by Jose Casanueva
Below is a letter I sent to some ICOC leaders in Houston, Dallas and LA, including Kip McKean on December 29, 2002. As you read my letter, please understand that I was still a member of the ICOC when I wrote it. The intent was to encourage and help my "brothers" in the Houston ICOC that were suffering under the manipulation and the abuse of so called "God-Given" authority from the leaders. As I was writing, the alarm regarding what is taking place at the ICOC increased as I realized that the problems are many, and very deeply ingrained into the ICOC structure and theology. The amount of destructive manipulation is masked by the fact that some areas of the ICOC members lives do improve as they go through the ICOCs First Principles studies, and in many cases learn what sin really is for the first time. I cover the fact that some areas of my own life did improve tremendously, and others deteriorated, meanwhile witnessing many close brothers and sisters being thrown into total confusion. In reality, the "ICOC disciples" are just trading one yoke of slavery for another; as some things improve, others deteriorate as God-given freedoms are taken away from them. The ICOC disciples are made to feel that if they leave the ICOC they have no chance of continuing a relationship with God on their own. In some instances this becomes true but only because they have been conditioned to rely on the ICOC leadership, instead of relying on God. The ICOC leaders stress the areas that improve in someones life to control, abuse and manipulate people into their ministry agenda with little regard to their own sin and to the scriptures that apply to these sins. The real damage is that ICOC disciples are deceived into thinking that they will be deprived from God's grace - which denies that Christ died on the cross to set us free, including freedom from any institution that would enslave people in the name of God.
For a long time I attributed all the problems to personal sin in the local leadership, arrogance, envy etc., but through a series of Biblical challenges that produced no real changes, it finally became evident to me that the main core of the organization was "upside-down", brutal and dishonest and that these sins are actually fed and encouraged by the ICOC doctrine. It is not my intention to offend any in the ICOC, especially the ones that love God above all things, Christians that do not want anything more in their lives than to please God. Many of these good-hearted people are being blinded by the ICOC leadership to the ungodly things that are taking place. An example of this is the church being taught that you have to trust the leaders no matter how much they hurt you. They manipulate scriptures such as love keeps no records of wrong, I made the statement be careful - would you really trust a pyromaniac with a lighter near your house because you love him? and got no response. There is ongoing psychological and spiritual sabotage done on those that do not follow blindly, and refuse to submit to leaders that display an ungodly zeal for their personal agendas, causing them to twist facts and scriptures no matter how much it may devastate those involved. There is a subtle yet constant conditioning of all. This is done by interweaving false doctrine and human manipulation with scriptural truths. Some close friends I have in the ICOC are being told to not talk to me any more because I am trying to take people out of the church, when in fact I am telling people to not even consider leaving the church without contending for the true gospel first, and to persevere in their relationship with God above all else. That way, if the ungodly things they see and try to change do not improve, they can then leave close to God and with their spiritual feet on the ground. My own testimony shows that I did not realize the full extent of what I was dealing with until I contended for the righteousness of the Kingdom, as Jesus promises to him that overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna (Rev. 2:17)
My hope and prayer for the ICOC is that the wrongdoing stops soon for the sake of everyone involved. For me personally since some of us had done everything possible, including many meetings over a year with the church leaders and the elders, it became evident to me that it was time to take my family out of there, and do it in a hurry. The way God showed me that the time of contending was over was when I was told by the lead evangelist, "I don't want to hear anything else about this" that was the final clue that it was time to have nothing to do with them.
Below please find the letter,
Love, peace and grace,
José D. Casanueva
[Editor's note: section headings have been added to Jose's original letter so that readers can navigate it easily]
-----Original Message----- Sent: December 29, 2002
To: Kip McKean, Greg Marutzky, my fellow Kingdom Kids Teachers Coordinators in the Houston ICOC, my praying partner Martin Hammond and to Flint Freeman, who at one point was the church's administrator; he has been a source of comfort and wisdom. Feel free to forward this letter to others, but not to the fragile; only to those who love God above all things, that love the church like Jesus did and call him lord, who are committed to the truth like the apostle Paul was; only to those that will benefit from it according to their needs, whom this letter will be a source of discernment, food for thought, hope and healing.
This letter is a compilation of the joy, the love, the suffering, the confusion, the pondering, the contending for the true gospel that has been entrusted to us, and the alarm that has now been confirmed by Kips letter; all these things have been inscribed by God on my heart and mind from the moment that I was baptized to this day. I am trying very hard to write the whole truth in love and I am praying that hearts are moved and that God is glorified by iron sharpening iron through this letter. Please, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I plead with you all to guard your hearts and to think about the things of God, not of men, to bring Him glory...
Kip McKean has been used by God in a powerful way. All the way back, since "The meeting of the 30 would be Disciples at the Gempels' living room" in 1979 to events like "The Moscow Church celebrating their 10th Anniversary" in 2001, thousands have come to know Christ through God using Kip's calling to be totally committed to Christ and giving birth to the International Church of Christ (ICOC).
I have felt joy and love but also pain during my relationship with the ICOC. I hold dear and deep in my heart certain dates that are special to me. The day that my life was reclaimed by God, and the day that I baptized my wife are memorable moments of joy and praise to God for how he worked through the ICOC. God used the Bible and disciples from the ICOC to show me how to have a deep relationship with Christ. The word of God, brothers keeping me accountable, and a commitment to be totally devoted to Christ allowed me to transform and grow into the Christian life. My family and I were Biblically taught how to overcome many destructive sins that are a natural tendency of the present generation. But along with the good memories, I also experienced moments of deep pain. From day one I always felt that something was not totally right; especially as I began to witness brothers that were trying to run the good race being "tempted to drift from God" by character sins in the leadership that are allowed to flourish, and are in fact encouraged by incorrect "conclusions" that are at the core of the ICOC doctrine.
To the good and bad memories I can now add a moment of hope for my brothers and sisters at the ICOC, November 6 2002. I believe that Kip's resignation letter has gotten as much or more attention in heaven than all the accomplishments that God has been able to do through the ICOC, or all the negative things that have taken place. I believe that God is using Kip "again" to pave the road to "restoration" by setting an example of humility, and how to take full responsibility for the devastating effect his actions had on others. God is calling us all to the next level of maturity. The statements that give me the most hope from Kip's letter are his confession and apology:
"My most significant sin is arrogance -- thinking I am always right, not listening to the counsel of my brothers, and not seeking discipling for my life, ministry and family. I have not followed Jesus' example of humility in leadership. Other sins manifested themselves through my anger. My anger has often shut people down and, worse yet, fostered an environment where people were afraid to speak up. Additionally, I failed to build strong, mutually helpful relationships. I did not respect those whose leadership gifts could have complemented my own. I was insensitive to the needs of weaker Christians and churches. I also caused some to operate from wrong motives and others to stumble because I focused more on numeric goals than on pleasing God. To my shame I allowed myself to be glorified more than calling everyone to give God all the glory."
"I would like to apologize to all the Christians in all the churches for the things I have done that have tempted some to drift from God. I take full responsibility for how my sins have spiritually weakened and embittered many in our churches. I also take full responsibility for the spiritual condition of my family. I have pleaded to God to forgive my many sins and I deeply desire your forgiveness as well. I am very, very sorry."
To Kip I say: Brother, I forgive you, just like Christ Jesus forgave me! Plus I know for a fact that although the "numeric goals" was the root of much evil, God used it to save me, so go figure! But think about it, God has always used "the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him" (1 Corinthians 1:28). And also, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Brother, you have inspired me to dig deep in my heart, my memory and the Bible. Thank you! I am praying for you and all the churches!
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I have personally seen identical sins in the leadership of the Houston ICOC, and the effect that these sins have had on all involved. Not only the people that have been caused to "drift" are hurt, but also the ones that are causing some to drift are in fact hurting themselves. I have brothers that mean a lot to me, that I hold dear in my heart, on both sides of the fence. Like the Gempels, some of us have tried to point out these sins to some of the full-time staff and non-staff leaders in the Houston church in an effort to present everyone perfect in Christ and to revive the ministry. Although some of the wrongdoing has stopped, no one has personally stepped forward and publicly confessed, apologized, really taken full responsibility for the harm done to many, or resign from their position like Kip just did. Instead their efforts go to masking the sins and to portray that everything is "fine" now, worse yet they have surrounded themselves with "yes-men" that continue to affirm that nothing is wrong. This perpetuation of sin gives birth to other sins until things get out of hand. Many disciples have been pleading with the top leaders to put a stop to the vicious cycle for a long time but the only thing that takes place is cosmetic band-aids here and there. Although some of the wrongdoing has stopped, the continued decline of the ministry proves this to be simply a masking of the outward actions without a heartfelt indignation and alarm that always accompanies Godly sorrow. The "numerical goals" forged the majority of leaders into being worldly, arrogant, manipulative and insensitive, and those deep character sins are still perceivable in many.
It is very heavy in my heart to go help our wounded brothers! Among the people that I know that were "caused to drift", just to mention a few, there was a brother that I fondly called "the most fruitful sinner in the church" which was the brother that brought me to the Lord. Like all of us, he was far from perfect but he loves God. He, along with his wife and kids were "caused to drift", labeled, discredited and abandoned after serving as family group leaders for 4 years, mainly because he confronted the sins of some that "in their arrogance, were not seeking the council of their brothers" but along with their disciplers were concentrating on masking their sins. While he was the most fruitful member of the church, he was exalted and praised and any character sin was overlooked, just like if he was doing penance. He was worked to death. But as soon as he started to confront sin, well, he was labeled and discredited, not fit to lead anything but was told "just continue to come to church so no one thinks that anything is wrong". Along with him were many family group leaders that expressed the same concerns and called the Dallas and the Los Angeles church for help. Elders from outside Houston participated in a private meeting with these men but many lost hope when they were told "I have been in the hot seat with Kip McKean and nothing is going to change". The other was a man that I studied the Bible with; he wanted to study with us because his daughter was leading a family group in the New York ICOC. His wife was baptized and they both attended a Bible talk that I led at one point. They were an awesome couple that could have done great things for God but they were caused to drift away from the church again by the recurring sins in the leadership.
There is a serious lack of concern for the ones that the Houston ICOC caused to drift. I have heard leaders say: "that brother that fell away from God and left the church needs to be out in the world for a while to be humbled by God", I think that is terrible, I cannot see how God can be pleased with that heart, God is light, in him there is no darkness (1 John 1:5-7). Are such leaders trying to hold the church together by allowing us all to be supporting ligaments that build the church up in love? (Ephesians 4:16) or, are they throwing the "non-yes-men" into the world where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth to be humbled by Satan ?(Acts 26:18, Romans 10:16, 1 Timothy 1:20) thus, confusing them to think that God is a tough guy that also does Satan's work and in that way, have them return submissive to the leadership instead of submissive to God? Are such leaders trying to establish and preserve a position of authority and a hierarchical structure in an effort to exalt themselves? Just like "anyone who loves to be first, the leaders will have nothing to do with the drifters. So I want to bring to your attention what they are doing, gossiping maliciously about anyone that leaves the ICOC. (3 John 1:9 paraphrased) Instead they should be "pulling the line" of a "linear institution" (the church) as the ground is level at the foot of the cross. (See "Hierarchy vs. Function" at www.upcyberdown.org/StudyTools/2002/12/20021205_001.htm) Most of the people that have been badly hurt are gone. They are all but forgotten by the leadership, swept under the carpet when anyone inquires what happened to them. I am in pain for the brothers that have been hurt, but I am also in pain to see brothers, that I hold dear in my heart, being the ones that are doing the hurting.
The church will not heal or regain confidence until our wounded are ministered and healed by the leadership. I have mentioned to the leadership in the past that some of the people that have left could be used as a "thermometer" to test how the church is doing. But I guess that I was inefficient in getting the point across, or the leaders were too prideful to consider that a "fall away" could play such a role. They didn't want to face the fact that they might be wrong, refused to take full responsibility for their actions, and thus continue to destroy the ministry. "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety- nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? (Matthew 18:12). I am not even talking about the one that wandered off by itself; I am talking about the ones that were caused to drift away.
Satan is having a field day with the Houston ICOC and we have to do whatever it takes to stop this. Kips resignation letter was read to the men at the midweek service about a month after it was published at UpCyberDown.org on November 06. When we were asked if we had any questions, I stood up and asked in front of all the men, "are we now ready to go and try to bring back all our wounded, everyone that we have hurt here in Houston?" I did not get an answer then or even a reply to this day from any of the leadership. Could it be that efforts to bring the wounded back are being defused because it would mean that the local leaders that remain in Houston could end up having to do just what Kip did, confess, apologize and resign?
There is a double standard between the congregation and the leaders of the Houston ICOC. We are rebuked and discipled but my experience has been that we cannot challenge the leaders without most things being turned around on us. Talking about a heresy! The leaders are the masters of flipping things around against the person that is bringing up their sins. The person is labeled as a "rebellious, sinful, prideful bad disciple that is just causing divisions among the members of the church".
I was once told that I was prideful in response to bringing up sin in the leadership during a meeting. I was verbally attacked by my Sector leader because he felt that I had compromised his status with the church leader and hindered his job by "making him look bad", just like in the business world. While in fact, I was simply asking for help, I was sharing my faith with a friend that was going through a divorce and I emailed the top leaders asking if they could help me with him. I got chewed out by the sector leader and told among other things in a bad tone of voice, "why did you email the church leader? Now he thinks that I am not taking care of my sector, are you paranoid?" I told him that I did not appreciate the tone of voice or the selection of words, but what hurt the most was that not a single remark or question about my friend was asked, what is his name?, where is he?, nothing. After that I was verbally abused again on a different occasion by the same person, so I asked my family group leader to set up a meeting with the sector leader and an elder to address the issue, but during the meeting the elder tried to diffuse the whole thing by telling me that I was prideful. I responded by saying "are you telling me that this meeting is now about me being prideful? Did you not hear what I said was done to me? But if I am prideful, I want to know, because I want to change, so help me with my pride, what is it? But they could not say anything specific to me. Instead the offender kept trying to defend his position and started to verbally insinuate things about me again, until the elder started to guide him to express Godly sorrow. It took a long time until he finally got it, and managed to utter an apology that resembled Godly sorrow to appease the elder. That should have been a source for alarm and concern but nothing significant was done to correct the lack of a shepherd's heart in the Sector and the whole thing ended up as a soft slap on the hand. Shortly after, I was removed from leading a bible talk, I was told that I was "not leading my wife" because she would stay home with my son and did not attend the leaders meetings. (Funny, that subject was addressed at this year's marriage seminar, it was pointed out that "nowhere in the bible does it say to lead your wife instead it says to love her" (Ephesians 5:25)) I was told that I was not leadership material. This showed me that to be in leadership in the HICOC Southwest Sector you have to be a yes-man that takes insults, follows blindly, does not question anything, and is easily manipulated. If that is the case, they were right, and I am happy to not be that kind of leadership material.
To this day I have no confidence or trust in the leadership of the Houston ICOC, because I see the same pattern over and over, "everything is fine now, just forgive and move on." The leaders handpick the people around them to be yes-men that look the other way. You cannot even go to some sub-leaders for advice on these issues. I can't remember how many times I have heard "I don't want to know.. I don't want to know.. did you go to him first". With "their anger, they foster an environment where people are afraid to speak up". On the other hand, there are good-hearted people in the ICOC, I have enjoyed tremendously serving as a Kingdom Kids Teachers Coordinator up to this last Sunday 12-29-2002. All the coordinators have a great heart for God and genuinely love to serve God and bring Him glory. There are good-hearted people in the congregation serving in general, but it pains me to see us losing them right and left. Many have expressed some of the same concerns that I am presenting here, many have left while others remain and are waiting for something to happen. In the meantime, active, enthusiastic, God loving people that have been trained for years to minister to others continue to leave the church.
Some keep saying that the whole issue is that we need to forgive and move on, but I can testify that many have indeed forgiven seventy-seven times. Forgiving someone does not restore confidence or trust in that person's leadership; especially since by their actions they show us again and again a heart with the wrong motives to change. (Woe to all of us if we fail to recognize Godly sorrow!). We can forgive but that does not mean that we are able to trust, the Bible instructs us regarding this (Galatians 6). A leader that has hurt many is so burdened by having to prove his repentance by his deeds that his ability to lead is hindered. Old sins, although they have been forgiven, prolong the recovery of the ministry, which has been in a standstill as a result of the wrongdoings. Until faith is regained that the leader has Godly sorrow, that he can turn things around or until the leader resigns like Kip did, things will most likely continue to deteriorate or perhaps improve but at a very slow pace to only collapse again, because the fundamental sins remain. I have always felt that these leaders will either be asked to step down, or will step down by themselves if they ever truly come to grips in a Godly way with what they have done.
The spirit of God cannot be sensed on the same level in the church now as it was at one point in the past. It is somewhat puzzling to think that the presence of God could be felt powerfully in the church a few years back, in spite of some things that were not right, things that I noticed almost immediately after I was Baptized in February 1999. There was a buzz, like some sort of electricity in the congregation on Sundays. You could sense the spirit of God, and the kingdom of heaven in the air around you. The word of God was being preached in a powerful way. God was doing great miracles in people's lives, and adding to our numbers daily. So it was easy and convenient to overlook things here and there that were destroying the ministry slowly and inconspicuously in the background; like termites feeding on the frame of a house, only to become noticeable when the house starts to fall apart. The wrongdoing has floated to the surface now and we cannot look the other way anymore, we are smeared by it, we can no longer excuse it away, or pretend that it did not happen. The Houston ICOC has become another religious organization, reduced to acting just like mere men. About two weeks ago I heard the church leader say from the pulpit "hey I am a man, when you challenge me, I am going to react as a man, we are men!" What are we being taught? (1 Corinthians 3 "1Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. 2I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere men?") If I am wrong, he should restore me gently, if I am right he should apologize to the whole congregation.
I am convinced that no one should ever say 'imitate your leaders', we should say 'imitate your leaders only when they are imitating Jesus Christ.' The "yes-men" that look the other way when someone brings up that Christ is not being followed are in fact saying 'I follow this leader' or 'that leader'; again, they are hand picked and they are trained to do just that. The sayings "don't cause divisions", "do not gossip", "are we united?" are used in a misleading way most of the time, because they are used in the sense of "don't cause divisions in my personal agenda". Are you united with me in my agenda? The agenda of Christ takes second place to the personal agendas. "These are the men that divide us, who follow mere natural instincts" (Jude 19). Unity in the spirit comes from following Jesus Christ and his agenda. Although it may not be immediately evident to someone coming in fresh to the Houston ICOC, the damage is huge; it is hidden by the fact that the hurt people have been scattered all over the city.
I keep pondering how can it be possible that people that know the Bible, have been Baptized, call Jesus lord, are surrounded by disciples, display love for God and are members of "God's modern day movement" can fall into sin this way? It pains me to see people that I love in sin and causing others to sin. I am tormented by witnessing the brotherhood falling apart, it hurts, it hurts a lot. The Southwest has lost at least a dozen Family Group and Bible Talk leaders. The spiritual recovery group in the Southwest is full of former leaders, and there are many more leaders that have left the Southwest or the ICOC entirely. So what is at "the root" of all this ungodliness, sin and pain?
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What is the most fundamental things that need to change in order to give everything else a chance to begin to fall in place? God in his grace and mercy, through his word, circumstances, and interaction with other disciples has allowed me to have the following convictions, here they are:
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, 'The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21)
...and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick (Luke 9:2)
The church is where the kingdom of God/Heaven is preached and where the sick are healed. The church is where we are instructed about the kingdom of heaven, how to enter and how to remain in it. The church is a part of the kingdom. The kingdom of Heaven is in the spiritual realms. "The Kingdom of God cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12:28 paraphrased), the church can and it has, just read the books written by Paul in the NT. No one can say here it is or there it is "not". The Coming of the Kingdom First Principles Study states the wrong "Conclusion: The church is the kingdom of God on earth established in approximately 33 A.D." The ramifications from the misconception that "church=kingdom=ICOC" are huge and horrible".
One damaging effect of the misconception of "church=kingdom=ICOC" is that many ICOC disciples put the ICOC on the pedestal above God. I heard a bible talk leader say once "sometimes I wonder if becoming a disciple was a good thing because I don't hear us talk about evangelizing the world anymore". Where is the connection to God in that statement? How can you question if it was a good decision to become a disciple of Christ? I don't even want to think about where I would be right now if it was not for making Jesus Lord. By the power of the word of God many become disciples of Christ but Church=kingdom=ICOC tends to create disciples of the leadership of the ICOC, and then when the leadership is in error people are going to suffer because as "fishers of men" we will feel a void by being paralyzed by internal problems and not being able to "fish". I cannot count the number of disciples that I have heard say things in terms of "how can I bring someone into this mess?" But if on top of that, the church is viewed as the rock (the kingdom), the suffering is going to be worse if the leadership is faltering, because if people perceive their rock crumbling when the church is shaken they do not have the true rock to stand on. No wonder some people feel desperate and get in all kinds of trouble when they "leave" the church, they are leaving their rock and in their mind their only hope of going to heaven. If we put the church on the pedestal above God, if we make the church the rock, we are in fact crushing God with it. The church is built on the rock, the rock is that Jesus is the son of the living God (Matthew 16:15-18), the church is the body of Christ and Jesus is the head. The church is where we are instructed how to enter the kingdom and how to remain in it. The kingdom of Heaven / God is in the spiritual realms, it is within us and we can take it with us anywhere.
The concept that the ICOC is the only church or the kingdom of God itself leads to an arrogant leadership that feels they have peoples' salvation at their disposal and can determine who goes to heaven or not. I have heard some say "if you leave the ICOC you are leaving God's kingdom and going to hell". For our own sake that better not be true. Think about the people that we have caused to drift away from God; it gives me hope and relief to know that God himself could be taking care of them (Ezekiel 34). What is true is that if someone does not remain close to at least a disciple of Christ that has the kingdom within him, they will feel lonely and will be prone to becoming an idle Christian or drifting away from God totally. There are obviously many other disciples outside the ICOC otherwise there goes God's grace out the window, the power of the Cross and the ability of Jesus' blood to cleanse us from our sins. I have lost count how many people have left the church when a non-member / "non-disciple" parent dies and the disciple is told that their parent is not going to heaven because they were not part of "the kingdom" the ICOC. That is horrifically wrong and insensitive! God could have had that person walking on the narrow road all along while in the meantime here we are, considering the affirmation that the kingdom of God has been established on earth and saying "here it is" and "there is not".
Many of the disciples' children are not having anything to do with it as they get older, they are reasoning the whole thing like "well, there is no way that I can be perfect so since we are going to hell anyway, why bother" and they are taking off. Their present and future faith is damaged badly and their parents are accused of being poor leaders and bad disciples. After their children's faith has been damaged, the parents get hammered also. I am not making this up, look at the record of teenagers and young men and women that are not having anything to do with the ICOC yoke of slavery. The teenagers of many "powerful" leaders have been running! All our kids are at risk, although I am willing to bet that God is more pleased with some of them than with us right now for not wanting to be Pharisees.
The good news about Jesus making the kingdom of Heaven accessible to us if we repent, call Him lord and remain righteous, is that God can then use us to do great things for Him, in our own lives and in the lives of others. But God's kingdom remains in Heaven, in the spiritual realms and He remains in control. We, the church, preach the good news as we go about our purpose, which is to "go and make disciples of all nations". The church does not grow when we get disqualified from the kingdom because of our unrighteousness "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20). Even when we are allowed to be citizens of the kingdom, without Him or the Cross we can do nothing.
Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does (John 5:19)
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Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."( 1 Corinthians 1:31)
For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake (1 Corinthians 4:5)
Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? (1 Corinthians 5:6)
So then, no more boasting about men! (1 Corinthians 3:21)
... "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:6)
17If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:17)
The ICOC just got "grafted in, among the others" in 1979 and now shares in the nourishing sap. "What do we have that we did not receive?" "We do not support the roots but the roots support us". "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble". Until we stop claiming that the ICOC is the one and only kingdom of God that church=kingdom and stop being insensitive to everyone that is trying to walk on the narrow road, all the leaders that are trying to turn things around will be frustrated if they are trying to truly save some; God will not bless their efforts, and the number of people being hurt will continue to be greater than those being saved. (On the other hand the leadership could be satisfied by just making the payroll). By the "myth" of church=kingdom=ICOC we are easily led to all kinds of arrogance, self-righteousness, insensitivity, manipulation and plain misguidance and will continue to resemble dreamers that "reject authority" from heaven. Brothers, it is true that some leave the church because they are leaving God, but if anyone leaves the church because of ungodliness or unrighteousness from the leadership or anyone of us, shame on us! We are better off with a millstone around our necks. Yes, some of the "drifters" will be shepherded and attended to by God himself from his kingdom in heaven but others will become food for the beasts (Ezekiel 34). Nevertheless, what is ironic is that some stop being disciples of the ICOC when they, by God's grace, become true disciples of Jesus Christ and stop trying to please men. So, if we don't stop this nonsense, we will continue to have some form of Godliness but meanwhile denying God's power, and more and more God loving people will end up with no choice but to have nothing to do with it. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
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2When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" 4Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
In reality all we have to do is to be able to say: "Go back and report to the world what you hear and see at the ICOC. "The lost are found, the addicted are freed, marriages are saved, relationships are healed, etc." Jesus let his actions speak for themselves, let's imitate that. "Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." (2 Corinthians 3:5)
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What is remarkable is that the solution is at arms length. We just have to get down to earth (no pun intended), redo the studies to reflect the fact that God is in total control of who or how many he adds to our numbers, how much the church receives in contributions, who is in the kingdom or not and take all the foolish human effort and manipulation out of the equation. Then and only then will we have a solid foundation to correct the rest of the problems. I challenge anyone who thinks things are okay as they are to take the DPI "Prepared to Answer Book" by Gordon Ferguson, and read the first five chapters while substituting the Catholic Church with the ICOC, look for the parallels, it will blow your mind!
All the studies in the "First Principles" series are powerful in spite of some of the misleading interpretations and have the potential to make fruit that lasts; but all the studies need to be revamped individually and everyone needs to be retrained. You may say "well that is going to be a lot of work", not really since with God everything is possible. Let's not kid ourselves, if anything makes the ICOC great it is the heart of many to receive the instruction about the kingdom like "little children", the ICOC is full of people with great hearts for God and He will use them to advance His kingdom. (In the spiritual realms) Sure, some people are going to be shocked but, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off, it is better to enter the kingdom. besides, others will be so fired-up that they will carry the "shocked" with them!
Not many churches teach about the kingdom of God, and I think that it is an important subject. It has always helped me to visualize the Kingdom in the spiritual realms. I have always said to myself "the key to being a true and faithful disciple is to remain in the kingdom" the heavenly kingdom that is (in the spiritual realms). The church should be a place that helps us all to do just that, lets not fail each other in that respect. Many disciples have assimilated the good with the misleading parts of "The coming of the Kingdom" study like "little children" and God has blessed them due to their good heart; but eventually many end up hurt by the leadership and the leadership continues to unknowingly hurt itself. We just have to stop the misinterpretations, the myth, the wrong conclusions, acknowledge that Heaven rules (Read Daniel 4) and see all the biblical churches and our church for what we should be, where the good news of the kingdom of Heaven is preached by people that have been given access to the kingdom through repentance, baptism and by calling Jesus lord and which have been grafted into the tree by God, not men.
If this nonsense is not stopped it will eventually lead to a massive exodus and all the full-time staff disciples finding other jobs - God will not be mocked! By the way, lengthy and loud prayers will not solve the problem. (Matthew 23:13) I hereby challenge all the leaders to go after these issues and to do the right thing for God, do it in a sensible way, in a Godly way and God, not men, will add to your numbers. I challenge them to go and help the "drifters". We all need to help the leaders that don't even know that they are in great danger of hurting their blood families specially their children. What has happened to Kip, his family and his ministry will continue to repeat and manifest in all, and sooner or later it will take all out. Remember? If we confess our sins the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all (present and future) unrighteousness. Come on brothers, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing (in the spiritual realms), and forceful men lay hold of it. Get a hold of this thing and stop putting a "band-aid" on it, once and for all cut the sin out! Face the truth head on and it will set you free. By the way, do not let anyone tell you that you have to give the ICOC control of everything in your life to give your life to God. Keep in mind that there will always be things that are out of our control, but God gave us a free will to give us control of certain things, like keeping a close watch on our life and our doctrine, which are essential for salvation. (1Timothy 4:16) We should be giving God, not the ICOC, control over the things that we have no control over. "20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Philippians 3).
As for myself, I am not, and biblically cannot be "totally" united with the leadership of the church until:
Until God shows me that either these things have been taken care of, or somehow I have imagined most everything, I cannot endorse the authority of the leadership of the Houston ICOC. In fact the Bible tells me specifically to "have nothing to do with it" (2 Timothy 3). Furthermore, "Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work" (2 John 11). In the meantime, although I am nothing but a sinner, I will go and try to comfort our hurt brothers and will continue to put effort into making disciples (of Jesus Christ) of all nations, wherever God sends me. "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 20-25)
If anyone is wondering why I went to all this effort just to say I'm leaving, before God I make my plea: I want the church that I love to be restored to God. "But he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent (Luke 4:48). Don't let anyone tell you that I fell away from God or that I do not love God. The sins in the leadership cause me to drift from the Houston ICOC only, not away from God. I am not going to be an idle disciple of Christ; I am in fact joining a dynamic church planting team that as far as I have seen and heard so far, more closely resembles the instructions of the Bible and the heart of Jesus Christ.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:18)
If anyone sees anything in my heart that may not be right in God's eye, please let me know!
Love, peace and mercy,
Jose D. Casanueva
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©2003 by Jose D. Casanueva. All rights reserved.
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