False Teachers are Abusers of the Brethren

 

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But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. (2 Timothy 3)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[d] unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. …(2 Peter 2)

Whoever transgresses[d] and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. ( 2 John 1:9-11)

 

11. By wishing a false brother or teacher “God (or ‘good’) speed,” you imply that he is capable as such of good speed and joy (the literal meaning of the Greek), and that you wish him it while opposing Christ; so you identify yourself with “his evil deeds.” The Greek of “partaker” is “having communion with.” We cannot have communion with saints and with Antichrist at the same time. Here we see John’s naturally fiery zeal directed to a right end. Polycarp, the disciple of John, told contemporaries of Irenæus, who narrates the story on their authority, that on one occasion when John was about to bathe, and heard that Cerinthus, the heretic, was within, he retired with abhorrence, exclaiming, Surely the house will fall in ruins since the enemy of the truth is there. (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary)

 

Is there anyone who has ever been deceived by a false teacher or abused by a false Christian  who is not convinced that deception and abuse go hand in hand?

Scriptures make it very clear that false teachers are not just those who have simply misread scripture or are well-intentioned but wrong.  I can’t find anywhere in the New Testament where either Jesus or the apostles thought about false teachers in this manner.  I don’t see Peter, Paul or John excusing the teaching or the teachers because of ignorance or immaturity.  There were those in Scripture like Peter and Apollos who were ignorant or misled but who were also able to be reasoned with by more mature Christians and who changed their teaching as a result of an appeal. There was no doubt that these men were brothers because of their love and humility.  But I fail to find anywhere that genuine brothers and sisters in Christ were also teachers of false doctrines.  It seems that Scripture makes it clear that if you teach a false doctrine, you are also a person of unsound character and are in fact wicked, cursed and to be shunned. In fact, false teachers are cursed by Paul in Galatians 1 and cursed by Peter in the second chapter of his second letter.  John says don’t even greet them, Paul tells Timothy to turn away from them. Teaching false doctrine and being deceptive, abusive and leading others astray go hand in glove, make no mistake about it.

I don’t believe that we are to show any leniency to those who prove both by their inability to be reasoned with and their false teaching that they are reprobates.  They may present themselves as very charming reprobates, but God does not look at the outward appearance but upon their hearts.  The hearts of false teachers are rebellious, unable to love the brethren or God and while they may boast of their love for others and their good deeds before men, Christ will say to them ‘depart from me’.  God has no part with false teachers and we are encouraged by the writers of the New Testament to do likewise.  It seems unkind and almost wrong to do this.  It is undoubtedly hard to do this.  Any genuine believer has compassion and concern for those who are headed to hell, but false teachers it seems fall into a separate category. They are evil, we are to turn away from them.  How is this possible, when so many of them seem simply to be just making an error in judgement.  Can’t we just reason with them and help them to see their mistake?

I would encourage you to do this very thing. You can’t know immediately what kind of character a person has simply by hearing their preaching, or by knowing who they follow or endorse.  There can be brothers and sisters in Christ who follow false teachers without realising the teachings are false simply through immaturity.  Go to those ones, reason with them, contend for the faith, point out the error, plead and encourage, and if you have won your brother, their souls are saved.  If on the other hand, you are ignored, mocked, verbally abused or shunned because you have tried to help them see their error, you will know immediately of what type these Christians are.  They have not just become deceived, but they have ‘drunk the koolaide’.  This term is a reference to the Jonestown massacre in the People’s Temple Agricultural Project commune in Guyana.  It is called Jonestown after the cult leader Jim Jones who had gone from teaching the Word in California to a perverted form of “Apostolic Socialism” in Africa and was using drugs and spreading paranoia and hate in his cult group caused his people to take poison.

Over 900 Americans, who had followed Jones to Africa died in this massacre and it is rumoured that the poison was placed in koolaide so that the people, a third of whom were minors, would drink it.  It is not the only and won’t be the last traumatic final act of madmen who begin by preaching scripture, lurch into false teaching and end up mass murderers.  Not every false teacher is a murderer but I can think of many who are even now lauded as fine theologians.  John Calvin murdered  believers who refused to accept his teachings.  If he had done something like that today he would be in jail or worse.  Yet, because these teachers are historical figures Christians ignore their characters and their obvious lack of love for the brethren who don’t agree with them or try and reason with them to see the error of their ways, they are treated as great men. Obviously Jim Jones is not a great man, but he did not begin a denomination.  It is amazing how many people will follow an obvious lunatic or abuser.  Look at the many who follow L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings of Scientology.  All you have to do is read their histories to see what kind of people they were, moreover, the types of circles they moved in.  Read this excerpt of another article which describes Hubbard’s known associates and you will see what I mean.

But not every false teacher or false Christian keeps such company.  Not everyone appears to be evil or insane or leads others to their physical deaths.  Satan can appear as an angel of light and false teachers are known for their ability to deceive and ‘bewitch’. Even the apostle Paul was concerned about the believers in Galatia who had obviously been led astray by a false teacher.

In all my readings of the New Testament, especially since we left the cult, I have seen that just about every author, including Jesus, warns believers not to be deceived and to watch out for false teachers. Satan was the first false teacher, in the garden of Eden. His words to Eve were “Has God really said?”.  This is the first and foremost rule of false teaching.  Create doubt in the Word of God, even if at first it is a small doubt (in the authenticity of the translation perhaps), and then build on that doubt with your own version of the truth.  You will find false teachers will always start out with the truth, but then they either add to, take away from, or outright change the words of the Bible, or the meaning of those words. Deceivers will always involve themselves in a ‘bait and switch’. They will make  you think they are Christians, and preaching the gospel, and then they will have different meanings for the words you take for granted. Even the term ‘gospel’ means different things to different Christians.

This alone makes the false teacher an abuser of the brethren.  You cannot love the body of Christ and be loose with the word of God.  If you understand the power of the Word, and for this you must have experienced it for yourself, then you will not wish any to be deprived of the experience or understanding of it. A true believer must be transformed, there has to be a testimony of the Cross of Jesus Christ and its work in their lives.  Then when they know the power of the gospel, they will not want to ever teach or preach another way.  This is the essence of becoming a born-again believer.  You know who your saviour is, and you know because ‘the Bible told me so’.  You will know the Bible told you because somebody else explained it to you.  A true teacher will preach the Word of God, a false teacher will teach something else. This something else will not have the power of the Word to change lives, and they will only look different, they will not actually be different.

Thus any false teaching leads believers and unbelievers astray, hence the warnings.  If you are leading believers astray you are abusing your position as teacher, which means you are also abusing those you are teaching.  It doesn’t have to be overt or physical abuse, but look how many times those who have started with spiritual abuse ended up caught in adultery or other sins.

We are to be on the lookout for false teachers.  Unfortuntaely, most of the church is asleep.

We need to wake up.

Jesus’ return is immanent.

Get right with God, start reading scripture on a daily basis, and be fed with the Word.

 

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Last Post from Old Blog

I should clarify that this is the last post from the blog ‘Tales from the Crypt’…

You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.(A quote from A.A. Milne)

This will be my last post for this blog.

I have spent the best part of the last twelve months on the internet, using my energy, my left brain, my focus and my drive to say what I have needed to say. It has by no means been an easy task.

I started this blog in fear and trepidation, not knowing what would become of it or me. I needed to speak out, I needed to know others were hearing me, and I have accomplished that aim. I wanted to document my journey for others, because when I first came out of BCF, there was nothing on the internet, and that was distressing, because it made me think I was the only one suffering the way I was. Now, of course, we all know that none of us are alone.

The ABC has done a fine job giving our cause the publicity it has so badly needed for so long, and others are also becoming vocal so it seems that further comment from me is no longer necessary.

I appreciate all those who have read here, and stopped for long enough to find out what was going on. I appreciate those who have been regulars and stayed to encourage and support, it has been invaluable.

Abuse, at any level, is very difficult to fight. Abusers don’t look like Hannibal Lecter. They are personable, helpful, easy to trust, good at what they do. They often win medals and awards in their chosen profession and are commonly public figures, with impeccable reputations (thanks to their spin doctors). So if you are going to speak up about abuse from a ‘respectable’ member of society, you had better be sure to have some watertight evidence, and a very large group of supporters to help you over the rough patches. We all know that this is rarely the case for abuse victims. Mostly they are just solitary courageous persons who are ‘angry as hell and aren’t going to take it any more’. Hence the difficulty.

I saw an interview recently with Frank Abagnale Jnr, the famous confidence trickster and con-man who lived a lie for years in America. His was the main character from the movie ‘Catch me if You Can’, with Tom Hanks. He must have been some kind of a genius, he was able to pass himself off as a doctor, a lawyer, and an airline pilot and nobody EVER questioned him. Finally, after many years he was caught, and served a prison sentence. He then worked for the FBI helping them catch other fraudsters. How is it that he was able to fool everyone, including the professionals? He was obviously a very friendly, confident man who presented a likeable and trustworthy façade. He was just as obviously a psychopath. He had no conscience, no boundaries, and he did what he did because he could. His criminal career started in adolescence, as many psychopath’s careers do, conning even his parents.

Admittedly this happened in the sixties when people were generally much more trusting and the checks and balances which occur now in professional environments did not then exist. Even today though, there is ample evidence to suggest that most of us have no idea that psychopaths roam our planet in the form of nice everyday people. They look like us, they sound like us, the only difference is that they are players. They do what they do in order to take what they need from you, and if making themselves ‘fit in’ works, they will do that. Psychopaths and other types of abusers are predators.

Generally, abusers ensconce themselves in places nobody would suspect them to be. As a society, we tend to trust our teachers, doctors and pastors. We have to. We are handing ourselves and our families over to their care on a daily basis. But there is more than just a need for trust, many people trust willingly because it is in their nature.

From what I have observed, our tendency to trust easily can also come from environmental factors. You may have had a childhood where you were greatly loved by your family and friends and learned that the world is a good place with helpful kind people. Alternatively, you may have had a childhood of abuse, where your survival depended upon doing as you were told, avoiding trouble and never questioning authority. A childhood of this sort trains you up to become fair game for further abuse as an adult. Cults are full of adults who were taught as children that abuse is normal, that their opinions don’t count and that their own perceptions and feelings are wrong. They have learned to be helpless. They have learned that there really is no point in trying to change the status quo because you are always wrong and it doesn’t really matter anyway. This would have to be the saddest human condition possible, and it is so readily changed because it is based on a lie. When people discover the truth for themselves and finally get their heads around it, the revolution begins.

For every man, woman and child who despairs, I believe there is hope. I have been in that pit, wanting to die, too afraid to end my life because I had three small children and an unshakeable belief that my life was not my own. I also had an inexplicable something deep within my core which was stronger than death.. I still had hope in the midst of terror and anguish. How can that be? Others have asked me the same question and I can tell you the answer with confidence. God helped me. He does not abandon us EVER. Our feelings overwhelm us, our thoughts lie to us, but our feelings and thoughts change, they diminish and pass. We can reach beyond the walls of our own minds. The Holy Spirit, whose power is certainly never made any less, even by evil men, remains ever vigilant, and he will speak to us and enable us to move past our pain. I have experienced this, and so have many others.

I have read as much as I can on psychological disorders, abuse, family dynamics, church history, church government, and biblical interpretation. I still believe fervently that knowledge is power, and when you have been stripped of all outside information for most of your life, knowledge becomes very powerful indeed.

I know now exactly what happened to me and why. I know that wholeness and co-dependency cannot co-exist. I use the term co-dependency to mean a type of existence where you are literally enmeshed with somebody else or a group of somebodies to the point that you cannot live an independent life. Every decision you make must be checked with them first, every thought you have revolves around them, you worry constantly that you are going to upset them, so your actions are weighed always with the other person’s comfort in mind. In extreme cases, as in the situation of a cult, your thoughts are their thoughts, your ways are their ways, and your life belongs to them. This goes beyond trust, and enters the realm of brainwashing. Independent thought and action become sin. Not only that, but the leaders of the cult, the other half of the co-dependence equation, delight in the subservience of their congregation members and will go to great lengths to keep the status quo. It is in their best interests to have you co-dependent, not yours.

This goes against everything I believe to be true of Christ and our relationship with him. God gave us independent thought, and he also gave us the ability to choose. Not only that but he delights in us, and in our lives, watching as we use our intelligence and our experience to make both wise and foolish choices. It is his pleasure to allow us to come to our heavenly Father, ask for his help and receive his forgiveness when we fail. This is a relationship which is not only enhanced by our ability to freely choose, but it absolutely depends upon it.

I still have a huge amount to learn, and I will continue healing. I will always walk with a limp I think, but that’s fine. I can at least accept that now with peace instead of rage. The rage was important, but I am glad it is finally passing. I need to live in peace.

Ah yes peace.

Romans 12:18 says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people”  I had an interesting thought about that verse today as I was thinking how to write this post. I suddenly realized….when Paul said, be at peace with all men, he wasn’t saying ‘be nice to all men’. He was saying do whatever you can do, if possible, to live in peace with yourself and others. That little ‘if possible’ phrase in there is a life-saver. It stops all those religious busy-bodies who want to make you feel ashamed because you are angry about something someone else did. It also stops us feeling guilty when we don’t get on with everybody at church, everybody in the family, or everybody at work. It means that there will be times when it isn’t possible to be at peace, and hopefully, says Paul, it won’t be your fault. Repent where you are wrong, but if you can’t have peace with all men, God won’t hold it against you.

If you encounter contentious abusive people and you know you will never have a moment’s peace with them, get away from them. Avoiding entanglement with destructive people has to be the most peaceable thing you can do. Self-protection and the protection of your children, is a God-given right, and a natural instinct. I am not a member of the gun lobby by the way. I am talking about non-violent protection.

Being at peace with others is pro-active. A lot of what passes for ‘nice Christian behaviour’ is in essence simply passive-aggression. If you ask someone to do something, and they have no intention of doing it, but they say yes, and then avoid you for weeks, that is passive-aggression. Christians are good at this because we think it makes us look like peace-keepers, when in fact we are just being cowardly. We don’t want to say no, because we are afraid others won’t like us. We don’t like confronting others, so we avoid them.

I have to say that I learned the hard way that recognizing your boundaries, saying no to abuse, talking to someone when they have offended you, making a clear statement of what you will and won’t do and sticking to it, and refusing to play mind-games with people who haven’t learned all of the above makes for a not so peaceable life. We think that keeping the peace and speaking ‘little white lies’ are synonymous. The only thing lying of any colour is synonymous with is high blood pressure. How in God’s name have we reached such an impasse?

I get myself into trouble regularly because I won’t accept the following excuses for bad behaviour……(note: any number of these excuses can be used together, or all at once)

  1. a) They aren’t like that all the time
  2. b) They are only like that with you
  3. c) They didn’t really mean it
  4. d) You don’t really understand them
  5. e) You are just being difficult
  6. f) You must have a problem with them (do you think?)
  7. g) That’s just the way they are

or   (my personal favourite)

  1. h) They are just very passionate about their work

Just once, I would like somebody to say “You know, that WAS pretty bad, I think you deserve an apology, and as the person responsible for this organization, I will see to it that you get one”.

If you want to contact me, you can still use the email address on the right of this blog.

The forum will still be running for as long as people want to talk, and that may be for some time to come.

Thankyou all again for reading. We trust that all who are imprisoned by men who claim to act on behalf of Christ, will soon have the freedom that only Christ can bring.

Isaiah 61 (King James)

1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

3To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

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How Can I Know I am Deceived?

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It is something of a paradox.

You can only see deception before you get into it.  Once you are there, deception makes it almost impossible to know whether you are deceived. In fact, one of the hallmarks of being deceived is the conviction that you couldn’t possibly be deceived.  It is always possible. Moreover, false teachers are mentioned in the New Testament by everyone including Jesus.

You need discernment, and discernment comes from the Holy Spirit. Even though some more mature Christians could tell from the outset that somebody is preaching or practicing error just from their own experience. Sometimes it is hard even for them to tell the difference between false and true.  That is why you need God himself to give you the ability to tell the difference. If you fall into the sin of pride and believe that it is not possible for you to be deceived because of all your experience, you are then in the greatest danger of deception because you are deceived already. Nobody is immune.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon has famously said “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right”.

And as anyone who has had to try and tell a fake from the original would know, most counterfeiters will go to great lengths to make their version appear true to form. They always manage to make some tiny mistake which tells you that this is not the genuine article however insignificant it may seem at first. Of course some scam artists are not that concerned with making perfect forgeries.  They are aware that the general public aren’t looking too closely at that designer handbag or expensive perfume.  They make it look almost correct and that is usually good enough. Fortunately, or not, false teachers are not that good at faking it any more either.  They don’t need to be.  Most Christians don’t bother to check the labels on their new pastor or their exciting guest speaker, they just go with the flow.

In order not to be deceived, you have to be on the lookout for deception. Jesus told us that in the last days, there would be many false teachers and He even said that there would be many false Christs.

3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24)

Now there are those who claim to be Jesus, but most genuine believes would of course recognise these men as insane straight away. The ones to look out for would come in His name, and we know for sure that many false teachers claim to be believers. Yet the Christ they claim to be or rather teach is a false Christ, for of course there is only one second advent and that hasn’t happened yet.

We have been deceived before. We belonged to a small church in Brisbane whose elders listened to false teaching without their theological thinking caps on. The message was about unity. So they were deceived even further when a religious cult which also preached unity wanted our church to join them. However, this cult’s version of ‘unity’ was – they were the true church in our city, everyone else had to come and join them, moreover, everyone had to come under the leadership of their ‘apostles’. Well, you know you are in a cult when you are flattered, cajoled and deceived into joining a group, but as soon as you do the knives come out. Everyone who has left this cult has done so under duress. Anyone who leaves it according to them is now going to hell, because they are leaving the true church.

While you are being deceived, it doesn’t seem like deception. When you are in the midst of the deception you can’t know that you are deceived because you would swear black and blue that you are not. Have you ever had a conversation with a cult member?  Maybe a Jehovah’s Witness is at your door and you mistakenly think all you need to do is show them the truth from scripture and they will see the light?  It isn’t easy to talk to them, they are literally brainwashed.  Their minds run a particular course, they are taught how to respond to the people they ‘witness’ to. It is like talking to computer software.  They only know one type of response, the one they are programmed with. Cults are an extreme example, but in fact the problem is the same regardless of whether people are in a cult or not.  Deception creates people who repeat what they are told.

In fact, one of the best ways you can tell if somebody, or a group of somebody’s are deceived is if they keep quoting their favourite teacher, take any and every opportunity to spruik that teacher’s words, and in fact keep using the same language that their teacher uses.  One group I can think of off hand that we had to deal with kept using the term ‘Father’ instead of our Father when referring to God. “Father says this, or Father wants me to do that”.  This may not seem to be that much of a sign people are deceived, but it is the way they say it, the number of times they say it and the fact that everyone is using the same terms without picking up that they are simply repeating somebody else.  In short, there is no sign of independence of thought, simply a reiteration of the teacher or teachers.

 It is only people who can question what they believe and weigh the evidence who know they are not deceived. A deceived person, in my experience, neither knows nor is able to question the deception. When we were presented with the foregone conclusion that our church was going to join this other larger cult church, half of our congregation refused to join and left. The rest of us, who were mostly in our twenties with not much experience of churches in general other than the one we belonged to, trusted our pastors and let them lead us into a destructive and deceiving cult. We realise now of course if we had not been so lazy about our walk with Jesus, nor so trusting of men, we would have stopped and checked things out. But let me just say this. If you follow men, you won’t bother checking them when they fall into error. You will believe that these teachers love you and wouldn’t willingly lead you into false teaching. But if they themselves are deceived, and they then lead you into deception, it will be the blind leading the blind and we did fall into a very deep ditch.

The antidote to this is not to follow men, but to be in Christ. That way, when error comes, and it will, the Holy Spirit will be able to speak to your spirit and warn you that something is not right. You don’t even need to be a theologian, just awake to the voice of your Lord and God, the true Jesus.

Now, this is a tricky business. Paul called false teachers twice accursed, and he asked the Galatians ‘who has bewitched you’. (Galatians 1) Deception is like being under a spell.

Look at Eve in Genesis 3. It was only after God spoke to her and asked her what had happened that the spell was broken and she was able to say “I was deceived”. Nobody who is actually within the spell of the deception is able to see that. Eve sinned and partook of the punishment that was meted out to both Adam and herself, but she was able to recognise the source of the lie. Adam however is not recorded as ever having recognised Satan as the deceiver. He actually blamed God for giving him the woman who gave him the fruit. In fact, he, the keeper of the garden, allowed Satan to get in in the first place, stood idly by while his wife was being manipulated and then took the fruit which he was told not to take. And for centuries Eve and subsequently all women, have been made the source of all temptation and evil by both unbelievers and believers. Manifestly, Satan is the source of all evil, and deception. Yet Eve was called ‘the mother of all living’. It was also Eve who was the first to announce that God was her ‘Lord’ when she gave birth to Cain. I think those who have woken up from deception, repented of it and dealt with the sin of pride which precedes deceptions are probably in the best position to recognise error in the future.

I say pride is the source of deception because Satan himself, who was the greatest of all living creatures God had made at that point, decided it wasn’t enough just to lead the worship of God, he wanted to be like God and sit in the place of God. This of course is not just pride, it is insanity or psychopathy at the very least. It seems impossible to us as earthbound humans from whose eyes God is hidden that Satan who stood before the throne of God would actually think that he could be God himself. I don’t know what went on in his brain, but I do know that ever after this, he has tempted human beings to do what he did. He deceived Eve into believing that God had not given her everything she could ever need. Eve was perfect! She had a perfect relationship with God! As Satan used to. Yet he convinced her that the fruit of this tree would ‘make you wise’ knowing good and evil. Eve forgot that she was already perfectly wise, she knew God what else was there to know? Satan’s knowledge is corrupt, gives death not life, and is in fact not knowledge at all, it is a corruption of the truth, and is in fact all lies. There is no knowledge that Satan has which is not a counterfeit of God’s eternal truth. It may seem novel and exciting when men sell everything they have to attain it, but for centuries all Satan has done is lure men to their deaths, simply because that is his nature. He is profane, wicked, evil and sadistic and hates all life.

If we succumb to lies, to deception which lies are, then we will taste something of Satan’s kingdom. Make no mistake, deception, theological error, false teachers, are cursed simply because they are undermining the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are presenting a false Christ, and therefore they are leading others from the true Jesus of Scripture.

How do you know if you are deceived? If you can’t question what you believe, check it out against the Bible, do some research and look at your leaders and teachers and see if these men have been accused of heresy by other Christians, then you are probably under deception. If you have already checked out what is being taught to you against scripture and know for sure that you can defend what you believe sincerely and without hostility there is a good chance you are not deceived.

But even I can’t tell you that you are not deceived. Only the Holy Spirit can show you. Our hearts are deceitfully wicked and can lead us into error even in our own minds. We can believe we are without sin, but only God can show us that to be true, because only God is perfect. This is why it is so important for us to continually pray, commune with God, read His word and even listen to others when they tell you might be wrong. There is nothing wrong with having a conviction of truth, in fact we are told not to be double-minded. There are many Christians who at one time or another have listened to or believed falsehoods. It is the Christian who follows the teaching and practice of liars and frauds and then defends that teaching without checking to see if it is true who are deceived to the point of deadly error. If these ones don’t change their ways, they will be counted as wicked as the teachers they agree with.

It is a serious thing to fall into error, but it is not the end of your spiritual life. We know in our own lives that the Holy Spirit continually spoke quietly to us that all was not well. Our cult leaders were destroying peoples marriages, controlling people’s lives and telling everyone if they didn’t obey them they were not saved. It isn’t rocket science. Anyone could have told us that we were in a bad place. But we didn’t see it. Scripture tells us that you are a slave to the one whom you obey. Once you are a slave, you have to wait for Jesus to free you from the prison you have locked yourself into. I still remember praying that prayer, very simple, but from the heart one day in my bedroom. “God deliver us”. I knew straight away that God had heard that prayer. I knew something was wrong and woke up much faster than Steve did. Within two years, God had engineered our circumstances so that they were so bad, so difficult that Steve was forced to admit that we were surrounded by enemies, and that we needed to escape. It took 15 years all up. And then a couple of years after that of dabbling in emerging church error and other bad theology before the Holy Spirit taught us to stand on our own two feet and do our own bible studies and research and find out what is the difference between right and almost right.

God can save anyone, and the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Do not give up on anyone in a cult. But don’t be deceived yourself. False teachers, especially false teachers who have been plying their trades for decades and destroyed many other Christians will have to pay for their sins. If they don’t repent, they will go to hell. For these ones are not saved. It is doubtful they were even saved to begin with. There are many who profess to be Christians, who even know exactly how to preach the truth, or what sounds exactly like the truth, yet who are not in the body of Christ. Pray for discernment, use wisdom and do your research.

May God keep us all from deception and false teachers.

What A Successful Christian Looks Like

small man

Nobody Special

13 This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: 14 There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares[b] around it. 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man. (Ecclesiastes 11)

1. You are Not the Popular Guy

Most genuine ‘love-the-Lord-with-your-whole-heart’ Christians don’t have large crowds of people who love them unconditionally, constantly contact them and hang off of their every word.  We have been conditioned in contemporary western culture to believe that unless you have a large church or at the very least a ‘ministry’, then you aren’t really making it as a believer. Jesus himself was not the popular guy.  He had a following of 12 men plus a few others and all of them suddenly disappeared as soon as the situation hotted-up.

Now he did have thousands of people who regularly turned to listen to Him preach and hoped for a miracle or exciting healing, but few actually hung around because they believed in Him. Often Jesus’ words to those ones were ‘he who has an ear to hear’.  So Jesus knew who they were…most weren’t hearing.  And of the men he chose to be his first disciples,  Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, Philip doubted him, most of them didn’t know who He really was, and when it came right down to it, most of these guys  didn’t really understand Jesus’ ministry.  It wasn’t until Jesus died, resurrected and ascended and the Holy Spirit came to them at Pentecost that the church really got going.  THEN they were imbued with power from on high and were able to preach the truth.  In today’s terms, even Jesus’ disciples would not have made it onto the ‘popular preacher circuit’.

2. You have a history of getting it wrong

There is a difference between being a false teacher with a history of getting it wrong, and a regular Christian who is seeking the truth and in the process actually ends up following a  false teacher.  Your heart is in the right place, but you keep coming across charlatans who make you think that they are ‘great men of God’ but are in fact, well, charlatans.  There are far too many of them out there. Deception is a spirit and many have been bewitched by doctrines of demons.  It takes discernment to get it right, and most of us don’t develop that until a little later in life; unless you have a gift of discernment. The real key to our Christian walk is if we are learning something in the process. If there is a marked upward swing in maturity levels because you have learned from your many mistakes you can rest easy.  I should add, it doesn’t matter how late in life that maturity comes, as long as it is there somewhere.

3. You have not got that many friends

Similar to number one but more about our personal lives than our public ones.  Just look at Facebook.  When people actually call faces on a web-page ‘friends’ in order to look successful, you know society is in peril.  A genuine man of God seems to have very few people he knows with a like mind.  True believers look for kindred spirits, those whose love for Jesus marks them out as being a little bit too zealous or intense to ‘just hang out’. He often has false friends, friends who walk away because he is starting to talk about strange stuff like the end times, prophecy and the rapture, phhht, WHO talks about that anymore? There are few like-minded people today who love the Lord their God with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and are willing to go against popular trends in the church let alone in society because they study their bible and know what God actually says on the subject. There is nothing more exciting than talking about what Jesus is doing in our lives or in the world.  Why do so few Christians actually want to?

4. People close to you tend to reject or betray you

When you are walking closely with the Lord, your friends tend to fall away.  The closer you walk, the more you lose people.  If you became a Christian at a young age, say in high school, you will find that there will be few who will agree with you or your beliefs, even other Christians. But as you age you realise that the majority of Christians are pew warmers,  non-thinkers who like to go to Church because it is the thing to do.  Young Christians often go to church to find a partner.  Then they stay in that church to get married, have children and settle into middle age. Then their kids do exactly the same thing. Christianity to many is simply a lifestyle choice not a commitment to a person, Jesus Christ.

If you hold your relationship with Jesus closely to your heart and are completely reliant upon Him, determined to obey Him and follow Him in every part of your life, then others who don’t have that same attitude will of necessity become less important. You get asked to a family barbecue, but you are more concerned about sharing the gospel with a neighbour.  So your family start to see you as ‘not there for them’ and the insistence that you make a choice will start to become more vocal.  So you make a choice.  Not because you want to but because you are forced to.  They won’t of course accept that choice, because you are not putting them first.  Even Jesus chose His Heavenly Father’s voice over his parent’s or family’s.  Jesus is described as a ‘man of sorrows’ despised and rejected by men.  He knew what it was to lose friends, and if we follow Him, we will too.

5. Few people agree with your views

It is exceedingly strange to me how many Christians follow after false teachers.  It seems that the more people love a particular teacher the less likely he is to be biblical.  Therefore, even in your own church, you can find that you will be on your own if you ask questions, challenge the accepted beliefs of the denomination or the currently popular author or speaker.  Emerging church and new age seeker-sensitive teachers are some of the most deceptive teachers in Christianity.  They are in fact preparing Christians for the coming New World Order in which the Antichrist will rule and reign supreme.  He will have a world religion and a false prophet and these Christians will be primed to join that world religion. Already, same-sex marriage,  accepting homosexuality as natural and God-ordained,  embracing other religions as legitimate paths to God and other errors are accepted freely in many pulpits.  If you don’t embrace these things you are seen as a ‘fundamentalist’ and are accused of hate crimes.  These accusations are not just coming from the world but the church.  We are facing a time when true believers are actually going to be in the minority. I think its important to expect this and prepare ourselves if we truly wish to stay the course.

6. People think you are weird

Have you found people avoiding you?  Do people say they want to spend time with you but somehow never actually end up doing it?  Do people even tend to hate you on sight?  I know this sounds extreme but we have found this happens to many genuine believers.  We believe that the spirit of Antichrist is stepping up his attempts to undermine the church and all true believers.  If you have decided to love the Lord with your whole life and not leave any stone unturned in your relationship with Him, odd things may start to happen.  You  might find yourself face to face with opposition you never thought possible.  It may just be something minor like slowly losing contact with certain ones. Or it may be really obvious like total strangers suddenly acting strangely around you.  I could write a book on this one.  We are truly convinced that genuine believers in the last days will be confronting principalities and powers in ways other so-called Christians won’t.  Genuine believers are the real threat to Satan, not the popular pastors or authors or speakers or the ones with books on the New York Times Bestsellers List week after week.  It won’t be the famous names in the end times who will be making the difference in the Kingdom of God, but the no-names no big deal types, the man in the street, the Christian next door.

7. Nothing terribly spectacular ever happens to you

Now I know I just said that weird stuff can be happening to genuine believers, but we are not having healing meetings, or tent revivals or even back yard revivals.  We are using up just about all our energy getting up in the morning, praying our way through the day and sitting around the table praying at night.  It is the authentic plodders, the person that most people would ignore on the bus who are living powerful lives.  You might not think you are doing anything fantastic or earth-shattering but there is nothing more important than the ordinary Christian, obeying Jesus Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.  There is no guarantee that ‘great things’ are going to happen to you, but you will be part of something truly inspiring.  We overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and our testimony.  It is our faith in God which makes us great, not the great acts we do.  We can’t all be Moses, Daniel, Esther or Joseph.  But we are called to such a time as this to be steadfast witnesses in a dark and dying world.

8. Most of the time you feel like a failure.

If you add up all these things we have been talking about, it is bound to make you feel like a failure.  The problem with this is, you actually begin to believe what you feel.  This is why it is so important to get into the Word.  We are not failures.  We are normal.  Look at Paul.  He famously lists his many difficulties, trials and experiences here:

24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. (2 Corinthians 11)

Few people, unless you are like one of the ‘Red Letter Christians’ who don’t consider anything except Jesus’ words to be of any importance, would dismiss Paul as an unimportant and unsuccessful Christian.  He is one of the great saints and theologians of history.  He is not only famous, he is well-known, well-loved, well quoted, well read, every single day, by millions of believers.  You can’t call Paul a little guy, a man in the street.  Yet if we look at his example and compare it to our own, we can’t help but be encouraged.

Look at David, a similar situation.  In his own lifetime he was a king yes, but he messed up big time, he barely got into his kingdom with his own life, and he was betrayed by his own children.  Not exactly what you would expect from a ‘man after God’s own heart’.

No, I am sorry, but a genuine man or woman of God is not going to be anything like what popular authors and speakers in today’s church profess.  Only God counts our failures as blessings.  Only God knows how bad we could have been or how many times we could have messed up.  He works everything for good, even the failures.  So get used to failing, it is better than being puffed up with pride and stepping all over your family in God without even realising it. In fact, in my estimation, a man who fails frequently is more likely to be used by God than a man who is continually successful.  God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak things to confound the strong. (2 Corinthians 1:27).  Love that verse.

9. You get the blues, feel yukky and get minor illnesses more often than others.

One thing we have sort of expected as bible believing Christians is that we shouldn’t  feel bad very often. You should be feeling great!  Right?  We are blessed, loved and accepted by Jesus, we love others, we are filled with love, joy and peace!  But you know what?  If you are doing battle with the enemy on a daily basis, if you are getting victory over personal sins and you are confronting unbelievers with the truth of the gospel, you are going to feel pretty darn bad.  You know why? Because you are spending your energy – you are wrestling with principalities and powers and probably not even aware of it.  It drains you, it causes your body to fight harder to stay healthy, it creates poor sleep, bad eating habits and lack of exercise (unless you count getting down on your knees and up again on a regular basis).  You get headaches, colds, flu, aches and pains, hives, bruises, allergies and other stress related physical issues.

Let’s face it, you don’t spend all of your time down at the gym because you don’t worship physical fitness.  You don’t spend all of your time making sure you eat healthy foods and constantly go on diets because you are not worried about illness or focused on what you look like.  You don’t visit the doctor every other week having multiple tests just in case you might have symptoms of a serious illness because you are not afraid to die.  You just live your life, bless the food, go on prayer walks, visit your friends and neighbours to help them, tell them about Jesus and generally spend your energies serving others, not serving yourself. A genuine believer forgets about themselves.  In fact, good brothers and sisters will be the ones thinking about us and praying for us.  It’s a mutual experience.  Don’t be surprised when you get sick, and when you do, take it as an opportunity to pray and ask the Lord to heal you and watch how He answers the prayers of His faithful and obedient sons and daughters!  Bless the Lord and thankyou Jesus.

10. Sometimes you feel like God is out to get you – you KNOW for sure Satan is.

A genuine believer can sometimes feel that God is not as close-by as He actually is. In fact, sometimes, if you spend too much time examining your life, especially looking backwards, you can be tempted to look back in anxiety and wonder where your life went.  You can get discouraged by the numbers of failures, you can think God has abandoned you, you can start to actually believe God hates you or is out to get you.  But again, this is the deception of the enemy. Now you know you have heard that term before. You know Satan loves to lie to us and get us to believe those lies.  But maybe you aren’t really aware of just how powerfully easy it is to believe those lies. Maybe you aren’t really convinced of how real those lies can be, they actually convince you that they are true.  This is how people can be deceived, both in their own minds, and by false teachers.  Those lies sound just so real, so true.  And what is worse, those lies convince you that you are wise to believe them.  Not believing the lies of Satan makes you feel like a fool. Mainly because Satan’s lies are more often than not found in man’s wisdom.  When Satan convinced Adam and Eve of his lies, he began a career of spreading his convoluted and abominable lies throughout all history and to every human being on the planet.  So coming to us individually and whispering lies into our ears when we are feeling low is the simplest thing in the world to him.  He can make you think you are a total idiot for even believing God exists if you let Him.

We have to always remind ourselves who is our enemy.  And when those lies start to sound like truth, go back to Scripture and remind yourself of who your God is, and how much He loves you and how much Satan hates you.  God is not out to get you, but your enemy certainly is.  Stand firm in the faith that you confessed right from your birth as a son or daughter of God and persevere.

He who remains steadfast to the end will be saved!

God’s Word is my Woobie

mr-mom

I came of age in the 80s.  So 80s movies kind of stuck in my mind.  And some things from those movies were also kind of memorable. The first time I heard the word was from Michael Keaton in the movie Mr.  Mom.  He was trying to convince his toddler to give up his comfort blanket, but he called it a ‘woobie’.  This is apparently a common term in the U.S.  I looked up the origin of the word however, and even Rambo figured his woobie was his best friend according to this article.  Here is an excerpt.

Ask any soldier or Marine, especially those in the infantry, how he feels about his woobie, and his eyes will light up and then mist over as he waxes lyrically over the virtues of this item. Hard-bitten combat veterans grow poetic and wistful, declaring their love for this piece of equipment. If you don’t believe me, read the Amazon reviews. It is perhaps the single most-loved item in the armed forces.

What is it, and why does it inspire this fanatical devotion?

The “liner, wet weather, poncho” as it’s officially called, consists of two layers of nylon surrounding a polyester filling, sewn up along the sides and crosswise to ensure a very tough and durable piece of equipment. Army logistics manuals fail to say what magic spells are cast over poncho liners when they are made to make them so efficient at trapping heat in and keeping the cold out. They were originally produced in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, when U.S. soldiers and Marines were engaged in jungle fighting. The troops needed a lightweight poncho to keep them relatively dry in the wet jungles and rice paddies, but also something to keep them warm during the cool nights. Thus the poncho and poncho liner were born. While the poncho liner was almost an afterthought to the poncho, it was the liner that would steal troops’ hearts.

Human beings have always needed comfort.  This is something God honours.  I will never forget reading this scripture from Psalm 94  for the first time, it had a huge effect on me.

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers?
Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
17 Unless the Lord had been my help,
My soul would soon have settled in silence.
18 If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up.
19 In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.

Verse 19 is the big revelation for me.

David confesses the multitude of his anxieties.  And David was the man after God’s own heart remember.  David is God’s favourite king, if I may make so bold.  His love for his people caused him to rise up against the enemy Goliath and fight  where not one hardened military man in Israel had the courage.  David was a shepherd and anointed from his youth to be King, yet he didn’t let this go to his head.  He just took his job seriously, wrestled bears and lions (no small feat) and then giants.  Goliath was not totally human, he was the result of a past union between fallen angels and humans.  So, this was not just a big man, it was a big demonic man.  Hence the unnatural fear of the Israelites. They were facing a supernatural enemy.  But to David it was “What? You are cursing our God? You have the cheek to come against God’s people?  God will smite you!”

Yet here is David confessing to a multitude of anxieties.  However, his first call is to his God.  “Your comforts delight my soul”.

I have a question to ask you.

Have you ever spent a day just putting aside all of your comforts, the things you use to make yourself feel better, whatever they are, and we all have them, and just let God’s comforts delight your soul.

I tried it once.  WOW.  That’s all I can say.  God’s word is true.  God’s comforts literally delight your soul.  If you cling to Him and Him alone, without your woobie, He will bless you with His comfort.  I am not going to tell you exactly how that works –  you will have to discover it for yourself. I don’t want to rob you of the delights God has in store for you!

Mr. Mom tried to get his little kid to give up his woobie, but the little guy was not ready to trust his dad.  It took the whole movie, and finally he let his Dad take his blanket.  Next step to growing up is to believe that you can get through life without the thing you are totally dedicated to, believing that this thing and this thing alone will save you.

We are not little kids.  But deep down, we still cling to things that God wants to take from us, lovingly, gently, so that His comforts will delight our souls.

Take my advice.  Let Him do it.  You will NEVER regret it.  AND, big bonus, you will grow up, bear fruit, bless Him, give HIM glory. And who doesn’t want to do what God has created us for!

The Watcherwoman Wises Up

watcherwoman.jpg

 

Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)

and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. (Nehemiah 4:9-8)

If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land. (Isaiah 1:19)

This is a follow-on from my last post which talked about predicting the future in order to prepare and protect yourself from evil.

When I was praying about this as the Lord showed me my own heart on this matter, the words Wait, Watch and Willing came to me.  These words I believe contain an antidote to the desire to predict the future so that you can avoid danger.

Waiting on the Lord (as in Isaiah 40:31) is mentioned a lot in scripture.

The Strong’s entry is as follows:

qâvâh, kaw-vaw’; a primitive root; to bind together (perhaps by twisting), i.e. collect; (figuratively) to expect:—gather (together), look, patiently, tarry, wait (for, on, upon).

The word ‘waiting’ gives the impression of a servant who is standing waiting for their master to give them an order.   But I believe ‘waiting’ implies more than just service, it is also literally about waiting, standing and not doing anything until…  You are not running around trying to control everything or ensuring everything is just so until..  You are actually literally quiet, patient and at peace while you listen for God’s instruction.  You are waiting for God to make it clear to you what you are to do.

Waiting on the Lord also involves watching.  I am reminded of the covenant between Abraham and the Lord in Genesis 15 where he had to wait for the Lord to come and ‘sign’ the covenant agreement as it were.  He had to fight off the carrion birds who wanted to feast on the dead animals he had just laid down, and it was a process of waiting and watching to see that the elements of the covenant were not disturbed.  This was holy ground, carrion birds represent evil, or satanic messengers who want to disrupt and destroy all that God wants to do in your life. They particularly like times in your life when God hasn’t given you a time frame for a promise.  They will come as doubts, fears, concerns, insistence that YOU do something about the situation NOW in your own strength.  This is where the divination thing comes in handy.  You can take matters into your own hands, you can do what is necessary to produce the outcome you deem acceptable to God rather than let God show you what is acceptable to Him.

Saul was particularly good at this from very early in his life.  He was always trying to impress authorities, especially Samuel, yet when God told him to do something specific he went about it in his own sweet way and then had the gall to explain his disobedience to Samuel as ‘just trying to help out’.  1 Samuel 15 has the story.

Willingness therefore to obey God is also a key part of the prescription.  You need to wait on God to find out the answer to your prayer, you need to watch that the enemy himself is not trying to deceive you as an angel of light and when you have tested the spirits and understand what God wants you to do, you need to be willing to do it.

This last I believe is pivotal to our success as Christians.  I hate that word, what I mean is living and walking in the peace which passes all understanding.  We can’t disobey God and live in peace it just won’t work.  You might think you have peace for a little while, but the Holy Spirit will always agitate your soul and conviction will come, if your heart is soft.  You will not be able to simply sin and walk away without knowing it.  So willingness to obey means that you are not in control of your own life and it is clear that obedience to God brings blessings (Deuteronomy 28).

And for me, the key to all of the above is loving Jesus.  To know Jesus is to love Jesus and we can’t love Jesus unless God first loved us.  So, receiving God’s love and responding to it with our own love in relationship will lead to a desire to obey God. Not because he is God and the ultimate authority, but because we understand God to be the author only of good and perfect works.  We know that any suffering or trauma that comes upon us which is not of our own making is a result of the sins of mankind and living in a fallen world.  Satan also is the author of a great deal of suffering of course.  But it is the fear of the unpredictability of difficulty which causes many of us, myself included, to work towards a solution of our own making.  If we can control the outcome, we are empowered against misfortune right?  Wrong.  As I said in the previous post, misfortune almost never comes in the form which we expect it to.  If it comes, it often hits us out of the blue, and sometimes from sources we would never have expected in a million years. So thinking we can control our futures is actually pretty foolish.  Satan makes us a laughing stock, of course he is the one laughing at us, not God.  He fools us into thinking we are ‘like God’ in knowing the difference between good and evil, when in actual fact, we don’t know the difference.

Scripture tells us that God makes all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28).  That is such a great verse.  So if God can make even evil work for good, and here I am reminded of Joseph that great illustration of the triumph of the God-chosen over abusive relatives, then how can we, puny humans, think that we can know what is best for us.  We will never see the big picture as God sees it, but we insist that we know what is good.  We must never forget that we live in a world where every action has an equal and opposite reaction and that every human being’s actions have consequences, whether seen or unseen.  We do not live in this world encased in impenetrable bubbles.

Wait on the Lord, Watch for the enemy, be Willing to obey where God shows you what to do.  It’s far better than Predict, Prepare, Protect, which sounds more like the motto of a security firm than a child of the Father. There are two kinds of ‘watching’.  The kind that surveillance firms do and the kind that God’s people do.  This ‘watcher’ woman has spent most of her life doing the former.  Repentance is truly a beautiful thing.

By Hook Or By Crook

tornado

You don’t have to be in Kansas anymore for bad stuff to happen. Just ask Dorothy.

16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days.

But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. 19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

We all develop methods of surviving in a harsh world.  Divination should not be one of them, and I am not just speaking to Christians.  As you can see from the above paragraph, divination comes only by one source and that is Satanic.  You might have great powers but they are not yours and any power of this sort is usually got by illegal means (God’s law not man’s).  Satan’s power was given to him by God but he fell and now uses that power to attempt to destroy the church.  The whole world might be under the sway of the evil one, but he does what he does in his own name, not God’s. Therefore, his authority is illegitimate, and so is anything he gives human beings.  It will not be blessed by God, the righteous One.

Astrology and tea-leaf reading aside, we all have means to ‘predict’ the future, but unless God gives us a prophetic word we are engaging in divination.  Divination is witchcraft which is rebellion which is sin.  Scripture does not get any clearer on this.  Divination can be described as the premeditated choice to seek out means to know the future which are empowered by demonic forces. It is the fleshly desire to know the future which opens the door to the demonic. I should just point out that praying and asking God for clarity on a situation is not divination.  He is the legitimate authority, and James tells us if we need wisdom He will give liberally to all men and without reproach.  That is a very important verse. It means God knows we need help to live our lives and will give it to us.  It’s depending on anything other than God which is the problem. However, the means by which we can engage in divination can be fuzzy especially if we are well-meaning.  Let me explain.

I grew up in an abusive household. Every one of my siblings has the same problems because we had one parent who was a narcissist and the other who was an enabler.  Some of us grew up more like our parents than others, but all of us developed habitually  crooked ways of coping.  When I became a Christian, I continued using these coping methods because I had not developed my relationship with Lord enough to learn that this was not only unacceptable to Him, but was also sinful.  Some things aren’t obvious as I said, other things we keep doing because we just don’t know how to stop.  In my case, I kept doing them because my need to feel safe and in control was more important than trusting God.

God is trustworthy, men are not, and sometimes women in particular tend to conflate the two.  We put our trust in men; our husbands, our pastors, other Christian leaders and speakers.  And it can be a snare and a downfall to our relationship with God.  If you put men in the place of God you will inevitably stumble, and in fact this is idol worship by another name.  So it is one thing to talk about trusting God, but being able to trust God alone is something else. I needed a revelation of the love of God and His trustworthiness.

I developed in my childhood the habit of predicting what would happen that day and finding ways of dealing with it.  I was bullied a lot at school because I was a weird little kid and didn’t know how to relate to other little kids. I knew how to relate to adults (pull forelock and act like a suck-up) but I didn’t know about peer groups.  Therefore, going to school was a scary prospect.  I spent most of the first half an hour in bed in the mornings working out ways to deal with the various kids who I knew were going to pick on me the moment I got to school.  Sometimes all I could tell myself was ‘at least I can have marmalade on my toast this morning’.  Marmalade on toast was my favourite breakfast.  I learned ways to comfort myself, and food was one of them.

dot and toto.png

If Toto can make it out alive anything is possible…

As an adult this translated into mentally preparing myself for what I thought might have been coming the next day, or far into the future.  For the most part it didn’t work, but for most of my life, I figured if I knew how to imagine myself getting it right then I would be better at getting it right when it actually happened.  This, in my experience, disproves all of the ‘name it and claim it’ messages that psychologists and life coaches like Tony Robbins have worked on for years.  You do not create your own future.  If you did, then my whole life should have looked like a Hollywood movie.  I certainly was good at directing them in my head.  “They will say this, then I will say that.  Then they will do this and then I will do that, and it will all end thusly”.  It never did.  Inevitably, I forgot the script, or they just didn’t do what I thought they would.

I was trying to predict the future.  It was not entirely accurate.  OK, it was not accurate at all, but the fact that I was trying to work out what was going to happen based on what I knew of the situation was still prediction.

You might say, ‘but wait a minute didn’t you just define divination as using methods which are empowered by satanic forces?  Imagining what would happen is not satanic is it?”.  I know right?  It doesn’t come across as evil or wicked or engaging in witchcraft.  But wait…

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Corinthians)

Paul is talking here about not warring in the flesh.  In Ephesians 6 he talks about the fact that we war against spiritual forces.

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand

I might also add here my favouritest verse of all time Romans 12:1-2

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 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

All of this tells me that our minds need to be transformed so that we can deal with the flesh and also the spiritual battle which comes against us.  If Satan is encouraging us to mentally prepare for the future by rehearsing events which may or may not happen then we are not walking in faith. Scripture tells us to take every thought captive.  It means every sinful thought.  It is impossible to take every thought captive per se. So spending hours (and I did) mentally rehearsing events, conversations and outcomes is not taking every thought captive to God.  If our minds need to be renewed its because our minds are the place where sin is conceived.  If we sin habitually through mentally trying to control what happens, which is witchcraft, then we need to repent and deal with life a different way, God’s way.

When you come from an abusive background, whether that is from a family of origin or from another source such as marrying a psychopath (and I say this with respect, the internet is full of testimonies from partners of deranged humans), or from being exposed long-term to abuse from pastors or bosses or others, the thing you want the most is to ensure that this NEVER happens again.  So you do what you need to do in order to avoid it. For many of us, it is controlling the outcome.  Of everything.

We PREDICT our futures, in order to PREPARE for any future abuse or pain and thereby PROTECT ourselves and stay safe.  It makes perfect sense when you are in there.  But living like this is walking in the flesh, it is NOT trusting in God, it is trusting in your own ability to prepare for the next onslaught even if there isn’t one.  You think you are doing yourself a favour, but all you are doing is setting yourself up for failure.  Nobody ever gets divination right every time.  You only have to fail half of the time in a situation like this and you make yourself crazy.  WHY, you ask yourself, did I not see that coming?  You end up getting more and more and more distressed which in turn gives you even more energy to try that much harder next time to prepare for the next crazy turn of events.

Let’s face it.  Life is unpredictable, it is getting even more unpredictable as the world turns.  Or not, I personally believe we live in a geocentric universe.  Finding that out actually changed my life, I am not kidding.  Have you ever seen or felt the earth spinning?  I won’t go on, that would be a whole blog post on its own.  Anyway, even realising that God made the earth first because of His great plans for us and His great love for His people and that He will also make a new heaven and earth for our future enjoyment didn’t stop me from trying to plot for my own success.

Look, it doesn’t matter why we do it.  You don’t have to have come from an abusive background.  Every human being wants to know the future.  It’s why we talk about time travel. The thought that this might actually be scientifically possible (it isn’t and will never be) gets us all excited.  Knowing the future is not the answer.  Preparing for possible difficulty pain or trauma is not the answer either. As anyone who has ever paid for insurance for years and then found out that the insurance company won’t pay up because the fine print said that this particular disaster wasn’t applicable finds out….you can’t cover every eventuality and the odds are that the thing you never even imagined is the thing that eventually happens.

Having said that, we still need to deal with that very human need for preparation and protection right?  Look at Noah.  He prepared as God told him to and was protected from God’s wrath.  God knows the end from the beginning and He will tell us what to do in every eventuality.  We do not need to run around as the rest of the world does as though we have no God, and as though God isn’t in control but expects us to somehow know what to do because we have intelligence.  I actually heard a very young pastor say that once.  He said where scripture doesn’t tell us what to do specifically, then we ‘have the freedom’ to do whatever seems to be good to us at the time because that is why God gave us brains.  Somebody needs to tell this young guy that stuff not specifically covered in scripture leaves out about 50% of the issues of modern life.  That is NOT the gospel.  We have been given the Holy Spirit who is our GUIDE, counselor, comforter and teacher and will lead us and help us as Jesus helped his disciples when He was on earth. Added to this, while scripture may not specifically address issues such as, say, birth control, scripture still gives us the markers for our spiritual and moral compass.  God loves children, children are a blessing, some people can’t have children, God heals barrenness etc.  You get where I am going with this.  I hope. The generalities are there even if the specifics are not.  God wants us to know what His will is for our lives (Romans 12:2) and therefore it is not up to us to determine our futures.

It’s when we act as though this is not the case, or simply forget that this is the case, that we end up getting ourselves tangled up in knots literally and figuratively.  If you are suffering constant headaches and anxiety or even panic attacks because your stress levels are through the roof,  you might consider that you may actually be trying to manipulate and control your life, and other people’s, for their own good of course.  This may well be a common problem for women, but it is NOT a godly response to life.  We walk by faith, NOT by hook or by crook.

Next post, I will talk about the antidote to this PREDICT, PREPARE and PROTECT problem.

The Resistible Revolutionary

shane-claiborne

Shane Claiborne’s understanding of the gospel seems a little skewed.

Here’s a quote of his from his book ‘Irresistible Revolution’.

“For even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practice it. We can believe in CPR but people will remain dead until someone breathes new life into them. And we can tell the world that there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death”.

And another one..

“Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of  my favourite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily”.

I flicked through “Irresistible Revolution” at our local bookstore the other day. I was going to buy it, but after finding quotes like these on just about every page, I wondered whether it was worth it.  I found Shane’s attitude of superiority off-putting.  Apparently nobody in the church but Shane and his fellow Red Letter Christians are getting it right, and this is never a good place from which to speak to other believers.  I spent a couple of decades in a cult which had the same exclusivity  and taught others to shun the outsiders.  It’s this exclusion of others that gives you a sense that you are right with God. It is so incredibly easy for people to fall into this delusion.  It’s why there are so many churches like that.  But Mr. Claiborne has fallen into the same trap. Unfortunately nobody can tell him that, because he seems superbly at ease with his critics, almost encouraging them. A person who has come to this place of sublime ignorance of his own fallibility is in a  dangerous place.  It is a place where you are so sure you can never be deceived, yet it is almost always the hallmark of those who actually are deceived.  It makes me think of  this quote from the character Sheldon Cooper from TV’s “Big Bang Theory”

“Howard, you know me to be a very smart man. Don’t you think that if I were wrong, I’d know it?”

sheldon

I want to deconstruct the above quotes.  When I left the cult we were part of, I had to look again at the books and literature we had to read, written exclusively by the cult leaders, and understand what they were actually saying, as opposed to what we thought they said.  What I found was actually pretty revealing.  It opened my eyes. So much we took for granted actually wasn’t there.  What was there however was a horrendously boastful and arrogant assumption that not only were the leaders always right but any wrongdoing could simply be determined to be dealt with by themselves.  They were never accountable to anyone, least of all the people they destroyed.   I began to study other writings, such as those of George Orwell.  His “Politics and the English Language” is very good, it shows how words can be used to manipulate people’s minds and emotions.  This kind of language is common in politics, but just as common in advertising, religion, social movements or anywhere where human beings want to influence others.

I want people to think about what is being said, even if it is coming from a genuinely likeable Christian guy who looks a little groovy and seems to know how to fix the world.

Let me just say that I am aware I am taking these quotes out of a much larger context, but I have  studied Shane Claiborne’s message in other mediums and read exhaustive critiques of the book “Irresistible Revolution” by others. Mr. Claiborne I think has made his message clear.  These snippets are more about decoding language than they are about looking at Shane’s larger works, I think they are good examples of how his language is symbolic of a confusion of theology and a deliberately non-biblical gospel. Shane wants to start a revolution, not preach what has been preached before. He wants to remove landmarks and create new ones, not follow the ways of Paul and the other apostles.

First of all “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and then ignore one on Monday”.

Let me show you why this language is so powerful.  Like I said, the visual image of Shane is not that of a dangerous person who wants to lead you down a dark path.  He looks like a college kid even though he is now in his forties.  So you are lulled into a sense that here is a guy who knows a thing or too because he is not pretentious, nor is he a stuffy religious leader or pastor. He is not ‘pastor Shane’, he is just Shane. So we listen to Shane speak because not only is he not stuffy and pretentious in a religious way, he has kudos.  He is well known, people want to hear him speak, he must be saying something important.

But let’s look at what he says.  First of all he poses a question.  It is a question which puts people on the back foot because it uses language which nobody connects with church.  Jesus, a homeless man?  Yeah, I suppose he was. So if this statement is true then so must the other one be.  Yeah, we worship a homeless carpenter and then ignore a homeless drunk guy the next day.  You feel humbled, despondent, depressed even.  Boy, I just don’t know how I can call myself a Christian. But look at Shane, he lives with homeless people and the poor, he must know what he is talking about, I should be like Shane.  How could you argue with that?  An appeal to consider the plight of the homeless based on who Jesus was.

But wait…

Actually Jesus was not homeless.  He had lived with his family for 30 years as a carpenter, probably supporting His mother and  younger siblings after Joseph died.  His choice to leave home at 30 and begin his ministry was deliberate, and he did not have a home because the bank foreclosed or because he had been thrown out by his wife or because he could not afford one or because he was a drug addict.  He did not have a permanent home because His ministry was to move amongst the Jewish settlements preaching the gospel. He went and stayed with friends often, or asked to stay with those he talked to. He was not homeless, as in sleeping on the streets.  Everything he did was deliberate and was the will of the Father. I don’t think you can say the same thing about the guy in the street.

Neither was Jesus ‘a  homeless man‘ in the same way the guy in the picture is.  Jesus first of all is the Son of God, not just a man.  Claiborne seems to major on Jesus humanity and forget that He is holy, perfect righteous and just and not just a guy we follow.  So the message that Jesus is the same as the guy on the street is false and misleading.  We don’t worship a man, we worship God, and Jesus himself said to the Pharisees that if you can’t accept that Jesus is the I AM then you can’t be saved.

The question also implies that all Christians ignore homeless people.  This is not true either.  I find Claiborne’s sweeping statements about his brothers and sisters in Christ to be condemnatory.  The amount of emphasis he puts on actually living amongst the poor rather than doing what you can at the local soup kitchen etc is rather dishonest.  Shane can pick and choose how he responds to his own situation in whichever way the Holy Spirit guides him.  I don’t think it is Shane’s role to act as the Holy Spirit in people’s lives and giving others guidance on how to live.  Giving is done in response to the Holy Spirit, not some man who places himself in the position of being the leader of some kind of revolutionary new world religion which is replacing the tired old Christianity which people over 40 preach about.

Shane is taking upon himself a position and an authority that God did not give him. He is nobody’s pastor except those who fellowship with him. Otherwise he is simply a commentator, a guy with an opinion.  Somebody who is connected with others who have a name like Mother Theresa.  Lots of people have worked with Mother Theresa and they don’t all write books and go on speaking tours claiming to be ‘irresistible revolutionaries’. There is no ‘new move’ or ‘revolution’ other than the one that certain people wish to produce. But then this has always been the way with any revolution.  There are the revolutionaries, the agitators, the behind the scenes guys who get a hold of others like the university students (read Tailor of Panama it describes the whole thing) and the young seminary students who are tomorrow’s pastors. And then there are the plebs, the unaware, the moral majority who are just trying to eke out a living. Revolutionaries are rarely the dispossessed, they are the rich elite who agitate the easily manipulated (young idealistic impressionable).  That’s how revolutions start, and they end with bloodshed, always and the reorganisation of the universe. Order out of chaos has always been the method of the revolutionary. Out with the old order, in with the new. But hey, he’s a likable guy, its only the doom merchants who spew bile against likable guys. Nobody else minds, they are just happy to be part of something great.

And last but not least, the question uses the royal ‘we’. He says ‘we’ but he means ‘you’. He says ‘we’ to take the edge off his judgement of apparently all Christians. If he includes himself it means he is a Christian too. If he doesn’t include himself and says ‘you’ he excludes himself from Christianity.  He has to say ‘we’, it confirms the solidarity he has with his audience. However if you look at what he is saying, he can’t possibly include himself in this.  If he accuses himself of worshipping Jesus on Sunday and ignoring homeless people on Monday then he is denying everything else he has told you about himself and his community.  He doesn’t really mean himself or he would have to repent and in humility change the way he does things.  He has already told you he lives amongst the poor.  He already does the things he thinks everyone else should be doing.  So this is not a ‘we’ statement any more than “so where are we going for our holidays” is from a shop assistant who just sold you a suitcase. She is being patronising, so is he.

Shane is in a position of responsibility, being the leader of a community, an author and a teacher.  He is in a position of power and authority especially in the eyes of Christians.  It is also the reason why so many dislike Shane’s approach, and his message.  Shane likes to think that other people just don’t get him, and he encourages his followers to believe this to.  Its not that his critics don’t get him, its that they don’t reflect back to him the image that he wants them to see.  So while Shane is insisting that his way is Jesus’ way, in fact, it is not.  It is simply Shane’s way. It’s why you have to really listen and really read what he has said and not just assume things because he uses scripture intermingled with powerfully emotive language.  Really look at what he is saying.

“Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of  my favourite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily”. (my emphases)

Here Mr. Claiborne is making sweeping statements again.  “Usually”, meaning all the time, it is the normal thing, other people who see his community and want to applaud them and apparently live vicariously through them.  Even if he does say so himself.

This is a hugely narcissistic statement. Shane is saying that ‘people want to be me’ because they think I am superhuman. Really? So there are not just people who walk through and go ‘good for you guys like what you are doing’ and walk away and forget about them? Apparently others also want to live vicariously through them.  This is another extreme statement. How do you know that is the case?  And if so, why is it the case?  Only cults have these kinds of extreme reactions.  Nobody wants to ‘be’ the pastor down the road at the local Baptist church even if he is a great guy who helps people.  Nobody wants to ‘live vicariously’ through Christians they know even if those people are Christ-like.   Paul said ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ’ but not even Paul wanted others to be him, as he said later when he castigated those who were ‘of Paul’ or ‘of Apollos’.  Shane doesn’t actually say in this paragraph that living vicariously through them is a bad thing.  He has an almost ‘aw shucks’ response to these statements.  Yet even his rebuttal of these attitudes in the last sentence of the quote “don’t call us saints” is weird.  Dorothy Day was another political and social activist and journalist and became a Catholic. Her understanding of the word ‘saint’ is not what the Bible teaches. We ARE saints, the bible calls us saints.  It’s just a word meaning believers.  We are all saints.  And saints or not, nobody is dismissing anyone.  There is a really strong contradiction going on here.  One minute Shane is saying people want to be us, next minute he is saying don’t dismiss us. Nobody is dismissing Shane Claiborne and his works however he wants to skew this.  They are very definitely making a huge fuss about him as he has already stated.

There are some serious concerns in even these two simple quotes.  I haven’t touched on the other quote I mentioned. Shane states that even if the whole world believed in resurrection, nothing would change until you practiced it. OK, resurrection isn’t practised it just is.  One minute you are dead, the next you are alive.  You don’t have to do anything for somebody to realise something has changed.  When Lazarus was raised from the dead, people knew about it. Its why we know about the story two thousand years later.  When Jesus was raised by the Holy Spirit, His resurrection was reality changing.  We are raised to new life and we are called to walk in the Spirit, to put off the flesh and to walk in the Spirit.  The believers at Pentecost were immediately empowered by the Spirit and Peter in particular preached a powerful life changing sermon and thousands were saved in one day!  THAT is the power of the gospel.  Its Jesus who does the changing and its Jesus who gives the increase. It wasn’t Peter who was trying hard to be something, he simply changed. We don’t have to ‘do’ anything in order to prove that there has been a massive change in us.

I am reminded of a guy I knew at my church when I was a teenager.  He used to be a career criminal, a biker, a drug dealer, a vicious thug and generally nasty piece of work.  When he got saved, he had to be extradited back to Melbourne for trial.  The judge took one look at this guy, Terry his name was, and said ‘you’ve changed’. This judge knew Terry as he had come before him many times previously. Yet the judge could see straight away that something was different about Terry. So much had Terry changed that his very short stint in jail ended up seeing dozens of hardened criminals saved. These were all men who knew Terry.  They knew what kind of person he was.  When he got saved, his face changed, his nature changed, his habits changed, he was a new creation.  That whole prison was changed because of Terry and he continued going back to prison to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now Terry runs a church which helps the poor, the druggies and the down and outs.  He has set up a service which provides free food.  Not just for ‘the poor’ but anyone who needs a helping hand including the white middle class that Shane Claiborne seems to enjoy deriding. Nobody sees Terry’s work as being  useless or pointless or ‘not enough’.  Yet to Shane Claiborne, this kind of things is not acceptable.  I could go on and quote a number of things Shane has said in his books and speeches, but the heart of it is that he wants to condemn his fellow Christians because in his eyes, we are not doing what we should be doing.

One last thing about Terry.  He is well respected and recognised, but he is an old campaigner.  He is a conservative evangelical.  He got saved in the Assemblies of God church in Brisbane, and people in Australia have seen his face a few times in the media as they all seem to like him and treat him as the real deal Christian.  Yet, strangely, nobody tells Terry that he is a superman. When people look at Terry, they see Jesus, because Terry still looks like a scary biker.  He is a big teddy bear and a very genuine Christian.  But nobody wants to ‘be’ Terry or live vicariously through him. So what’s the difference between a man who loves Jesus and reaches out to the community in love and is seen by unsaved people as an actual Christian, and a man who has to convince others by teaching and writing books that he is a totally radical revolutionary for God.  What is wrong with just being an unassuming person whose life was changed by Jesus. Maybe Shane hasn’t met enough Terrys to realise that THIS is what it means to be saved.  Jesus already changed the world, and they don’t want to know Him.  What Jesus does is change people’s hearts and then through those changed hearts, other people are changed.  Not much has changed or is going to change because of the efforts of people who don’t really know what they believe and are trying desperately to get others to believe they are special.

I don’t think Shane Claiborne understands the gospel. It makes me tired.  I don’t think he knows Jesus as well as he thinks he does. I don’t think anyone can talk the way he can about the church if they love it with their whole heart the way Jesus told us to.  “Love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself”.  Loving your neighbour doesn’t just mean the poor.  If your neighbour happens to be poor then you can help them. But giving people stuff doesn’t mean you are a great Christian or that you have been transformed by the power of the blood of Jesus.  Genuine transformation is its own advertisement.  It always has been, for centuries before Shane was born and will be again until Jesus returns.  I don’t need somebody like Shane to tell me how to live, and I don’t like, even from a cursory glance what Shane preaches.  I don’t believe he has been transformed or that he understands the new life of Christ or he wouldn’t say these things.

If people are wondering if there is life before death  they need to see the new life of Jesus Christ.  Not in your works, but in the actual difference in your face.  There is a difference in people who know Jesus because the Holy Spirit has made them a new creation. I can testify to this for myself and others I know who have been changed by Jesus. I have seen and heard many testimonies from brothers and sisters who were miraculously saved and changed.  It is this change which makes others know and see the powerful reality of Jesus Christ. If you have changed, then you will do things differently. But the change comes first, then the actions.  People like Shane have always tried to make it the other way around, and all they do is lay heavy burdens on believers who try and get it right in order to impress others. The key to all of this is understanding your sin and the cross.  We don’t worship the cross, we worship Jesus. We just understand the substitutionary atonement of the cross in that Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary to take away the sin of the world. I don’t think Shane understands this at all, not in a personal way, because I don’t think he knows Jesus.

I have seen men who have this kind of power before.  Plenty of people want to follow and imitate charismatic men who manipulate and shame others in subtle and clever ways. The followers almost NEVER blame the leader for making them think they have to do stuff to be saved, they mostly blame themselves.  They try real hard to get it right, to impress the leader and to look good to others, but in the end they are dead spiritually because they have put the leader in the place of the Holy Spirit and their faith in Jesus, and Jesus alone has been eroded. People who follow Shane seem to do so with utter devotion. Shane can do nothing wrong, nobody is allowed to criticise Shane because if you do then you are part of the fundamentalist traditional church who just want to shut him up because they ‘just don’t get it’.  That too is dismissive and trite.

I don’t see Shane Claiborne preaching the gospel to people and seeing them saved.  I see Mr. Claiborne trying to get in the way and tell everyone else in the church not just how to ‘do church’ but how to ‘do life’.  I don’t find this either revolutionary or irresistible, in fact I find it rude and abusive.

A Dissenting Life

sock puppet

Sock puppets don’t talk back

1 John 4:4-6New King James Version (NKJV)

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error

I have spent most of the last twelve years immersed in dissent or at least it seems that way.  But most of this is a correction to the previous decades wherein I rarely spoke up about anything, did not have an opinion and went out of my way to be tractable and agreeable even when what was going on went against everything I personally held dear. I used to think this was what Christians did.  Since then I have been learning the value of critical thinking, which despite what it seems, is not about criticising everything all the time. It is about testing what you hear against what you know to be true. It is about following those gut feelings that something is wrong and doing the necessary research.   It’s not a comfortable life, but the world is falling apart as you read. You can no longer assume that there are any safe places.  And as one musician whose name escapes me once said ‘There are no de-militarised zones in the Christian life’.  We are in a battle for souls and it seems also for truth.

Here’s the thing.  We spent 15 years in a religious cult.  Women in particular were oppressed and marginalised.  Everything that went wrong was their fault.  Either they were not obeying the elders or they were not obeying their husbands, and the word ‘obey’ was not used loosely. This covered everything from what you believed to what you made for morning tea.  It was like living with Hitler’s S.S.  People were driven to nervous breakdowns and families were destroyed.  I think you can gather why we left.

It took a very long time to understand what had happened to us, not the least because our brains had been sucked out of our skulls with high pressure religious vac-blowers.  We had to learn to think objectively all over again.  In fact, what we realised over time was that we had not even been able to think objectively before that because we had been trained by dysfunctional parenting not to question anything and to see ourselves as useless, helpless idiots with no skills and no hope for a successful future.  That was for the star kids in the family were chosen at birth to be everything we could not be. Anyone raised by narcissists will know to which I refer. Anyone not familiar with this term, please google it, there is a lot of research and testimony to be read.  So joining a cult was the natural outworking of being raised in one, and again, I am not using the word ‘cult’ loosely.

So all of this finally produced people who were very wary but also produced an extreme sensitivity to false doctrines of any stripe. When you have seen what false doctrines do in practice to people’s lives, you take them very personally and seriously.  You also gain a deep understanding of the power of the gospel.  When something is not gospel but being treated as such, it will have no power.  Hence the scripture “a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). In the final analysis we have become your ‘canary in a coal-mine’.  But it is impossible to convey this to anyone in person, it sounds like you are bragging.  It’s not, its the simple truth.

Many ex-cult survivors have done very little to work out what happened to them, they have simply gone their way and ‘recovered’ as best they can and live lives that are comfortable to them.  To be fair to them, they are often too traumatised to do much else. Eventually though, you must do a thorough investigation of how it was that you were able to spend the majority of your adulthood in a ‘church’ which treated people like this or you are going to miss out on all that God has for you. Not only that but I must reiterate that old adage about learning from history or repeating history. I am afraid that in our observation, if you don’t understand what true doctrine actually is, you will make the same mistake of following false doctrines over and over. Get your spiritual herescope working before you go join another church.  There are far too many ‘normal’ looking churches out there which have either imported false doctrines or manufactured their own.

Its important to know why you didn’t sense danger, why you didn’t recognise false teaching and why you were so susceptible to the love bombing which inevitably encompasses first time visitors to abusive churches.

Some members of our family recently visited a church and stayed for a couple of months and noticed some marginally disturbing trends amongst the young adults there, then started to pick up that the leadership were not doing anything about the problems, and in fact were contributing to the problems.  They had to make a decision, which for one person was not that difficult, but for the other was extremely difficult. Nobody likes to think that their fellow Christians are not walking in the light, but in these last days, scripture tells us that there will be many whose love for the truth will grow cold.  Added to this, a quick survey of individuals soon proved that there were those who simply will not brook any dissent or questioning even if that questioning comes from a genuine desire to know why things are the way they are.  One young adult got very hot under the collar because they were questioned about whether the leaders were aware of what was happening amongst the young people. Not only that but it appeared from that same line of questioning that there was a concerning trend towards the old ‘shepherding movement’ culture of confession and ‘mentoring’. This did not look good.

The only way you are going to find out if your initial concerns are warranted is by asking questions.  Most congregation members do not question either because they don’t pick up that there is anything wrong, or because they don’t want to rock the boat especially that early in the piece.  My advice is – ASK.  If you don’t ask early on, you will end up becoming more and more emotionally and probably fiscally enmeshed with the group and you will find it harder to be objective when it comes to making decisions when you finally do find out that this is not a good place to be.  On the other hand, if you ask questions you may discover much to your delight that this is a church where questions are welcomed and the answers not only prove the leaders are mature and gracious but that they themselves ask questions in order to safeguard the community from false teaching.

So, yes, we are a pain in the neck to church leaders.  We not only ask questions, we ask questions.  If you get my meaning.  It’s one thing to simply find out what kind of worship service they have – smoke machines and strobe lights verses hymns and pianos for example – but you need to ask the really uncomfortable questions. What are their eschatological beliefs for example. That’s bible college geek speak for ‘end times stuff’. You might think that this makes very little difference because it is not what is termed an ‘essential’ doctrine.  This term is taken from a quote much used by reformed scholars “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” and has been attributed to Augustine, but there is no actual evidence for this.

I don’t believe this maxim does scripture credit.  All of the gospel is important.  If we can’t find unity on these things, it is because we don’t have the mind of Christ.  If we don’t have the mind of Christ, it is because we are still worldly in some measure, and of course we all are to some extent, who should not be to any extent. Christ is one with the Father and Spirit, therefore we, as His body, need to be of one mind regarding any and every doctrine whether others deem them essential or not. Unfortunately, for as many who deem one doctrine essential there will be others who do not agree. Disagreement is not the hallmark of lack of faith, or heretical failings.  Disagreement is in fact a sign that people are thinking for themselves, and vocalising their dissent. You have to search to find, you have to ask to know, you have to take it all to the Lord in prayer, and sometimes you just have to come down on one side of the fence or the other. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. We ought to know. There is no virtue in ‘havering’ when it comes to matters of doctrine and faith.  We need to be workmen in scripture, and we need to test the spirits. Its a work of both intellectual and spiritual design, and God approves of those who seek after the Kingdom of God. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Let me say this again with clarity. Dissent is NOT a sign that you are a heretic or trying to rock the boat, or are judgemental or have ‘issues’ with leadership or authority.  Leaders who imply that there is something wrong with you because you are asking questions are simply proving their own fleshly irritation with needing to provide answers to those with whom they would rather not have to deal.  They may be short of time, in the middle of some problem which they are struggling with or some other reason, but there really is no excuse to dismiss a seeker’s questions, especially if they are presented reasonably and respectfully. They may also be heretics themselves, and refusal to discuss  heresy with others is often the first sign you are dealing with a ‘spirit of error’.

Recently Steve and I had a conversation with a church leader who seemed very reasonable and mature at first. However, it became clear throughout the conversation that he was not used to talking to women like myself who have researched and read widely and ask questions when they want information. While both Steve and I talked roughly the same amount, Steve sat quietly while I spoke and did not interrupt or correct me as he used to do while in the cult.  We were presenting as equals and this seemed not to be to the liking of the pastor.  I think he preferred the demure Christian wife who sat silently and nodded enthusiastically while her husband talked unless she was being addressed by the Pastor. When  I asked him if he was a dispensationalist, he sat looking at me momentarily and then growled in a rather refractory tone “I don’t know what that word means”.  Now this was a mature man of retiring age who had presumably been a Christian for a long time. There was no reason to assume he did not know what this term meant or that he would not have heard the term before.  I was taken aback at his response, and while I stopped to try and work out how to explain it, he then proceeded to prove that he knew exactly what I was talking about “If you mean do I believe in the rapture, then yes I do”.

Later I tried to talk to him about something and he interrupted with a remark which made absolutely no sense. In my former ‘demure’ life I would have simply let it pass, but this time I asked him what he meant by that. His response was equally ludicrous. At this point even his wife was wanting to know what he was on about.  The conversation carried on however until we got to the point where he said in no uncertain terms that women in his church were not allowed to speak. In his words he wanted me to know so there were no ‘nasty surprises’. Why did this pastor assume that it would be a ‘nasty surprise’?  Surely he was again telling us who he was and what he expected from us if we came to his church.  He didn’t say that women did not preach at his church, he said they weren’t allowed to speak which implies oppression. We didn’t want to jump to conclusions but after our conversation (which on the whole had been civil despite the things I mentioned) the pastor got up from his chair without saying goodbye and walked away. He did not even bother to see us to the door. He was telling us we were not acceptable. Here is a clear case of ascertaining the true nature of a man and his work by asking questions.

Pastors like this are not the rule fortunately. Its actually amazing how many times Steve and I have come across them though. Sometimes it feels like they come out of the woodwork whenever we are around. Give people some opportunity to prove themselves. Bad seeds will always make themselves known and if you do enough bible study and internet searching  and prayer God will show you the truth you are looking for.  I should like to provide my own version of the above much flung about maxim…

In testing the Spirits, wisdom, In asking questions, love, In leaving the church, much prayer, in finding another one, much patience.

Anita Brady