Cd. Juárez, Chih, Mx; July 31/ 2005; 25 Tammuz, 5765

Used By God Or Abused By Your Leader?

For a long time I did not send my bulletin. I have been passing through different crisis and decisions. I'm still unemployed, but I'm learning the meaning of receiving G-d's miracles as HE wants to perform them. About a year ago, a believer prayed for me "Do the miracle my brother needs". I thought it was to get out from unemployment, but this prayer has been answered, because he has miraculously sustained me. I'm searching out if I have "redeemed" my time. There are situations where G-d can work only if you live it out the circumstance. I'm not going to cry for the same motive I cried in the past. My training leads me to avoid problems. But G-d has another way of doing things.

Donia Caro is busy on sales. She still is struggling with her eyes, but she is joyful. On August 7, she will become 70. She is busy working in the L- rd's kingdom. Last week she helped preparing lunch for children in a Vacation Bible School. She's teaching a Bible class, and probably another class will be opened.

Just entering in our main theme, I want to share something painful I experienced.

When you walk with G-d, you assume that those who introduce themselves as God's ministers or apostles, they are really looking to exalt and glorify the name of Messiah. In my walking, I found out that this is not always true.

Many of you are aware that the messianic Jewish synagogue I attended for 4 years, it closed its doors in November 2003. The leader obtained an employment in another place. My bulletins have been telling my wanderings.

In October 2004 I began attending a new messianic congregation. It depends of the Church of God denomination. The name of the Pastor is Yossi Fuller. For those who are not familiar with denominations they are part of the Pentecostal movement. Just a question arises... How is it that a protestant denomination wants to have a synagogue and not a church?

Perhaps they want to increase its membership or they really want to create a Jewish space.

I enjoyed the following.-
It was an English speaking congregation (almost 99% of the time, I'm speaking Spanish).
The leader is really gifted when he directs worship.
Many attendants were military people in active duty.
There is Oneg (food) after the Shabbat service.
The leader reads Hebrew fluently.

During the fellowship I met wonderful people. Many of them, gentiles. Some believers were rediscovering the Jewish roots of their faith. But some things were not working...

When you arrive here, the leader shows great interest that you are born again believer. He does this on the Oneg. This action gave the image he was interest about people having the life of Messiah in them.

By January 2005 my mother began attending. She remembered her conversational English skills. But she's a very strong opinionated Jewish woman.

By February 2005, a Torah scroll arrived from Israel. There was a festival one Shabbat. It is a great honor, to receive this blessing for the community. The first part of the service was wonderful. But I did not like the second part. The bishop of the denomination took advantage and raised the level of the leader: From exhorter to ordained pastor. I was dumbfounded.

The next Shabbat, there was a special meeting to receive new members in the congregation. At the end of the service 90% of the people walked to the front. The leader emphasized their responsibility they were acquiring (support financially, see the wellbeing of the other members, and faithfulness in attendance). I was surprised when the leader led these people to make an oath of fidelity to the congregation/denomination. A man and a woman were selected as new elders. Donia Caro and I strongly disagreed with the oath. Only 3 people remained sitting at the pew not asking to be "members".

From that point on I felt "Neither my mother nor I belong to the club". Other things began to arise. The Elders were required to pick 0up some guests for the services. They opened their houses for Erev Shabbat. They were demanded to get food for the Oneg, They took turns to teach children and adults. They must be present in ALL services during the week, beyond their job duties or professional obligations. In few words, the leader's control each day was clearer.

By mid June 2005, it was the first business meeting. Points of discussion were finances and the need of more tithes. But the leader announced that the two elders renounced to the membership and to their positions. The leader told the congregation he ignored the motives. To create more pressure he compared the facilities of the church we were using (an old building) with the new facilities of a messianic "cult" in town. They are blessed, why aren't we?

Another Shabbat I asked for the two elders. Again the negative answer.

Meanwhile the Holy Spirit put a burden on me to contact these elders. One Thursday at the end of June I contacted them personally.

The temperature in the street was about 105o F, but the animosities with them were 800o F!

They had long faces. Faces of abused persons. They share with me lot of details. One of the sons designed the web pages for the congregation, free of charge. One day the leader arrived at 4:00 pm and left at 1:00 am! In some hours the teenager needed go to school. This young man has been abused. He thought he was working for G-d's kingdom, but he worked out for the dreams and purposes of the leader.

As the meeting was unfolding, all the control techniques were exposed. Circumstances of shame and guilt were used for controlling them. They exposed that the "brand new" young meetings were workshops where the leader exposed their sexual experiences. That's why the praising band only outlived one month!

Their meetings with the Bishop of the denomination never occurred.

Other Jewish friend, he confronted this leader of not doing the right things. The leader answered that he can make public some private issues that can put my friend in problems with the Law. This leader use private information as weapon to destroy the one that is out of his control.

For that reason my mother and I decided left the congregation publicly. Some dear friends still attend there. G-d on his time will take them out too.

You can see in the Bible a very similar story. - Eli and his sons. 1 Samuel 2-4.

G-d put me to study this Scripture deeper. What happen when the leaders abused the flock?

In 2:12 we read "Eli's sons were scoundrels with little regard for the Lord." (Revised English Bible) When I read the original text in Hebrew, my socks went off because it says, "Eli's sons, Belial's sons." Scripture does not say they were wicked. But name them as sons of Belial. Belial literally means "without yoke" or "the one does not accept the yoke of the Law". Rabbinical literature mentions Satan as Belial. (Just as an interesting point, the apocryphal book of Jubilees mentions that the Son of Belial shall appear before the Messiah.)

How Eli's sons earned that title?
- Corrupting his helpers, the young priests. They instructed them to take by force part of the sacrifice that was not allowed for the priests. The fat (representing the best) was not consumed by the fire. Is not interesting that helpers of abusive leaders develop a thwarted mind?
- They had sexual intercourses (fornication) with the women who served G-d at the Tabernacle. Having not regard for the L-rd, They used His servants as objects of their possession.
- G-d himself accuses them of sacrilege "They show no respect for my sacrifices." Worshippers were losing heart by these impious deeds. Just imagine the hurting hearts, because they were not able to fulfill G-d's Law.

Which were the activities that G-d assigned to the priests (1 Sam 2:28)?
a. Go up to the altar.- Presenting worshippers' sacrifices and offerings. Revise if the sacrifice fulfilled the requirements imposed by G-d. Search out if the worshipper understood what he was doing or what his motivations were.
b. Burned incense.- The altar of incense was in front of the Holy of Holies. On different parts of Scripture, I see incense compared to the prayers of the saints. Part of the responsibility of the priests was to direct the nation towards a prayer life to G-d.
c. Carrying the ephod.- Ephod means an object as a piece of clothing. The ephod was made of fine linen. It represents purity and Holiness before the G- d of Israel. Personal purity and holiness is reflected externally, but it must be lived out internally.

What are the wages that the Almighty one set for his priests? Numbers 18 we have the list.
* Grain offerings, purification offerings, or reparation offerings were for the male priests.
* Special gifts were for the family of the officiating priest.
* The first fruits of the harvest.
* The money of redemption of the firstborn.
* Besides the spoils from war.

In G-d's economy the needs of the priests were covered. Their portions were from the best of Israel, but G-d has HIS unique portion that he does not share.

As I was studying, I did not find any reference of G-d trying to contact or talk with Ophni and Phineas. But God contacted Eli 3 times:
a. 2:22 Eli heard the bad reputation among the Israelites concerning his sons.
b. 2:27 G-d sent a prophet, telling the punishment over his descendents.
c. 3: G-d talks with Samuel, being very young, confirming the sentence for Eli's sons.

Some questions were on my mind: Why G-d did not talk with Eli's sons, if they were the sinners and mature men?

Poor Eli! He was an old man, why G-d did not leave him relaxed the last part of his life?

As I see in Scripture, you can and must questioning your congregational leaders. I know there are material, building or financial needs. But if it is towards the plans, expectations and dreams of the leader you can question him. G-d always confirms his servants.

I finish with what the Bible tells about Samuel as servant:
a. On the service of the Almighty. (This phrase is repeated a couple times.)
b. He wore the linen ephod.
c. He heard G-d's voice directly.
d. There was not doubt about God's calling over Samuel as prophet- He confirmed Samuel.
e. The word of Samuel had authority over all Israel. 4:1

Are your leaders confirmed by G-d? Do they hear God's voice? Do they have G-d's authority?

Beware! You can believe you are serving G-d... but you are in the path of men's abuse. If G-d has given word for your leader, don't be afraid to exhort him. If the leader does not want hear, my advise is that you look after another place to serve G-d. Because God's judgment begins on his Household (1 Peter 4:7)...

I want to hear your opinions and experiences.

Shalom Aleichem
Carlos O. Perez Hurtado

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