News Commentary: Mr. Frank Vennes Jr. Indicted- An Exposed Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

         Soon after this blog was started the Tom Petters ponzi scheme was exposed.  One of the individuals involved in the scheme was Frank Vennes Jr. a professed evangelical who had ties to Teen Challenge, a prison ministry called Charis, and Northwestern College in Minnesota.  The initial article[i] called Mr. Vennes Jr. to task for being a wolf in sheeps clothing and those who knew and supported Mr. Vennes confronted this writer for jumping to conclusions and passing judgment without facts on Mr. Vennes. I recognized that my initial response did come from some anger, but the anger was related to what appeared to be blatant deceit.  The anger was recognized leading to a published apology.[ii] In January of 2010, this writer wondered what did Mr. Vennes actually know and commented about how we all need to stand for truth[iii]. See Mr. Vennes friends and voraciously defended the man and his reputation that doubt was caught on the initial impressions and anger.  It turns out the impression and anger was righteous and justified.

            His friends pointed out the fact that Mr. Vennes was not indicted no did he seem the target of the investigation.  It was that one fact that led to questions. Well, now there are questions no more.  As. Mr. Vennes has now been indicted. Apparently his finances had long ago been seized in relation to the fraud.  Sure, an indictment is not “proof” but the points of the initial articles were relevant and on target. See the question was always whether Mr. Vennes was a man conned, or an integral part of the con.  The current allegations point to his being an integral part of the con.  The Star Tribune article[iv] states that Mr. Vennes is on tape stating the empty warehouses will cause the scheme to “implode” and that the whole thing is “a little paper manufacturing plant.”

            See this shows appearance can be deceiving.  It illustrates that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. If you think you know a person, even had his deep faults confessed, he still can be seeking after that which is crooked and deceiving.  And Mr. Vennes is not really any different that any of us.  Each of us are capable of deceit and betrayal.

            In retrospect, there are lessons to be learned. While caution is always in order, there is righteous judgment and discernment.  The truth can be known without evidence of all the facts. Mr. Vennes is alleged to have actively conned others, and this writer believes that to be true.  He put both Teen Challenge and Northwestern College in positions that impacted them and threatened their existence. The root of the actions and deception was all in order for a handful of people to make a lot of money.

            Another point is no matter how well hidden things seem to be, sooner or later all the deeds in darkness will be exposed. Some, like the Petters scheme will be exposed in this life time before all. But when Jesus returns, every little evil will be brought into open. Nothing hidden! 

            It is also worth noting how easily any of us can be if we operate based on experience.  We think we can know a person, view their actions and conclude they are seeking after pure motives. Yet, there are many like Mr. Vennes or Ananias and Sapphira, or Judas that more is going on then the initial experience. With the disciples, none but Jesus knew what was in his heart, even when he left the last supper, pointed out as a betrayer, the disciples see were unaware of the darkness in his heart. He followed Jesus.  It is due to revelation of the Holy Spirit that Ananias and Sapphira were exposed and brought to death.  Some think that God is cruel for such actions. But it is that deep deception, the deceitful appearance and heart that God knows impacts and corrupts many. Their death was an act of love and righteous wrath. Now, I hope and pray that Mr. Vennes is not like Judas or Annanias and Sapphira. It is not too late for true repentance. However, the man has conned many for a long time and the veracity of anything coming from the man will need to be questioned.  For it is not the appearance of good works that is the fruit of repentance, it is true surrender to Jesus. Mr. Vennes faked it fooling many, but He has been exposed. The story serves as an example for all.  And if there are friends who still seek to defend the man, take it up with the creator, for Mr. Vennes in my mind is a deceiver and wolf in sheeps clothing that fooled many.

2010 Objectives and Prayer Requests

The purpose of this article is really to put down the things that God is doing in my life and the areas where hope for blessing and productivity. In this article, first I will list me objectives and desires for 2010 and then a list of general prayer requests. Feel free to contact me personally if you want any further details.

        Objectives:

Grow in my relationship with God and show love that is more complete.

Follow Gods leading over my own ideas, wants, or desires.

Be intentional in actions and choices.

Grow in showing, speaking, and reflecting God’s love in relationships around me.

Be productive at current employers. I am working for two employers, one doing crisis evaluations at a local hospital. The second is providing counseling/psychotherapy services at a local clinic. These employers provide a sound base and I want to do my best to glorify God at the places where I work.

Establish private practice. This is a key goal for the year ahead. It requires lots of steps and investment in time and money. It is one thing that really is at a beginning.

Find ways to serve God in the church congregation he has placed me. My heart right now is to be involved in some way or fashion with Men’s ministry. Currently waiting as the church and pastor know my desire to be involved in some way.

Write more intentionally and with greater consistency.

Completed planned article series such as Foundations of Strong Delusion.

In God’s time, work on becoming a father with wife.

               Prayer requests:

Brother and his family: Pray for strength, comfort, and healing. They have undergone a long ordeal of loving and caring for someone who is dying, Nancy Kimmey. The trial the have gone through during this time has been extremely difficult on them all. Pray for a sense of God’s peace during the time and that they come through the ordeal ultimately stronger and that their mourning does turn to dancing as the ordeal brings them a taste of the Joy of the Lord.

Mother: As posted on the blog before she has encountered vision lost and diagnosed with rod dysphasia. She is moving in to a new time of life. She is a strong, independent woman who know has to increasingly depend on others. Pray that she grows in being able to reflect God’s love to those that assist her. Pray that her eyes, ears, and heart be opened to see in new ways God’s glory and find ways transcending beyond self to communicate and give voice to what God stirs.

Father: Pray he gains sense of God’s leading and direction. Pray for strength and faithfulness in following God’s lead beyond own ideas of what God is leading. Pray for God ordained appointments while waiting on God’s move and direction. Pray for God’s directions to be clear and that of self to become small. Pray for provision to do what God calls and directs.

Step-mother: Pray same as above but in addition continued strength in battle. She had a victory over cancer, yet the battle continues as she has three lesions in her brain and will need further prayer. Pray for discernment and for any root cause of the cancer to be dealt with and disabled in prayer.

Step-brother Tim: He has been serving God in mission field. Pray for His service to be rewarded with fruit, whether he sees fruit or not. Pray for Him to be further built up, rooted in God’s love, and able to share God’s love with others. He is leaving on January 12th for a 2 month stay in Mexico helping build a church. He will return to North Pole, Alaska to serve an outreach radio station.

Wife: Pray for God to continue to work in her life with restoration and healing. She is working on losing weight, a difficult battle with medical conditions that complicate. Pray for strength to continue to fight the battle. She desires that we try and have a baby before the year is out, so pray for God’s will and leading on that front in His time. Pray for strength, as she is often tired. Pray for her to find joy at work, as the job is tough for her and stressful. As she is at work, pray for God’s light and fragrance be evident to all around her.

Mother-in-law: Pray for her to grow deeper with God. For her wounds to be filled with God’s love. Pray for her to be filled to the brim with God’s love to touch those around her with love both in terms of family and those around her in Maceio

Father-in-law: Pray for God to touch his heart as he serves and loves others. Pray for God to touch whatever wounds are within his heart and to see fully God at work in those around him.

Brother-in-law Lon and his family: Pray for strength, wisdom, and guidance. He is pasturing a church in Maceio, Brazil. He is pulled in many directions and the church needs to move from dependence on Him and grow in dependence on God. Pray for all of His family to grow in loving God and others. Pray that the pull and desires of self and world diminish and appetites for the Kingdom of God grow.

Brother-in-law Leo and his family. Leo is not following God and walking in the darkness. He is ruled by lusts and pride. Pray for God to send the Holy Spirit to convict and draw him to repentance. Pray for his wife and daughters, that in the pain and heartache of betrayal that they get drawn into deep relationship with God and his love. Pray for their wounds to be healed and for their hearts to be touched with the love of God.

Other family members and friends: Pray for God to move and touch them where they are, in their pains, struggles, joys, and journey of life. Pray for God’s love to be made clear and deeper in all, whether they know God or chosen to walk away from God.

Pastor Brian Sinclair: Pray for wisdom and strength to lead New Joy Church with the vision of God. Build him up with words that build up the congregation in the faith. Pray for protection for Him and His family related to the wiles of the enemy.

New Joy Church: Pray that ultimately God brings a work that frees His New Joy amidst the congregation as the church becomes further rooted in the truth of God’s word and obedient to His call. Pray for wisdom, clarity, and vision for what God has ahead. May ideas of self be clear and reduced and may we all hear and see what God is directing.

Steiger International: Pray for God to continue to use them to reach those in the darkest places of the world with the Gospel. Pray for protection, wisdom, guidance, and provision.

The Livesay’s and Heartline Ministries Hati: Pray for God to continue to reach others with God’s love in gospel in that poor and hurting country. Pray for provision, wisdom, guidance, and protection.

The Hensel’s: Pray for God to grow the new Ministry and to touch the lives of the people where they are serving. Pray that they are able to help build others in the faith and draw others unto salvation.

The Gross family: Pray for God to bless them as they serve God. Pray for healing, strength, and renewal.

Simeon’s Cry: Pray that God uses them mightly to reach Jews and Muslims for Jesus. Pray for wisdom and open eyes and hears to see and hear what needs to be seen and heard. Pray for continued and ongoing discernment.

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem: Pray that those of the nation of Israel grow in awareness of the Gospel and be brought to true wholeness as the recognize Yeshua as Mashiach.

Pray for Missionaries the world over, that they are able to draw others to turn from self to God and bring in a fruitful harvest.

And the requests for self: Pray for wisdom and guidance. Pray for ongoing growth in voice. Pray for growth in intentionality and consistency. Pray for God to draw those that he wants to use me in their lives to draw them into greater peace, learn of God’s peace, and receive restoration of heart and soul. Pray that I grow in loving God and others deeply. Pray for the blog and forum, that is serves to build others up, spread the light of the Gospel, and as led expose the workings of darkness.

    Prayer for 2010

Lord Heavenly Father, you who are the beginning of all things, you who set all things in motion. Touch the lives of all who read this that they may grow in knowledge of you. May each person who reads this blog grow in his or her response to you. May their walking in love of God and others be deeper and clearer. Open the eyes, ears and hearts to greater knowledge of Your love and your ways. Bring people into a greater sense of Your Peace and Joy. Heal the wounds of the broken, set the captives free, bring restoration to those in need. Transform each of our lives to reflect you greater. Bring us into greater awareness of our own sins and selfishness and help us to walk in repentance. Make clear to each one of us the areas of refinement you are leading in for this year ahead. Bring forth fruit as people serve you in love. Bring wisdom and discernment. Open eyes and ears of each to the ways accepted or walked in not of you. Expose the deceptions that have been embraced and the roots of the deception. Build each of us up in You. May your Kingdom grow and expand and be more visible to each of us. Help us to forgive as You call us to forgive. Help us to love as You call us to love. Bring the prosperity of further knowledge of your love and pushing forward in your ways grow with eyes toward treasures in heaven and not on the ways of the world. Thank you for the provisions that will come in the year ahead. Give each person the wisdom needed to make the choices as they come. Give strength, peace, and comfort in suffering. Give light and hope in darkness. Give clarity in fog. Give strength and direction in waiting. Pour out your love and light as all who serve you. Build what you have established, break down all that is not of you. Bring forth your harvest and fruit. Lead us in the sure path and sure ways and help us to return when we stray from your path. We thank you Father for all that you have done, for your gift of Salvation through Jesus, our messiah. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and the ability to draw near to you, as you are on the throne. Thank you Jesus for Your love and mediating before the throne on our behalf. Thank you Holy Spirit for your ongoing presence even if at times we are muted in awareness of Your presence. We look forward to all that is ahead in 2010 and we thank you for what you have worked in our lives up to today. Above all, may Your will be done in our lives here on earth, as we seek to serve your Kingdom. All glory to your name. Your will be done. Amen!

Diggory Press Saga Update: Hearing Results and commentary

There has been a request for an update regarding the Diggory Press Saga.  The remaining court cases had a hearing at Torquay & Newton Abbott County Court on November 9th.   Mick Rooney’s blog reported that of the three remaining litigants the judge decided in favor of two of the plaintiffs and dismissed any counter claims. The other case was dismissed on technicality issues.  It is the end of apparently three years worth of back and forth legal proceedings, but hardly an end to the vicious back and forth that has occurred in varied places on the internet. It is sad that in the process perhaps some people did not receive fair recompense for their difficulties with Diggory Press. 

For me the real issue came down to the actions that transpired on the internet.  There was an ongoing vicious cycle of attacking and defending going on and from all parties with full belief that their actions were justified and warranted.  When we engage in attack and defend stances ultimately it leads to entrenched positions and reasonable solutions ultimately dismissed.  It is also noteworthy that sides were taken often not in relation to the facts of the case but in terms of the personalities.  People sided against Mrs. Franklin based on issues with the content on her blog. This in turn brought out people defending Mrs. Franklin because of appreciation for the deception that is exposed on her blog.

There are a few really tragic results from this whole affair.  The first is that the behavior of Dr. Manning is reinforced. Dr. Manning gives his account of the hearing at: http://checkpoint.ie/TorquayReport.pdf. It is filled with malicious comments that continue to tear down Mrs. Franklin.  Dr. Manning has found character assassination to be effective and will certainly not refrain from doing the same thing to anyone else that may cross him.  Granted the varied defensive responses from Mrs. Franklin also helped Dr. Manning’s cause and reinforced his behavior.  It is also very clear that Mrs. Franklin engaged in poor customer service and poor business practices.  She engaged in behavior that was clearly wrong and clearly faced consequences of those actions.

Another tragic result of this saga is Mrs. Franklin has brought a level of distrust by her actions.  Mrs. Franklin has a blog www.endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com on which she exposes varied deceptions and offers her perception. She also at times offers what she reports to be prophetic visions. Her website often has valued information, more often then not, republished and brought attention to because her blog has attracted a good sized audience. Yet, these actions and the defensive behaviors have brought along with it distrust. The distrust starts with her refusing to acknowledge publicly that Rosalind Franklin of Diggory Press and Miriam Franklin of the blog is the same person.  Then you add on the use of some aliases and potential sock puppets in defense against Dr. Manning’s character assassination and the level of trust drops.  It reaches a point where it is hard to believe a person, no matter how well intentioned.

The last tragic result of this saga is through all the back and forth and the failings of the British justice system, there are people who did not receive their just recompense. This is however the way of the world.  Some folks receive justice others do not. 

Now for the audience of this saga and in particular those that follow Jesus there are some important lessons to be learned.   The first is that we always need to respond in love, even more so when under attack, either rightly or not.  The Bible directs us to bless those that curse you and to love your enemies.  By so doing, it is a moving beyond your own self interest and shining the light of God’s love.  When we engage in attack and defend, we are engaging our own self-interest.  When positions become entrenched then self-interest has reach a point of a matter of pride. Now even if one purports their interest to be for the good of others, when it reaches the levels things progressed to here, it really just becomes all about pride. There is a reason Jesus directs us in Matthew 5:25 to settle matters with adversaries before going to court.  In part doing so takes the focus off of self. And if the matter is something for which we are in the wrong, consequences will occur. And sometimes consequences occur, even if you really did not do anything wrong.  The directive is really to move beyond engaging in defensive responding and matters of pride.

Another lesson here for all, is that we all need to be cautious.  Just because someone claims to be conducting business as an ethical Christian does not make it so.  People do at times present one manner in public and another matter privately.  Examine everything to see if what is claimed is true. We are to test all things. 

Now as a believer it is always important that we conduct ourselves in manners above reproach and seek to abide by high ethical standards. If any believer does not, it can be turned against you.  There are powers and forces and people that seek to harm and bring the Gospel and followers of the Gospel and those that stand for God’s truth into disrepute. The Bible is filled with instances of people of God facing consequences for doing no wrong, or simply following God’s directives.  Any opening others can be given will be used to bring harm. 

So in conclusion, the legal proceedings in the Diggory Press saga have ended.  Mrs. Franklin found to be in the wrong in her business practice. A matter that should have been addressed simply and civilly became a spectacle played out on the internet.  Pray for all involved and take lessons from this saga and apply them to your own life and practice.  Do not follow in the path of Dr. Manning or Mrs. Franklin but seek to conduct yourself differently on all occasions. And most important of all, if you have done wrong and harmed others, take responsibility and seek to reconcile.  For in working toward reconciliation and pursuing reconciliation, you reflect Jesus.  Anything else and it is but the darkness of self.

Christian Video: Derek meets a false prophet

Please take time to watch this video it speaks for itself.

Trading on power and influence: The Petters, Madoff and Tri Energy Ponzi schemes

Well as it turns out Thomas Petters is no longer the operator of the world’s largest and most extensive Ponzi scheme. Bernard Madoff is now the proud holder of that title. He bilked billions in his scheme which operated largely on reputation and word of mouth. He used is reputation and influence to convince others that he could help them reach great profit. However, neither the Petters or the Madoff Ponzi schemes were the only ones trading on power and influence, they just were far more successful. A Ponzi scheme run by Tri Energy owners Robert Jennings and Arthur Simburg also used power and influence to con people out of money. The power and influence traded on was that of Robert Jennings position as pastor of New Life Community church. Each of the schemes utilized essentially the same techniques and the same factors came into play in each case.

The starting point of the cons is that of using their position and influence to gain favor with others. Their position and reputations allowed them to engage in subtle persuasion that drew others into their web of deceit. Once a reputation is earned or once a person has a position of power or influence within a community, they are in position to sway others. Of course, nothing sways others more than the appearance of success. Mr. Petters, Mr. Madoff, and the Tri Energy owners certainly showed themselves to be successful and used that success to build their position and influence even more. Mr. Petters and Mr. Madoff did so by heavily contributing to a variety of charitable organizations. Mr. Jennings and Mr. Simburg on the other hand just used appearance of beneficial spiritual meetings and spoke of humanitarian aid. The better they looked to others, the more likely they would be able to gain funds.

It was the positions of power and influence that often led toward others ignoring red flags. These men were in the position they were in for a reason, and they apparently were just better skilled then countless others, at least to those taken in by these deceivers. In each case, there were plenty of red flags if people just paid attention and used discernment. The main reason for it is they placed trust on these men, in part due to their position and reputation. Each deceiver certainly went to great pains to foster that trust and have people set aside any use of critical thinking. Then if you add in the appearance of being able to be part of an exclusive set that will be able to cash in on these men with the “great” skills at investing and turning profit. In fact a key component of many cons, and certainly one used by these individuals is the appearance of exclusivity and being part of a “special” group which will help you profit and get whatever you desire.

Ultimately, these schemes fail for one reason or another, but usually not due to those being conned waking up to the deception, rather the schemes can only go so far before they collapse or someone has a change of heart and exposes the fraud. One thing these schemes show is that no one is immune from deception. We all are easily deceived and can place our trust in people and things that will ultimately fail. We each need to attend to the warning signs that exist. We need not turn to any man and their influence and power and trust them to meet our desires. When we focus on building what we want, and depend on those other important people, the end result is destruction and chaos.

The Gospel offers another way. A way not focused on building for self, but one of surrendering self. It is taking our wants, needs, and desires and surrendering them to the King of Kings. However, the surrender does not just happen once, but ongoing, as desires to move and build for self arise, turning them over to the King of Kings. There is an ever ongoing process, for while the gift of salvation that comes from Jesus death on the cross offers redemption, the process is a daily battle of surrender and renewing faith. We can often turn to faith in deceivers, we all do, but through Jesus there is always restoration. Suffering comes, sometimes at the hands of trusting deceivers, but when you move beyond self to trust in Jesus, the suffering is recognized as temporary, no matter how it comes. Yet, we all can be still easily deceived. There are many promises out there, even promises of doing perceived good. Those that will fall away, will do so biting big deceptions and ignoring the warning signs, and get hooked by the bait offered by those in important positions. We all need to be wary and ever watchful and daily take our own desires and motives and surrender them to the King of Kings.

Introducing: The Peacebringer Forum

I decided that it was time for me to start a message board forum.   The message board is at www.peacebringer.net/phpBB3

I hope readers will come and partake in discussion at the forum.  The forum include a place for questions about God and for people to seek advice on emotions, relationships, and spiritual issues without registering for the forum. 

Currently the forum is brand new without much content.  I will probably eventually include an area of links that hi-light hot forum conversations once the forum becomes active.  At any rate, please feel free to drop on by.

Guest Commentary: Titus 1- What it teaches us about false shepherds

The following was sent to me by my brother Robert Blake:

Titus is written by Paul to a young pastor who is probably over seeing a new church.
Paul begins by laying out a structure of elders to watch over the church. He gives a clear list of characteristics these men are to have. They are to protect the church, keeping it in line with the truth.
What seems to have hit me with some interest is the second half of chapter one. Paul sets up the structure out of concern for the church, that it maintain its integrity to the truth. He goes on to explain there are false shepherds and lists their characteristics.
These characteristics will all be framed within context of truth, which is mentioned later in the chapter. The characteristics starting at vs. 10 are:

Rebellious– Indicates a person who knows the truth but decides to do the opposite. A question is if we are all rebellious as Paul indicates in other writings, how are these people different? I would say they do not have the Romans 7 struggle between right and wrong actions. They choose to go after wrong actions.

Empty Talkers– It is a ripe term, hypocritical nature is what it is pointing to. Telling people to do one thing, and they do the other. Yes, it is related to the first characteristic. But, I wonder if it is more than that? We are warned in scripture that people in the end times will want their ears tickled, words that will please over words of truth. That is also at the heart of the empty talker, providing words to keep people happy over keeping people on the path of truth.

Deceivers– It tells us that the false teachers are doing more than just wrongly teaching, they are purposefully teaching something and it is wrong. It means they know the truth but choose to teach the opposite. Related to the previous characteristic, keeping the flock happy means they choose a lie over truth, ultimately deception.

Of Circumcision– It means they are participate and are active in the church community, the body of believers. It is why Paul wants elders to protect the church.

Wrongly motivated– They are in it for their own benefit and gain, contrast with the elders who are not self-willed and genuinely care for others. They simply have something to gain and will do what it takes to get it.

Teach Traditions and Commands– Part of their strategy is to use things that appear to be good but are not the truth. The root of what they teach is earth bound appearance instead of genuine faith. Simply put, they will teach things that pull a person away from total reliance upon Jesus for salvation and upon our own actions to obtain it. It is a teaching that counts on our own ability to save ourselves through what we do or do not do. Goes on to say that these people are unbelieving. They do not trust in Christ. Stay away from any teacher who does not point people to Jesus and nothing else for salvation.

No Truth- It is the central component in all of the characteristics, but Paul mentions it specifically. They are unbelieving in the truth and turn away from it. Truth is not their guide.

It is a long list, but a clear litmus test for believers. We are to scrutinize teachers with both the list of positive characteristics and the warnings Paul identifies as signs of a false teacher. When they are applied,  things will be clear. Their are many other items in scripture that warn us about false teachers, this is just one passage that is full to the brim in practical application. Study it and apply it. Follow the recommendations by Paul, to rebuke and silence those who stray from the truth.
We live in a pluralistic age, we are taught to accept all things. Paul tells us to do otherwise, confront it for the benefit of the church so that no one is harmed.