Allegheny Valley Church Of God
The Devil Made Me Do It
It is Dec. 10, 2013. This year marked a milestone in my life. Yes, I turned 60. A good friend of mine doesn't like that terminology, says it sounds like, "I turned rancid" or something to that effect. Let's just say I crossed over the invisible but ever-present "senior" line.
For about half of my journey here on earth I have been a follower of Jesus Christ. I was saved by him back in 1983. I had friends who were witnessing to me, and I was secretly watching some televangelists who were preaching salvation and one night in my living room I finally surrendered to Jesus. Went out, bought a Bible and, after shopping around, found a good church with a great pastor and eventually answered what I perceived to be a call to ministry. By the grace of God I'm still doing it after all these years.
I'm thankful I landed in a good church with a great pastor because shortly after my conversion there came a shaking within the realms of televangelism, (a term I'm sure would be a puzzle to the early evangelists.) It seems that many of the big name big buck holy ghost TV stars began to unravel and their financial and sexual escapades began to be big news. Making them the brunt of jokes by those who did not believe in God, bringing reproach upon those who truly followed Christ, these scandals brought down some of the biggest and most watched ministries of the time. The two names that automatically come to mind are Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. This particular article deals with the latter. Perhaps there will be a part two.
Jim Bakker, an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, began his TV career with Pat Robertson, the founder of the 700 club. He and his wife Tammy Faye had a children's show there. After several years they traveled west and helped Paul and Jan Crouch found the Trinity Broadcasting Network. From there they moved back east to Charlotte, NC, to begin the PTL club in the early 80's. When I first got saved I remember people telling me to watch them that they were soooo wonderful. "Jim and Tammy, Jim and Tammy, Jim and Tammy," was all I heard. The first time I watched them I thought it was a joke. That was the earliest indication I had that many American Christians were clueless. In 2 Corinthians ch. 11 the Apostle Paul said, in essence, "You guys will believe anything!" (my paraphrase) So it goes with North American Christianity.
The Bakker's began building Heritage Village, a "christian" amusement park, complete with water slides, pony rides and all the food you could eat. What the viewers didn't see was the lavish life style that was funded by the poor dupes who sent their money in thinking it was going to build the kingdom of God. All it was building was a care-free existence and an air-conditioned dog house and an opulent "parsonage" built for Jim and Tammy. They also didn't realize their seed money was going to pay off one of Jim Bakker's big mistakes.
Bakker built a 500 room hotel there and began selling lifetime memberships for $1000 which assured the members of a 3 day stay every year. Problem was he sold way more memberships than he had rooms. Amidst all that, he was exposed in a sexual encounter with his secretary, a Ms. Jessica Hahn. He paid her almost $300,000 of ministry donations to keep quiet, but the truth leaked out. From a worldly standpoint that was probably the best thing that happened to her because she went from being a secretary to an international porn star making boucoups bucks. Of course, her beauty has now faded and she is destined for hell if she doesn't repent. That's another story.
Jim Bakker was eventually found guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. He was sentenced to 45 years in a federal penetentiary. The conviction was upheld under appeals but the sentence was shortened. He spent about 5 years in federal prison before being released in 1994. During that time he supposedly spent all his time studying the scriptures. He wrote a book entitled, "I Was Wrong," that renounced the prosperity doctrines that he once espoused. I thought that was quite a reformation and was happy that he seemed to be coming back to his fundamental pentecostal roots. I was hoping that the days of his TV shystering were over. Sadly, I was wrong.
Jim is back on TV. When I watch his show I feel like I'm watching a religious version of the Simpsons. The heavily made-up Tammy Faye, who divorced Jim in the early 90's and eventually succumbed to cancer, has been replaced with Lori, not quite so made up. Charlotte is now Branson Mo. Heritage Village is now Morningside and Peaceful Valley, with an RV park, campground and, yes, condos. (One was listed in a Huston Craigslist ad for $300,000) Of course, there is "Lori's House," the unfinished home for unwed mothers. You can be a "Lori's House Builders" member for only $1000.
The property there is not owned by Jim personally, (according to what I've read he still owes and is paying the IRS around $6 million) but is owned by trustees and associates of the ministry. He has befriended and embraced the New Apostolic Reformation people (can you say "Todd Bentley") and often has on his program false prophets like Rick Joyner and Bobby Connors and the like. On a recent show he was speaking lovingly of Bob Jones, one of the Kansas City Prophets who sees "angels" and has had his own problems with sexual immorality. Rick Joyner now owns what once was Heritage Village and actually put Jim Bakker up there upon his release from federal custody.
He also has guests on who have something to sell. A book, a new Bible, a DVD. Usually fad stuff, but once in awhile someone respectable, like Jonathan Cahn (The Harbinger) or David Jeremiah.
The prosperity doctrine has been replaced with a survivalist emphasis. He has embraced post-tribulation theology and believes that the body of Christ will have to endure the wrath of God during the seven-year tribulation. There are many Biblical reasons for rejecting that stance, but it is not a cause to reject one's salvation.
I am wondering, however, if he really believes that or if it just fits his purpose. You see, because he is so concerned about believers living through the time of Jacob's trouble, (the seven year period described by Daniel and John in the Revelation) he has taken on the thankless task of selling buckets of 20 year-shelf-life food and survival equipment so that we will be able to endure the time of great tribulation. For only $500 you can get one years worth of food for one person. They serve some of the items in the restaurant there.
How to cook this stuff with no power? Simple, a foldable solar panel for a $450 "love gift" and a 600 watt microwave for only $100. There are water purification bottles and survival kits. There is also "Salba" chia seeds, whatever that is, "Silver Sol" which is a cure-all silver solution and powdered food of all kinds. Much of the program shows Jim and Lori and his entourage eating this stuff and going, "ummmm" and "ahhhh" and "Oh I want more!"
I was watching the show today (it was either that or Steve Wilkos) and Jim was recounting his time in federal prison. To hear him talk it was like he was a martyr exiled by his own countrymen. One of his panel mates on the show said this: "It was your brothers in Christ who put you in prison." I wanted to throw something. It wasn't his brothers in Christ, IT WAS HIS OWN FAULT! No one told him to rip off thousands of people who trusted him to tell the truth. No one told him to cheat on his wife with a secretary bimbo and pay her off with money that was supposed to go to ministry. No one told him to abuse his tax-exempt status to rip people off and live an extravagant lifestyle. He made a mockery of the gospel and trampled on the blood of Jesus Christ. God gave him another chance to repent and do right, and he has returned to his vomit. Why can't these fallen preachers own up to their own misdeeds.
If you think you have to store up food so you don't have to take the mark of the beast go ahead. If you believe that we are appointed unto the wrath of God during the tribulation, then prepare. I believe you will be very pleasantly surprised when the trump sounds and the dead in Christ will rise and we who are alive and remain will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. But that's ok. You never know when you're going to need a black bean burger.
Don't be taken in by these con men and their minions. When will the body of Christ wake up? Find a church where the blood and the cross and the resurrection is preached and salvation is offered and Christ is lifted up and gird up the loins of your mind. Paul told Timothy that perilous times would come. He wasn't referring to earthquakes and tsunamis and civil unrest. He was referring to religious con men who will make merchandise of you.
Jesus Christ has broken every curse on the Cross. He defeated Satan once for all. You don't need to find a holy man to lay hands on you. Call upon His name! If you are an unbeliever and you're reading this don't get your theology from TV. Consider the claims of the living Christ, the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world, and who took your sin away too, if you'll receive it. Put your faith in Christ and in the blood He shed on the cross at Calvary and be saved for all eternity.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.