The Path That Rocks

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Is, or was, the emerging church merely a passing fad primarily for bored yuppies smugly unhappy with their conventional suburban churches and pining for a spiritual theater more hip and supposedly more relevant? One Sojourners writer, quoting a blogger, credited emergents for their contributions to “women’s issues, conversations about sexuality, environmentalism, anti-foundationalism, [and] social justice.” But those “conversations” have been mainly only that. Not for nothing do emergents usually insist they are not a movement but a “community” or an ongoing “conversation.”

http://spectator.org/articles/39523/emergent-church-no-longer-emerging

‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ was a favourite of ours when the kids were young. Now they are all adults, but we still find ourselves quoting Kronk or Ysma (his evil boss). Phrases like “wrong lever”, or “demon llama!!!!” may not seem at first glance to be very cogent, but it is amazing how many times you can use them appropriately throughout life’s crazy moments.

Firstly though I want to talk about the challenge to the Kingdom of God that the Emerging church is issuing. Contrary to the quote from the above article, the Emergent Church is not simply a passing fad. It may describe itself in soft-focus terms, but their agenda, or rather the agenda of the spiritual forces arrayed against us through them, is decidedly direct and specific. Often we don’t look much further than the outward packaging with new ideas (dress vs tights). Those who propose new ideas often use the false logic that anyone who disagrees with them is just afraid of them. For the immature in the faith and for those who are not working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, this jibe can be very disturbing. The first reaction is often to rise up and challenge it, which is exactly what the other person wants. If they can engage you in emotional polemic they can easily out-manoeuvre you through verbal intimidation, straw-man arguments and ad-hominem taunts. Rather than respond with anger and personal offense we need to be sure of what it is we do believe. We need to do some bible study, make sure we are confident in our own faith, and then realise that these new ideas being proposed by the Emerging church are not that new. They are re-packaged especially for the younger generation and it is the younger generation who are selling them, but essentially they are simply an attempt by our enemy to destabilise genuine believers.

The Emerging church is attempting to distract us with it’s own conviction that it has something we do not: coolness…relevance…..life. They are distracting from the very important issue that they actually have no relevance or life at all when compared to the New Testament teachings of Jesus and Paul. This ‘coolness’ is simply a smug and self-confident front. If you are able to puncture the veneer of this vainglorious new generation of hip believers with the truth, the smugness tends to evaporate. What you see in it’s place is instability, luke-warmness and a lack of genuine integrity. They are in truth a mile wide and an inch deep, and as we all know, when presented with a vast expanse of water the first reaction is often to feel overwhelmed and think you can never cross it. When you realise that you can actually walk through it without getting even your ankles wet, you can relax. It is all a mirage, an illusion, and as Kronk has amusingly illustrated, all that is needed is a ‘begone’ and the confusion is dispelled. OK, maybe it will take a little more than that, but I want to help break the spell. I believe that the Emerging Church uses language, visual and sound technology and the leaven of lies and half-truths to first of all seduce and then overwhelm others in order to deceive and confuse us. It is all too easy to be influenced by what you see and what you think you see. In fact, the world uses these tools to change minds and influence behaviour through marketing, advertising and social media. They are powerful and world changing. They are not however grounded in scripture and in the kingdom of God. They are grounded in the ways of the Father of Lies, and they will kill your faith and shipwreck your spiritual life if you let them. The good news is that the truth will set you free. Or to be more specific, and cogent…..

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8 (NKJV)

Much of the emerging church preaches false doctrines of ecumenism, dominionism, the social gospel, the prosperity gospel and new age ideas of God in everyone. This is bad enough but it becomes worse with an attitude of smug arrogance. Many of the pedagogues of the emerging church put themselves at odds with the established church and or established church doctrines and claim victim status. They are being persecuted by the traditionalists (down with the old guard) because the traditionalists are not open-minded. The traditionalists are oppressive, antiquated and stuck in their ways. Yet although ostensibly the Emerging Church likes to rattle the cages of the Established Church, what they are really challenging is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not the Bible per se that they hate, but the word of God and its final, all-encompassing and over-arching authority. Generally, the Emerging Church is not a fan of the establishment, and let’s call the gospel of Jesus Christ the establishment for this argument. Their smugness and elitism, as with all rebellious and lawless thinking, is a symptom of their belief in their own ‘rightness’ and self-assurance. Yet our foundational belief as Christians, as believers of the full gospel of Jesus Christ, is that we have no basis for our own righteousness, and we come in humility before the Cross to acknowledge the authority, holiness and righteousness of God.

My problem is that the emerging church pin-up boys and girls are mostly of the genX and genY demographic and are influencing younger Christians in this same worldview.

I find it interesting that bloggers and authors like Rachel Held Evans for example proclaim earnestly that they want to speak for their generation as though the younger generation in the western world are not heard from. For those who are not familiar with Rachel here is a quick summary of her influence from the Eastern Mennonite University website in America

“ Rachel Held Evans, one of the most influential and quoted persons in the Millenial generation of Christians, has been spotlighted by NPR, Slate, BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian (UK), The Times London, The Huffington Post and Oprah.com

http://emu.edu/now/news/2014/02/rachel-held-evans-is-coming-expect-surprising-insights-maybe-shocking-ones-from-this-popular-christian-blogger/

Here is a quote from one of Rachel’s recent blog posts

As I watched my Facebook and Twitter feeds last night, the reaction among my friends fell into an imperfect but highly predictable pattern. Christians over 40 were celebrating. Christians under 40 were mourning.  Reading through the comments, the same thought kept returning to my mind as occurred to me when I first saw that Billy Graham ad: You’re losing us.

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again…(though I’m starting to think that no one is listening): 

My generation is tired of the culture wars. 

We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.

This is not the 1950s. The young are heard from in every section of the media from the internet to reality TV. We hear your voices whether speaking singing, dancing, cooking, writing books or doing stand-up everywhere that it is possible to hear voices. In fact the younger generation has been heard from in every decade since the 60s. In Rachel’s case, if you read the Mennonite description of her career to date, you will see that she has a very wide readership, is being listened to by very influential people, including probably the most influential person on American television Oprah Winfrey, a 50 something. I think Rachel is maybe one of those types of people who like to create drama where there is none. She is being listened to and she is being widely distributed so others can listen to her. So what does she really want?

Like a lot of young seemingly mainly left wing politicians in this country, what you are saying is not resonating with the older demographic because frankly, we have been there and done that. The baby-boomer generation started the generation gap by protesting things like the Vietnam War, racism and sexism. What they spoke out about were genuine issues. The way they spoke out about it became overheated and probably more than a little tiresome for the previous generation who had already fought in the second World War and were emotionally exhausted, traumatised from 7 years of terrible and mind-numbing conflict and were sick of the continual turmoil. The war had not stopped the conflict. Had men and women died in vain? There always seemed to be something more to get in an uproar about, however righteous the cause. I will never forget my father, who had been a commando in the D-day landings and been badly wounded by schrapnel. He often would sit and watch the news and the look on his face was devastating. He would turn to the rest of his family and proclaim desperately “what is the world coming to”. Everything used to be so clear cut and understandable, now it was all falling apart. If the hippie generation wondered why nobody was listening to them, perhaps it was because they were so self-absorbed and focused on their own issues. Some of those issues were real and cross generational like racism, others were simply fuelled by drugs and the belief that the older generation had screwed up the universe and they were going to get it right.

Rachel Held Evan’s belief that the previous generation of Christians had ‘screwed up’ somehow and didn’t understand the need to embrace things like homosexuality as normal is taking things to a whole nother level. She has the same attitude at the baby-boomer generation, yet speaks as though this was all something new and revelatory and at the same time self-evident. She is getting frustrated that the rest of us aren’t getting her. She claims to be a Christian yet like so many emerging ‘believers’ they are not really sure what it is they do believe, they just know that they don’t want to go down the same path as the older generation.

The old paths are not what is holding Rachel Held Evans back. She, like many emerging church apologists is suffering from the issue of sin nature verses the Holy Spirit. They want to both embrace the flesh and the soulish nature and at the same time know God in the midst. That is not how this works. It has always been this way and always will. First you accept that we can’t have it our way, but God’s, and God’s ways are not determined by young minds re-interpreting the bible to make it mean whatever works for them.

We are not failing to hear the voices of the young people in this age. What the young fail to realise is that those who support the establishment are the young of 30 years ago who likewise tried to change the world by challenging the status quo. There is a lot to be said for institutions which can withstand the continual testing of younger generations who ‘just want to be heard’. The Younger generation who seem to be dancing to the Pied Piper’s tune of emerging church have a right to speak out on their own behalf, but they do not have a right to lead others down the broad path of destruction.

And in this I refer to the established church. When I say established church I am not talking about denominations or hierarchy, programmes, popes or priests and pastors. I am not talking about the institution of church which began with Constantine. I am talking about the kingdom of God, the body of Christ, those who believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, the son of God, the born again, the led by the Spirit and the bible believing word of God preaching gospel proclaiming and entirely annoying ‘fundamental-ists’ who refuse to allow the emerging church to poison all the wells.

Unfortunately, the blogosphere is a seductive beast. Somebody once said that Google is the great oracle of our time and likewise, blogs have an almost mystical appeal. They are an unprecedented means of publishing opinions which then garner popularity, praise and criticism based on their zeitgeist. You can be nobody in particular and become a celebrity overnight. In the same way, the emerging church has tapped into this celebrity culture and made media stars of its leaders and speakers. Rachel Held Evans is a perfect example of why the emerging church is so popular. She is young (in her 30s), female (and therefore empowered), engaging and puts her vulnerabilities out there. She is like a cast member of ‘Friends’ except ten years later. She engages others because she apparently tells it like it is, but all Rachel is doing is acting as a mouthpiece for the doctrines of the mostly older male vanguard. Previously I talked about the young speaking to the young. Emerging church leaders are a mixture of the young, and those seeker-sensitive types who speak to those younger than them in the same language. More specifically you are looking at the baby-boomer generation of Jesus freaks who became leaders in the wake of the 70s and 80s and are taking advantage of the power vacuum amongst the younger generation. They don’t act as parents or elders or teachers, they act as friends. This is all very comforting, and would be fine if they were simply just friends, but they aren’t. They are role models and they are leaders. They are leading these younger Christians down the broad path, or ‘the path that rocks’ rather than the path of righteousness.

And like Kronk, the younger generation are ‘sort of confused’ about what is right and wrong. In this video excerpt from ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’, Kronk, a minion of the evil Yzma, is listening to the discussion between an angel and demon on his shoulder. In trying to get him to go down the path ‘that rocks’, the demon has only two (rather than his stated three) points to consider. The first is that the angel looks stupid (ad hominem argument) the second is that the shoulder demon, is impressively athletic. As Kronk points out “what does that have to do with anything”. As the angel points out, maybe there is something to the fact that this demon is so good at standing on his hands. Even the elect are being deceived by the verbal gymnastics (as above so below) of those who wish to go down the ‘path that rocks’.

Rachel Held Evans appeals to the young and because she is a woman she is being accepted. Women are a perfect mouthpiece for the disillusioned, abused, minority groups out there who need acceptance. The GLBT community, those who grew up in authoritarian controlling churches and had authoritarian controlling fathers and pastors, women who are tired of being told they aren’t allowed to speak in church and many others. As a woman who belonged to all of these sub-groups except the GLBT (but had a mother and sisters who sympathised) I understand perfectly the appeal of the emerging church.

Incidentally, Rachel denies being part of the emerging church but either she doesn’t see who she is being influenced by or she is not being honest with herself. She is hanging out with the likes of Rob Bell, and attending conferences with speakers such as Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren. Evan’s views are very much in line with the emerging church, therefore she can’t really say she is not part of it. The fact that many emerging church writers and leaders don’t like to align themselves officially with the emerging church is something of a comment on the nature of the Emerging Church itself. They don’t want to offend anyone and they don’t like being pigeon-holed which makes them in their own eyes, amorphous and ‘part of the conversation’ which is a euphemism for “don’t label me cause I might change my mind”. This vague non-specificity is apparently very cool right now. It is better to have fluid views because let’s face it anyone with popular appeal generally ends up being proved wrong or fails publicly in some way sooner or later. If you have fluid views you can always say that you were ‘experimenting’ with whatever or whoever it is who ends up being publicly disavowed.

Here is a quote from one of her blog posts wherein she makes it perfectly clear that it is not politically correct for her to align herself with the Emerging Church.

As the book launch approaches, I’ve been warned by several advisors to avoid aligning myself with the “emerging church.” Identifying with this group will alienate potential readers, they say.  It will box me in and limit my influence, they say. It will subject me to unwanted criticism, they say.

While I’m no fan of labels—(and “emerging” or “emergent” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people)— it would be dishonest for me to say that I have not been influenced by many of the writers and speakers that are associated with this movement. In fact, I’m currently reading Brian McLaren’s latest book, A New Kind of Christianity, and plan to include an interview with him on the blog later this month.

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/changing

But then it is this deliberate commitment to changing ideas and experimentation which makes the emerging church ‘theology’ so destructive. They know what they don’t believe, they just don’t want to tell you what they do believe. It always comes back to the revolutionary goal of undermining the establishment without really having anything of substance to replace it.

As an aside here is Rachel’s blog comments policy…

“Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.”

It’s her blog, and she is entitled to delete whomsoever she pleases, its just that this policy is so emergent its not funny. OK, well it kind of is I mean I laughed. The last sentence says it all. “The definition of terms is left solely up to us.” This could quite easily be the motto for the Emerging Church, and if nothing else is enough to convince me that Rachel Held Evans is a voice in this community.

Emerging church doctrines however do not attempt to violently destroy the established church. In fact in many ways, the established church has done the destroying for generations. The Catholic church engaged in murder on a heinous scale, and destroyed anyone who didn’t recant their own egregious ideas or beliefs. The Catholic church has been psychopathic in its hatred of the outsider or the dissenter. The true church has always been killed or imprisoned by the establishment, and the emerging church is ironically becoming the very thing it thinks it is working against.

Who has the greatest growing church in the western world? The emerging church has the giga-churches, the air-waves, the music industry, the ear of politicians. In fact, we believe that the emerging church is simply another strand of the newly forming world church where there are no fundamentals of doctrine, no specific and strict beliefs, no exclusions, no sinners, no sin, no need to repent, no cross, no blood, no call to renounce the world, no boundaries. This new church includes all denominations, all religions in fact, and all ideas and theologies. The agents of this change are the emerging church leaders, the catholic church leaders, the new age leaders, and even the established protestant church leaders. All are falling prey to this non-doctrine doctrine and as long as you lay down your long-held bible based beliefs and join with the new world order, you will be accepted and loved. By the world. But as scripture tells us..

James 4:3-5

New King James Version (NKJV)

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and[a] adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

As I said though, the gospel can’t be re-defined because it is beyond temporal or worldly understanding. It is the word of God who is eternal, and his word is eternal and unchanging. How then can you define or even re-define terms when those previous definitions become out-dated if God’s word is unchanging. People don’t change, there is nothing new under the sun (from the Solomon, world’s wisest man), and therefore the only point to re-defining Christianity, our beliefs, the gospel, or the tenets of our faith is to insert something in there that wasn’t before…yourself.

 

Further reading:

Willow Creek and the Socialist Agenda

http://www.moriah.com.au/textarchive/nwo.htm

*See this excellent article for the examination of the attitudes of leftwing politics in Australia http://www.melbournereview.com.au/features/article/The-Toxicity-of-Smugness

http://standupforthetruth.com/2012/10/the-influence-of-rachel-held-evans/

http://spectator.org/articles/39523/emergent-church-no-longer-emerging

 

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Heart Transplant

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I read some time ago about the studies of a psychoimmunologist Paul Pearsall around the unexpected symptoms experienced by heart transplant recipients. Pearsall apparently researched the mental side of heart disease, gathering data and formulating theories. He wrote a book called ‘The Heart’s Code’ which documents these theories. Pearsall himself went through a life threatening cancer during which he became friends with others experiencing the same heart diseases and facing the need for transplants.

A certain number of them, around 15%……were known to report quite spontaneously that they know things about the person whose heart they received, or else their behaviour or preferences changed, and when it was researched, it was found that these changes were indeed in the direction of being more like the person whose heart they had received.”

(Strengthening your Decisions Through ‘Cardiac Exercise’ Elaine Aaron ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’ Comfort Zone Newsletter August 2005 http://www.hsperson.com)

The heart is the very centre of a person’s body,, the organ which pumps our life blood around. “It can communicate instantaneously with all of the body, 73 trillion cells, via the circulatory system. Pearsall thinks, in fact, that the heart in its central location and with its contact with every cell is constantly sending out ‘info-energy’ that every cell recognizes, so that each cell uses its DNA to become a sort of holographic image of the energy coming from the heart. “ (Elaine Aaron as above)

I should point out here, that while I appreciate Elaine Aaron’s research on the physiology and psychology of highly sensitive people, as a Christian, I am aware that this ‘research’ from Paul Pearsall and Dr. Aaron contained in the above article is highly humanistic and biased against a Christian understanding of our spirituality. I do not recommend this kind of ‘teaching’, but I was interested in the findings regarding heart recipients.

The ramifications for us as human beings are vast. As Christians, we know that God changes our hearts, but we also know that scripture tells us that He desires to give us a completely new heart. When he spoke to the prophet Ezekiel, he told him to tell Israel that He wanted to literally give His people a heart transplant. He wanted to take out the heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. How can a heart of stone beat? Clearly God is talking about their hardness towards himself. You can’t get any harder than a stone and in fact, a heart of stone is a dead heart, there is no life in a rock, it is the result of thousands of years of compression and resistance against great geological forces.

Ezekiel 11:19,20

Then I will give them one heart and I will put a new spirit within them and take the stony heart out of their flesh that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgements and do them; and they shall be My people and I will be their God.

In scripture, we see this concept of having a change of heart and a subsequent change of personality a number of times.

Saul is given a new heart when he is anointed King. All of a sudden he is able to prophecy with the prophets, he becomes literally a new man.

1 Samuel 10:6

Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man”

1 Samuel 10:9

So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart’ and all those signs came to pass that day”.

Saul changed to the point that all who knew him commented on the change in his behaviour. He had become a new and different man because God had changed his heart.

David prayed for not just a change of heart when he repented of the sins of adultery and murder, but he asked God to create in him a clean heart and to renew a right spirit. He needed to become a ‘new’ man so that he no longer wanted to sin in the way he had.

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God And renew a steadfast heart spirit within me”.

Psalm 16:7

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons”.

God’s work on David’s heart had been such that he could trust the instructions from God which came from it.

In fact, we know that God called David ‘A man after my own heart’. This is a rare honour indeed.

The nation of Israel is also pictured in the book of Ezekiel as being the recipients of new hearts and God is the heart surgeon who removes the heart of stone to give them a heart of flesh. In all of these cases, the new heart results in a desire for the things of God and a new direction in their lives.

When we are born again, we receive a new heart. Old things pass away, all things become new. We now desire God himself and the things of God. Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind so that we can know the good perfect and acceptable will of God. There is a need to be changed to become more and more like Christ in order that we can know God’s mind, and also to know His heart.

God bless,

Steve and Anita

The Jonah Defence

zman in field.jpg

Nineveh (modern-day Mosul, Iraq) was one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity. The area was settled as early as 6000 BCE and, by 3000, had become an important religious centre for worship of the goddess Ishtar.(http://www.ancient.eu.com/nineveh/)

The first sentence of the book of Jonah is God’s direction to his prophet to tell Him to go to the city of Nineveh and preach repentance because their great wickedness had come up against Him. God had a plan for Nineveh which involved their salvation and not their destruction. Although he told them he would destroy them in 40 days if they didn’t repent, He also knew they would repent, as did Jonah. How did Jonah know? He was a prophet, he loved God, he knew God, he had spent time living and walking with God. Yet, as close as his relationship with God was, he still chose to reject the call and go his own way. How often do we, his people, likewise choose to secure our own comfort and go our own way rather than follow Him? Even after years of relationship, it is still possible to allow our flesh to dictate the terms. Worse, it is possible for us to decide to block our ears to God’s call and refuse to obey for the simple reason that it doesn’t fit with our world view.

I have found that the closer you get to God, the more your mind is renewed (my favourite passage Romans 12:1-2). The more your mind is renewed the more you see the greater picture from God’s perspective, and sometimes, we don’t like what we see. It is unfamiliar. I think God allows us to travel through countryside which we at least have some understanding of for a while. Then when he knows we are ready for it, he lifts the veil from our eyes a little more and we see the greater picture. Jonah was shown the greater picture and he had a meltdown. It’s easy for us to look at him and scoff. We of course would never behave this way because our maturity is much greater than his. Yet, Jonah was in the know. He was privy to God’s counsel regarding the biggest city in the then known world. It would be as if one of us had been shown what would happen to New York, or London, or Tokyo, before any of the disasters which have been visited upon those towns over the years. Would you be able to deal with that? Would you be able to cope knowing you were the one called to prevent the destruction? And what if one of those cities had been your country’s sworn enemy? Would you want to be the harbinger of doom? Sure, if God was going to follow through. Maybe it would be kind of fun. You would get the fame of being connected with God’s great power and judgement. But Jonah knew, he just knew, God wasn’t going to destroy Ninevah, he knew God’s heart, and he knew God was going to spare them. So Jonah went nah-ah. I am NOT going to be the one to be the bearer of good news to my enemies.

Jonah’s response was the equivalent of going on the witness protection programme; change country, change your identity, fade into obscurity. Joppa harbour was a well known international maritime destination, located north-west of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean sea. Jonah decided Spain looked good this time of year and set his sights on Tarshish. David had pretty much settled the question that you cannot escape from God in Psalm 139; “where can I go from your Spirit, from your presence where can I flee, if I ascend to heaven there you are, if I descend to Sheol, there you will be”. Yet Jonah was not in the mood for discussion.

So, Jonah finds a vessel, goes down into the hold, curls up in the foetal position and waits it out. A foetus, or baby, is curled up because he is in cramped living quarters. They don’t start out cramped. We begin as tiny curled creatures and become larger over 40 weeks. This is by the way an interesting connection with a time of confinement and constriction as God forms and disciplines us. Yet, when as adults we choose to go ‘back to the womb’ we are showing a desire to want the safety comfort and above all lack of responsibility that we are called to as adults. An adult cannot go back to the womb. Remember Nicodemus’ concern when he spoke to Jesus about being born again? It is physically impossible. But psychologically, by hiding, choosing unconsciousness (or ‘un-knowing’) we can make an attempt to cease to be while the world unfolds around us. It is a rather cowardly act, and I speak as one who has chosen this form of ‘un-knowing’ many times.

An unusually fierce storm arose. The sailors were experienced, but they were becoming more and more desperate and started praying to their idols in the hope that somebody’s god might have mercy on them. The captain finds Jonah down in the hold and asks him what on earth he is up to? Surely Jonah must have a god reasons the captain, so he too should pray to Him and ask for mercy. Since nobody’s god seems to be answering and they cannot decide whose fault the storm is they decide to draw lots. God ensures that Jonah gets the short straw . Immediately, they begin to question him explicitly about who he is and where he is from. Jonah tells his story and in the process preaches the gospel to these men. Even though he is in self-imposed exile, the gift God has placed upon his life, that of a prophet, is exercised. Here, he is also fulfilling the gifts of teacher, and evangelist as in the process of telling the sailors who he is, he tells them who God is, and why the storm has arisen.

Now while these men are superstitious, they are clearly a kind-hearted lot as none of them want to do as Jonah suggests, and throw him overboard. They know that it would be a quick and sure death. Yet as the storm gets worse, they decide that maybe, since Jonah did offer, they should do what he suggested. Reluctantly they throw him over, and the storm immediately abates. So profoundly affected are they by the resulting calm that they sacrifice to God and make vows. I believe this means that they would have essentially changed allegiances from their false gods who had forsaken them to the One True and Living God. So, not only could Jonah not outrun the long arm of the Lord, but God used Jonah to convert these sailors despite his rebellion against Him. God truly does work all things together for good to those who love Him. And Jonah surely loves God despite appearances.

Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.”

Jonah 2:8,9 (NKJV)

I find it interesting that Jonah goes from voluntarily taking the foetal position as his defence to being forced into a foetal position in the belly of the fish. He refers to his plight as being in the ‘belly of Sheol’ and ‘in the pit’. Since Jonah seems to enjoy being hidden from sight and sleeping in order to avoid his responsibilities, he is forced to stay in that position for three days and nights. Noah’s time in the whale is marked by repentance and worship of God, and after those three days, he is vomited out onto dry land and given a second chance. He takes it

I am reminded of a visit by Barry Maguire at my local church when I was in my early twenties. He preached on Jonah, and he gave a compelling yet amusing verbal illustration of the scene where Jonah, having spent three days in the pit of a fish’s stomach, his hair and body bleached from the stomach acid of the fish (do fish have stomach acid?) crawls and stumbles into the city gates of this massive city (the equivalent of New York probably in today’s parlance since it was three days walk across) and screeches out “repent”. He would have looked like ‘the thing from outer space” and the guilty Ninevites would have fearfully repented.

Ninevah was a city which, like the city of Ephesus worshipped a demonic entity. Ishtah is linked to to the Greek goddess Artemis which is also linked to the Egyptian goddess Isis and all of these are linked to the title ‘Queen of Heaven’ which is also another name for Jezebel. Essentially we are looking at a form of high goddess worship which had overtaken the ancient world and held them in bondage. God wanted them to be free from their links to these demonic idols so that they could worship the one true and living God. Now Jonah’s obedience to God, however churlishly he carried out this obedience, caused that great city to repent from their wickedness and to cry out to God. The king himself caused the whole city, along with the animals to be covered in sackcloth and ashes. Interestingly, God’s compassion extends even to the animals as he mentions them at the end of chapter four. This is the kind of compassion which I see Jesus extending to the woman who was bent over for 18 years. He tries to reason with the Pharisees and asks them to consider her plight, in the same way he tries to reason with Jonah. “Think of It” he urges them. Only a man, and God, moved in his heart and mind to the plight of this woman would encourage the hard-hearted Pharisees to try and put themselves in this woman’s shoes. “Have empathy” he cries to them.

15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite![a] Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” 17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him

(Luke 13:15-17 NKJV)

This is the same cry he gives to Jonah.

10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

(Jonah 4:10-11 NKJV)

Jonah has pity on himself, but does not pity a city of millions of people for whom God has great mercy and empathy.

So this is really a story of a man who is not willing to do the will of God because of his own personal proclivities. Eventually he recognises God’s sovereignty and again cries out to Him for mercy. Yet when God shows mercy to a city of non-Hebrew human beings because they likewise have cried out to God, he becomes angry and believes he has a right to be angry.

Jonah’s hostility and tantrum throwing in chapter 4 is quite a different response to his fear of commitment in Chapter 1. His first instinct is to hide, his last to blame God. I believe these two apparently different reactions are actually seated in the same problem; rebellion. A man who makes excuses for himself (which actually sound very spiritual and humble) such as “Oh, I couldn’t do anything like that, I am not qualified or experienced enough” is really saying “I don’t want to do that”. This may not be what we want to hear, but I know from my own bitter experience that this is in fact the truth. I have chosen to say ‘no’ to God in the past because I didn’t think I was cut out for that kind of work. I have run away, hidden under a rock and decided it just wasn’t me.

Incidentally, hypochondria is another manifestation of this little mind game. Proverbs 22:13 tells us that the lazy man complains he can’t go out because there may be a lion in the streets and he will be killed. We come up with all sorts of other ‘serious’ reasons why we can’t do what the Spirit asks us to do. “I am too weak”, “I am not well enough”, “I am not experienced enough”. You fill in the blank. In fact, we rarely say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). It is amazing what the human mind can invent when we are confronted by our deepest fears. Jonah was called by God and suddenly developed a pressing need to visit Spain. Had he been there before? Was it the climate, the food or the fact that it was very far away in completely the other direction? I imagine a modern day Jonah going to the nearest international airport, looking up at the arrivals and departures board, picking a destination which he has never even heard of and sounds pretty foreign and lacking in modern comforts and going there.

Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

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Not only was Jonah in the pre-natal frame of mind in the first chapter of this book, but in the last chapter he still wants to opt out of life, this time by death. He wants God to take his life. I have never heard such melodramatic twaddle before! Oh wait. Yes I have. That was me. This is another form of blaming God. You made this happen. I didn’t ask to be born. You have to now kill me so that I don’t have to face the humiliation of having my reputation tarnished by all these Ninevites becoming believers! How embarrassing! What would the other prophets think!

I believe that we in today’s church often choose our own interpretation of God’s work for us rather than wait on God and hear his word. Some of us would like to be prophets, but we are really not gifted that way. Many young men, and now perhaps even some women, go to bible school, get trained as church leaders and then go out and start churches, many without a direct word from the Lord to do so, yet their elders and leaders lay hands on them and ‘send them out’ with their blessings but have not spent the necessary time in prayer to find out whether these ones are actually so called.

How important is it for us not just to assume a position but to know God’s call on our lives. How much more important is it for those who have been called not to run from that call, but to follow it wholeheartedly. And for those who have been functioning in their calling (and God bless those who do, it is a narrow and hard road), even that history does not preclude you from the influence of our flesh which would rise up and say “Did God really say?” Which as we know is the means Satan uses to cause us to not only question what we think God has said to us, but to question the loving caring Heavenly Father as well.

A true believer doesn’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit. We all have times when we struggle with God’s direction for our lives. Yet, if we are honest, we will know that when God calls us, he also gives us a desire to follow. The call God placed on Jonah was a huge task. Ninevah was probably the biggest city in the known world at the time, and Jonah was being asked to proclaim the word of God to them in person. Was he ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Or was he just more concerned about his reputation? Whichever it was, we will never know how the conversation ended in chapter 4. I hope and pray that we will know better how it will end in our own hearts.

Searching For The Body

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Mark 5 (New King James)

36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. 39 When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

40 And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43 But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

John 11 (New King James)

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

Luke 24

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them,[a] came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly[b] perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!

Have you ever noticed how many bodies are spoken of in the New Testament?

There is of course the literal body of Christ. We know that Jesus’ body was laid in a tomb, but on the third day, when Mary and the others went to the garden, the Angel asked why they look for the living among the dead. It must have been a wonderful and joyful shock to know that He whom they loved and had mourned for was now alive.

Then there is the body of Christ which is the body of believers both past present and future. We who believe, love and obey the Lord Jesus Christ are the temples of His Holy Spirit, and belong to Him. We are the ones Paul mentioned when he talked about each of us being members of one another (Romans 12), and that no member of the body can say to another ‘we have no need of you’. (1 Corinthians 12).

In both cases, the body of Jesus is a living and breathing being. It is not dead. The Spirit of God dwells in each believer and causes his once dead spirit to become alive to the mind of Christ, to the will of the Father and to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

There are of course other bodies.

The bodies of Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus.

It’s really interesting that both in the case of Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus, Jesus mentioned that these were not bodies, but they were people who were merely asleep. Nobody believed Him of course. They laughed at him in the case of Jairus’ daughter. But Jesus knew what he was talking about. A sleeper is someone who is in fact still alive. They are unconscious to the world around them and will shortly wake up and once again be ‘alive’ to the world. Dead people and sleeping people have much in common bar one important distinction. Dead people do not wake up.

Spiritually speaking, the dead are not ‘awake’ to the reality of God. ‘Let the dead bury the dead’ said Jesus to the young man who wanted to follow him. In other words, those who are not willing to follow Jesus, who do not come to Him and look to Him for salvation are dead to the kingdom of God. We who are alive in our spirits are no longer dead. So, those who believe in Jesus, those like the woman with the issue of blood, Jairus and his daughter, Mary, Martha and Lazarus do not die, they merely sleep. Paul also referred to those believers who sleep in 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians.

Interestingly, in both the case of Jairus and Lazarus, Jesus delayed his coming. He saw the faith of those who asked him to heal, but he knew that in both cases it was God’s will that instead of a healing there should be a raising of the body to the glory of God. Many didn’t believe that he could raise a dead body. There were not just cautions from people who cared about Him, “Lord he has been dead four days”, but there was mocking laughter from those who thought Jesus was a bit loopy. Jesus answer to the mocking was to ‘put them all outside”. He removed the mockers and spoke to the family. This was their home. This was their daughter and he spoke with compassion and concern. After he raised their daughter to life, he told them to feed her. I think this is also significant. A body which has recently died and then resurrected needs nourishment and care in order to continue living. Jesus did not raise this little girl to see her fail from lack of food. The parents were probably so overjoyed that they forgot about the practical things. She had probably not eaten for days due to the sickness, and now here she was pulsing with new life, and ready to partake of the energy and goodness which sustenance gives us.

I find it really poignant that in this chapter, Jesus heals a woman with a flow of blood and who has a deep faith that even touching his garment will heal her. She had life flowing from her, for life is in the blood, yet her faith moved her to seek out Jesus, even after he had been summoned by somebody else for the healing of someone probably much more severely affected. This lady didn’t want to draw attention to herself, probably because she would have been unclean and she didn’t want Jesus to have to touch her and thereby become unclean himself. What she didn’t know was that Jesus would not have been unclean from touching her and it was her faith which drew power from Him in order that she should be healed. This is a beautiful picture of weakness and impoverishment from illness which is wonderfully healed by Jesus without even his conscious partaking in it. It was her faith which made her whole.

Later, He looks for faith from Jairus’ family in order that he might be able to raise their daughter from the dead. In my opinion faith is sorely needed in the church today.

The church in this country is sick and dying. It has an issue of blood. It is not only weakened by this flow of life, but it is unclean because of this flow, and it needs to come to Jesus in faith and be healed. Like the Jairus family, the church also needs to be regenerated.

We have been searching for the body of Christ for some time. He was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit. He now sits at the throne of the Father, but his body, we, the sheep of His pasture, are all of us going our own way. We not only need to return to the lover of our souls and the good shepherd, but we need his resurrection power to return us to the place of true and genuine commitment to each other and to the ministry of the Holy Spirit through each and every one of us, that’s men women and children, in and through us.

The women of the body need to step out in their Spirit giftings. They need to know they are accepted as equals by their brothers, so that they may be able to preach the gospel, share what God has given them with the rest of the body and not tethered to the traditions of men and religion and forbidden with sour and bitter remonstrations not to preach or teach because Jesus doesn’t allow it.

Since when does Jesus not allow his sisters in the Lord to walk in the Spirit, to hear the voice of God and to speak the word which they hear in their hearts? If those words happen to be words of encouragement, prophecy, wisdom, teaching or edification, then such is the will of the Holy Spirit and he should not be blocked, or He will be offended. If a woman has a heart for the body of a carer and a helper, should she be stopped because of her sex and made to sit in the pews and wait while another more acceptable, male, member of the body do the ministering? None of this even makes sense!!

No, the body of Christ is less than what it is meant to be. Mainly because of the headstrong stubborn and wicked hearts of human beings who prefer to remain bound in their own doctrines and religious traditions. We are all one in Christ!!! The body is all around us, yet she is ill and needs to be not only healed, but risen from the dead!

Internet Blues

 

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(A Reply to Wordsworth)

 

 

My heart leaps up when I behold

 

An email ‘dressed to me

 

So was it when the net began

 

Yet here I am an also ran

 

Suspended in the web’s dark hold

 

So let me die!

 

The facebook following makes the man;

 

And friends who are not friends I see

 

Bound each to each by unnatural temerity

 

Short Stack – Honest To God

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Philipians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus

This is the first in a series we will entitle “Short Stack”.  A ‘word bite’ of sorts where you don’t have to digest too much but still fill your soul with encouragement.

This short stack is something which struck me a few days ago, and something I shared with my son when he was struggling with an issue which he thought he had already decided upon.

Quite often you think you have worked through a concern with God only to find that it begins to worry you days or weeks later. Its as though you hadn’t prayed at all.

Here’s what the problem might be.

Sometimes we pray from our minds not our hearts. Sometimes our minds don’t have a full grasp of what we really believe.  Scripture tells us that with our hearts we believe and with our mouths confess.  I  have found that our hearts often hide truth that even our own thoughts can’t fathom.

God is truth.  He wants and expects truth from us.  Sometimes we need to tell God what is in our hearts not our minds.  It requires some deeper meditation, some real honest open discussion with God about how you feel, both good and bad, and may even involve some confession.  You may have a bad attitude without realising it.  You might just be blaming God for something.

The really exciting thing about God is that He isn’t offended when we share honestly with him.  He listens and appreciates truth.  When we speak from the heart and confess what is contained therein he is able to take the burden (especially if it is sin) and give us rest. Our heart has been called ‘deceitfully wicked – who can know it’ (Jeremiah 17:9).  We are also told to guard our hearts above all else because from out of our hearts flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).  Jesus said he came to heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61). So if our hearts are broken or tainted or affected by sinful attitudes, we are not going to have an abundant and fruitful prayer life.  We need to get our hearts right with God and not just pray prayers from our knowledge and opinions.

I find that every time I go back to God and really examine my heart and speak from the truth of the matter, I come away from my conversation with Him with an uplifted heart and a quietness and peace which stays with me for the day.

Bless you and may God help you to know Him in a deeper way.

Why Everybody Hates You

 

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John 7:7

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil.

John 15:18

If the world hates you, you know it hated me before it hated you.

John 15:19

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 17:14

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

1 John 3:13

Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.

1 John 2:15

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 3:14

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.

For the last twelve years or so, Steve and I have spent long hours talking and making sense of the world we entered after leaving the cult.  The world has changed markedly and continues to do so at a rate of knots.  But even more disturbing is the fact that the church has also changed.  We understood that we came out of a place which was an exception to the rule.  Once we wrapped our minds around the concept of the term ‘cult’, we expected to find different behaviour in other churches.  We have been deeply concerned  to find that in fact, much of the behaviour we saw in the cult is being replicated in other Christian organisations; churches and schools.
We were used to being treated badly by cult leaders, but we were not expecting to encounter abusive behaviour from what might be termed ‘ordinary Christians’.  What we discovered was that our cult experience was the thin end of the wedge.  In fact, as we went back over our histories, two separate and disconnected paths, we realised that we had both experienced really horrible behaviour from church people most of our lives.
Why was this?  Were we at fault?  Or were we just unfortunate enough to have been the target of a lot of badly behaved Christians?  Was our experience unique? I don’t think so. In the last twelve years we have done a lot of research and found that large numbers of Christians are leaving the church and not for the reasons that the so called researchers, like George Barna, have suggested. More often the stated reason for leaving churches is because the gospel is no longer being preached.  Genuine brothers and sisters in the Lord are offended with the false gospels, the false teachers, and the false prophets who arise in their midst.  They are faced with the choice of attempting to change the church or leaving.  It seems many, even after years of trying to get the leaders to see sense, have simply given up and looked for another place to fellowship. What they are finding is that there are very few churches now which appear to preach the gospel. If the gospel is not being preached, people sitting in the pews are not getting saved.  We heard the testimony of one man who sat in David Wilkerson’s Times Square Church and said that it was the first time he had ever heard the gospel in 20 years of being a Christian.  It was then that he actually became born again.  This is not an isolated example.
On this note, one preacher we have found to be the epitome of a good solid bible teacher is a man called Charles Lawson.  He is a Baptist pastor in Knoxville Tennessee.  He is what you might call an ‘old time pastor’, but he has done his research and is willing to discuss things from the pulpit that most pastors will not.  He talks about end times, the rapture of the church, he talks about the one world government and the occult.  He is filled with the Spirit and is a genuine brother in the Lord.  We delight in listening to his messages because for 12 years we have looked to find something similar in our country and have failed.  He is surely not the only pastor who preaches the gospel, but he is one we have spent a lot of time listening to.
line breakGood teachers aside, I believe there are two issues intertwined in this matter.  On the one hand  you have the hatred of the world for genuine believers, and on the other hand you have people who identify as Christians but are in fact not genuine believers because they have not been transformed. They have either come into the church on ‘another gospel’ or they have not been born again. So they are in fact still ‘in the world’ despite the fact that they believe in God.  Now bear with me, this is not about being accusatory, it is about observing and recognising the false and discerning the true.
Peruse the above verses.  You will find that Jesus made it abundantly clear that the world hated Him.   The world hated Him because the world is not of God.  Since born again Christians are of God, then it follows that the world is going to hate you. This is not a maybe.  Jesus was not saying ‘if’.  This is a rule of thumb.  The apostle John also reminds his readers that it should not be a surprise if the world hates you.  Because you are of God.
If the above is true then why am I seeing a whole lot of love for Jesus from the world.  And why is there such a conflation of world and church now in so many denominations. Everybody from Hollywood to the White House are saying that they are Christians.  And its not just happening in America.  I live in Australia and for the longest time our Prime Ministers made a big deal of being church going folk.  The Queen goes to church and is the head of the Church of England.  Are they all born again Christians? No.  No they are not. How do we know this? Because the world loves them, the world embraces them and they are not suffering persecution. And of course, their behaviour shows they are not.
I think what is happening here is that they are worshipping another Jesus.  The Jesus that they worship has a different source, the world.  The Jesus who walked the earth two thousand years ago and died on the cross, that Jesus was hated by everybody. Nobody wanted that Jesus to rule over them. Has the world suddenly changed since then?  No, interestingly, just as God doesn’t change, evil doesn’t change.
I think a lot of Christians assume that just because other Christians believe in ‘God’ that we are all worshipping the same God.  Not true.  There are many ‘Christ’s out there, and Jesus said that this would happen in the last days. But there are also many who are sitting in church believing they are brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ, when in fact they have not actually even met Him.  They have not had a true conversion experience.  They might have been experiencing some kind of ‘spiritual’ experience, which it appears is a common thing even amongst pagan tribes.  We westerners tend to believe only in science and rational thought.  This is all well and good until you realise that much of what passes as science is rooted in pagan religion.  We have been fooled into thinking that there is no such thing as supernatural beings or supernatural powers.  Yet the Bible makes it clear that Satan is real, demons are real, angels are real, and they are constantly around us despite the fact that we cannot see or hear them.  Our religion has been influenced by such movements as the reformation – which in fact was simply a version of Catholicism and not true biblical Christianity (although it contained elements of it)  – and the charismatic/Pentecostal movements which were founded on various supernatural occurrences during so called ‘revivals’ over the last couple of hundred years. Many of those supernatural experiences were not of the Holy Spirit but were demonic in origin, and these experiences and the doctrines which support them have influenced our teaching and our expectations as believers.
We believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are not cessationists.  We have prayed for and seen healings, miracles, baptisms in the Spirit etc.  But what we are looking for is transformation.  We need to see changed lives which are led by and bear fruit from the Holy Spirit.  That fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. We tend to see the opposite in many Christians, or sometimes fake fruit.  Let’s look at that.
True Fruit                                                                          Fake Fruit
Love                                                                                   Affection
Joy                                                                                      High Spirits or Loudness
Peace                                                                                 Numbness
Patience                                                                            Inclusion
Goodness                                                                          Doing the right thing
Kindness                                                                           Tolerance
Gentleness                                                                        Psychology
Faithfulness                                                                      Prejudice
Self Control                                                                       Legalism
Christians in Western countries tend to believe that things should be a certain way.  We expect that Christians should act a certain way, generally according to the denomination we belong to.  Reformed churches behave this way, Pentecostal churches behave that way, Baptists do this, Presbyterians do that and so on.  What we have not really done is read our bibles, take note of what constitutes a changed life, the life of Christ within us, the life empowered by and filled with the Spirit of Christ.  We do not measure ourselves against scripture, we measure ourselves against the latest self-help book or teacher, not realising that these people are often not born again either.
A true born again Christian loves other true born again Christians.  You know when you have met somebody who is truly a new creation, you can see it in their eyes, the Spirit within you witness to the Spirit in the other person.  There is a unity which exists which does not need outward expression or conformity to a set of denominational rules or a set of rules which says ‘this is what a genuine bible believing Christian does’.  If the Spirit of him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwells within  you, then He who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies.  That same Spirit will empower you and that same Spirit will lead you and guide you.
Now obviously, Christians can be carnal.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? … (I Corinthians 3)
 When Paul says carnal he is referring to immature Christians who are still spending most of their time walking in the flesh and therefore acting like ordinary men, unbelievers in the world.  We have obviously met a number of these.  The sort of behaviour though that we have experienced is more along the lines of people who don’t change at all over time.  They are not carnal sometimes and spiritual other times.  They really don’t have any Christian characteristics at all.  They are simply religious.
What we have to come to terms with in this so called post-modern society is that there is no longer a ‘church’ denomination which contains a bunch of born again believers.  True believers are now scattered.  Has it been this way from the beginning?  It is possible that this is so.  If true believers are salt and light then we cannot all stand in one clump, how can we salt the earth if we are sitting in one bunch every Sunday or weekday.  It is not possible for us to have a savoury effect.  Have you ever over-salted a soup or stew?  I have.  You can’t ‘unsalt’ it, you have to throw it out, you can’t eat it.  Likewise, we as believers are meant to be spread throughout the world and the so called ‘church’ on the earth.  We can come together to encourage each other, but I am starting to see that this coming together is going to get harder and harder, and we must find each other through other means than the local church organisation.  The church has now become like the world and the world like the church.  There is no longer any delineation, and the true believers are going underground.  Maybe it was always going to be this way at the end.
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We should no longer be surprised when we are hated both by the world AND others who identify as Christians.  IF the Holy Spirit is in you and not in the other so called Christians, you will be treated by them as you are by the world, because they are actually of the world.  Scripture tells us that there were believers in Paul’s day who turned away because of their love of the world; Demas (2 Timothy 4:10) was one of them.  We are told that if we are friends of the world we cannot be friends of God. (James 4:4).
The conclusion of the matter for us is that those who abused us and refused to change were not Christians to start with as they a) had no love for the brethren and b) were not transformed and c)did not have the fruit of the Spirit.  They were of the world and so hated us.  This goes for every other Christian we have not been able to communicate with or has treated us with disdain.  This is the only explanation that is viable.  Genuine believers may have bad days, or have some struggles with sin, but they do not habitually treat others with rudeness or disrespect.  Nor do I know anyone, who does not have a character disorder, even in the world, who would treat a perfect stranger with rudeness or disrespect.  But people who you know who habitually act coldly and arrogantly towards you yet claim to be believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are not the genuine article.
It is in fact a huge relief for me to finally allow this truth to embrace my heart.  I do not have to feel bad that there are those out there who claim to be Christian who do not love me, despite the fact that I have striven to attain that love over the course of many years.  These ones cannot love, they do not have the love of God in them.
Only true believers can love true believers.
Only the world hates true believers.
And never the twain shall meet.

God Commands All Men Everywhere to Repent

nothing-but-the-blood-of-jesus-what-can-wash-away-my-sin-what-can-make-me-whole-again-n

Acts 17:22-31 says;Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

It amazes me that in our day and age, we as ‘God’s People’, can read these verses in Acts 17 and yet so easily pass over this verse, the one I have highlighted in blue.

I have been a believer in Jesus Christ for over 30 years, well over half of my life, and I can still remember the first time I heard this portion of scripture. It was on the night I got born again.

The grey headed old man who sat there in a Christian coffee shop in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, one Saturday night back in November of 1984 spoke those words to me.

That is not where it ended though. He went on to speak to me for about an hour about the love of God in Jesus Christ and the provision of a Redeemer for all of mankind. This man knew the gospel and more importantly, he knew Jesus.

That night Ed presented the gospel to me in no uncertain terms. Ed presented what he knew. He presented the truth, or should I say, he presented The Truth.

Then the Holy Spirit stepped it up a level and said this through Ed, ‘This is a command, we are commanded to repent. This is not an invitation, there is a big difference. If it were an invitation by God to us we would be well within our rights to decline that invitation without any consequences.’

But it is not an invitation. God has spoken clearly through the mouth of Paul and has said the same to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth through-out all of history, REPENT.

In doing so, the Holy Spirit left no room for me to side step what God Himself was saying to me through a mere mortal. God used a man to present the gospel to me. I had to make a decision there and then on the spot.

Paul the apostle was inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak these words in Acts 17 to a group of learned philosophers. These guys were no dummies. They knew their stuff. They spent all day every day talking about all sorts of new ideas that were coming up all around them. Paul called them ‘very religious’.

Here was Paul, standing in the midst of a lot of spiritual darkness, in a city that was known for its idolatry, the writer says that ‘his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was given over to idols.’ Acts 17:16.

We read in Deuteronomy 32:15-17

But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
You grew fat, you grew thick,
You are obese!
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons, not to God,
To gods they did not know,

And again Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:18-22,

‘Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?’

These are just a few of the many scriptures I could point out that detail how there is demonic activity behind every idol, whether it is a physical object or an idol in our hearts.

We are told that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities etc. Paul knew exactly what he was talking about. He had had first hand experience in the demonic realm.

So, Paul is standing in Demon HQ on Mars Hill in Athens. Greece. These people were given over to idols. These entities ruled the lives of those who worshipped them. You only need to look at the world we now live in and see for yourself what is going on.

We become like the thing we worship. If we love and worship God we will become like him. If we love and worship men over God we will become like those people whom we set up to be more important than God. If we worship false gods/demons we will become like those demons. This is plain and simple. It is spelt out clearly in the scriptures.

Psalm 135:15-18 emphatically teaches this principle:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. THOSE WHO MAKE THEM WILL BE LIKE THEM, AND SO WILL ALL WHO TRUST IN THEM.” (Emphasis added)

Paul stood on Mars Hill and preached one thing, Repentance. This was not an invitation, it was a command.

John the Baptist preached repentance, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Matt 3:2

Jesus, from day one, preached repentance, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

And what did Peter preach on the day of Pentecost, repentance!

Acts 2:36-38

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent…”

Let me make it plain and simple, the gospel with out repentance is not the gospel.

There are many churches out there now who have left out things like repentance, sin, the Blood and hell. There are many supposed world renown speakers and teaches who no longer preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are preaching a watered down version of the message that Christ himself set out for us.

Seeker Sensitive, Emerging or Purpose Driven, Universalist, Dominionists and so on. All of these groups in one way or another have changed the gospel. What they now preach is not what Paul preached.

Look at Galatians chapter 1, God was very clear about this issue as He inspired Paul by the Holy Spirit to pen the following:.

6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. Emphasis added

This is not an Old Testament warning, it is Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and speaking to the early church.

How is it that we think we can get away with it now? Has God’s Word to us changed? No, it has not. This warning still stands today as a reminder that we do not add to or take away from God’s Word.

Who are we to change the message? Who are we to think that we can come up with a better gospel than that which was delivered to us by Jesus, John Baptist, Peter and Paul?

Who do we think we are to say to God that the message that was given to us by God is just not good enough?

Who do we think we are? Are we better or smarter than God himself?

All who call upon the name, that Holy Name of Jesus Christ need to search their hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light into our lives and deal with us if we have gone down this path

.On that day there will be many who will stand in the presence of the Holy God who cannot look upon sin and they will say, ‘Didn’t we do this in your name and that in your name? Didn’t we preach the gospel and tell people to follow Jesus and all their problems would be solved?’

By then it is too late.

And what of the many who supposedly come into the kingdom on such a message?

They may have seen the kingdom but I doubt they have entered. Yes, I know, only God knows who will make it in and you are right to say this but scripture is very very clear, entry into the kingdom is by one way only, Repentance.

God commands all men everywhere to repent.

Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessings,

Steve.

The Red Queen’s Race

 

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“Now! Now!” cried the Queen. “Faster! Faster!” And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy. The Queen propped her against a tree, and said kindly, “You may rest a little now.”

Alice looked round her in great surprise. “Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree all the time! Everything’s just as it was!”   “Of course it is,” said the Queen: “what would you have it?”   “Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

“I’d rather not try, please!” said Alice. “I’m quite content to stay here — only I am so hot and thirsty! ”

“I know what you’d like!” the Queen said good-naturedly, taking a little box out of her pocket, “Have a biscuit?” Alice thought it would not be civil to say “No,” though it wasn’t at all what she wanted. So she took it, and ate it as well as she could: and it was very dry; and she thought she had never been so nearly choked in all her life.

“While you’re refreshing yourself,” said the Queen, “I’ll just take the measurements.” And she took a ribbon out of her pocket, marked in inches, and began measuring out the ground, and sticking little pegs in here and there.

“At the end of two yards,” she said, putting in a peg to mark the distance, “I shall give you your directions — have another biscuit?”

“No, thank you,” said Alice: “one’s quite enough!”

“Thirst quenched, I hope?” said the Queen. (Source)

I remember reading “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, and “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll as a child. I didn’t actually enjoy them that much, perhaps it was the ugly surrealism of the Tennyson illustrations, perhaps it was the vaguely emotionally disturbing conversations and characters. Everyone seemed either haughty, irrational, arbitrary, vicious, abusive or just plain stupid. Perhaps this is the way Carroll wanted his readers to feel, I haven’t spent much time reading about the author. They never seemed to be proper children’s books to me. .

I have thought more recently however, that these stories didn’t gel with me as a child, because I actually lived in my own ‘Looking Glass’ world. The Queen of Hearts was like my mother, indomitable, malevolent and ultimately inescapable. When you live with a malignant narcissist, you live like Alice every day of your life, trying hard not to rock the boat or offend anyone, but failing anyway. Alice spent a lot of time trying to understand the characters which inhabited her dreams, or her mirror, and in both stories, she seemed to be quite literally, the pawn, moved around the board at the whim of the other more powerful characters.

Reading this excerpt again, I realized that the topsy-turvy world of the Red Queen was very similar to the world of the cult. It was a natural progression for me to move from the restrictions of an abusive family, to the restrictions of an abusive religious regime. I saw many similarities between the narcissistic household I grew up in, and the environment of the cult. Again, you are at the mercy of those whose authority and position are unquestioned. Running as fast as you can in order to stay in one place, and being given dry biscuits to quench your thirst are only two of the paradoxes which you live with. In the cult, you had to work as hard as you could just to survive, and if anyone wanted to rise in the ranks of the leadership, you had to ‘run at least as twice as fast’ to get anywhere. When you had a need, you were not given anything to fill that need, in fact you were given the opposite. For example, when you went to the elders for comfort and support, more often than not you came away with condemnation, shame, guilt and anxiety. Don’t ask these men for a fish, because they will give you a snake.

“He must first be able to willingly receive and express shame when conviction comes. He must be able to blush as he owns the humiliation” (‘Dealing with Shame’ by Graham Pomery April 29th 1998)

This is just one example of the eternal paradox of living with narcissistic leadership. They don’t want you to just confess your sins to them, they want you to squirm and suffer. They don’t offer you comfort and encouragement, but further condemnation. Again, not an egg, but a scorpion (Luke 11:12). Not something to nourish and fill you, but something to poison and damage you. Never mind that there is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). I would suggest that people who are confessing sin are not walking according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Therefore, they would be receiving the comfort of Christ, if those ministering to them were not themselves walking in the flesh.

In a cult, there is no understanding that this world is different to the world outside the looking glass. In a cult, reality is defined by the leaders. There is no world outside the cult to speak of, and if you want to not only stay in one place, but to get ahead, you have to do an awful lot of exhausting running around. When you expressed your needs to the leaders, you were not given anything to help or support you, more often than not, what they gave you was like dry biscuits to a thirsty man. Not only was it the opposite of what you needed, but it was more than likely going to make things worse.

This ‘black is white’ type of existence produces fear, anxiety, confusion, striving to achieve the unachieveable. The goal posts were continually being moved, and then you were blamed for not having noticed. The congregation are kept off-balance so that they are continually questioning their own perceptions. They are expected to understand the notes and papers that they are continually bombarded with, with minimal explanations. This produces further confusion. The Theology of BCF is not clear and readily expressed. You wouldn’t find that many members of the congregation who are able to explain their particular beliefs other than in generalities. ‘I must submit to my husband as head of my family, and then to the elders according to the gospel of headship’ etc. What it ends up being is a reiteration of the jargon people hear on Sunday, or read for home group meetings, or hear others speak in conversation.

The difference between cult members and Alice are that Alice is at least aware that she is being pushed around.

“It was much pleasanter at home, when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits.” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

These men are as confident as the Red Queen, or the Queen of Hearts, or perhaps more aptly, the Mad Hatter, when it comes to being right, and Alice, the poor simple newcomer, must agree with their own interpretation of reality, or be pronounced stupid.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.”The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them – particularly verbs: they’re the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

‘Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice, ‘what that means?’

‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’

‘Oh!’ said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.Source

I used to often feel a vague sense of sickness and nausea that you experience with motion sickness (brought on ironically enough by a disturbance in the equilibrium in your ear which affects your balance). My balance was profoundly affected because it was meant to be.

This sort of behaviour is common amongst narcissists .

She makes you look crazy. If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse) that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten. This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.

Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative. You’re oversensitive. You’re imagining things. You’re hysterical. You’re completely unreasonable. You’re over-reacting, like you always do. She’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational. She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.

Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood. She didn’t do anything. She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her. You’ve hurt her terribly. She thinks you may need psychotherapy. She loves you very much and would do anything to make you happy, but she just doesn’t know what to do. You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.Source

This quote is regarding narcissistic women, in particular mothers. Having lived with this sort of crazy behaviour, I recognize it in the cult environment. One of the many examples of gaslighting comes when anyone leaves the cult. One particular member, the former wife of one of the elders was forced into a situation where the elders actually tried to prove that she was crazy in court. It failed of course, because she isn’t crazy. But the whole congregation now uses that description freely, because they have been taught to believe it by the leaders. Anyone who is not doing what they want them to do is anything ranging from ‘unsubmitted’, to ‘not of us’, to downright insane. It may work on the congregation.

In their view, antagonists don’t need therapy, they need to come and confess their sins, come back into the fold and be ‘adjusted’ by the leadership. If that sounds disturbingly like men who have lost their tenuous hold on reality think again. They know exactly what they are doing.