The So-Called “Prophet of Prosperity”

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The Hale-Bopp comet glowed in the sky above Manila Bay, but the 50,000 ecstatic Christian followers of Brother Mike paid it no heed. Flying saucers were the last thing on their minds. Their reward was here and now: good jobs, good health, good marriages and, best of all, money.

At the high point of the rally on a vast fairground beside the bay, thousands of people lifted their open wallets and bank books to the heavens to receive financial blessings from the Philippines’ most popular evangelist, Mariano Velarde, known as Brother Mike.

Some raised their passports in hopes of a job abroad.

”Do you believe that without documents you can go to the United States with the help of Brother Mike?” said a worshiper named Nene Arreliano. ”I do.”

Evangelical movements are sweeping this largely Roman Catholic nation, with its undercurrent of pre-Christian mysticism and ritual, but never has the Philippines seen a movement grow so fast and claim so many followers.

Founded a decade ago by Mr. Velarde, 57, a real-estate developer with a religious radio program, the movement known as El Shaddai — a Hebrew name for God — has a following estimated at five million.

It is a religion of its time, when the Philippines is just beginning to join the economic growth spurt of its Southeast Asian neighbors.

”Mike Velarde is a new kind of prophet, a prophet of financial capitalism,” said Alex Magno, a political scientist. ”This is a religion in the age of portfolio investment.”

Its base, he said, is among the 700,000 overseas workers who are the nation’s leading earners of foreign exchange, sending home $8

El Shaddai preacher Mike Velarde

billion to $10 billion a year. El Shaddai has chapters in 30 countries where Filipinos work as maids, entertainers and construction workers.

It is a solid financial foundation for a religious movement that asks its followers not only to donate 10 percent of their earnings but also to offer ”seed money” that will help them reap great financial returns.

”Remember this: whoever sows (gives) sparingly will also reap (receive) sparingly, and whoever sows (gives) generously will reap (receive) generously,” an El Shaddai pamphlet says, paraphrasing the Bible.

The transactions are straightforward. Donation envelopes at the rally include a space on which a worshiper can describe the reward he hopes for.

A herald of hope drew the people to him. Known for his prosperity gospel, Bro. Mike promises healing, financial prosperity, and success to his followers. El Shaddai also ascribes magical healing powers to a wide variety of objects as eggs, bankbooks, and specially blessed handkerchiefs printed with prayers. For El Shaddai followers, with no exception to politicians, miracles are an earthly possibility. Still, the El Shaddai leader and preacher did not completely turn his back on his old enterprising business. Currently he owns and runs the Amvel Land Development Corporation, the real estate company behind the 3,000-unit Amvel Mansions, a residential project in Parañaque.
His children are into real estate as well, with some into politics.

”I call it transactional spirituality,” said Randy David, a Philippine sociologist. ”You get something for your spirituality: a visa, a job abroad. Or maybe you get cured of an illness, or you win your wife or your husband back if they are alienated.”

It is a transaction that Mr. Velarde happily acknowledges he is engaged in himself. His literature tells and retells his personal story of real-estate investments that paid off, after a period of travail, thanks to his faith.

”He used to sell real estate,” Mr. David said. ”I think he has found it more lucrative to sell religion.”

Like some American evangelists who collect large donations, Mr. Velarde has come under fire here for his financial dealings.

He has been criticized by the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission for irregularities in stock offerings from companies he controls, and a former associate has accused him of embezzling millions of dollars in El Shaddai funds. In 2001, Velarde made headlines along with former President Joseph Estrada regarding a questionable sale of his land property as a supposed “right of way” to the proposed government C-5 Road Project. Despite being overpriced, Estrada intervened to ensure the sale of the property prompting the government to charge Velarde and Estrada with plunder. The acquisition was believed to have been President Joseph Estrada’s thank you gesture to Velarde and his El Shadai followers in supporting his candidacy. A year and a half after paying Velarde’s firm P1.22 billion, the Estrada administration shelved the C-5 Link project indefinitely.

Nowhere in the Holy Scriptures that the gospel taught that those who believed will be enriched in material things. Unlike Velarde’s gospel prosperity, or any kind of gospel where pastors are promising material riches to their followers, Christ never promised His believers with anything like these. Instead, the Savior said,

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

El Shaddai Movement worship service.

 The doctrine of the gospel points the believers to look upon the things which are unseen than the things which are seen, because the things which are unseen are eternal and those that are seen are temporal, and every Christians should be taught in the same way. Christ wants us to look upon those things that endure in eternity and not to those things of this world because wherever we focus our eyes to this we will rest our hearts, too. In fact, Christ Himself or anyone of His apostles did not seek any material wealth except Judas Iscariot who used the ministry of his Lord to gain money until he lost. The Gospel is not all about money, but about spiritual riches. Paul said;

Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. (II Corinthians 8:7)

The greatest riches that a Christian should aim is eternal life in the kingdom of God in heaven. It is the only blessing “that there shall not be room enough to receive it”. David said;

As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. (Psalms 133:3)

Moses, though a prince of a great empire, did not coveted the great wealth promised by this world, but rather choose to live in poverty with Christ. Abraham in spite of the wealth he acquired, looked not upon temporal things but instead focused his mind upon that city which was built by God and not by man.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10)

The pattern of Velarde’s teaching and the materials which he used to seduce the minds of the innocents, like the eggs, the passport, the handkerchief, are all unbiblical. These are invented methods to beguile the carnal minds of  people. The message of his gospel that makes the hearts of the people more attached upon the things of this world is actually contrary to the principles of the pure teachings of God. To those who leaned their hopes upon worldly prosperity, God said;

Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. (James 5:3)

Source:

The New York Times

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White Sepulcher; A Glimpse to the Professed Preachers of Christianity Today

Before He ascend unto His Father in heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ asked Peter;

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

To prove his love to his Lord, the apostle Peter was given three same consecutive commands, “Feed my flock”, said the Lord. So, when the Lord ascended into heaven, Peter feed the flock of his Lord.

Feeding the flock is the major work of a shepherd. He guides them through a rich pasture and defends them against any attacks of wild beasts and strangers.  He should shepherd the flock the same way as the Head Pastor directed them.

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.“ (Psalms 23:1-5)

But instead of feeding the flock, what if it is the flock who feeds the shepherd? In the present age of Christianity, thousands of preachers are claiming that they were sent to feed to flock of God. They were called by their members as “reverend”, “eminence”, and sometimes “father”, that it seemed they have lordship over the organization. But looking back to the Scriptures, we will realize  that those early servants of the gospel had never been called by such lofty titles. Christ said to them,

But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. “(Matthew 23:8)

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven“. (Matthew 23:9)

The word “reverend”, which many preachers proudly attached before their names, was used only once in the entire Holy Scriptures. Among the thousand verses of the Bible, this word was written only one time and that was addressed solely to God. Psalms 111:9 says. “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.” This sacred honor has been used by almost all professing pastors of our time, whether Catholics or Protestants. More than this, Pastor Apollo Quibloy of the so-called “Kingdom of Jesus Christ” proclaimed himself “king” of his organization. These pastors, instead of serving the flock of Christ, are  being served by their members. Their members become so blinded that they didn’t notice how their leaders used them as merchandise, channel of benefits and wealth. Paul said,

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,“ (Philippians 3:7,8)

Christ declared, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

A shepherd must give his own life for the flock as Christ gave His own to the Church. But look upon today’s pastors. Instead of sacrificing their lives for the sake of the flock, the flock gives everything to them. As compensation to their invented teachings, these pastors formulated several types of offerings to exhaust the pockets of their members. Love offerings, monthly offerings, thanksgiving offerings, miracle offerings, offering during the Lord Supper, storage offering and many other unbiblical forms offerings has been introduced to their members. Moreover, they also sell different kind of stuffs to the people, teaching them that these things will bring blessings, cure to their diseases and charms of good luck – teachings that’s nowhere to be found in the Bible.  But how about their flock? These people have been deprived of reading the Bible to know the truth, but rather advised them that the Bible is so mysterious and that not one of them would comprehend its teachings unless explained to them by the pastors. Thus, the minds of these people are being manipulated that results into fanaticism.

As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich.They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.” (Jeremiah 5:27,28)

For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:18)

Behold at the reality of modern Christendom – while members are dying because of poverty and starvation, their pastors lived in luxurious mansions, traveling around the world, riding luxurious vehicles and private jets or helicopters, and yet members are continually giving their money to them. While members are suffering to live at the top of trees or under the bridges and sky-ways, or at the side of the creek, their pastors enjoy a pretty living in their palaces. In their previous life, these preachers lived a hand-to-mouth kind of living, but become great, rich and powerful as they become leaders of religion. One of the best examples is Felix Manalo, the founder and the first of the ruling dynasty of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ) that based in the Philippines. He told that when they crossed the Pasig River together his wife, he don’t even have a cent to pay the boatman. But now, after several years of leading his Church he established in Manila, the leader of the Iglesia Ni Cristo became a millionaire and his successors billionaire. And how about their flock? They have been discouraged to read the Bible.

His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. “(Isaiah 56:10,11)

Block voting is one of the most beloved doctrine held by these pastors. By promising a huge number of votes, religious leaders sell their members to gain power, favors, and money from corrupt politicians. Felix Manalo’s church and the Charismatic group led by Mike Velarde are foremost among these religious syndicates in my country. To them, Peter said;

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” (II Peter 2:3)

When Paul leads the Church, he never even imagined to use his authority to exploit the church. He regards his ministry as a sacrifice, a great responsibility without hoping anything to compensate his service. But rather he suffered the persecutions and unimaginable sufferings in the hands of the wicked just to bring the gospel to the people. In his epistle he said,

Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. “ (II Corinthians 11:22-28)

Even Christ Himself, though Lord of lords and King of kings, hadn’t lived in such luxury, but let his body lay at night to sleep without even a pillow for His head.

A true shepherd of the flock shall lead the sheep by the same manner as Christ lead them. He will give his life for the flock and serve them with all the blessings and gifts given by God through His Holy Spirit. He will never let his flock to become empty and ignorant about the word of the Lord, but like the Bible said;

“And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)

People must how to become meticulous when it comes to the subject of salvation. We must not be driven by emotions, fame and fine speeches of professing pastors of religion, but by truth, we must test them according to the standards of the written word of God; compare their doctrines with “Thus saith the Lord”, and God will lead us to the right path.