Drawing Lines In the Sand

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We began this blog as a family and we have covered all kinds of subjects, mainly to do with Christian living and spiritual abuse from cult-like churches. We have recently included some blog posts about specifics regarding our families and why we went no contact with them.

We just wanted to talk about what no contact actually is and what it isn’t and the thinking behind it because a lot of people talk about this on the net, but not a lot of people really understand the reasoning behind it.

Going no contact is not about ignoring or shunning. It is not about revenge and it is not about manipulating in order to get people to do what you want. It is an event horizon.

The phrase ‘drawing a line in the sand’ is something of a misnomer. When you think about it, sand is not something which holds it’s shape. Drawing a line in the sand is more akin to making a temporary boundary than it is to making a permanent one. Drawing a line in the cement is probably a better term to use in this instance. There is time for it to cure and therefore make the line fixed, but after that, it is indelible. Going no contact is about drawing a line beyond which reality changes.  It is a time line but also a paradigm shift. It can be temporary or not, the choice is up to you. And this, for abuse survivors is the most significant property of the no contact decision.  It is a choice we make to protect ourselves from further abuse.  A choice, I say again, that WE make.  When those choices are impugned or resisted we learn to live as viable adults who must accept that life is not simple and that we have to accept these tests of our character. It is where we grow and change.  Therefore the choice to go no contact is not just a border or barrier to abuse, it is a means by which our identity is matured. Through making and keeping boundaries we grow tougher and at the same time more malleable.  We learn to tell genuine belligerence from guileless ignorance.  And there is a difference.  The real wolves, the real life destroyers, are the blissfully unconscionable, not those people who have simply made bad choices.

Discussion online about going no contact, I think, began among those in the narcissistic abuse community. It grew from discussion about how to deal with narcissists in your family or other relationships who won’t stop abusing you. Most people do not go no-contact on a whim. In fact many people report not actually wanting to cut their abusers out of their lives altogether. Others have a great deal of difficulty making complete breaks. It is neither easy nor always possible to go this route. Often there are cases involving children where this is not possible. What is clear though, is that many recognise very early in their journey to health and wholeness that they simply cannot reason with their abusers. This is actually what prompts most people to even recognise abuse in the first place. It is the act of somebody who lacks the ability to use self-control or empathise with others, the act of somebody without a conscience who figures that laws or consequences are for other people.

I want to point out that for Christians, going no contact is reinforced by scripture. If you go to a brother and point out his sin and he refuses to deal with it, take another as a witness and try again. If he still won’t respond, take it to the church, and if he still refuses to change you refuse the sinner entry into the congregation until they come to their senses. No contact in scripture was always a means to get a sinner to stop sinning and keep the congregation safe from their behaviour. It’s all in Matthew 18.

In the case of the cult, we went to them, or rather Steve went to them, in order to talk to them about their behaviour. Steve got a lecture about how I was a ‘bad influence’ and that Steve needed to side with the elders against me and that if he didn’t…. You get the picture. Since we had already been witnesses to at least one family who they had destroyed, we got the picture very quickly. Fortunately for us, Steve stood up to their ridiculous assertions and we parted company. It took 15 years to get to this point. 15 years of trying over and over to fit in, to understand what was going wrong and usually blaming ourselves. 15 years of ‘discussions’ with cult leaders which ended up being more like confessions. During this time our self-respect was eroded, our mental well-being was undercut time and again and our faith in God and in other Christians was undermined. It was inevitable that we would come to the conclusion that enough was enough. The only reason it took 15 years was because they had not ever dealt with us in such a direct and retributive manner. We were being warned that the elders were targeting us, me in particular, because I had spoken to a ‘person of interest’, namely a woman whose marriage they were already in the process of destroying. They knew that if she talked to me, I would know the truth and they would not be able to deal with two of us knowing too much. They had already isolated her and planned on creating a divorce. In our marriage they simply warned Steve that his place was with the elders and their assessment of my danger to them. Steve saw this venality for what it was and made up his mind.

In cults unfortunately, you don’t get to enjoy the benefit of seeing them come to their senses because while you are cutting ties to them, they are cutting ties to you and lying about why you left to everyone still in the cult. They work on the people you know to ensure that they learn their lines, that we are cursed and that they should not have anything to do with us. So trying to explain to others why you are leaving is often completely pointless. They have already been brainwashed against you. Then you get all the fun things like coming face to face with cult members you barely know in the supermarket and having to ‘overhear’ them talking about you in the next aisle, or having to ask them to get out of your way so that you can get something from the shelf right behind them because they are being deliberately obstructive.

In our case, they also invaded our children’s school. Six months after we left, three cult members became teachers on our children’s campus. One of whom was in our home group for a couple of years and was to be teaching our son Nicholas. Nick was only 11 at the time, didn’t understand the dynamics of what had just happened and figured that his new teacher was a really nice lady. Which she was, to him. It was part of the agenda of dividing families.  Unfortunately, she refused to accept that Nick has dyslexia because in the cult, children don’t have learning difficulties because everything is caused by disobedience to the cult leaders. So it became impossible to relate to her. So going no contact was not really an option for us. The minute you leave a cult, you are persona non grata.

As far as going no contact with our families the minute we explained where we were coming from, the more we saw that our siblings in particular were not going to listen to us and were going to protect and agree with our mothers, on both sides of the family. Kind of interesting that both of us had the same dynamics happening.

The fact is that the whole ‘waking up’ crisis involves a deep level of trauma in itself. In effect, dealing with family who support a corrupt leadership is exactly the same as dealing with a congregation who support a corrupt leadership. If its not happening to them they will ignore, minimize, justify, explain and generally blame you instead of thinking that maybe there is something to what you are talking about. People will label you as the ‘crazy one’ rather than take time to understand. If you know anything about brainwashing and group-think, especially in relation to trauma bonding, you will understand that it takes a HUGE shift in thinking and an attendant strong emotional disturbance before you are able to even empathize. People who are not involved in the group will more easily be able to judge your story objectively. We discovered this the hard way. We did not want to have to go and tell our story to strangers, but having come from a cult and then recognizing the same dynamics in our own families, we realized we had no choice. Nobody we knew, nobody who had known us for decades, was going to be able to help us.

In a cult, you may be able to get the other inmates to agree that something is wrong. They may even go so far as to start questioning the status quo themselves. But its’ like being on a piece of elastic. People will only go as far as the elastic allows them and then spring back to their original mindset. It’s a form of self-protection. Any seismic shift in reality is incredibly difficult to manage. Human beings are more likely to stay warm and safe in bed than want to get out and get dressed in the cold. Once you are out however, you realise if you stay in bed, you won’t be living your life, you will be just existing, however warm and comfortable you will be. It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees as the old saying goes. To which I would add, it is better to die in your shoes than be murdered in your beds. You still die, but at least you will have lived first.

So short of deliberately shaking people up you are really forced to make more changes in your life when your family and friends refuse to see the truth and choose rather to continue living with a lie. That is their choice, in the end yours will take you down a different path. What inevitably occurs however, is that while you manfully make your choice and travel down another road, there will be the pain of loss and even further abuse from a family who not only don’t understand your choice but actively oppose it at every opportunity.

So you will have to further consolidate your losses by making the choice to stop the exposure to more abuse. In our cases, we communicated with family members, wrote letters to explain our positions and were met with insults, accusations, fake apologies or attempts to diffuse the situation by saying ‘but we love you so much’ which actually does nothing to deal with the problem at all. Especially when you know that ‘love’ in an abusive environment is not love at all. People can be brainwashed into thinking that they are loved when they get attention, or they are given treats, or they are allowed to spend time with the person they want attention from. It is extremely easy to manipulate people into thinking that the leadership cares about them if the leadership plays good cop bad cop on a regular basis and keeps either the congregation or the group members in a constant state of imbalance, never knowing what is coming next. It is really the definition of “Stockholm Syndrome”. The reason that kidnapping victims end up relying on their captors and in some cases developing romantic relationships with them. They end up getting into a state of learned helplessness and believe that they have to do what they can to survive. Cult members do the same thing except on a much longer term basis. All of the friends we left behind in the cult have been there now for nearly 30 years. Their kids are all married and having kids of their own. It is a loss we feel at a very deep level because our own children were cut off from their friends and should have been having a life with these young adults, and sharing their own children with each other. You might think that we should just get on and ‘get a life’. But bearing the scars of a loss of a friendship group, especially in a christian group where the connection is spiritual as well as social and familial, is not something you can outlive or distract yourself from. These scars are lifelong, they are not to be dismissed lightly and they should be respected. You don’t just ‘get a life’. It is the reason that Christ’s scars remained after his resurrection. His sacrifice for us was not just temporal, it was eternal. Relationships involve deep scars, some sacrificial, some malignant, but we all bear them. It is what makes us human, the images of the God who created us.

Making the choice to go no contact with abusers and their supporters is the very means by which survivors ‘get a life’. We move on with our lives, cognizant of the memories of the people we choose to remove ourselves from, and not without the pain of knowing those relationships will possibly not ever be mended. We have told our relatives, in writing, that when they begin to treat us with respect, we will be happy to talk with them again. The ball is actually in their court. If they want to start talking to us as equals and with a genuine desire to relate in a healthy way, we are happy to talk with them. Nobody has ever taken us up on that. They have simply used our refusal to be treated badly as a weapon against us and even gone so far as to tell their own children that we want nothing to do with them either. This is patently not true. We do not know their children, they have made sure of that. As adults they have their own lives, and they can contact us if they wish to verify what happened. They are not likely to do this unless they experience a waking up of their own through hardship or trauma.

It is really that simple. We have learned to draw the line, to cut off the generational abuse. That may mean that we never have extended family around us until our own children marry and have their own children. We have come to terms with that and do not expect anyone to come searching for us. In fact, we expect the opposite. This blog is not widely read, and probably will never be. It is simply our means of speaking up about what has happened to us and why we have taken the action we have.

We wish no ill on anyone. In fact, we pray to the effect that no ill will happen to our family and even now, knowing that our mothers are old and will very shortly be required to stand and give account to God for their lives, we pray they will be spared the agony of being denied an eternity in His presence. We wish nobody the torment of hell, but since people make their own decisions about God likewise they make their own decisions about hell. I know that our families know the gospel, because we have told them the gospel ourselves. They are without excuse.

28 Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.”

29 “Truly I tell you, said Jesus, “- no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and to receive eternal life in the age to come.

(Mark 10: 28-30)

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My Faith Journey – Anita’s New Beginning

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I was 13 years old and in the second year of High School. A girl I had met in Art class asked me if I would like to go to a holiday camp with her during our Autumn break. I HATED camps. I had no idea why, but I wanted to go on this one. Those two weeks in May literally changed my life.

We had to travel to Christmas Creek in the Lamington Plateau on the Queensland border. On the bus there was a group of girls who were mucking around and having fun. But they didn’t seem like the usual types of girls I had known at school. They were kind and joyful and there was something else. They didn’t do the usual teenage thing with strangers.  They didn’t dismiss you with their self-absorption. There was an unspoken acceptance in their faces, there was a glimpse of something preternatural, yet completely compelling. A doorway to heaven opened that day. Light streamed through that opening and hit my deepest soul and I felt as though I had come home.

There were about 7 or 8 other girls in our cabin. The first day they were all lively and chattering together as well as asking me questions out of genuine interest. I wouldn’t even tell them my name. I just told them I was ‘Shelley’s friend’. They were confused but they didn’t badger me. When I was ill, the camp leaders showed compassion and concern and gave me advice and comfort. I was so unfamiliar with this that I didn’t really know what to do with it. Even Bible studies, which were a mystery to me, were fun with these people. They were not trying to play one person off against another, they weren’t trying to embarrass anybody who didn’t know the answers, there was absolutely no sarcasm.

I was totally engaged. And for a kid who had grown up feeling totally isolated, this was a huge change. Something was going on. I had no time to think about it, all I knew was that the two weeks flew by.

Later, when Shelley asked if I wanted to pray and ask Jesus into my heart, I knew I wanted what these girls had. I needed some time to feel ready to do what I needed to do, but one night in the second week of the camp, Shelley and I had agreed we would pray together and I would ask Jesus to come and be my Saviour and Lord. We had planned to get up in the middle of the night and pray together.  Why then? It made it more exciting I suppose. We were teenagers.  What can I say?  Except Shelley refused to wake up. I didn’t want to wake up the others in the cabin, so I simply prayed my own prayer and tried to remember the words that Shelley had used. I knew what I was praying, even if I didn’t have a full grasp of everything that it involved. Jesus became the central point around which my life revolved.

Those two weeks introduced me to the body of Christ and the joy of living that we were meant to have as God’s own children. When they told me I had to share my faith with my family my heart fell. Nobody talked about religion at home except for my oldest sister who had been immersed in the religious teachings of a cult leader in America. There was constant friction every time the subject of God came up. Nobody wanted another religious convert in the family.  I hardly knew what to say to them.

All I know is that I tried to explain what had happened to me.  I remember crying when my mother made it clear she wanted nothing to do with it.  It was a hard thing for a 13-year-old to face but it didn’t change my faith.  I had signed up for a free mail-out of Scripture Union booklets with a year’s worth of bible readings and commentary.  They were called ‘Daily Bread’.  Many Christians have used those resources over the years, but for me, they were an oasis in the desert.  I think it was what kept me going during that time.  I wasn’t able to get to church except on the odd occasion somebody was willing to drive me there.

Strangely, Shelley fell away.  The last time I talked to her was just after I got married.  I phoned her up, and she wanted nothing to do with me.  No explanation, just angry denunciations and demands that I go and relate to my church friends.  We had spent many years after we left school just going to the movies or having coffee together. I will never know what happened to her, but I get a sense she just got too involved in the world and left her former faith behind as though it was a piece of clothing that no longer fitted. Contacting her probably just reminded her of who she had been and it was too much for her to cope with.  My prayer is that she finds her way back before it’s too late.

I was baptised when I was 19, but not after having faced months of panic attacks and the recognition that I needed more than just bible studies to thrive as a Christian. But that is another story.

Spirit, Soul and Body

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I have been a Christian for a very long time.  But 40 years ago, when I first gave my life to Jesus and accepted Him as Lord and Saviour, I knew very little about the mechanics of my belief.  Later, when I began attending a Baptist church around the corner from where I lived, I was still hazy about what I really believed.  I was very immature, eager to learn and yet the church I attended did not teach the basics of my faith.  The preaching focused on bible verses or stories from the Old Testament which contained morals or facts about God and how we are to live as Christians, but I was not informed about things like the differences between soul and spirit, or soul and body and how these three interact.

Recently I have been doing some bible study.

I have come to a very important understanding which I wish I knew 40 years ago.  And it all seems to be predicated on two little verses, Romans 12:1-2.  They say this:

Romans 12New King James Version (NKJV)

Living Sacrifices to God

12 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.

These verses have been with me for a couple of years.  I just can’t seem to get away from them.  They are powerful, all consuming, and seem to sum up the life of the Christian.  If my mind is renewed, I am transformed. But if I don’t first of all sacrifice myself, reject the world and all friendship with it then I won’t be able to be renewed, transformed and be able to prove the will of God.

I have been learning that our spirits are made whole, are saved and sanctified, are filled with the Holy Spirit and it is through our spirits that we hear the living Word.  Yes, the bible is an important book, it is the Word of God also, and the living Word who indwells us always agrees with His written word.  To do otherwise would be to be something less than who He is.  So, our spirits are the most important part of us.  If we can get our minds filled with the Spirit, to have the mind of Christ, and to understand the mysteries of God as Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 2, then the rest of us will be transformed.

Let me give you a practical illustration.

This morning I was praying.  A thought came to me, I won’t say what thought but it was very destructive.  The thought told me something that I started to believe.  Before I knew it, the thought had produced a stirring in my soul, and my emotions began to bubble and stew and create such anguish and pain that I knew I had to do something.  I had to act, in order to counter the reality that this thought presented to me.  I began to think of what I could do to change my imaginary circumstances.

I sat down to have breakfast and opened up the Bible as I often do.  I began to read in 1 Corinthians 2 and 3 and while I was pondering the Word of God, I realised, I had allowed my carnal mind to inform my whole existence.  I had allowed a stray thought to change my emotions which then caused me a great deal of pain which compelled me to act in order to change my circumstances.  I figured if I could change my circumstances, I would feel empowered, instead of victimised, as the thought told me I was.

After reading the word for a short time, my mind became renewed on this topic.  And interestingly the verses I was reading didn’t actually relate at all to the issue at hand.  All it did was enable me to focus on the Word of God instead of the lies of the Devil.  All of my thoughts, emotions and plans evaporated, and I realised how foolish, and sinful, I had been.  Yet, this situation taught me a tremendous truth.  All that I had been learning about Spirit, Soul and Body was becoming a reality!  If I had taken that thought captive to Christ and allowed His mind to inform me, I would have saved myself a morning’s worth of anguish and foolishness.

Another practical application of this related to a discussion I had with my daughter about wanting to change something about herself at a moment’s notice without considering what was driving her.  We talked a bit about it, and much later after focusing on the Word, and talking about the things I am discussing here, she realised her desire to change herself physically came about because of a thought that she had about herself, that she was unloved and unacceptable.  This was a lie!  Yet the lie stirred up her emotions, and then caused her to want to act in a way which would have ended up being very unsatisfying.  The root cause of her dissatisfaction wasn’t physical at all. It was believing a lie about herself instead of focusing on the truth that God not only loved her but His Spirit dwelt in us to bring life to our mortal bodies.  (Romans 8:11)

Psychology tells us that our emotions are a result of outward circumstances.  Somebody says something offensive and we are immediately hurt.  But in fact, what somebody says to us means nothing if we have did not already believe that about ourselves.  If somebody mocks you and tells you that you are ugly, and you are not, then the slur is like water off a ducks back, in fact it can be kind of amusing.  However, if you actually believe you are not only ugly but  unlovable because of it, the insult hits at the lie we believe and causes the sore spot to flare up and create huge emotional waves. It can drive us to despair.

Our thoughts dictate to us and our souls and bodies.  Then we act on those thoughts and feelings and often our bodies are the recipients of some fairly horrible consequences. At a superficial level, we can tattoo, pierce, and surgically alter ourselves but at a more dangerous level we can fill our bodies with drugs or other substances which provide relief from painful emotions, and even in extreme cases, abort children or commit suicide because our thoughts tell us not only are our lives irrelevant but our bodies are not affected by our actions.  Neither of these lies bring life.  They literally in some cases produce death, not just to us but to others.

A friend of our family attempted suicide last year.  She was not a Christian and was in a coma for weeks.  We prayed for her, because she had four children, the youngest was only about 7 years old, her oldest was just about to get married. Apparently this woman had a history of depression and had used medication to deal with it.  But at the root of her problems was the belief that her life was irrelevant..  It could not have been further from the truth.  Our family prayed for her solidly for a month. But I remember taking this issue to the Father who told me sadly, ‘She has made her decision’.  We don’t want to believe anyone could do such a terrible thing, but in fact, if you believe a lie, not only will your soul be affected but eventually your body will be treated with contempt.  If nothing matters and your life is worth nothing, then it doesn’t matter what you do.  But if everything matters, and your life is not your own but you were bought with a price, then you will see yourself and everyone around you as worthwhile people who deserve to be treated with respect regardless of who they are.  Human lives mean something, but Satan, who is the destroyer of our souls and bodies wishes to make us believe we are worthless.  He is a liar.

Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks, so is he.

23 When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
Consider carefully what is before you;
And put a knife to your throat
If you are a man given to appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies,
For they are deceptive food.Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.Do not eat the bread of a miser,[a]
Nor desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.
The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up,
And waste your pleasant words.

These verses talk about deceptive words from gluttons and misers.  In their heart they are against you, but outwardly their actions try and convince you that they are your friend.  Our actions begin in the heart, or mind.  Our mind thinks a thought which immediately produces emotions, usually negative ones, although this can work positively as well, but our carnal minds are often the source of a great deal of anxiety.  We create dramas in our own imaginations which then lead us to take action in ways which we never would if we believed the truth. This is why faith is substance and evidence.  It is not JUST a thought or belief.  Thoughts produce actions, faith produces works. So many believers get confused about James’ letter thinking he is talking about works producing salvation. That is NOT what he said.  He said what you believe will change how you act. Your belief in the gospel will cause you to do works which are the result of that faith. Thoughts produce action, either to the glory of God or the glorification of the flesh.

It is possible to have an intellectual assent to God’s truth, but unless you actually believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in you, you won’t act on it.  Today, I acted on a lie which produced death, then later, I acted on a truth which produced life. My works, my actions, were a result of what I believed, my faith.

God is truth.  He speaks the truth always.  So as we immerse ourselves in His Word, and allow His Spirit to speak to us through the Word, we will begin to think as He thinks.  We will have the mind of Christ.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1

10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment

Our minds are to be united to Christ’s, just as our minds together as brothers and sisters should be united so that there be no divisions amongst us.  On a wider level, most church splits have come about because of divisions which arise when one person speaks one thing and somebody else disagrees with them, and the thoughts give rise to emotions which cause actions and those actions can produce acrimony and dramatic tensions which inevitably become grave estrangements from one another as Christians.  This is how different sects and denominations have formed.  Not because God wills it. Some might suggest that because Paul and Barnabas disagreed it is OK to have disagreements which create splits in churches.  But this isn’t the kind of disagreement they had.  They were still of one mind regarding Christ and the gospel, they simply disagreed regarding the fate of one individual who happened to be related to Barnabas.  And later in Scripture you will read that this was no acrimonious split, Paul and Barnabas were still relating to each other.

Our minds have a great capacity to create imaginary scenarios which we believe to be true.  We may not necessarily be deceived, but we don’t sit down and think things through. More importantly, we don’t take everything to the Lord in prayer and wait on the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom. We can hear from the Lord, scripture tells us so. Romans 12:2 is a classic example of this.

We need to take every stray thought captive to Him, and ensure that we are focusing our minds on Him throughout the day.

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

The Upside of Rejection

 

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Is Shunning biblical?  Short answer – yes.

But lets look more closely at the term shunning. When I use this term, I mean the isolation and rejection of and by people in your social circle and family. It is behviour that has been used by cults to get compliance to orders from their members, and it has also been used by churches to describe the discipline that is metered out to those who won’t listen when they are told to stop sinning. The two are actually very different.

Paul gave the churches instruction on how to deal with reprobates. He frequently told his people ‘from such turn away’, usually from false teachers and brethren who were wasting the church’s time and energy. 2 Timothy 3:5 and 1 Timothy 6:5 are two examples of this. Paul spoke about false teachers being twice cursed (Galatians 1), Peter talked about false teachers and their effects on the church in 2 Peter, and John the apostle talked about false teachers in his second epistle saying that those who greeted them ‘shared in their evil deeds’.

So, if by shunning you mean having nothing more to do with those who refuse to stop preaching false gospels, then it is definitely biblical.

There is even a story told by John’s disciple Polycarp which spoke of the fact that on one instance when John had heard that there was a known false teacher, Cerinthus,  in the bathing house he was going to he left in a hurry, convinced that the roof would fall in because of this person. Now that is the fear of God. Whatever happened to that kind of reverence for the gospel?

Nowadays, there is no such concern among most of the church going public. Those who consider themselves Christian seem to have no real concern about false teachers or their influence. They happily read, listen to and even greet false teachers with open arms. There is no fear of God, no wisdom and no desire for spiritual things. They would not go to the lengths that scripture demands, to avoid false teachers, most church-going Christians today would not even recognise a false teacher because they are so used to false teaching from their own pastors.

Then there is the ‘shunning’ or ‘sending away’ which occurs when churches use the biblical method of disciplining those who refuse to change their behaviour when they have been confronted a number of times by church members.(Matthew 18).  The sort of behaviour I am talking about is usually confined to sexual immorality or abuse. It is the end run of the sort of pastoral care that involves taking church members to task for the kinds of behaviour that affect other church members and even whole churches. It is necessary for the morale and faith of the whole congregation and it is usually not done often and only towards the most reprobate of offenders. It is the equivalent of sending somebody to prison for their crimes. Except in church environments it is used prayerfully and not without a great deal of pain and concern by all involved. Nobody uses the ‘sending away’ principle on a whim, and hopefully there will also be follow through. If the offender refuses to change and does not come back to the church that is their decision. But in most cases, there will be an opportunity for that person to come back when they are ready. Prayer and fasting is usually involved by all concerned.

The ‘shunning’ which is practiced by controlling churches is a different matter however. This type of shunning involves church members literally running away from you if they see you in the street. They will justify their behaviour by saying that the person who left, or was kicked out, is a ‘bad influence’ and they need to oust this person in order to save the offender’s souls. This is not usually the case. The shunning that is done is purely motivated by the flesh and is in fact a punishment for not doing what they are told unquestioningly by their abusive leaders. Most people who are shunned by cults and controlling churches are shunned because they have had the courage to speak up about the abuse. It is not a badge of dishonour, it is more of an indicator of who the church members themselves are.

I want to point out the difference at this juncture between shunning and the issue of ‘going no contact’ with abusive relatives and friends.

If shunning is avoiding spiritual poison, then ‘going no contact’ is about avoiding emotional poison; reprobates and those who refuse to stop abusing you. It may seem like a no brainer, but most people who have been involved in long term abuse have had their brains re-wired. I am not a neuro-surgeon. But I have read a great deal about brainwashing and neuro-plasticity which is the study of the brains’ ability to change the way it thinks. When you have been raised by an abuser, or been strongly influenced by an older sibling who is an abuser, you are taught to think the way the abuser wants you to think. You may grow up believing that you are a good, nice, caring person who serves others and wants to do good for them. In fact, you have been wired to think that this is what you are. You will go out of your way to avoid conflict, you will feel extremely uncomfortable whenever anyone else is angry or upset and you will do whatever you can to defuse stressful or threatening situations, usually by avoiding the person who causes them or doing things that make or keep them happy. If you can’t do that, you will probably end up going out of your way to get into their good books by doing more than you need to do, working harder, or bending over backwards by giving them what they want.

This is a recipe for your personal disaster and nobody has ever gained anything by living this way, except of course the abuser. But the abused person will not even think they are being abused. They will tell you that their abuser is a great person, has many good qualities etc. Sure, they say, he or she may be a bit short tempered and ‘I don’t really like it when they….(fill in the blank) ….but they are definitely not abusive’. The abuser is a nice guy, the victim of the abuse is a nice guy and we all get along famously. Until you get sick  or face some kind of personal difficulty which prevents you being their slave, or finally answer the clue phone and decide you have had enough of being stabbed in the back, treated like a doormat and taken for granted. Then the mouse will roar. However, what the victim needs to recognise is that they were never a mouse to begin with. They actually began life with their own personality, varied, wonderful, talented and quirky, fun to be with, free, happy and enjoying life. It was only when their parent/older sibling/relative began to use them for their own ends that the otherwise joyful child becomes fearful, withdrawn and subservient. Behold, another victim of abuse is created. And your creator is your abuser.

The objects of this kind of abuse is very good at reading people and empathising, anticipating needs and assessing risks. You are a good analyst both of situations and people. You are also probably pathologically terrified of people, in particular those types of people who resemble the abuser you grew up with; namely, narcissists and sociopaths. It takes a huge amount of time and energy for people in this situation to get to the point that they understand what happened to them, that they are not who they have been told they are – compliant, obsequious and servile. You fully believe that you are a great person, although deep down you really don’t like yourself very much. In fact, when you are having a bad day, you actually feel a lot of self-hate because you know instinctively that this is not the sort of life that you want, nor are you the sort of person you were created to be.In fact, to borrow a much loved phrase from A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh,

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

You need to be able to speak up about the abuse, you need to break the silence which has been forced upon you by your abuser, and you need to be able to hear yourself say ‘no’ to them. This will inevitably drag up all of your worst fears, and they are well founded. Most abusers have legendary tempers and you will h ave to face that when you tell them you don’t want to have any more to do with them. Abusers are not open to discussion, they are not reasonable and pliable people. There is a reason they are abusers. So when you speak up, you have to face what you have been avoiding for years.

We do not encourage anybody to speak up to their abuser without a great deal of help and support from others who understand the toxic dynamics of the situation. You need prayer, whether you are a Christian or not, because you are facing, and wrestling with, spiritual forces of wickedness. This is why you have been under so much pressure, you have not just been dealing with a human abuser, you have been dealing with a demonic one as well. Therefore it is a fait accomplis that you will have to break off all connection with them sooner or later for your own mental health. You can no longer continue to live as a slave to somebody else’s moods and whims. You must find yourself again and you must learn to use your voice, your authentic voice, not the one that the abuser gave you, which in effect is their own voice. You have been like the character of Echo in the Greek Myth of Narcissus. She was not able to use her own voice, only to echo back the last words of her lover Narcissus. She was previously a very talkative person who loved to have the last word. She was cursed by Juno because by her talking she distracted Juno and allowed Juno’s adulterous husband’s lovers to get away from her. Echo used to be somebody else, but she became a shadow of her former self, literally, and faded away to nothing as all echoes inevitably do.

As lifelong victims of serial abusers, we learn to echo their words, adore and worship them and throw our lives away in pursuit of their attention and love, only to be rejected and shunned by them.

Now, it feels like shunning to reject and cut off contact from these abusers, but in actual fact you have to do this in order to regain your authentic self. As a Christian, it is important to know who you are before God in order to be able to relate to him honestly and truthfully. We worship Him in Spirit and in truth therefore we need to be able to recognise that our personalities are not what we had previously thought.

Rejection has an up-side. If you are rejecting abuse, slavery and bullying and the people who use these forms of perverted relationship then you are rejecting deception, lies and the castration of your soul. This can only be a good thing. Moreover, once you are no longer living the lie that your abuser forced you to live, you can see the world, and in fact your God in a completely different light and you will be able to partake of the eternal life that God promises us through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Heart Transplant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ezekiel 11:19,20

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

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

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

1 Samuel 10:6

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

1 Samuel 10:9

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

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

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

Psalm 51:10

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

Psalm 16:7

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

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

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

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

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

God bless,

Steve and Anita

Searching For The Body

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Mark 5 (New King James)

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

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

John 11 (New King James)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 24

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

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

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

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

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

There are of course other bodies.

The bodies of Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Everybody Hates You

 

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John 7:7

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

John 15:18

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

John 15:19

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

John 17:14

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

1 John 3:13

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

1 John 2:15

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

1 John 3:14

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

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

Last Christian Standing

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As I write this the vestiges of ex-cyclone Debbie have passed over Brisbane. For the last couple of days it has been a howling gale. This morning a peaceful composition of golden sunlight and cool wind gusts.  Brisbane doesn’t get cyclones thank God, but we always get at least a week of rain every time a cyclone hits the mid-east coast of Queensland.  It’s not normal rain, its a deluge. In fact on the radar you can still see the old eye and the clouds circling around it, much slower than before but the pattern is still clear.  These last few days have made me think of Noah and how it would have been to be the only Christian family in a world gone mad.  Genesis 6:5 tells it like this:

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually

In the Mount Olivet discourse, Jesus told us that the last days, the days before His return, the situation would be very similar to the days of Noah.  People would be unaware of the coming of judgement.  They would be giving in marriage and feasting as though tomorrow would in fact come.  But their works would mark them out as evil.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

This is what many are seeing now and are agreeing that we are in the end times before Jesus return. In fact, it is the reference to Noah’s day that makes me believe in a pre-tribulation catching away of the church into heaven for the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Who would be giving in marriage when the world is in intense trauma the like of which nobody had ever seen before?  You would certainly be looking for the return of Christ at such a time, or at least the appearance of a saviour, you would not be gaily planning the rest of your life.

Jesus is not the only one who spoke of end time falling away from the faith. Paul mentioned it to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3. In fact Paul’s words mirror those of Jesus.

 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

While Paul may have been referring to current events, and Christians since Pentecost would have been looking upward for Jesus return, the fact that 2000 years later we are seeing events take place which would not have been able to occur historically should give us pause.  There is a great deal written about end times prophecies on the internet, but I want to ask you this.  What would you do if everyone around you forsook Jesus and you were the last Christian left standing.    Remember Elijah?

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.15 And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:

16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

Elijah was another prophet who endured climate upheaval and communed with God.  He had come to a place of utter despair because of the severe testing and opposition he had from demonic principalities and powers.  He felt he was in the last days himself, but God assured him that there were indeed seven thousand others.  That is quite a number. I would be more than happy with seven thousand friends who believed the same way I did.  Even if that number was worldwide. It would be much more comforting if they were in my city of course. But I have been asking myself the same question.  What would I do if everyone else I knew had fallen away?  Would I still stand firm?  You can’t just gloss this one over.  The situation in churches worldwide is desperate.  False doctrines which used to be just here and there now seem to be converging on the church at a rate of knots;  New Age philosophies, Seeker Sensitive watering down of the Word. Sin and repentance and the Cross are now just fairytales, as many so called Christian pastors are preaching a gospel which excludes biblical truths and focuses instead on narratives which only look Christian but are in fact kool-aide laced with cyanide.

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Jesus said that if we followed Him we would endure persecution. The problem for many Christians these days is that not only are we receiving persecution from the world we are receiving it from others who profess Christ as their saviour.  Historically, this is not uncommon. Protestants have been slaughtered by Catholics, Protestants have slaughtered other Protestants.  I even read recently that in the early days of America, the Quakers were persecuted by the Puritans.  Mind you in Cromwellian England, the Puritans persecuted just about everybody.  It is truly disturbing what some people will do in the name of Jesus.

However, for us, it is not so much persecution as peaceful protest.  We walk into a Baptist church and find that they are not Baptist at all, they are preaching a neo-liberal, post-modern, eco-gospel and going on about living in ‘intentional community’ with the urban poor.  We try talking to the pastors about this but have distractions thrown up in our face. They are not interested in discussing false doctrine, they want you to keep your concerns to yourself, they are perfectly happy being double-minded. Last year they hosted a ‘Friends of Israel’ meeting at their church, this year they are adamantly pro-Palestinian. WHY?

I was watching a video of US ambassador to Israel Nikki Haley explaining that the Trump government were now supporting Israel, the only democratic country in the Middle East. She reported that an attempt to place a Palestinian representative in a high ranking position in the UN was met with unmitigated opposition and apparently nixed.  This is good news to many supporters of Israel.  It concerns us greatly that a church should suddenly shift its allegiances.  However, when you look at the fact that they have taken on a new pastor couple who have recently graduated from a bible college which is pro-liberal and supports such speakers as Shane Claiborne, the picture becomes much clearer.  Claiborne along with many liberals is pro-Palestinian.  Why?  Because people like Claiborne are being used by the powers that be to introduce a world religion which is slowly but surely taking over the visible church.  What is deeply troubling is that so many are simply following the pied piper into destruction.  Actually now that I think about it, the Pied Piper wore a coat of many colours.  This new ‘religion’ of the Liberal left is one which conflates all the world religions into one, disparages the Bible as no longer the inerrant Word of God, and claims Jesus is not the only way to God.  The pipers, or seducers of this new religion are playing a tune which many people can dance to.  Yet it is the same lie the serpent spoke to Eve. You don’t need God, you can be like God instead.

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An article on my newsfeed yesterday told me that in Indonesia recently a python was found which had swallowed the body of a man whole.  I won’t post the picture as it was pretty disturbing.  You can find it if you look for it.  But the thought of a python swallowing a human is profound. The python Spirit in scripture is the spirit of divination.  In Acts 16, Paul and Silas went to Philippi and met a girl possessed with the spirit.  She worked as a prophetess and told fortunes for money.

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.

This is an extract from Wikipedia about the Python spirit of divination.

There are various versions of Python’s birth and death at the hands of Apollo. In the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, now thought to have been composed in 522 BCE when the archaic period in Greek history was giving way to the Classical period,[4] a small detail is provided regarding Apollo’s combat with the serpent, in some sections identified as the deadly Drakaina, or her parent.

The version related by Hyginus[5] holds that when Zeus lay with the goddess Leto, and she was to deliver Artemis and Apollo, Hera was jealous and sent Python to pursue Leto throughout the lands, so that she could not deliver wherever the sun shone. Thus when Apollo was grown he wanted to avenge his mother’s plight and pursued Python, making his way straight for Mount Parnassus where the serpent dwelled, and chased it to the oracle of Gaia at Delphi; there he dared to penetrate the sacred precinct and kill it with his arrows beside the rock cleft where the priestess sat on her tripod. Robert Graves, who habitually read into primitive myths a retelling of archaic political and social turmoil, saw in this the capturing by Hellenes of a pre-Hellenic shrine. “To placate local opinion at Delphi,” he wrote in The Greek Myths, “regular funeral games were instituted in honour of the dead hero Python, and her priestess was retained in office.”

The politics are conjectural, but the myth reports that Zeus ordered Apollo to purify himself for the sacrilege and instituted the Pythian Games, over which Apollo was to preside, as penance for his act.

Erwin Rohde wrote that the Python was an earth spirit, who was conquered by Apollo, and buried under the Omphalos, and that it is a case of one god setting up his temple on the grave of another.[6] The priestess of the oracle at Delphi became known as the Pythia, after the place-name Pytho, which Greeks explained as named after the rotting (πύθειν) of the slain serpent’s corpse in the strength of Hyperion (day) or Helios (the sun).[7

It is clear to me that the spirit behind the New Religion which is being forced upon the church is the Python Spirit. It is squeezing the life out of genuine believers.  Satan wants to destroy the true Christians of this age, and he will do this by bringing in the New Age as he has been doing for centuries, slowly and carefully.  This is a long game, and he is in no hurry, but currently, the changes are happening so fast it is our concern that believers are being overtaken without knowledge and without warning.

We need to consider what might happen if everyone we know turns against us to this new religion, and we are left the last Christian standing.  I don’t believe we will be truly alone, because just as God had his seven thousand in the days of Elijah, so he will have at present.

It is interesting that I heard a wonderful and stirring hymn the other day called ‘The Days of Elijah’.  Here are the lyrics.

Days Of Elijah

These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the word of the Lord, yeah
And these are the days of Your servant Moses
Righteousness being restored

These are the days of great trials
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

Say, behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call
Lift your voice, year of Jubilee
Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes

And these are the days of Ezekiel
The dry bones becoming flesh
And these are the days of Your servant, David
Rebuilding a temple of praise

And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are all white in Your world
And we are the laborers that are in Your vineyard
Declaring the Word of the Lord

Say, behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call
Lift your voice, year of Jubilee
Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call
Lift your voice, year of Jubilee
Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes

So while the world is being rapidly changed by agents of the enemy, we remain and we stand, having put on the armour of God.  We occupy until He comes.  We will ever look to the skies awaiting His return and looking for the blessed hope who is He who both sustains and keeps us in these last days. May all my brothers and sisters, the true believers who are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ link together in the Holy Spirit and pray for endurance.  We will need it.

God bless you all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What A Successful Christian Looks Like

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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!

Me Lost Me Cookie At the Disco

cookie monster

Cookie Monster: The lights were shining
The night was fine
And me was having a real great time
Then me got careless
Me don’t know how
But me had something me can’t find now!

(chorus) Me lost me cookie at the disco

Cookie Monster: The mood exciting
The music loud
Me just a part of that happy crowd
Me feet go crazy
Across the floor
But something made my sweetie not be there no more!

One Sunday over Christmas, Steve and I visited the sort of church we are almost never in.  We visited out of curiosity but also out of familiarity because the last time we were in the city we had been in this church and enjoyed our visit.  It was a couple of decades later however and a lot had changed.

The interior of the church was black.  We kind of expected that since we had checked out their internet site.  But we stayed to talk to the pastors at the door anyway.

Within about ten minutes of us being there, we noticed that the stage down the front was looking a little blurry.  I turned to the Pastor we were speaking to and asked him if that was a smoke machine down the front and he said that it was.  He put the blame on ‘them’ whoever they were and said that ‘they’ loved having the smoke machines.

As time progressed, we found a seat and waited for the meeting to start.  We generally, like the cowards we are, like being at the back just in case we need to make a quick getaway.  On this occasion however it proved useful.  As soon as the music started, the strobe lights began.  The whole building was dark, there was a stage with all the rock instruments you could want, there was a young woman wearing a very short skirt and holding a microphone and there was a smoke machine and strobe lights.  The only thing that could complete the picture was a mirror ball.

Why do churches do this?

I mean really, why?

Look at the logic behind it, it makes no sense.  Out in the world, people go to discos, or nightclubs or rock concerts to do one of three things – generally.  They are either there to hook up with somebody, they are there to buy or consume drugs, or they are there to hang out with their friends, switch off their brains and drink themselves to oblivion.  All in all, the intent is to forget their lives, which are meaningless, fear-laden and filled with dysfunctional relationships.  And if things are going well, they still go to the pub, club, or friends places to do the same things. Such is life in the world.

So the logic in the seeker-sensitive churches is – we will entice the unchurched into church by making a church look like a club or disco.  Because that’s where people go to ‘have a good time’ without recognising that the time they are having is not ‘good’ at all, it is perverse. But then you have to actually be saved from out of this perverse generation in order to recognise that. So once people are in the ‘church’, we will do the classic bait and switch. We will wham them with the gospel and they will get saved.  Maybe.  I mean would you bother getting saved if there was no difference between life inside and outside the church? What would be the point.  In fact, most seeker sensitive churches don’t preach the gospel or anything like it.  They waffle, they tell people that heaven will be a party, they refuse to mention sin, repentance or the cross because that might, gasp, be offensive, and then they wonder why their congregations have the maturity of three year olds.

The average person in the street is not that stupid. They do not think that a church looking like a disco actually is a disco.  Nor do they consider that they will be able to do any of the above disco related activities in a church because they will generally expect that a church would not encourage them – being a church, a place of worshipping God. Most people  know at some level that they are sinning by getting drunk, doing drugs, having sex and ignoring God.   What sinners are looking for is answers to life’s problems. And, being intelligent, they assume that because what they are doing doesn’t work, that what does work will be something different.  They just haven’t found it yet. Similar to the tenet that insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over in the hope that something will change.

The problem with seeker-sensitive churches is that they are announcing to the world that they don’t actually have the answer to life’s problems, and they are expecting the world to tell them what to do next.  This is a total abdication of truth, it is also a cowardly refusal to actually seek the Lord to know His mind on how to reach the lost.  They have sold their soul in order to be friends with the world, in order to save the world.  Nope, doesn’t work. Not only that, but scripture (James 4:4) tells us that if you are friends with the world you are an enemy of God. WOW.  How did the SS churches miss that one? They missed it because they don’t read their Bibles, nor do they have any genuine faith. In fact, I would have to say that most of them are either not saved, or are just baby Christians who have never grown up.

But back to our church visit. Well, we certainly did lose something at this disco. In fact, it wasn’t just us.  The church had lost its whole reason for being.  We didn’t stay to listen to any preaching, but really, we didn’t think that this would be an issue.  If this is how they believe churches should appeal to people in post-modern society, they really had lost the plot.  And I guess they also lost the Holy Spirit, because nobody had any idea how to worship the Lord in that environment at all.

 I was beginning to wonder if I was going to go blind because every time the strobe lights whirled around they hit me right at eye level.  I don’t know whose idea that was, but it was completely ridiculous.  You couldn’t concentrate on anything that was going on at the front, because you were continually shielding your eyes against the lights.  It was like being blinded by somebody’s car headlights on high beam at night, and just as enjoyable.

We stayed ten minutes and left. Just before we left, I disappeared to the bathroom, and Steve talked briefly with a young guy who came and sat next to him.  He told Steve he only came there for the music.  Which was a little sad, because frankly, the ‘worship leader’ couldn’t sing. What was interesting was that this young guy who just came for the music clearly wasn’t a Christian.  He was like a guy on the street who just came in to sit for a while and enjoy the free disco. So, yeah, to some degree their devious plan worked.  It got one guy off the street and inside.  But with nobody to tell him the gospsel?  He was sadly going to stay lost.