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Tourist Trap

John Collins06/08/2013

Video available here:   

I was travelling with my family, enjoying the new feature I added to my GPS: traffic routing.  It’s a feature that detects when construction or traffic jams are in your path, and automatically chooses an alternate route for you.

As I was driving, the map on the GPS took us off of the interstate, and right into the middle of downtown.  Through what seemed like a hundred stop signs, we ended up driving at a snails pace rather than the NASCAR lanes of the interstate.

The strange part was that all of a sudden, this became the norm.  Everywhere I travelled, I’d be pretending to be Jeff Gordon – only to be “Driving Miss Daisy!”

Suddenly I realized that I was taking detours where there was no traffic jams.  I would drive along a fast-paced interstate on roads with nice little country houses or buildings that were built at the turn of the century.  I realized that I had been played!

Sure enough, when I went into the settings of my GPS, I found that someone had played a prank on me, and I thought that it was probably the greatest prank I’d ever see in my lifetime.  Someone had changed the settings of my GPS device from “Fastest Route” to “Scenic Route!”

Honestly, it was a good prank, and I can take it as well as I can give it.  I laughed so hard that I nearly had to pull the car over to wipe the tears!  The sad part was that I had no idea WHO did it, so I had no chance to return the favor!  …maybe with this video I can find who to reimburse!

As I got back onto the interstate from the nice, rolling hills of nowhere, I thought to myself: This was NOT the greatest prank.  This pales in comparison to what I grew up with!

My GPS was giving me road signs, telling me the pathway in which to follow.  Someone had changed that device, giving me false road signs, and a different path to follow.  But in the end, this device was still going to lead me to my destination.

But I had been “duped,” before, by a man that is still worshipped by hundreds of thousands.  I had been given road signs from a man who CHANGED the final destination, and had given a detour that pointed directly to himself.  It would be as if my GPS had given me a detour that led to a dead-end street in the middle of nowhere, with some hippie dude passing out psychedelic mushrooms.  It would make you feel good while you were there, but after a while, you would start to realize that you were going absolutely nowhere.

Early in William Branham’s ministry, when he was associated with the Old Order of the Apostolic Faith Mission and the early Pentecostalism, the road signs were very good, very similar to real road signs. 

Christianity is for EVERYONE who believes in Christ, and there is no Organization in God’s eyes – the Baptist can sit down with the Methodist and praise the same Jesus that the Pentecostal or the Lutheran can worship! 

Under the teaching of Ern Baxter, Branham was corralled into boundaries that stayed within reason, a fence that did not cross the line between a small detour and that dead-end hippie road.  Baxter was the preacher, or teacher, and Branham just “prayed for the sick.”

Some of the road signs started feeling like tourist attractions.  Here is an angel, and I tell you that it looked just like Avak the Armenian!  I don’t do the healing – my angel does!  If I can get you to believe in … me … (bypass Christ) … you can be healed, even from CANCER! 

There are people who enjoy touristy places, attractions that draw a hundred men in Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian T-shirts with their wives screaming endlessly at their children.  I have met people who spend their tight budgets on these places.

Tourist traps are generally on the road just before the destination, and the destination itself is awe-inspiring.  You can head to the Grand Canyon, which is one of the great wonders this nation has to offer – but right before you get there, you are going to find a trap to catch all of these people.  Or head down to Walt Disney World in Florida, and watch as those signs try to snare you into some other amusement before you see the wonderful world that Disney created.

This angel attraction Branham came up with worked so well with tourists along life’s highway that he changed his original “commission story” from the “Old Man on the Mountain” in the 1945 tract, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,” and started the new tourist attraction in 1947 with “How an angel came to me.”

And many fell into that trap.

But we find men who see the huge amount of money these touristy people will spend drive these tourist traps.  Those men do not hit just one attraction, you’ll find the same companies in tourist traps for multiple attractions. 

Branham was no different.  That same angel that appealed to those who were thrilled with Avak the Armenian would work for other attractions as well.  So for those that had decided to move and stay in the tourist attraction of John Alexander Dowie, Branham would change the description of that angel to fit another attraction.  That angel would now have a cousin, one that looked like Dowie!

The companies that spread the tourist traps also know that in any business, you must direct the people to come to you – otherwise you will spend your lifetime trying to go to them.  So what do they do?  They put road signs all along the highway, pointing people to come to their establishments.

Branham did the same.

For the rest of his life, Branham would place so many road signs up along life’s highway, that they would clutter the road.  Many think that these signs are conflicting.

We find Branham teaching that Jesus Christ was Michael the Archangel, yet we find him also teaching that Christ above the angels.  We find him teaching that there can be no Eternal Sonship, because Christ was created – but then he also put up a road sign that said that Christ WAS eternal – having no beginning or no end.

People do not realize this, but there are arrows at the bottom of Branham’s road signs.  They are so busy reading the conflicting messages that they miss the directions at the bottom.  Can you imagine a hundred road signs for tourist traps that have no exit numbers?  Where do you get off the road?  Will I miss the tourist trap before the main attraction?

These conflicting doctrines are not conflicting at all.  They are just road signs with different exit numbers.

If you want to stop at the Jehovah’s Witness tourist trap, just follow the signs where Branham taught that Michael the Archangel was Jesus Christ, or that Jehovah of the Old Testament was Jesus of the New Testament.  (That one is like that tiny amusement park before the ginormous amusement park – Charles Taze Russel’s teaching that Jesus of the New Testament is Jehovah of the Old is just reversed, word-for-word.)

Maybe you are looking for the Dowie Tourist trap.  The one where Branham claimed to be Malachi 4’s “Elijah,” just like Dowie did.  Or how there will be an “elite” group of Christians that God cares about more than the rest of them, the “little bride” and the “servants to the bride.”  The one where Branham promoted himself as a prophet.

If you don’t like that attraction, you can very easily find the one to appeal to the Baptists.  You remember, the one where he pretended to be a Baptist minister early in his career instead of the Pentecostal preacher he was.  The one where he strictly denied being a prophet.  “You said that, not me!”

Or the Catholic attraction.  The one where the “pope” has to be in full control of interpretation of scripture.  The one where Branham prayed to the Holy Spirit, and called the Holy Spirit the third Person of the Trinity.

You might like the modalistic, Oneness touristy place that appealed to the Pentecostals, where Branham taught that God is “one like your finger.”  That one went over well in South Africa in the Apostolic Faith Missions.

Maybe you want to go somewhere in-between.  The dualist tourist trap may be the one for you.  The one where Branham did not believe the Trinity, but said, “How can Jesus be his own Father?”

It’s funny, because when you visit these tourist traps in real life, you will find these long lines with expensive tickets to see some country bumpkin who can do a trick.  After you’ve paid the fees for your entire family and realized that you could have bought at least two or three tickets to the REAL attraction, you feel taken.

Some people like this!

If you are in those camps, maybe you will like the fake African Witch Doctor tourist trap Branham established.  You remember, the one where the fake witch doctor seemed to know the American jingle, “Shave And A Haircut … Two Bits?”

This one cracks me up, I have to read it:

I seen the snake dancers on the desert when they wrapped this big snake around them and go along speaking. The wizard come out like that, and they'd speak in tongues and interpret it. I've been in their witch camps where they'd lay a pencil down like that, and put a book down like this, and a pencil run up and down the stovepipe, and play, "Shave and a haircut, two bits," and write in unknown tongues, and the wizard interpret it, and tell exactly what happened. I--I know that myself. See?  61-0112 QUESTIONS.AND.ANSWERS.

There are people who go to these tourist traps, and never come back.  There are those who save up the money for a vacation, spend it all in these trips, and return home defeated.

But there are some who go to these tourist traps just to see what it is all about.  They are very careful, not easily taken by trick-magic wonders to steal their money.  Those people continue on to the real attraction, whether it is Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, or more.

Those are the ones who will realize that Branham’s ministry was nothing more than someone fiddling with their GPS device, and somehow managed to break it in the process.

In 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul is very thankful that there is a people who do not take these detours and spend all their money on them.  And he is thankful that he only had to place ONE sign for the real attraction, Jesus Christ, and they followed that sign without even exiting the highway.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.  We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Since there are usually GOOD people who are taken by these tourist traps, I want to read the next part of Paul’s letter and talk about it a little:

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.

Road signs of tourist traps will often take the words used by the main attraction, twist them up a bit, and give you something that sounds better.  If it didn’t sound better, why else would you waste your time?

Branham did the same with that verse I just read to you.  The word “POWER!”  I did not come to you with simple words, but I had “PRAYER CARDS!”  I can heal the SICK!  You don’t even NEED to believe in Christ, my angel said that all I had to do was get you to believe ME! [William Branham]!”

Notice the rest of the sentence.  Paul did not come simply with words.  He came with Words that had Power!  Words that gave conviction!  Words that were sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting to the heart!  No fake signs and wonders! 

Paul did not need to have people write their names and addresses on a prayer card so that he could do a trick.  Paul did not NEED any trick!  He was the host of the Main Attraction, Jesus Christ!

And as host, he did not need to elevate himself.  All he had to do was hold up a single finger and point to the Main Attraction, and the rest would fall into place all by itself:

You know how we lived among you for your sake.  You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

How many natural wonders have you visited in your lifetimes where you were standing over the awe inspiring beauty of Yellowstone, or the massive force of Niagara Falls – and then some bozo tour guide keeps saying, “Look at ME!  I can do a trick!  Watch this!”

Probably NONE, because nobody would care about the side show freak in the corner pointing at the awe of nature.  They only care about what he is pointing to! 

And the attraction itself is so great, that there needs to be no marketing campaigns of hundreds of road signs that make it seem bigger than it really is.  Usually, there are only signs of directions on how to get there!

Why?  Because those who have seen the main attraction will tell others of how great it is!  The same goes for the Thessalonians!

Listen to what Paul says next:

The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.  Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

The question you have to ask yourselves today is this:  When you were enslaved by the cult, how did it feel when you suddenly realized that you had taken a detour that would never take you to the Main Attraction?

Did it make you feel like that traveller who got snared by the beautiful road signs of the wonders of the sideshow freak?  The traveller who got there and realized that they had wasted their money on a fake, and should have continued down the REAL highway?

Once you got back on the highway, how does it feel to be on track again?  Does it feel like that same traveller, now on the highway, who will NEVER take another exit until he gets to the Main Attraction?

Friends, there will never be another attraction for me that will distract me from Jesus Christ.  I know that you are thinking the same thing!