GrowingForChrist

Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

FIRST Tour: Cursing the Church or Helping it? Exposing the spirit of Balaam by Anna M. Aquino

on March 23, 2012

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
Anna M. Aquino
and the book:
Cursing the Church or Helping it?
Exposing the spirit of Balaam
Destiny Image Publishers (March 19, 2012)
***Special thanks to Anna M. Aquino for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Known for her boldness and determination, Anna M. Aquino is a rising guest minister and author. She has been quoted in abcnews.go.com, aarp.org, aoljobs.com, and she writes on occasion for parentingpink.com. She is the cofounder of Doveagle Ministries. Her biweekly blog is read around the world and translated in India (http://www.annamaquino.blogspot.com/). She’s been published in My Father my Hero, and Heavenly Humor for a Cat Lover’s Soul. Exposing the spirit of Balaam was written out of a cry from her heart to where she’s seen the majority of the church today. She believes this book is a call from God to boldly decree, “The spirit of Balaam has been loosed in the church for too long, and it’s time we arise and declare it’s not welcome in our lives.”
Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

There is an epidemic going on in the Church today. Many Christians hold on to offenses and maintain a “me first” attitude. In this last season, we must learn how to have compassion, truly love each other, and become one as the Body of Christ. Anna Aquino’s book seeks to open our eyes, soften our hearts, and move us to extend blessings to one another as we come together in unity. This book will help heal the hearts of people—both in the Church and in the world—who have been hurt by the spirit of Balaam. You will:

• Learn that the spirit of Balaam brings division by causing Christians to criticize (curse) each other.

• Understand how spiritual Amnons violate the Body.

• Be challenged to examine your ways and humble your heart before God.

• Be motivated to love your brothers and sisters in the Lord compassionately.

Anna Aquino writes, “We in the church need to wake up, have compassion, and start loving the hell out of each other. The spirit of Balaam is moving through the churches at a rapid pace. It’s up to us as the Church to stop it.”

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Destiny Image Publishers (March 19, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0768440483

ISBN-13: 978-0768440485

AND NOW…THE THIRD CHAPTER:


Chapter 3
ILL TRADE YOU TWO FAKE SMILES FOR A PRETENTIOUS IM PRAYING FOR YOU
When I was in school, I remember how some people Ithought were my friends suddenly decided they werent.One day I was in the clique, and the next day I was out.
I remember that I asked one of the girls to her face ifshe was mad at me. Her body language said it all. The angered expression and standoffish attitude were appar­ent, and I was trying the best I could to cope with the change in friend status. She responded “no” to my face, but then pretended to stretch and whispered something about me to the friend beside her. They both laughed, and I watched helplessly, realizing my friends were no longer my friends and I could now do very little to save my reputation. While this kind of stuff happens when were kids in school all the time, it shouldnt happen in churches. One would think wed all be a little more mature. However, things like this happen in the Body of Christ. Its sad. Its not Gods will or way.
I believe that compassion in this nation as a whole has been seared. To sear something means to burn it. If you were to suffer an injury, you have to sear or cauter­ize the wound. Once a wound is cauterized, that means it wont re-open in that place. Its like the compassion in this nation has been cauterized, and unless a miracle happens and we wake up from our slumber, we wont realize it.
We used to live in a society where if we saw one person struggling in our boat, wed all stop what we were doing and help that person. Wed all work together as a team. In todays world, we see that person strug­gling in the boat, feel glad its not us, and pick them up and throw them in the water. We just dont really care about each other anymore. As long as an issue doesnt affect us and our own, then we dont spend any mental thought on it.
Weve become very good in our churches today at faking our concern when really we couldnt care less about the people around us. I think Matthew 6 in the Message Bible words this well.
Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you dont make a perfor­mance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you wont be applauding. When you do something for someone else, dont call attention to your­self. Youve seen them in action, Im sureplayactors” I call themtreating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but thats all they get. When you help someone out, dont think about how it looks. Just do itquietly and unob­trusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. And when you come before God, dont turn that into a theat­rical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Heres what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you wont be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly asyou can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace
(Matthew 6:1-6 MSG).
Stop being fake and start being real. Start being real with the people around you, and start being real with God. Churches are not Broadway musicals where we play the role of the Christian. You may think you can play a role with people and get away with it, but I tell you today that you cant play that role with God. He sees through your plastic smiles and fake veneers.
STOP ACTING!
I taught a new believers class at our church for a period of time, and I was contemplating the concept of being a new creation. I was putting nacho cheese flavoring on some popcorn for my kids, and suddenly the Lord dropped into my spirit the questionIf I put the same cheese on a piece of poop, would it still be a piece of poop? My reaction was, Ewww, but yes. He said it was the same with the believer. So many times people think they can just put on a new coat of paint and play a part in salvation. They can play the part of the saved person well. They pretend that theyre really sold out for God, but deep down theyve never really given their lives to the Lord. Theyre still in the old creationtheyre still a piece of poop unless they allow Jesus to come in and truly make them a new creation. When you ask Jesus into your life and mean it, youre new. You still have some moments of the old, but youre a new creation. You cant think that by putting a new coat of paint on a barn its going to give you a new barn.
But sadly, Christians act this way in church. You cant pretend to play a part and think thatll get you into Heaven. God looks at the heart.
But God told Samuel, “Looks arent every­thing. Dont be impressed with his looks and stature. Ive already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart(1 Samuel 16:7 MSG).
We must stop playing the part of a Christian and start living the life of a Christian! Too many leaders, even in the Body of Christ, are so busy trying to be the perfect individual or have the perfect family that theyre strangling themselves in the bondage of this fake world theyve invented. We have to stop being so superfi­cial with everyone. Be real! We have to stop trying to hide our mistakes! I will be the first person to tell you that I am not perfect. I have sinned, and I have fallen short. I only get the chance to teach you from the Word because its the calling on my life and Ive allowed God to mature me. But Im not perfect.
If we claim that were free of sin, were only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sinsmake a clean breast of themHe wont let us down; Hell be true to Himself. Hell forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that weve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God (1 John
1:8 MSG).
I have a confession to makefake people, especially Christians, really annoy me. But then again, they really annoyed Jesus too. He had a word for them. He called them hypocrites.
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:1-3 KJV).
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brothers eye (Matthew 7:5 KJV).
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in (Matthew 23:13 KJV).
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypo­crites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess (Matthew
23:25 KJV).
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead mens bones, and of all uncleanness (Matthew
23:27 KJV).
Stop being hypocrites! Stop trying to play a part and start just accepting the fact that you arent perfect. Youve made mistakes.
The world has had it with “fake Christians.” They want to see real people with real struggles. They want to see people who arent perfect and for whom everything isnt hunkey-dorey. They need to see Christ in us, not a fake persona that says, “Once you come to Christ youll have a perfect life and no rocks in your path.” People in the world need to see a real Jesus! We no longer live in a “leave it to Beaver” world. Lets face itour culture has become jadedin the last 50 years. We need to be real! What if God were to be fake with us?
Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, My Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of Me, you can be sure that Ill be there (Matthew 18:18 MSG).
What if God were to say things to us and put up a front, but deep down He didnt mean it? How could we ever learn to trust Him? We wouldnt trust Him. This is why weve stopped trusting each other in the world and in the Church. Were so busy trying to act a certain way around one another that weve lost sight of what it means to be a family! God wouldnt do that. Why? Because God is truth. He cannot lie. When God says something, it will happen. God doesnt put up a front for us, so why then do we do it with each other?
SAY WHAT YOU MEAN
Its been my ongoing joke for years to point out the differences between how men and women deal with things. Men will have disagreement and just punch each other and that will be the end of it. Women are very different. I always say we argue in subtext. We say something, but really it wasnt what we said, it was the paragraph of words behind it that was implied. Its time we put the subtext down and just be real with people.
We do what we say were going to do, and we say what we mean.
Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? (2 Corin­thians 1:17 NKJV)
Stop trying to make the outside exterior always fit into what you think it should. Were living in a culture where the younger generation is so hungry for the things of God, yet they are so turned off by the hypoc­risy in the Church. We preach love and acceptance, but if someone comes into our church with spiked hair, a nose ring, and 50 tattoos, how are we going to treat them? We have to catch a fish before we can clean it. We have to show the world love no matter what they look like or what theyre doing. They were trying to do that in the Bible, too. John the Baptist and Jesus cer­tainly didnt fit the molds of what people thought they should look like or act like. God loves to mess with peoples religiosity. Drop the hypocritical act and start acting like Jesus! If you claim Jesus, youd better start acting like Him.
When people ask us to pray for a situation, how many of us merely tell them we will and then shrug it off? I am just as guilty. Ive been in situations when people have called me and gone on and on about the same issue over and over again, and I think, I dont have time for this. Get over it! But if these people are our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we must genuinely start loving them and showing them compassion. Ive made it a habit that, if someone asks me to pray for a situation, I do it right then and there, so then if I dont remember about it later, I already prayed and havent lied to them or shrugged them off.
I had an instance once when my father was hospital­ized and we werent sure what the prognosis would be. My daddy is a very soft spot with me, and this particu­lar instance was the first of many issues weve dealt with physically with him. At the time, I called all the members of the small ministry that I was leading and asked if they would pray for my dad. When I got to the girl who at the time I thought was my best friend in the world, she paused and said, “Yeah, I probably wont pray.” I was so hurt by this at the time. Here was this person I thought was a dear friend, pursuing a life after God. It hurt that she said that. By bringing this up, Im not saying I now hold animosity to herI dontbut my point is essen­tially that we tell our brothers and sisters this all the time in the Kingdom by ouractions. We just dont usually have the nerve to say it out loud like that. We have to start having compassion for the people around us!
We have to stop having a seared, non-caring atti­tude toward those around us and start having compas­sion. Jesus had compassion!
The Lord is gracious, and full of compas­
sion; slow to anger, and of great mercy
(Psalm 145:8 KJV).
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (Matthew
9:36 KJV).
And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compas­sion toward them, and He healed their sick
(Matthew 14:14 KJV).
Then Jesus called his disciples unto Him, and said, I have compassion on the multi­tude, because they continue with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way (Matthew 15:32 KJV).
So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him
(Matthew 20:34 KJV).
And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean (Mark
1:41 KJV).
And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not (Luke 7:13 KJV).
Do you notice there is an ongoing thread here in the ministry of Jesus on the earth? He was compas­sionate. Compassion is defined in the Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary as “showing sympathy; showing feel­ings of sympathy for the suffering of others, often with a desire to help.” Jesus had the desire to help others. He genuinely cared for them. He didnt just put on a show to make people think He caredHe really did care. If you want the miracles, signs, and wonders to operate in your life, you have to stop being fake and start having compassion.
People can tell who really cares around them and who doesnt. Having true compassion for people isnt about the words that are spoken and the actions that are done. Having true compassion is an attitude from the heart that cant be faked. People can see right through the veneer.
Youll notice many times in the Bible that whenever it talks about Jesus having compassion, it is a precursor to miracles, signs and wonders happening. In order for us to really begin to see the supernatural outpourings of the Lord like we so desire, we need to start having compassion for the world around us. Is it possible our lack of compassion as church members and leaders is hindering the level that the Holy Spirit will operate in the world? We have to see a fallen world before us before we have a desire to change it. God desires to show the world the supernatural power of His awesomeness. But if we are so caught up in ourselves, how are we, as the representatives of Jesus on the earth, going to bring that to the people.
WE NEED EACH OTHER
I am very blessed that, in the physical, I have one of the best families in the world. Ill admit I may be biased, and Ill admit, like any family, they have their moments, but one thing they taught me well through example is that no matter what happens in my life they will always be there for me and have my back. There is a level of camaraderie there that is supposed to exist in the Church, but as a whole, it doesnt. Ive lived over 1,000 miles from my immediate family for some time now. No matter what I need, if I really need it, they would get in the car or in a plane right now if they had to come down and help me. They have been there for me in my ups and downs in life. If they walked into a place and someone was belittling me, they wouldnt just join in. They wouldnt just keep silent. Those would be fighting words to them, even if I was in the wrong. They would have my back.
While the Church is supposed to be like a family, weve lost this concept as a whole. I can list you count­less times when someone told me they were going to do something for me and didnt. I once walked in on someone starting to trash me in a church, and no one knew I was there, yet no one defended me. What has happened to the family in the Body of Christ? We must unite in these last days like never before if we think were going to accomplish what God has for us in the Kingdom.
There is a song by Hezekiah Walker called “I Need You to Survive.” Here are the lyrics:
I need you; you need me. Were all a part of Gods Body. Stand with me; agree with me. Were all a part of Gods Body.
It is His will that every need be supplied. You are important to me; I need you to survive. You are important to me; I need you to survive. I pray for you; you pray for me. I love you; I need you to survive. I wont harm you with words from my mouth. I love you; I need you to survive.
It is His will that every need be supplied. You are important to me; I need you to survive.1
We mustnt lose sight of the fact that we need each other in the Body of Christ. We are supposed to be a family. We must stop pretending with each other and start acting like it. The world sees our strife and divi­sions and just laughs. They mock, “See those people?
They are no different. I dont want to go to that church.” We are supposed to be different. We are supposed to be a family that cares about each other and loves each other. Were supposed to have each others back. Our compassion must not continue to be seared!
Another one of the things that is spoken about Balaam is in Deuteronomy.
For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you (Deuteronomy 23:4).
God is referring here to the Moabites wanting to curse the Israelites instead of offering them bread and water. In this instance, He is talking about physical bread and physical water, but this Scripture also has a spiritual application. The bread and water are very symbolic throughout the Bible. Bread is usually either a symbol of Jesus and/or the Word.
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me (1 Corinthians 11:23­25 KJV).
But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4 KJV).
The water is typically symbolic in the Bible of the Holy Spirit.
He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:38 KJV).
On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took His stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in Me this way, just as the Scrip­ture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.) (John 7:37 MSG)
The spiritual parallel to Balaam not offering the
Israelites bread and water can be easily understood.
People who see those who may not know Jesus and the
Holy Spirit are casting judgment upon them instead of
sharing the Gospel with them. Jesus gave us a great commission.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
(Matthew 28:19 NKJV).
There is a mandate that we must share the Gospel with others. I am not recommending that you shove it down their throats, but I am saying you have to care about the people of this world who are lost and dying and on their way to hell.
I wrote a poem many years ago that I believe sums this up best.
THEYRE DYING
The veil, she tries to hide from the pain, the hurt, the guilt inside. The man, hes trying to be the push, the pull, he longs to be free. The Shadow. The Dance. The LSD Trance. The Need, for Speed. Theyre all down on their knees. Theyre waiting, theyre dying, theyre breaking, theyre crying.
We see them, we know their eyes dont have long to go. A cross, A hope, a new reason to cope. Will we tell them? Will they know or will we walk by them and let them go?
We have an obligation to share the Gospel with those around us. We have a mandate from Jesus Christ Himself. Im not saying its easy. But wouldnt you want to know if you were going to hell? Youre not obligated to force it on them. But youre obligated to tell them and share the Gospel. You may be the only Bible people ever see. I love the quote from Saint Frances of Assisi: “Go out and preach the Gospel, and if you have to, use words.” When you really care about people, theyll see it. Theyll notice a difference.
When people arent giving others the “bread and the water” of the Gospel, sometimes its because they dont have it in themselves to give to others. You cant give out what you dont have yourself. Many people get caught up in doing the work of the ministry, but they forget that they need to constantly work on their own relationship with God, too. Dont be like Balaam. Share the bread and the water. If you find yourself dry, then spend time with God, go to a conference, or maybe its time for a fast. Really seek God on how to fill up on your bread and water bank. Do what He tells you to do. Recognize you need it inside of you in order to give it to others. If youre so busy pretending you have it and you dont, then thats not doing anyone any good.
REALLY CARE
Weve stopped truly caring about those around us who are dying and going to hell. Thats why we dont share the Gospel. Our compassion has been seared so much we dont really care that theyre going to hell. Dear Christians, we need to care. We need to begin to ask the Lord for His compassion. We need to begin to rip the scales off of our eyes and see the world as Jesus sees it. God doesnt want one soul in hell. We have to stop pretending to care for people and really begin to care.
I dont pretend to be any better than the typical American in this area. How many of us have heard of a major world disaster and we think, Oh, well praise God it didnt affect me? How many times have we seen homeless people on the street, and all we can think of is how they got there and how we can avoid that ever hap­pening to us? How many of us really dont know our neighbors and, furthermore, dont care to know them? How many of us see the little old woman in the grocery store who dropped something and keep walking quicker because we dont want to stop and help her?
How many of us avoid sharing the Gospel with people because it makes us feel uncomfortable? I personally could answer yes to several of these. But I have decided its time for me to start trying to get better at this.
I cant promise Ill start caring overnight, but I have to stop being fake and start being real. When Jesus talked about knowing the prophets by their fruit, somehow I dont think He was referring to the wax fruit you put on your kitchen counter just because it looks pretty. Even bad fruit can be used in a compost heap. Wax fruit is worthless. All it will do is melt when the heat of life gets turned up. Wax fruit wont get you anywhere and will keep youfrustrated because there is no substance.
Its time to start being honest with yourself. Are you masquerading because deep down youre afraid of what would happen if people found out what youre like underneath it all? Stop! The root of all of this is fear. God created you to be you. Love who you are! Treasure it! Its OK to be different. Its OK for people to know youre not perfect, and its OK to step out of the molds of the way you think things have to be. I have news for youyou have no control over things anyway, so you might as well give it all to God. When you make the choice to start being real with yourself and those around you, it will be freeing. As a child, I remember I used to pretend I liked donuts because it was so insane to think anyone didnt like them. OK, I hate donuts. I confess it. It seems like a weird experience, but I just decided one day that I was done pretending to be some­thing I wasnt. It was as if I stepped into a new room and could hear birds singing. Its OK to step out of the old room. Be who you were created to be. Start loving yourself. God loves you, and He knows what Hes doing.
Choosing to let the walls fall down around you can be difficult. But you have to let them go. You have to be real. One day we will all stand before God, and all of our excuses and fake fruit will mean nothing before Him. Let the walls down. Let the fakeness go. Begin to ask God to remove the insensitivity in your heart. Start to really feel again. Once the compassion returns, then youll see themiracles, signs, and wonders in the Church. Once the compassion is restored, then the Church will start acting like a family. Once the com­passion is restored, then we will stop being hypocrites and start doing what God told us to do. Once the com­passionis restored, then people will see God in us and desire to come into the family of God. There is a harvest of souls coming into the Kingdom of God. Will the Church be ready?
ENDNOTE
1. Hezekiah Walker, “I Need You to Survive,” song lyrics; http://www.elyrics.net/ead/h/hezekiah-walker-lyrics/i -need-you-to-survive-lyrics.html; accessed May 6, 2011.

My Opinion:

Anna M. Aquino has said what I’ve only been thinking for awhile now.  This book is a great one for Christians who are tired of being separated from other Christians because of denominational lines – we’ve got to embrace unity amongst our other Brothers and Sisters as the Bible tells us instead of staying away from one another.  Of course there is so much more than that in this book – such as actually praying when you say you will, being honest.  The only thing I disagreed with was her take on home churches (that there isn’t any form of church authority).

At first I was worried that this was going to be a very heavy read, but I was so happy that it wasn’t, and while it was deep and convicting and inspirational, it was an awesome fast read – one that I can honestly say anyone who has been hurt by the church, Pastors who want to become a haven for newcomers, or others who want to know how they can present unity within their churches and community this book is a great beginning.

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