2 Samuel 16:9,11 - "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head...let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him."

Matthew 7:15 - “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11 - “…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Update on "Marble Waters Hotel" Owned by Pastor R.J. Washington: Always Empty, Now Using Non-Profit Bought TV Air Time To Market the For-Profit Enterprise

As I wrote about in November 2012, a mega church here in Jacksonville built an 80-room hotel and suites called "Marble Waters Hotel and Suites". The hotel is built on the property of the "Titus Harvest Dome Spectrum Church" mega church owned and operated by Pastor R.J. Washington. Unbelievably, this church actually constructed a 4-story, 80-room hotel at a cost of about $11 million. 

The hotel, pictured at left, has been open for about a year. It has sat mostly empty, most nights looking almost COMPLETELY empty.

Now, the church is using TV time bought by the church for their ministry, to run commercials for the hotel! R.J. Washington and Titus Harvest Dome have a TV program on WJXT at 9:30 on Sundays, and this past Sunday the last 10 minutes of the program were devoted to commercials for the Marble Waters Hotel and Suites!

Is this right? Is this legal? A church is using funds - presumably untaxed tithes and offerings of their church members - to purchase TV time that is then used in part to advertise for a for-profit hotel that is owned by the pastor? How crazy can things get? 

There are some other strange things about this hotel that raises the eyebrows of the Watchdog:

1. The church purchased a 9.63 acre vacant lot to the west of the current church in 2004 for the price of about $5.6 million. Then, in 2011, a 3.2 acre parcel was carved out of this vacant 9.63 acres and was deeded to "Water Marble Holding, LLC" on which the hotel was constructed. Pastor R.J. is the registered agent for this LLC.

2. But it doesn't stop there. There is also a "Marble Waters Hotel and Suites, Inc.", a FOR-PROFIT Florida corporation, whose address is located at one of the church properties. Guess who is the head of this for-profit corporation? Yes, Apostle R.J. Washington.

This is beyond bizarre - the mixture of a for-profit hotel on property deeded by the church, but yet owned by the pastor, and advertised by the church on their TV ministry program.

My original post back in November 2012 was a bit in jest, pointing out that THIS might be the glimpse of what a mega or giga church would do IF indeed everyone obeyed their pastor and tithed and the church had so much of God's money they didn't know what to do with it.  What the heck, let's build a....HOTEL! Yes, a hotel for Jesus!

But really, I hope someone in the Jacksonville media will begin snooping around and asking questions: why did a church decide to build a hotel on their property? And do they even know what they are doing in operating it? What special "gifts" does R.J. Washington possess that would make him able to operate a hotel, and where did the money come from that was used to build it? And why is it mostly empty? And when it is sold - which it likely will be - to a company that knows how to market and operate a hotel - who gets the money?

And if the media isn't interested, maybe there are some church members who aren't too happy that their "tithes and offerings" might have been used to build an $11 million building owned by their pastor, that is sitting mostly vacant.

And now their money given to God is being used to advertise for this boondoggle whose vacancies make it look more like the Bates Motel than the Marble Waters Hotel.

Hopefully church members will speak up.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Steve and Donna Gaines Give Their Church Members Another Reason to Tithe: God Has a Mortgage Refi Waiting For You!

Another sad spectacle at the Bellevue Baptist Church this past Sunday

Steve and Donna Gaines told their church that when you tithe, "good things happen"...as Donna Gaines told a story about a woman she knows that knows a woman, who got a lower monthly mortgage payment after she "obeyed God" and tithed:
"This lady had been praying and really asking the Lord to give her the strength and the courage to obey him to tithe. And she was really having a hard time with it because she felt like she didn't quite have enough money to make her mortgage payment...Monday she didn't do it, Tuesday she couldn't get away from it, so she went on line, and she tithed. 

On Wednesday she called her mortgage company to tell them she didn't think she was going to quite enough and ask if they would her get on some sort of a payment plan to pay it off, and the mortgage company said 'Well, I want to tell you something, your mortgage was bought by another company and your mortgage has been flagged and we are piloting a program and your mortgage was chosen and we are lowering your mortgage.' And she needed her mortgage to be $1000 a month, and they lowered it $400 to $1069. And she believed it was the Lord showing her 'I am faithful.' "
And then Steve Gaines immediately followed that story with this wonderful interpretation:
"You know what that is? When you obey God, good things happen. You're waiting for God to bless you before you obey him. God will bless you WHEN you obey him. You've got to be committed to the will of God.
Well, Steve, I guess I just had the Christian message wrong all along. I didn't know that God was in heaven waiting to bless me AFTER I obey him in the matter of giving money to your ministry. Not much difference between Steve and Donna's story and the zaniness of Peter Popoff. Peter tells miraculous testimonies of how people get more money when they sprinkle his miracle water on their forehead - and after they sow a seed to his ministry, of course.

This kind of tithing nonsense is hurting the church. I know the likes of Perry Noble have their cult following and are growing massive churches using tithing fables - but this won't last. People are seeing it and will see these lies for what they are and it will drive them AWAY from the church.

The God that Steve and Donna are preaching with this tithing and blessing nonsense is a God that intervenes in a person's life if they prove their obedience by giving money to their church that they can't afford to give...but a God that apparently isn't so interested in intervening in healing a cancer-stricken child, or intervening when the molester abducts a child.

Their God is a God who is watching your pocketbook, and blesses those who give 10%, and curses and holds back blessings from those who don't. He'll even sandbag and keep a father and son estranged until dad comes to his senses and starts tithing.

Like Ronnie Floyd said a few weeks ago:

"That's not the God I know."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Gateway Church Job Postings Prove Mega Churches are Just Big Businesses: Jesus Needs a "Creative Director, Performing Arts" and "Cafe Barista"?

A commenter yesterday posted a link to a job listing for Robert Morris' Gateway Church. Apparently the religious business is good in Texas, and this 501(c)3 religious non-profit has about 13 paid positions open for "ministry", including these two:

Not trying to be critical here. I know. They are large. Tens of thousands of members.

Members need to be entertained. Thus Gateway needs a "Creative Director of Performing Arts"

Members need to drink skinny vanilla lattes when visiting the religious metroplex. Thus Gateway needs a paid "Cafe Barista."

But why do "churches" like this still enjoy a 501(c)3 religious tax exemption? They are businesses. They have customers. They provide services to their customers. 

The "Man of God" is the CEO. Why does he still enjoy a tax-free ministerial housing allowance?

And please stop telling me that Jesus Christ demands people to give 10% of their income to a place like this, else their finances are "cursed" or that God will hold back his blessings.

The "curse" is if you do decide to fork over 10% of your money to Gateway and other such religious businesses. 

That IS the curse.

If you're a member of one of these big dog churches: treat them for what they are. A business. If you like to show up on Sunday for the entertainment and speech, fine. Come, pay them about what you might pay for a movie, maybe $10 per person. Buy some popcorn for the kids, get the wife a latte, and sit back and enjoy the show.

But don't be conned into giving them 10% of your cash flow. Did I just say that? You better believe I did!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pastors, Please Read This: Don't Do This to Your Families in Your Congregation....

I know, another tithing post from the Watchdog.

Please bear with me, I'll try to be as brief as I can.

I'm trying to help here.

Pastors, please don't abuse your church members by ever insinuating that God is harming a Christian's family or their children because they are not "bringing the tithe" to your church each week. I'm not sure what to call this when you do this: it is maybe spiritual/financial extortion, or maybe it is spiritual abuse. But it is lying. And it hurts families. It damages your families. And you need to stop it if you're doing it.

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about, so you know never to do this.

I'm going to use Tim Maynard, the pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church here in Jacksonville as my example. Tim is the elected president of the Florida Baptist State Convention. I have absolutely nothing against Tim Maynard or Fruit Cove Baptist. I have friends that go there, and I've never heard anything negative about the church or Tim Maynard. I've heard they are a very generous church and do a great deal of good in St. John's County.

But a member did alert me to this ridiculous tithing illustration/testimony/fable (take your pick, I'm not sure which one it is) that their pastor used very briefly this past Sunday, and once before in 2012.

Pastor Maynard spends his tithing sermon trying to convince his church members the standard "storehouse tithing" nonsense is true: Christians must give 10%, that none of the money they earn is theirs but it is all God's, that they must give it to the church because the church is the "storehouse", that they must tithe on the gross not the net, and that blessings or cursings of one's finances are dependent upon obedience to the tithe. Those are all lies and tall tales, but nothing out of the ordinary for pastors who push the tithing doctrine.

But my beef with Tim Maynard is how he closes out his sermon with this illustration/testimony/fable:
"There was a cattleman, he owned a lot of land in Montana, and thousands and thousands of head of cattle...he had been going to this pastor's church for a long time but had never given....he said 'I will be a tither in your church from now on.'

He said 'But pastor, would you do one thing for me? I have not spoken to my oldest son in ten years. Would you please pray that God would bring my son back to me, and back to himself before it's too late?'

The next Sunday, the rancher did as he promised. He tithed. He put the money in. It's hard. A big check. It's hard. The middle of the next week, the rancher got a phone call. The first time in ten years he heard from his son. His son said 'Dad, I'm broke, I've been wrong, and I want to know if it's OK that I come home. And I want to give my life back to God.'

Now here's the story folks: you can say 'what a great coincidence'. Maybe. Or maybe God was waiting for this man to fix this part of his life, before the other blessings started to flow.

The promise in God's word is if you will put God first in this, he will bless your work, he's going to bless the investments you make, he's going to teach you the joy in giving."
Pastor Maynard is actually telling his people that the God he serves is a God who would actually harm this man's son and his relationship with his dad - that God COULD HAVE gotten his son back to him, but God was NOT going to do that until the man started forking over 10% of his fortune.

He actually says it: God was "waiting for this man to fix this part of his life"....before he would help the man restore his son to well-being.

This hurts families. If what Maynard says is true - and it is not, it is complete hogwash - but if the religious faithful in his congregation believe it, then here's what might happen:

1. What about that family that has a son or daughter with autism and they are suffering over the lack of development in their son? Perhaps God COULD help their son, but God WON'T help their son. Maybe God is sandbagging, waiting for them to get some area of their life right. Maybe they aren't tithing. Maybe they don't pray enough. Maybe they don't serve enough. If they would only perform to some level - the 10% financial level according to Maynard - THEN maybe God would help them.

2. Or, perhaps Pastor Maynard's closing story opens the door now for one of the family members to play the blame game. If what their pastor says is true, maybe the reason their son is on drugs, or their daughter was maimed in a terrible accident, or their son is now an atheist - it was the dad's fault. If only the dad had given more, or read his bible more, or had prayed more, or had stronger faith, or hadn't criticized the pastor's sermon - then maybe God WOULD have intervened and fixed things before they went awry in the family. Way to go, dad. You blew it. God has been waiting for you to fix your life; you didn't; now you're to blame.

I'll be optimistic and say most pew sitters know just to roll their eyes when Pastor Maynard tells the story, and smart enough to not fall prey to either of the above logical extensions from Maynard's tale. But some WILL. And it will harm their family. And sadly, all in an attempt to get people to believe the false notion that a tithe is required.

So Pastor Maynard, please don't do this anymore. I would hope that you would altogether stop the storehouse tithing nonsense and preach what the New Testament says: give according to the dictates of your heart, and be generous, and be happy about it. THAT will get the job done at your church.

But pastor, if you can't get away from preaching the storehouse tithe, at least stop harming families by painting a picture of God as a holy extortionist who will only come to your aid in your family's troubles if you fork over 10%.

And other pastors, please learn from this. Don't do THIS.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Perry Noble to Non-Tithers: Don't Be Like Judas, and Betray Jesus Over Tithe Money or Your "Land" Will be Cursed!!

Once again, Perry Noble comes up with a way to use the bible he professes to believe to extract more money from his congregation. It is a fable involving a piece of land in Israel, your pocketbook, a house maybe once owned by Caiaphus, and Judas, the betrayer of Jesus - and I think you see where this is going.

Yes, Perry drew a parallel between those greedy non-tithers in his church - and Judas, the greedy guy who sold Jesus for some, well, tithe money. But Perry did it in a way to offer what he called "proof" that your finances will be cursed if you don't tithe.

And you have to have the intelligence of a 5-year old who believes in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Frosty the Snowman to even begin to believe the hogwash put forth from Perry Noble on this one.

Perry starts his hocus pocus by saying:

"When it comes to your finances, they are either blessed by God, or cursed by God, there is no middle ground..."

OK, nothing new there. But then, Perry tells his peeps about his latest trip to Israel (and gets a plug in for his NEXT trip) and says he visited a place called "Caiaphus' house". There is an achaelogical location in Jerusalem that tradition says may have been the home of the high priest Caiphus where Jesus was brought before he was crucified - as explained in Matthew 26:57. It is not fact, just tradition, no one really knows.

But then Perry says he noticed an "undeveloped" piece of land next to Caiaphus' house, and he asks his tour guide why the land is undeveloped, while houses and structures are built around it. Perry explains the answer he received from his tour guide:

"And [the tour guide] said 'That is the piece of land that was bought with the money that was given to Judas when he betrayed Jesus. It is cursed land. Christians will not build on it. Jews will not build on it. Muslims will not build on it. It...is...cursed."

Time out. Perry is pulling a fast one on his peeps. That "undeveloped land" he shows on the screen is "Potter's Field". It is NOT cursed. It is an archaeological site. Its lack of development is NOT because Jews, Christians, and Muslims think it is cursed. Perry might think it is cursed, but the lack of development is because it is an archaeological site. It was also a burial site. It was a place where clay was mined.

But Perry takes his deception even further, using it to guilt his non-tithers, comparing them with Judas.

"I started thinking about this: Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. He got the money to betray Jesus from who? The High Priest. Where did the High Priest get the money? The temple treasury. How did money get into the temple treasury? The tithe. Technically, Judas betrayed Jesus for tithe money."

Oh it gets better. Forget that the story of Judas' death and his giving back the money to the priests who then maybe bought a tract of land with the "blood money" is one of the more confusing and disputed stories of the New Testament. No, Perry now says that his fable is "2000 years of proof" that non-tithers are cursed!

"And for people to believe that the tithe is an Old Testament concept that was done away with in the New Testament...this is a picture 2000 years of proof that when we betray Jesus for money the ground, what we have, is cursed."

I don't know what else to say, than to say to the people of NewSpring Church: the only "proof" that Perry's story offers is proof that your pastor has no respect for you and your intelligence, and he doesn't give a whit about the potential harm his fables will do to your kids' faith when they finally realize their pastor chose to tell fables in church to get more of their parents' money.

Actually, I do have something else to say about Judas and the tithe money. Let's follow Perry's logic on the tithe money, but in today's terms:

In Perry's church and other mega churches today: who are the only people getting "tithe money" from the "temple treasury"? Why, it is Perry himself and other professional religious men like him. Where did Perry get his six-figure salary? From the temple treasury at NewSpring. How did the money get into the temple treasury? From the tithe.

Technically, Perry, YOU are the one taking tithe money every week from the temple treasury, not the people at your church who might be giving less than 10%! They are GIVERS...you are a TAKER!

And all you do to earn your money, Perry, is stand up and tell fables in an attempt to re-fill the treasury.

Perhaps it is Perry's ground that is cursed. He is the one that is taking money from the temple treasury.

Just like Judas did.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ooops!! Perry Noble's Tithing Gimmick Ends Up Cursing His Congregation!

Perry Noble of NewSpring Church once again came up with a new gimmick to try to manipulate - er, I mean teach - his people to tithe. This past Sunday Perry gave everyone who came into the auditorium what he called a "dime bag"...a bag that contained a dollar and a dime.

So Perry gave everyone $1.10 in a plastic bag.

Then after he told them that if they truly love God they will tithe - Perry invited them all to demonstrate their committment to tithe by tithing on the $1.10 given to them, and dropping the dime in a bucket and keeping the dollar bill.

But there is one problem: that dime did not represent a tithe.

You see, if I give you $1.10, and you only return ten cents back to me, you are short of the 10% tithe. You would have to return to me 11 cents to give me a tithe of the $1.10.

Giving $0.10 on a $1.10 gift is only a 9.1% return - thus you have robbed God, and have brought cursings upon yourself. So says Perry, right?

So Perry, the church members who dropped the dime in the bucket were actually demonstrating their willingness to rob God and be cursed. And they didn't even know it - you misled them into disobeying God, and have subjected them to the cursings of God.

You think I'm being silly?

No more silly than Perry claiming that non-tithers are robbing God and inviting God's cursings. After all if what Perry preaches on the tithe is actually true - then indeed these people who only returned 9.1% on a $1 gift all robbed God when they thought they were obeying.

In other words, once again, Perry misled his people about the tithe.