All Things Done Decently and Nobody Mention Tongues

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If anyone understands the fear of the unknown it is I. I have spent most of my life as an anxious and fearful person and most of the time my fears have been about the ‘what if’s’ of life. My brother once said that our family motto should be ‘panic, it might happen’. It was a very insightful comment and true. We are all very good at imagining the worst and not just thinking about it but believing that it will happen. Most of the time it doesn’t, but that’s not the point. Somehow you feel that you have achieved something by mentally preparing yourself for a disaster.

When I became a Christian, still fearful, the idea of God became a very good substitute for the presence of God. Somehow, the presence of God seemed to be something which I wanted to keep at arms length. I was afraid of God and not in a good way. Any mention of anything supernatural made me feel supremely uncomfortable. I think many Christians feel the same way, and are not necessarily aware of it. Many who call themselves cessationists have experienced Pentecostal craziness and have decided that ‘this sort of thing’ is not for them. I concur, albeit, only the craziness part. The working, gifts and miracles of the Holy Spirit still occur and God can and does speak and direct His people. However, some not only eschew the gifts of the Spirit, they decry any experience of God which is inexplicable in natural terms. I understand that fear, it is not, a healthy fear of God and it is not, despite their protestations, a result of an exhaustive study of the word of God but of their own prejudice. Ironically, the very same problem they accuse the charismatic Christians of having.

However, sane theological discussion aside, God tends to do things which upset the apple cart. He tossed Paul into a three day darkness, and totally revolutionised his life and the lives of millions of others. God intervened in a supernatural way via a vision and an audible voice. If you go to the internet, you can read very many testimonies of visions, dreams and audible voices of God telling people all manner of things, many of which are patently ludicrous.

There are people claiming to be prophets, apostles, and having various gifts of the Spirit, including healing and miracles. There are those who have seen angels and have spoken with God face to face on trips to heaven no less. It is very hard not to be sceptical, and in fact I would suggest that scepticism is in fact obligatory in order to stay grounded. Yet so many Christians embrace these testimonies without question believing that if a Christian says it they must be right. We need to progress beyond these immature suppositions and recognise that nobody is beyond reproach and not even the most mature believer is right all the time. Which itself, in my opinion, gives anyone a good reason to believe that even if these testimonies are 90% wrong, the 10%which are true is enough evidence to give pause for thought if not repentance of unbelief.

My experience of the supernatural has been patchy.

I was saved at the age of thirteen at a Scripture Union Camp on school holidays. I hated camps, having spent my childhood going to Brownies and Guides and getting involved in a lot of pointless activities purporting to be ‘for the good of the community’, but not actually producing a lot of good for anyone except arguably the Brownies or Guides. We used to do a lot of weekend camps; putting up canvas tents and digging latrines. I hated camps. But for some reason the idea of going to this camp seemed very appealing. This camp was run by a Baptist Pastor who seemed to be a jolly kind of person except for when people asked him questions about speaking in tongues. All of a sudden he became very mysterious, laughed in a loud semi-hysterical manner and avoided giving a straight answer. This immediately piqued my interest. He sounded nervous. I was an expert on nervous, so I immediately wondered at the cause of it. The conversation didn’t progress however and, being thirteen, I soon forgot about it.

One day a few years later however during a high school religious education session (shame we don’t have those any more) a pastor from a local Pentecostal church was asked the same question about tongues and his answer was a little less mysterious but a whole lot more appealing. I asked him about it further and he suggested I came along to the Saturday youth group meeting.

I had never been to a youth group meeting before. It was a lot like the Scripture Union camp meetings but a whole lot noisier. When somebody suggested that those who spoke in tongues should do so during the praise time, it got very unruly. I now understand why Paul was adamant about order in the use of gifts during meetings. In 1 Corinthians 14 he gives specific instruction about the use of tongues in a meeting.

23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

Verse 23 in particular describes the experience I had at this Pentecostal church. The youth group leaders who were all very young and inexperienced did not understand the principle of ‘all things being done decently and in order’. Their idea of praising God involved the free use of spiritual gifts and they figured that if the presence of God would be brought to the meeting via the use of tongues, the more the merrier. I was terrified. I did indeed think they were all mad, and I ran from that place and did not go back. The idea of the ‘presence of God’ for the next few years became a thing of terror.

Later, when a pastor’s wife I knew wanted to pray for me for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I learned how fear of the unknown can in fact lead to the sin of unbelief and in turn cause you to miss what God intends to be a help not a hindrance to your walk. How strange it is that we can embrace an all-powerful God but resist that self-same power in our lives to transform us. Had I known then what I know now I would have realised that during the late 70s and early 80s the use of spiritual gifts and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was something that churches in Australia were not familiar with and many were teaching error and many more were simply searching for an ‘experience’ of God. Not much has changed, and the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in this country have been charged with all kinds of heresy because of it.

Where Pentecostal churches have erred in being more concerned with experience than theology they have been exposed to the scathing and probably well earned criticism of the cessationists. It unfortunately does nothing for their reputation as believers walking in the Spirit and evidencing the fruits thereof despite the fact that many are learning slowly to mature and grow in this vital life God has graciously given us.

This situation can be easily remedied by a) ignoring the jeers of the cessationists and b) learning from them by getting stuck into scripture and reading some good theological treatises on the subject and generally becoming better apologists for their beliefs. Not that this is going to stop the accusations of heresy from the cessationists but it will at least give the Pentecostals some much needed respect. As a Pentecostal/charismatic believer myself I realise that many like-minded brethren seem to unthinkingly applaud the pursuit of barnyard manifestations or Barnum and Bailey type performances within the church. I do not believe this behaviour to be biblical and I certainly do not think that any of this is evidence of the presence of God. It is more likely to be proof of the presence of other spiritual entities far less beneficent.

On sitting with God in my prayer time this morning it occurred to me that simply believing in a supernatural and totally awesome (defined by traditional Oxford not internet Urban dictionary) God is the very epitome of crossing the bridge between the security of the written word and historical fact and the highly individual and life-changing experience which is knowing the manifestation of God in your own life. Surely, if scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit is sent to indwell believers and that our bodies are His temple, we need to accept that all our well-rehearsed and comforting liturgies and Confessions are no comparison for the transcendent power of God himself.

Yet recognising, communicating with and asking for salvation from a God who we confess, by the very act of repentance, is all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-present and completely and utterly holy, perfect, righteous and merciful, is surely totally at odds with the assumption that God is somehow able to be contained within a set of human boundaries. Yes, the word of God is eternal but it is the communication of God, it does not define Him. Nothing can define the infinite, all we can do is begin to have an understanding of who He is via His word. Yes, we can use His word to measure what is the gospel and what isn’t. But it is His Spirit who gives us discernment, and His Spirit is God. Surely, the work of discernment (a gift of the Spirit) is proof enough that God still communicates with His people in the now. Surely any cessationist is working against the very nature of faith in insisting that God stopped being God at a particular juncture. And if we are going to make it specific, then why didn’t God? Why did God not use His word to tell His people that He was going to change the way He spoke to us. Yet the last words of Jesus to His disciples was that he would send another, like Himself, to empower us to do even greater things than He did. How can we use God’s word to His people to limit Him? He only spoke to the apostles and since they died there is nobody else left to empower? What, is the enemy gone from the earth?

We worship this unknowable God, yet we also contend that by virtue of the fact that human beings have documented God’s word in one book, God now no longer wishes to communicate individually to His created and saved people. Nothing could make less sense, even for a biblical moron like myself.

 

Much theology has in fact been handed down from believers hundreds of years previously and I am not talking about the authors of the Bible. Many believers are too quick to take a denominational doctrinal stance without perhaps even realising what they are doing. Let’s face it, it is quicker, easier and much more comforting to lean on the beliefs which have been handed down for centuries and supported by millions in the same denomination. It is a lot harder to ditch everything you have ever believed and do the research from the ground up for yourself. As people who have had to ditch our beliefs and re-form them from the ground up (as a result of having been lied to for decades by so-called elders and leaders) I can tell you that it is neither easy nor pain-free. It is hard, but it is, like all things which challenge your strength and endurance, worth the exercise. I encourage all believers to go back to scripture and read what is actually written there for themselves.

 

Much Love,

Anita

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Excerpt from ‘Life of Hudson Taylor’ – The Exchanged Life

hudson taylor

Below is an excerpt from ‘The Life of Hudson Taylor’ which can be found in its entirety at www.truthnet.org

It was the exchanged life that had come to him — the life that is indeed “No longer I.” Six months earlier he had written, “I have continually to mourn that I follow at such a distance and learn so slowly to imitate my precious Master.” There was no thought of imitation now! It was in blessed reality “Christ liveth in me.” And how great the difference! — instead of bondage, liberty; instead of failure, quiet victories within; instead of fear and weakness, a restful sense of sufficiency in Another. So great was the deliverance, that from that time onward Mr. Taylor could never do enough to help to make this precious secret plain to hungry hearts wherever he might be. And there are so many hungry hearts that need such help today that we venture to quote at length from one of his first letters on the subject. It was to his sister, Mrs. Broomhall, whose burdens with a family which grew to number ten children were very real and pressing.

So many thanks for your dear, long letter…. I do not think you have written me such a letter since our return to China. I know it is with you as with me — you cannot — not you will not. Mind and body will not bear more than a certain amount of strain, or do more than a certain amount of work.
As to work — mine was never so plentiful, so responsible or so difficult, but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been, perhaps, the happiest of my life, and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul. I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful — and yet, all is new!…
Perhaps I may make myself more clear if I go back a little. Well, dear, my mind has been greatly exercised for six or eight months past, feeling the need personally and for our Mission of more holiness, life, power in our souls. But personal need stood first and was the greatest. I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living nearer to God. I prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently, sought more time for meditation — but all without avail. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if only I could abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I would begin the day with prayer, determined not to take my eye off Him for a moment, but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, and constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, caused me to forget Him. Then one’s nerves get so fretted in this climate that temptations to irritability, hard thoughts and sometimes unkind words are all the more difficult to control. Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power. To will was indeed “present with me,” but how to perform I found not. Then came the question, is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end — constant conflict, and too often defeat? How could I preach with sincerity that, to those who receive Jesus, “to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (i.e., Godlike) when it was not so in my own experience? Instead of growing stronger, I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin; and no wonder, for faith and even hope were getting low. I hated myself, I hated my sin, yet gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God. His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all “Abba, Father.” But to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless.

I thought that holiness, practical holiness, was to be gradually attained by a diligent use of the means of grace. There was nothing I so much desired as holiness, nothing I so much needed; but far from in any measure attaining it, the more I strove after it, the more it eluded my grasp, until hope itself almost died out, and I began to think that — perhaps to make heaven the sweeter — God would not give it down here. I do not think that I was striving to attain it in my own strength. I knew I was powerless. I told the Lord so, and asked Him to give me help and strength. Sometimes I almost believed that He would keep and uphold me; but on looking back in the evening — alas! there was but sin and failure to confess and mourn before God.

I would not give you the impression that this was the only experience of those long, weary months. It was a too frequent state of soul, and that towards which I was tending, which almost ended in despair. And yet, never did Christ seem more precious; a Savior who could and would save such a sinner!… And sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord; but they were transitory, and at best there was a sad lack of power. Oh, how good the Lord has been in bringing this conflict to an end! All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was — how to get it out. He was rich truly, but I was poor; He was strong, but I weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness, but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually light dawned, I saw that faith was the only requisite — was the hand to lay hold on His fullness and make it mine. But I had not this faith. I strove for faith, but it would not come; I tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Savior, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was I felt the damning sin of the world; yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do?

When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): “But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.”

As I read, I saw it all! “If we believe not, he abideth faithful.” I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, “I will never leave thee.” “Ah, there is rest!” I thought. “I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has not He promised to abide with me — never to leave me, never to fail me?” And, dearie, He never will. Nor was this all He showed me, nor one half. As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in wishing to get the sap, the fullness out of Him! I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but that I am a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all — root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit. And Jesus is not that alone — He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding too may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.

Oh, my dear Sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Savior, to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and your left poor? or your head be well fed while your body starves? Again, think of its bearing on prayer. Could a bank clerk say to a customer, “It was only your hand, not you that wrote that check”; or “I cannot pay this sum to your hand, but only to yourself”? No more can your prayers or mine be discredited if offered in the name of Jesus (i.e., not for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His, His members) so long as we keep within the limits of Christ’s credit — a tolerably wide limit! If we ask for anything unscriptural, or not in accordance with the will of God, Christ Himself could not do that. But “if we ask any thing according to his will… we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases. So, if God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will prove unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me. And since Christ has thus dwelt in my heart by faith, how happy I have been! I wish I could tell you about it, instead of writing. I am no better than before. In a sense, I do not wish to be, nor am I striving to be. But I am dead and buried with Christ — ay, and risen too! And now Christ lives in me, and “the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

And now I must close. I have not said half I would, nor as I would, had I more time. May God give you to lay hold on these blessed truths. Do not let us continue to say, in effect, “Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above).” In other words, do not let us consider Him as far off, when God has made us one with Him, members of His very body. Nor should we look upon this experience, these truths, as for the few. They are the birthright of every child of God, and no one can dispense with them without dishonoring our Lord. The only power for deliverance from sin or for true service is Christ. And it was all so simple and practical! — as the busy mother found when she too entered into this rest of faith. “But are you always conscious of abiding in Christ?” Mr. Taylor was asked many years later. “While sleeping last night,” he replied, “did I cease to abide in your home because I was unconscious of the fact? We should never be conscious of not abiding in Christ.”

Stinking Thinking

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When God made the universe, he judged that it was good. Everything that God makes and does and thinks is good, it is the outworking, the fruit, of his character and nature. As a holy, just and righteous God, his works are holy, just and righteous.

God made a garden, Eden, and furnished it with all kinds of fruits and edible things and then put man in the middle of it. He told him that he could eat from every tree in the garden except the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Up until the point that Eve and Adam ate of the fruit, everything in the universe was still good. When they ate in rebellion against God, the universe and the lives of Adam and Eve, changed. Everything was now not good, but bad, from God’s point of view, and I would suggest from ours also. Yet God had a plan in place which would turn everything around. All things work together for good to those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28). The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for us secured a way for us to once again be joined to God and for everything to again be good. But there is a catch. We have to die. The old nature, the old creation, the old ways of fallen man have to go into death. We can then, with a renewed mind, know the thoughts and intents of God and understand his will (Romans 12:2).

But what is God’s point of view. It’s not something we can know of our own volition. Here is the thing that caught us up in the garden of Eden. Satan tempted Eve by telling her that the fruit of the tree would make her wise. He was right and he was also wrong. He lied by omission. He also told her that the fruit of the tree would make her like God. He was also wrong. He himself had a warped mind. He was affected by the sin of rebellion and pride, and he believed himself to be like God anyway. Satan, the ultimate narcissist, wanted the whole of creation to revolve around him. The fact that he told Eve that she would be like God was not a lie in the sense that he believed himself to be God. She would, in effect, be like him, a fallen rebellious and wicked being. Whether he knew this or not, he deceived her into thinking that by taking the fruit she would be like the one true and living God, her heavenly Father who loved and nurtured her. Satan was wrong. How could sinning against God make you like God. Although God himself said that the man had become like one of Us to know good and evil (Genesis 3:22), that knowledge was now tainted and had changed the thoughts and motivations and very nature of His most beloved creation.

The fruit of the tree was good. It was a good tree because God made it. But it was never intended for man’s consumption. God knew that the moment man ate of the tree he would die spiritually. He would die not because the fruit itself was poisonous but because God did not intend the fruit for human consumption. It was the taking of the fruit against God’s express will that killed Adam and Eve. They sinned when they disobeyed.

It is an interesting thought actually that it was not the fruit itself which caused the fall of human nature. It was the choice to disobey and to steal from God that which belonged to God and was forbidden to man which corrupted the very nature of the human race. It was the decision that human beings were wiser, better at giving themselves what was good for them that caused the problem. It was the judgement that this fruit was good for them not bad for them which was the sin. The eating of the fruit was simply the result of having previously made the decision that they knew better than God.

In fact, it was a test. If they decided that God knew best, they would have left the fruit alone. The fact that they chose to take something which they believed was good actually indicated that they had already judged between good and evil. God said the fruit was not good for them, they said, yes, in fact, it was good for them, and they took what they believed was rightfully theirs. They judged between good and evil. It was quite literally the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.   The temptation was not actually to steal, but to judge of their own wisdom and reason.

This fruit, the knowledge of good and evil, belonged to God in more ways than one. He owned it because He made it, He made everything, but He also owned the ability to judge between right and wrong. God alone can make judgements about what is truly good and bad. Human beings cannot. When we took of the fruit, we not only rebelled against God, we stole from Him. We stole something which was not ours, and the first thing we did was consume it. Because we took something which was forbidden, and because the sin of stealing and the sin of rebellion changed us forever, the fruit then became death to us. The ability to judge between good and evil became warped. We do not judge as God judges, we judge by our own fallen minds. Our judgements about what is good and bad are judgements which are not balanced, they are warped according to our own particular predilections. And because human beings are all fallen and sinners, everything we think and do is fallen. Therefore our judgements, even as Christians, can be warped and fallen.

The best example of this that I can think of is the prosperity doctrine. Essentially it tells Christians that God wants them to be prosperous and healthy. This is true in part. God does want to bless us, but that blessing depends upon our obedience to His word. He does not bless fallen men in the same way that he blesses the righteous man. God’s original chapter of blessings and cursings, Deuteronomy 28, was based upon this understanding. However, what the prosperity preachers have not recognised is that they are basing their idea of what is the definition of prosperity upon their own fallen judgement. They claim that if you outwardly obey the word about tithing, which in fact does not even exist in the New Testament, then you will be blessed. What they are doing is expecting the congregation to continue to bring their ‘tithe’ into the church so that the pastors and full-time members of the church can be blessed by the income. What they are doing is self-serving.

We as human beings judge that certain things are good and other things are bad for us. Some of this is fairly easy to understand. For example, having money is a good thing. Not having enough money is not good. If you don’t have enough money you can’t buy food for yourself, or clothing or shelter etc. You can’t pay rent, you can’t get what you need for yourself in life. But let’s look at this from God’s point of view. God doesn’t need money in order to provide for his own. He clothes and feeds the birds of the air without money, and tells us not to worry about our lives because He knows our needs. Yet, the prosperity teachers tell us that if we tithe, give part of our money to God, he will bless us. They have it completely wrong. Their preaching is based on their own judgement of what is right and good.

Human beings naturally want the things that are good for themselves and their children. Food, clothing and shelter are seen as good things of course. But it doesn’t end there. Prosperity preachers tell us that having good things is not enough, we should expect the best. They read about how God clothes the flowers in finer array than Solomon and assume that we should all expect God to give us the very best from a human point of view. Solomon was the richest man in the world. But Solomon was only rich because when God told him to ask for what he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom not riches. God gave him riches anyway as a reward. Solomon was a humble man who recognised that he could not rule a nation in his own strength. His judgement was impaired. Therefore, he wanted God to give him His wisdom, His knowledge, His ability to judge. This is why when the two mothers came to Solomon about the baby he was able to make a sound and wise decision. He had the mind of God on the matter, not his own mind. I doubt very much if a human being with a fallen mind would be able to make a sound judgement in this matter. And even if Solomon had by accident stumbled upon this decision himself, he would have made the decision in his own thinking, rather than trusting God to decide the best way for himself and the two women.

God’s judgements are sound and right. They do not appear that way from a human point of view because our thinking is fallen. This is why Paul urges us in Romans not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

I have always had a problem with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is a method in Psychology which is based in human reasoning. It suggests that if you change the way you think, you change the way you behave. They are right in the fundamental assumption of course. They are just wrong in the way they execute it. No human being can change the way they think by thinking. All they will do is exchange one fallen pattern of behaviour for another fallen pattern of behaviour. And because all of our thinking has been affected by consuming that stolen fruit, we stand back, admire our ability to change other people’s behaviour and declare it good. Initially it may seem good, only because it is different. But we won’t be able to judge soundly that something is ‘good’ because although we think we know the difference between good and evil, it is a human perspective. God’s perspective, the only good we will ever truly know, is completely ignored. We cannot know his perspective until our minds are renewed. The only way our minds can be renewed is if God renews them. No fallen human being can change their own nature, it is impossible. The old cannot make anything except more of the same.

So we go to God, ask Him to renew our minds and wait upon Him.

Many times I have heard Christians say that God doesn’t tell us what to do in minute detail.  Our thinking needs to be renewed in all areas. Humanly speaking, the ability to make independent decisions is seen as a good thing, and God himself does not want us to be dependant upon other human beings for our lives. He wants us to depend upon, focus upon and learn from Him. As we grow to become more like Christ, we understand that in fact He truly does tell us what to do in minute detail. Not as a laundry list of legalistic demands, but in a moment by moment interaction where we seek the Lord as we need His wisdom and help in every situation. Every child who loves his father will ask his father a million and one questions and expect his father to answer those questions and give him guidance. We don’t do this as adults because in many ways we now know more than our parents. As Christians, however, we will never know more than God and it was in fact this very assumption which led Adam and Eve to sin. They were tempted to believe the lie that God hadn’t given them everything they needed for life and godliness, so they made their own decision.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5NKJV)

If we have our thinking changed by the word of God, by reading, meditating upon it and praying about what we read, we will begin to make godly, righteous decisions based upon the wisdom which comes from above.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3 NKJV)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

But what of those things which seem outwardly, and to all human reasoning to be unutterably bad? When somebody we love dies unnaturally, or we become ill and we are not healed immediately, or when we suffer from some misfortune such as being fired from our jobs through no fault of our own or even being imprisoned or attacked unjustly what do we do? Are these things not bad from both our point of view and Gods?

God allows difficulties and trials to come upon us in order to test our faith. That much is certain. A mature faith is good in God’s eyes. Jesus intercedes on our behalf to God that we would become perfect without spot or wrinkle so that he can present us without blemish to God at the end of our time on earth. In order to do this, he uses our present circumstances, the fallen conditions of this universe, to our good. Since all things work together for good, we cannot presume that all means only the good things. All means all. It means both good and bad, and those things judged by God as good and bad, not just those things judged by us. Therefore, when we read about Job’s troubles, surely the very worst a human being can go through, we know that they are allowed by God so that he can test us, call us to greater holiness and then bless us even more than he did before. Joseph, David, Daniel and Paul and many others were taken through unjust trials and sufferings. They were unjust in that they did not do anything to deserve them. You might say that bad things happen in this universe as a result of the actions of our forebears Adam and Eve. In a way, we are wearing the consequences of their sin. But we are also wearing the consequences of everyone else’s sin, even if we are not directly suffering from the consequences of our own.

When we suffer, even when it is unjust suffering, the response God looks for is a heart filled with humility and patient endurance. It is easy to write such things. Yet my husband and I have suffered greatly over our lifetimes through various trials. We have encountered health, financial, family, spiritual, and relationship troubles yet we learned the hard way that complaining to God over and over does nothing for your faith or His response. When you finally get to the place of recognising your own sinfulness, and his utter righteousness, then you find yourself actually rejoicing in trials and thanking Him in the midst of them. I never thought I would get to the place where I could recommend this course of action. On the other hand, you can’t simply order somebody to rejoice in the midst of trials. You can’t fake it, and God isn’t stupid. He sees everything, including the thoughts and intents of our hearts. In our very deepest being, there needs to be a change wherein we actually transform, both in our thinking and our emotional state. We change from being ungrateful murmurers to being thankful rejoicers. Even writing that for me sounds a bit super-spiritual, and I used to hate people who threw out lines like that to me when I was younger.

I will say however, there are people who use times of suffering to preach and lecture others, usually younger Christians, about the ‘proper’ attitude. I say again, you can’t change somebody’s thinking by expecting outward conformity to rules. Only God can change us, and he does that when we come ourselves to His throne in humility and actually see the truth for ourselves. Not a very pleasant thing I must say. Yet, this death of pride gives birth to the renewal of faith, and such a renewal it is. Joy surely does come in the morning.

With love,

Anita

The Law of The Jungle

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We would rather be under the rule of man, and man’s laws than we would be under the rule of God, or the Holy Spirit.

Why is this?

Man’s laws are easily obeyed. The rules are right in front of you, you get immediate gratification if you do obey the law. You get approval, you get acceptance from the human rulers, and from the people around you. You are not exposed to ridicule or contempt because you choose to live within the confines of the law. Except that with this acceptance of man’s laws, you are then exposed to the fear of man, because you are being ruled over by men, rather than God.

If God was your king, not man, you would not fear men, or what they could do to you.

Religious communities impose fear upon others. Even religious people impose fear upon others. Religious people who say ‘do this or I will punish you, don’t do that or you will be rejected’ have their own set of laws. They don’t even have to be in a church environment, they simply exist in order to impose their rules upon everyone else. Communities of religious people gather in order to live in this self-imposed rule based existence so they can both show themselves approved by living by the laws of the community, and they as ‘the good, approved, person’ gets a payoff. The payoff is to live a peaceful life, apparently accepted and loved by a group of people who all espouse the same beliefs and exclude those who don’t. You get to be what is termed in some circles a ‘good christian’. You also get to be in the ‘in’ group and thank God that you are not in the ‘outer’ (generally considered headed for hell) circle.

However, there is also a down side to all of this. Human beings, in the flesh, are rebellious, anarchic people. They will look for loopholes, shortcuts and rules which cancel out rules in order to avoid penalties or get away with breaking the law in whatever small way they can. They want to impose their own self-will upon this legal system so they can feel ‘alive’. They enjoy the thrill of cheating and getting away with it, moreover, they enjoy living outside the law even if they are only breaking a ‘small’ law. Next time you knowingly go over the speed limit and smile smugly because there is no cop around to ticket you, you will be ably demonstrating this fact.

Added to this, you have people who use the laws of the religious community to gossip, character assassinate, set up enclaves within the community so that they can delineate within their own minds, or their own sub-set, who is acceptable and who isn’t. In essence, you have a legalistic lifestyle which looks for approval from the ruling human, or humans, and justifies itself by getting approval. There is a term, ‘crab-bucket syndrome’ which illustrates this unpleasant truth very well. Long, ugly claws reaching out to pull somebody back in just as they are escaping from the whole jostling, uncomfortable and ungodly mess.

God never meant us to live like this. When the Jews wanted a king, God told them the king would rip them off and send them to war. (1 Samuel 8) God himself wanted to rule the Israelites, but they wanted a king, to ‘be like other countries’. (verse 20) Perhaps they feared if other countries saw that they had no king, they would try and invade and set up their own kings. Perhaps it was only that they saw how much the kings of other countries managed to accumulate in the way of material possessions, land and wealth. They actually said they wanted the king to fight their battles for them. I don’t know how this works since without an army a king is not much cop. They figured God would not want this so they would not have a very rich lifestyle. Either way, it was the sin of unbelief which stopped them accepting God’s rule of law.

As Christians, we opt to serve men. We want conformity to outward appearances not inward change. We want to live in a place of safety from intruders, from marauding kings, however, the ‘kings’ which maraud, are in fact demonic forces which insinuate themselves into our religious communities through the open door of rebellion. How does living in a religious community and obeying religious law open the door of rebellion? Because we are choosing to live by law, not by the life of the Spirit, and if we life by law we are under the law, and in the flesh. (Romans 7) If we are in the flesh we are at enmity with God (Romans 8:7) and therefore open to the vicissitudes of the spiritual forces in this world.

Yet as I said, you don’t have to be in a religious community to have this problem. There are individuals outside of churches who live according to their own set of laws. Anyone who disagrees with them, and their own way of living is immediately cut down. You have to agree with them completely, in fact you have to approve of them 100% or they will, set you outside the gate and reject and shun you. If you tell them they are right, that they are approved of by you, there is nothing they won’t do for you. However, you will also get totally swamped by their own legalistic version of ‘the way things are’. They will tell you what theology to believe, what way to view the world, what type of prayers to pray and how to pray them. They will in fact, be informing you to the letter of their own law, and if you don’t ‘obey’ them, they will get very nasty with you. They will more than likely not say this to your face, for religious people are very good at  living behind the mask of religious ‘nicety’, telling you to your face that they will ‘pray about’ whatever it is you disagree with them on, but behind your back they will simply disavow you and wait for the soonest opportunity to cut you off because you are not living according to their ways. They are serving a king, themselves, whilst at the same time claiming always to be totally surrendered to God who gives them this prophecy or that dream, or that vision or that agenda to follow.

People like this have a dozen and one projects. Everyone they meet is the next ‘disciple’ or ‘co-worker’ in their agenda, you are immediately employed as either a cheerleader or a fellow suffragist in their movement. God help you if you ever disagree with them or dislike something they say to you, because they will immediately turn on you with fury and put you in your place. Do not touch their pet project or they will immediately castigate you.

These people can be identified by their dogmatic theology, their very long list of people who are ‘heretics’, and an equally long list of former friends who have been alienated and rejected by them because they are not ‘true believers’. These people can topple any religious community, and while they are well meaning (I know right?), and in truth, highly sensitive, usually deeply wounded and very disturbed people, you can’t really help them. The only help they will accept is to agree with everything they say, and the moment you show any sign of having your own mind on a subject, they will be deeply offended. You are no longer living by their ‘rule of law’ and their kingdom has been breached by treachery and disloyalty.

They see everything in black and white and do not expect you to gainsay anything. They are threatened by people who think for themselves or who do not live by the rule of human law, and they believe their version of events (theology, worldview) is the right one. Their version is usually one cobbled together after a very long career trying out different communities (Pentecostal, conservative, authoritarian, independent, charismatic etc) and cobbling together a list of laws which they have lived by for a long time and suit them, but only by virtue of familiarity, not by virtue of truth. They do not live according to the truth of God’s word, although they believe they do, they have a million and one idols, and these idols are set up as ‘God told me’s’. God tells them which ‘versions’ of the truth are right. They can be cessationists, charismatics, pre, post or mid tribulation rapture believers, complimentarians or egalitarians, but the thing which marks them out is their total and utter belief in themselves and their rightness.

All at once, they are totally convinced they are right with blinkers on (mainly through fear) and they are also totally terrified of being wrong. The thing they fear the most is not outright opposition, they thrive on this. The thing they fear is friendship, because if they let their guard down you will discover who they really are, deeply fearful and insecure people whose only strength is in the strength of their flesh, not the strength of their faith.

Genuinely faith filled people are able to humbly admit when they are wrong, openly share with others what is in their heart, and they are also open to being deeply wounded. This kind of wounding is something they then take to the Lord for healing, and through their non-violent working through of this pain and hurt, they learn to lean harder on Jesus and be less dogmatic and less insistent with others. These are the ones who truly change and become more Christ-like.

True Sustenance

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And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. John 6:35

I still remember the day when I first caught sight of what it was that Jesus was actually talking about in this verse.

If we are looking for something or someone who will sustain us in and though life we must come to Him.

Jesus says, he who comes to me will never hunger.

It is only Jesus who can feed and sustain our spirit and soul. He is the only One who can give us that which will satisfy, that portion in life that will not fade away nor run flat or wither with age. This is so because He alone is the Everlasting One. He alone will endure forever.

Bread of Life oh Bread of Life Thou art the One who from everlasting to everlasting will not pass away. You are the Eternal One.

You are the source of life, You are the Shepherd who will always feed my soul, You will lead me beside still waters and make me to lie down in green pastures that I may not hunger or thirst.

Again, Jesus had this to say:

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:48-51, 53-58

Here Jesus touches on the issue of the manna in the wilderness. He was doing this in order to touch on an issue that the Jews knew well. The story of Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness was taught to all the children as they grew up. Each and every grown Jew knew of the manna, what it was, how long it lasted, how they got it and how they had complained about it also. The people in the wilderness complained nearly every day about what God had done for them. They never stopped complaining. So when Jesus brought up this issue it would have reminded those around Him that they were descendants of the ones who received Gods provision but never received His blessing in that they never entered the promised land because all they could do was complain about what God had done for them.

If you remember the story, only two of the original Children of Israel entered into the Promised land, Joshua and Caleb.

Now that is a bit of an aside as my aim is to point out something I have only just seen.

Jesus was offering the Jews something much better than that which was given to the people in the wilderness.

Here we see that The Bread of Life Himself was in fact offering the people something so much better.

He was offering them Himself. He was the Bread of Life. The Bread He was offering them was and still is a food that was of far surpassing quality, a bread that was not going to rot by the following morning and be full of maggots if they took too much. This was a Bread with no restriction on the amount that we can partake of. There is no limit to the amount of Life we can receive from Jesus. He has given His Life for us and to us so that we can feed endlessly upon an inexhaustible source and supply.

Again, take a look at what Israel did. They had been delivered from Egypt, delivered from Pharaoh and his army with miraculous passage supplied for them through the Red Sea and yet not long after that they started to whinge and complain because they were missing all the leeks and onions they had left behind.So God steps in and supplies them with His own special food. He was giving them bread for life. Sustenance from heaven and miraculously.

But what did they do? They complained. They could not see what God was doing for them.

Are we also so thick that we cannot see what God has done for us.

Here in John the Jews murmured amongst themselves about who the Bread of Life was. They questioned His credentials and said could this Man have come down from Heaven? He had only just finished feeding the five thousand and here they were questioning who He was and what He had just said about being the True Bread from Heaven.

Jesus came to these people to give them another opportunity to turn to God. There forefathers had missed out and they were about to also as they stuck their heads in the sand yet again and refused to accept Gods provision.

What is it with Gods people that they will always question God on the basis of who or what He provides?

All through the old Testament the people rejected God time after time. They would turn to Him one moment and the next be doing evil in the sight of God.

Jesus says that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Does anyone really think that He was speaking other than spiritually?

There is no way the people listening to Him that day were literally going to eat Him and drink His blood.

Jesus was speaking of something far greater, far deeper than anything in the physical realm, He was speaking of spiritual food and drink.

To the Jews it was an offensive thing He was telling them to do. He was in fact telling them to break the Law of Moses. Lets look at Leviticus.

Leviticus 17:10-12 ‘And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’

These verses were a prophecy to the people of Israel about the Messiah Who would come and lay His Life down upon the altar of the cross and shed His blood as the final sacrifice to pay the price for everyones sin. He made atonement for all. Hallelujah.
But at that point in time when He spoke this it would have been highly offensive, to a people who could not touch a dead body let alone drink the blood, to have this guy from Nazareth telling them to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.”

“…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

Are you feeding on Jesus, His flesh, His blood and receiving the Life that He gives?

Our life here and now and for all eternity is wholly bound up in the Eternal Life of Jesus Christ.

There is no other Life but His.

Will you turn to Jesus with all your heart and feed upon the spiritual Life that He offers all.

He alone is the only One who can truly sustain each of us. It is all about the resources He has at His disposal.

It is His Life being offered to us.

Jesus is the Bread of Life.

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. John 6:35

Steve

Escape The Corruption of this World

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Ephesians 4:17-24

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Have you put on the new man?

Are you a changed person?

Is there a difference between you and your neighbour in the world?

If not, then you need to be looking at what you are doing wrong!

Are you alienated from the Life of God?

If so, why?

God has done nothing wrong.

He has done and does do all things perfectly.

If things aren’t right in your life then guess what, there is a problem with what you are doing.

You may ask how it is I can say this so bluntly.

Well, it all boils down to experience.

I have spent so much of the last 26 years walking in the flesh to know now what it is like to be on the wrong side of God so to speak.

Take another look at Jonah. He heard the call of God to go. He heard the instruction of the Lord to do such and such, in actual fact God told Jonah very specifically to go to Nineveh and preach the Gospel but he didn’t. What did he do instead? He reasoned in his own head that that wasn’t such a good idea and then proceeded to do all he could to avoid obeying the call of God on his life. He ran away from God. Not that that is in actuality possible but in his own mind it seemed like a good idea.

He was in the flesh. Jonah had chosen to go his own way. He was not prepared to obey the call of God that was on his life.

From that point on all hell broke loose so to speak. The more Jonah tried to get away from God the worse it got.

I know that feeling and now after 26 years of running the wrong way God has gotten my attention.

No I didn’t end up in the belly of a whale but I can tell you it has felt a lot like that at various times through out these last few decades.

I have known the pain it causes in ones own life but also in the lives of those closest to me.

In the verses at the top of the page Paul says that it is possible to be “alienated from the life of God….”

I know what this feels like. Jonah knew what it felt like. It is not fun at all. It can be very costly, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

I have known what it is like to be alienated from the life of God. I have known what it is like to be touched in all areas of life as the Hand of God reaches down to judge our bad behaviour as He attempts to get our attention and draw us back to Himself.

If we are in the flesh we are at enmity with God, we are enemies of God.

People, that is not a good place to be in.

Are you an enemy of God?

I was an enemy of God.

I spent the best part of 26 years living, breathing, walking and surviving in the flesh.

I knew what it was to receive Gods provision but not His blessing.

GOD WILL NOT BLESS THE FLESH.

There is nothing in our flesh that can please God, nothing!!!!!

There was no way that Jonah was going to know any blessing from God while he was running in the wrong direction. He was protected in the bottom of the ship and then in the belly of the whale but that was not a blessing. It was God’s provision not His blessing.

Only when we are in the centre of God’s will and walking in the Spirit can we know both provision and blessing.

There was ignorance and blindness in me and I was past feeling, I had lost any discernment that was on my life and all spiritual feeling was gone.

The time came as the Spirit of God worked on me, showing me my sin and convicting me of such, that I realised just how off the mark I was. I had lost sight of God in the midst of all the cares of this life.

I had lost focus.

My gaze was no longer on Him. The ‘old man’ as Paul calls me, had grown corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.

It is interesting to me that we also find Peter talking about corruption. Let’s look at what he says,

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:2-4

Peter says here that we can be partakers of the divine nature, how?, through the exceedingly great and precious promises that God has made available to us through Jesus Christ His Son. His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.

There is one condition to all this amazing provision and blessing from God.

Peter explains that it is only possible if we escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Both Peter and Paul exhort us to escape the corruption that is in the world.

One thing I know from my own personal experiences, God will not bless what ever it is that we are doing in the flesh.

I don’t care what it is, if it is a business, a ministry, whatever, if it is not of God it is of the flesh, it opposes God and is an abomination to Him.

He will not bless your endeavours whatever they may be if they have not been birthed by Him.

The priority in God’s will for us is that we are partakers of the divine nature, the very nature of the Godhead, of Christ Himself. How can God then bless us and what we do if it is not first from Him and for Him.

If there is the slightest hint of self in what we do it is thus corrupted and cursed of God.

No sin or sinner can be in the presence of a holy God. No flesh shall glory in His presence.

Paul exhorts us at the end of the verses in Ephesians 4 that we are to:

“be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

True righteousness and holiness is in fact the very life of God Himself.

This life will only come to us if we are open to the Spirit to allow Him to speak into our lives and to exposes all that is not born of God.

Do you pray?

Do you fast?

When was the last time you chose to fast and pray and seek God’s face until you had a break through that changed your life radically?

How long has it been since you poured out your heart before God and asked Him in all sincerity to dig deep and expose the sin that has clouded your vision of Him, the corruption that has taken away your focus and has blinded you?

Remember, sin separates us from God. We cannot know the divine nature in us as our life source if there is sin in our lives.

Have you made the choice to separate from the corruption that is in this world?

Are you living in this world with your life being fed by the corruption of this world?

What are you feeding on? Are you feeding on that which is spiritual?

How much time do you spend in The Word?

How much time do you spend in front of the TV?

Is your spiritual life outweighed by the life of this world?

Have you allowed the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit of God, to have access to all areas of your life to shine His spotlight into every nook and cranny in order to expose and dig out all sin and corruption?

The Spirit of God says:

Come out from among them and be separate.

Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

You must put off your former conduct, be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man.

This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Steve