun

When I was growing up, the first order of business for the banker after passing out the money was to put a crisp $500 bill in the center of the board for “Free Parking.” All fees and taxes went to the center too, and when someone landed on that space – payday! It was like a built in “lottery,” and every time we went around the board, we crossed our fingers that we would land on that space. This is the way we always played, and it was fun. But did you know that the rules actually explicitly say that no money will be paid for Free Parking? It is just supposed to be a place to rest.

Today in the church world, there is a whole group of people who are capitalizing on the very idea that God is holding some sort of lottery system. The Prosperity Gospel or Word of Faith movement says that God always wants His people to be healthy and wealthy. All you have to do is have faith, they say, and all your physical and monetary troubles will be over. God is obligated to give you money and prizes if you will just believe hard enough for them. Name It and Claim It is an offshoot of this. It cuts God out of the equation completely. All you have to do is SPEAK what you want into existence, and it’s done. No praying is even necessary. This is Christian deception and ignores God’s sovereignty. Sometimes it is God’s will for His people to suffer lack or physical illness. It is in this way that we can learn the lessons necessary to fulfill our calling or do His will. He is, however, our resting place, and He will never leave us or forsake us.

House Rules Can Change the Object of the Game

One game of Monopoly can take hours and hours to complete since all players but one must go bankrupt. People who don’t have time for the whole process but want to get in a quick game often change the object of the game. Some people use a timer and count up holdings at the end of the time limit to see who has the most money and property. Some people set a monetary amount, and the first person to hit the goal wins. Changing the object of the game changes the decisions one makes in the game. Instead of investing in properties for the long term, players can instead choose options that raise cash flow.

Kingdom Now Theology, often called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), Joel’s Army, or Seven Mountain Dominionism, has completely changed the object of the game for believers. The object of the game is no longer winning souls for the Kingdom. The object is to take over as many of the seven spheres of societal influence as possible. Those are: religion, family, education, government, media, arts and entertainment, and business. According to them, when Adam and Eve sinned, God lost control of the world to Satan. It is up to a special elite group of Christians, many of whom have supernatural powers, to “take back” the world in order to hand it over to Jesus when He returns. Systems are now the goal instead of souls. This is Christian deception and completely ignores the book of Revelation. In it, we see that Satan will increase his control over all seven of those areas. Believers are not the champions of the story, and they will even be overcome for a time. Jesus is the hero and the star of the show. He will vanquish the devil at His coming.

House Rules Can Change the Attitude of Players

Some people play friendly games. My family always played that when we landed on someone else’s property, we dutifully handed over the rent. The first time I played with a family that went by the actual rules, I thought they were being mean. They did not just immediately hand over the money. Instead, they waited to see if the person who owned the property would notice and ask for the money. This is actually in the rules. It says that if the next person rolls the dice before the landlord notices rent is due, the person who landed there does not have to pay. This changes the responsibility from the person who lands on the property to the property owner him/herself.

Today in Christianity, some churches are so interested in making people happy that they forget that there are rules about where responsibilities actually lie. Churches that affirm and even celebrate homosexual lifestyles just want to please the people. They want to “love” them and support them and affirm them. But, they are disregarding what the Bible says about the matter. They are also ignoring the sinner’s responsibility to turn away from sin once accepting the Gospel message. This is Christian deception. While in the natural, it can feel “mean” to tell someone he/she is not right with God because of behavior, it is actually the most loving thing we can do. Truth will save the person from the consequences of continuing to live in sin.

House Rules Can Change the Pieces of the Game

Playing Monopoly using the Boggle timer would be tough. The sand rushing from one chamber to another would speed up all actions of the game, changing the whole atmosphere. Imagine the possibilities if you added a Twister Spinner or Scrabble tiles. As kids, bored on a summer day before video games and good TV, the possibilities were really endless. The only limits were that of our own imaginations, and we could come up with some wacky versions of the game. Someone wandering by and seeing the pieces might have still thought we were playing Monopoly, but up close, the games bore little resemblance.

Today, some churches are adding pieces of other religions and still calling it Christianity. Grave sucking is necromancy, in which people try to “suck up” the anointing from a dead Christian by lying on his/her grave. Angel cards are just tarot cards, asking demonic entities for advice on love, life, and the future. Both of these are occult practices, but Christians don’t stop there. Lots of churches hold what they call “Christian yoga” sessions. This is using pieces from the Hindu religion with poses that venerate other “gods” and breathing and thought patterns that open people up to demonic connections. This is Christian deception. Slapping on a Christian label and changing mantras to Bible verses doesn’t negate the harmful practice. In all cases, the people are opening themselves up to demons and making themselves inhospitable to the Holy Spirit of God.

Whether in Monopoly or Christianity, some people just play the same way they learned, never bothering to read the rules. Others have read the directions but have made up their minds to follow their own “house rules” anyway. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Bible says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” People can play Monopoly any way they agree to play, and it is totally fine. For Christians, though, the Bible is our playbook. Adding to or taking away from it is a dangerous move, and it really isn’t a game at all. It is Christian deception, and it’s deadly serious. For Christians, there really is only one way to “play,” and that’s by the Book.

Do you like analogies? Try reading It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean. It’s an article that compares a dishwasher to aspects of the Christian life. Or, try Born Again: All About That Butterfly Life. An article about being born again using the analogy of metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly.

Points to Ponder

It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean

Many years ago when I was newly married, my husband taught me a lesson about the dishwasher that can be applied to the Christian life. It seems that on that particular day, I had wanted to clear all of the dishes out of the sink. I filled the dishwasher to capacity and then some, cramming plates and cups in here and there. When the cycle was done, we opened the machine, and some of the dishes were still dirty. My new husband then said the words that would ring in my head for many years after. “The dishes don’t get washed simply because they are inside the dishwasher. They have to be exposed to the water in order to get clean.” This analogy applies to the Christian life in three ways.

The analogy applies with church.

It isn’t sitting on the pews Sunday after Sunday that makes us saved. Someone could, in fact, go to church every single week, even twice on Sundays, and still find themselves in hell. We are saved when we are born again by the Holy Spirit of God. After that, we go to church to receive instruction from a godly pastor and have fellowship with other believers. It’s only when we listen to the pastor’s sermon and try to apply it to our lives that we experience change. We worship with our hearts and pray, but we also take that worship and prayer with us in the car, in our homes, and wherever we go. It is only then that we get closer to God. 

The analogy applies with Bible reading.

There are plenty of atheists who know the Bible well enough to mock it, and even the devil quoted scripture to Jesus when tempting Him those 40 days. Reading the Bible is important, but we have to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. We have to apply what it says to our lives. If we treat it like a textbook, taking notes of the people, places, or things, we may be able to answer Bible trivia quizzes or argue online, but that doesn’t help us get to know God any better. Reading and even memorizing the Bible is only helpful when we rightly divide it with the help of the Holy Spirit and apply it to our lives with a faith that the words are true. 

The analogy applies with prayer.

It’s not enough just to pray to God by talking to the ceiling. We have to pray in spirit and in truth. That means we have to be connected to God through the relationship formed when we believed in the truth of Jesus Christ and received His Spirit. Once connected, the Bible says the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man avails much. We have to pray with feeling, in belief that our prayers will be answered, and we have to be righteous. That just means that we live the Christian life soberly with our sins covered by the blood of Jesus through repentance.

Assembling with brethren, reading the Bible, and praying to God are all important facets of the Christian life, but none of them on their own connects us to God or guarantees our salvation. We must attend biblical churches with hearts open to instruction and take our worship with us throughout the week. We must read the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit and seek to apply it to our lives in faith. And, we must pray believing, living our lives in a habit of self-examination and repentance. It is only then that we will be exposed to the Water that washes us clean.

If you like analogies, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . It is an object lesson about changing for the better. Or, try The Waves of God’s Judgement and the Child of God. In it, we can see that the closer we are to God, the more protected we will be in times of trouble.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Points to Ponder

Born Again: All About That Butterfly Life

A colorful butterfly on a turk's cap represents a born again believer.
Picture by Karen Kalb Sefkow

Butterflies don’t go around kicking themselves for the things they did as caterpillars. They are much too busy flying high and living that butterfly life. A Facebook friend recently posted this lovely picture of the butterfly. It had just emerged from the chrysalis it had made on her turk’s cap, a relative of the hibiscus shrub, and I thought about what an amazing transformation the pudgy, squishy caterpillar had to make to become that delicate butterfly. As Christians, we went through our own metamorphosis when we became born again. But how many Christian butterflies are living their lives in regret over the things they did in their former larval lives?

Caterpillar to Butterfly

Caterpillars begin their lives as eggs, laid strategically on the kind of plant they need to eat. From the time they hatch, they eat, molt, and eat some more until they are done growing to their full length and size. Then it is time for them to form themselves into the pupa, or chrysalis. They attach themselves to the underside of a leaf and spinning a protective covering around themselves. During the time inside, big things are happening. The insect basically liquifies, rearranging itself into its new form. After a set amount of time in this stage (different for each species), a butterfly emerges. No longer stuck to the leaf with a single mind to consume, the butterfly instead has a new mission to bring beauty to the earth, pollinate flowers, and continue the species.

Sinner to Christian

As Christians, we all began in sin. We spent our time single-mindedly consuming the things the world had to offer, conforming ourselves to the ways of the flesh. When we came to the end of ourselves and realized that we are in desperate need for a Savior to cover our sins, we cried out in repentance and faith, and God supernaturally changed us into a new creature. We were born again. While the outside changes may have been slight or even indistinguishable, inside a great miracle happened. We were dead, and now we are alive.

When we emerged from the born again experience in that twinkling of an eye, our whole purpose for living changed. No longer earth bound and concerned with consuming and conforming, our new lives in Christ have a completely different focus. Now located in heavenly places, we bring beauty to the world with our lights on our lampstands. We devote ourselves to bringing love for God and man wherever we go. We are servants to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And, we seek to use our testimony to win others to salvation.

Don’t Live in Regret

But what about those Christians butterflies who are still sitting on their leaves lamenting the decisions that they made as caterpillars, retracing footsteps and replaying every mouthful and molt? They aren’t caterpillars any more, but they aren’t really very good butterflies either. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, the Bible says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” When God drew us unto Himself, He gave us grace.

That feeling of great sadness for our offense against a holy God could only come from God Himself. It led to the repentance that ended in salvation. That very anguish we felt at our transgressions created in us a carefulness to avoid sin, a desire to please God, and a desperate need to be reconciled to Him. Nobody regrets that sorrow because without it, we could not have repented to salvation and become born again. But there is another kind of sorrow that too many Christians get caught up in. It’s the sorrow of the world, and that’s the kind that produces death.

Regret Can Make Us Sick

Worldly sorrow grieves the loss of worldly things. Let’s face it: sin has consequences. We can repent of the lies, the adultery, and the unforgiveness, but sometimes we are still left with broken trust, broken relationships, and lost opportunities. God’s forgiveness makes us right with Him. But, we may still be stuck in the middle of the tattered mess that sin made in our lives. Focusing on the regret over decisions made before we became Christians doesn’t get us any closer to God. We can’t go back and change a single thing.

What it can do, however, is turn into a pattern of self-criticism and chronic stress and even depression that can actually cause physical problems for us (even leading to death). According to an article from Psychology Today entitled “The Psychology of Regret,” this kind of repetitive, negative, self-focused thinking can adversely affect hormones and immune system functioning. It can reduce our ability to fight infections and even actually make us sick. And sick, sad butterflies don’t do much pollinating or propagating. 

Regret Can Open Doors For the Enemy

But sickness isn’t the only danger with worldly sorrow, because it can also open the door to the enemy. While being sad and sorry for the things we did while we were in the world was the very thing that led to our repentance, after we are born again, we should allow God to put our sins as far away from us as east is from the west. But thinking about that sin, regretting it, fretting over what might have been, and being anxious for the situation we find ourselves in at the present just plays right into the devil’s trap of condemnation. It turns us away from the peace that is found when we cast our cares upon God. Hashing and rehashing our wrongdoings only show an inability to believe that God can really erase the stains and use all things for the good of us who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Once we have confessed our sins and asked for forgiveness, John 1:9 lets us know that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. As born again believers, we are clean. We have to believe it and live like it, or the enemy will keep our thoughts turning in circles and focused on ourselves. Instead, we should keep our eyes on Christ, performing the good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Break the Cycle

So how do we break free from the cycles of thinking we have built up for ourselves? Of course, prayer is the ultimate answer. We should ask God to free us from the negative patterns of thought that harm our health and faith and open doors for the enemy. We must pray for God to help us conform to Philippians 3:13-14 “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

But beyond that, I believe there is value in the lesson of the butterfly. We have to remember that after we were born again, we became a new creation. Old things have truly passed away and all things have become new. Our focus is not the same as it was, nor should it be. Continuing to live in the past just hurts us and keeps us from our purpose. We aren’t caterpillars anymore but butterflies. We need to be all about that butterfly life.

If you like analogies, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . It is an object lesson about changing for the better. Or, try It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean. It compares aspects of the Christian life to a dishwasher.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Points to Ponder

Goldilocks and the Narrow Way

A narrow path in a green forest with tall trees represents the narrow way that Christians must travel, in between the two extremes.

The Fairy Tale Analogy

Most people have heard the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” In it, a little girl wanders into the house of a family of bears that has gone out for a walk in the woods. She starts in the kitchen, first tasting Papa Bear’s porridge and exclaiming that it is too hot. She then tastes Mama Bear’s porridge, which is too cold. Finally, she tries Baby Bear’s porridge which is just right, so she eats it. After a nice breakfast, Goldilocks goes into the living room where she tries the three chairs. Then, to the bedroom where she tries the three beds. Again, there is a problem with each of the extremes. She finds herself enjoying (and destroying in the case of Baby Bear’s chair) the middle option. I thought about this story recently as it had occurred to me again how the narrow way, the very middle strip of options in between the two extremes, is the sweet spot where Christians should aim to live. 

The Character of God

Take, for example, the character of God and how we should live as a result of it. Now, God is love, and we should love our neighbors. And God is just, and we should not tolerate or wink at sin. Take either one of these to the extreme, and you get big problems. Too much love without talk of justice, and you get “greasy grace.” This makes God into an idol pushover god who will take anything people dish out in the name of love. Taking justice too far, you end up with legalism. Then you have a harsh idol god of rules and regulations devoid of love and ready to pull the giant red lever to drop people into hell at any moment. God is both loving and just. The only way to understand where the line of one ends and the other begins is by diligent study of scripture and pressing in to know Him in a personal, empirical way. 

Our Own Self Image

How about our own self-image? If we think too highly of ourselves, that’s arrogance and pride, and we know that God resists the proud. We can’t brag and boast about the things that we have only received because of God’s grace. We can’t think we are better than others when God is the sole source of everything about us that is good.

But if we think too little about ourselves, badgering and insulting ourselves in our own minds, we are hurting one of the little ones God calls His beloved. Plus, people with low self-esteem can hardly be a light for God and will struggle to move forward in ministry. We are loved and have been created for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We need to live like it and see ourselves as we really are. That only occurs when we examine ourselves and pray for eyes to see as God sees.

The Question of Sacrifice

What about sacrifice? If we sacrifice too little, we are not taking up our cross and following after Jesus. We become lazy and self-serving. But is there a such thing as sacrificing too much? Here it gets tricky. On the one hand, nothing Jesus will ask of us is too much because we are to die to self and live for Him. On the other hand, there are ways to take this to the extreme. Either fasting and neglecting oneself become something one becomes prideful about, or one adopts such a lifestyle of sacrifice, denying oneself even the most simple pleasures in life that one can lose the basic joy of living. We are supposed to be the advertisement for God’s goodness and grace. What kind of role model to others can we be if all they see is us steadfastly refusing to enjoy the life He has given us?

Here, each person must understand his/her own limits and attitude, praying earnestly for God’s guidance to follow the narrow way. What is “too much” for one is “not enough” for another. And, Jesus is pretty clear about not us judging His servants. (It’s just something to think about when examining ourselves.)

The Message In Both

Now, the moral of the original story of Goldilocks is about respecting other people and living in such a way that we don’t harm others in pursuit of self. This, too, is another way the story can apply to the Christian life. Whatever our choices, we need to live our lives so that we become a light to lead others to Jesus. We don’t want to be the stumbling block that will cause them to fall. By diligent attention to study and prayer, we can understand the balance of God’s character, the reality of our own worth, and the measure of sacrifice in which we should conduct ourselves. In this way, we can be ever mindful of extremes and always holding out for the perfect, narrow way.

f you like points to ponder, try Goldilocks and the Narrow Way. In it, we see that the narrow strip of options between extremes is where Christians should live. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Points to Ponder

Vanity of Vanities: Filling Our God-Shaped Holes

A man looking into a broken mirror is trying to fill his void without Jesus. the Bible calls this a vanity of vanities.

Striving for Awards

I love cooking shows, and Top Chef is my absolute favorite. It’s a cooking contest in which every episode chefs are given challenges to complete in a certain amount of time. When the timer goes off, winners are given rewards, losers are on the chopping block, and one contestant goes home. One night a while back, I was watching an episode on Hulu. As the chefs were scrambling to get everything done in the last seconds of the challenge, I “heard” the words “Vanity of vanities.” The words stuck with me as I watched as the dishes were judged by the expert panel. The latest losing contestant, an openly homosexual man, was sent home. His words of never giving up and pursuing his dreams in the culinary industry did, in fact, sound sad and hollow. What kind of future could this hard-working, talented man have apart from Jesus? Vanity! 

Numbing the Pain

When I went to my prayer closet a few minutes later, I ignored my usual Bible bookmark. Instead, I went straight for Ecclesiastes 1. “What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?” (Ecc 1:2). That was the question for this program, but then I thought back to another program I had watched that day. It was a video from the YouTube channel Jason A called “Everything You Know is a Lie.” It was about people in the United States using prescription drugs to dull their pain. At about the 2:40 mark, the woman giving a TED Talk says, “Our human need of significance, love, and connection can never be met with chemicals.”

And yet, prescription opioids have tripled in recent years. Thousands of people die each year from taking the psychotropic drugs their doctors prescribe for them to erase their pain, loneliness, and despair. They lack purpose, faith, and love in their lives. So, they use drugs to forget everything but a feeling in the moment. So many people today are hurting and looking to chemicals to erase the pain. Instead, the solution for so many could be found in focusing instead on the person of Jesus Christ. Vanity! 

Seeking the Supernatural Apart From God

And then an article I read popped into my mind. The article said “Christian Ouija Boards” are becoming popular in some circles. It wasn’t the ridiculousness of the practice itself that struck me at the time I read it. It was the reactions of those who had used the product and loved it. One said, “After playing that game where I really connected with my angel, I had so much hope and confidence.” Another said, “I have never been so at peace with myself.” And still another said, “I met my higher guide, felt unconditional love, and knew I wasn’t alone and never had been.”

The people using this board are trying to fill holes in their lives. They are trying to find hope, confidence, peace, love, and an answer to loneliness. But instead of turning to the living God to fill their holes, they are asking for help from demons masquerading as angels that they had summoned through a “game.” Vanity! 

What Is the Solution?

So what is vanity, and what does Solomon suggest as the solution to it? Vanity is “the futile emptiness of trying to be happy apart from God.” What striving for accolades, self-medication, and dabbling in the occult will never do for any length of time or real measure is fill that God-shaped hole each of us is born with. Only God can do that. Solomon, in the great wisdom God had given him, knew it too.

From various passages stacked together, he suggests “Eat…drink…rejoice…do good…live joyfully…fear God…keep His commandments…” for “this is the gift of God.” Realizing and appreciating that each day is a gift from God is the real key to happiness. Focusing on God and His purpose and plan fills the God-shaped hole in our lives and isn’t just a vanity of vanities. “For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart” (Ecc 6:1) Each of our days is a gift. Living in obedience to Him and keeping our focus on His kingdom instead of the distress of our lives is the only way we can find fulfillment that lasts. It’s the only way we won’t be just “grasping for the wind.” 

If you like points to ponder, try Goldilocks and the Narrow Way. In it, we see that the narrow strip of options between extremes is where Christians should live. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.