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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A TimeTo Speak and A Time To Be Silent

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This is an old blog post from around 2008.  The original blog ‘Tales From The Crypt’ is now deleted, but the blog was my attempt to make sense of what happened to us when we left the cult.  I kept that blog going for 6 years, and it helped some people, and gained some traction when the ABC documentary exposed the cult. I should probably apologise for some of the language ahead of time. I left it in because it reminds me of who I was back then.

OLD BLOG POST

You know, there comes a time when you feel the need to speak up about your experiences. Then there is a time when you recognise that you probably need to just shut up about it. That usually comes when you realize that there are a lot of people out there who actually don’t give a crap. The ones who do give a crap are going to support you anyway whether you have been through a traumatic experience or not. The ones who actively work against you aren’t worth talking to. It’s difficult to determine who is the right and best person to hear your story. It’s a slow journey.

I have made a lot of mistakes telling my story to the wrong people and for the wrong reasons.

We told one of the Pastors at an extremely large church (founded by ex-MCF members)  here in Melbourne about our plight, hoping that we could find a fellowship that would be supportive and nurturing. Now, that was not a sin, and it wasn’t a mistake. We did a very normal thing for a Christian to do. We went to a pastor who by his own confession and trade is a professional carer. We contacted him, he made it clear that he was willing to talk further, and then invited us over to his house for a meal. We just assumed that we had found somebody caring enough to want to help us.

Here, I would like to make a point of saying that in my experience as a christian, I have not met that many pastors who know what they are doing. Too many young men go into the ministry with bright ideas, but no real understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, or level of compassion. Like any of the caring professions, I imagine people get worn down and forget to care for themselves. They get emotionally tired, stressed, dare I say cynical. They get sloppy, bad at what they are doing, and when they should have cut their losses, or looked for some help, they continue on in body while the spirit has left the building.

To the credit of this man and his wife, he listened for nearly four hours to a very intense story. It would have been exhausting.. At some point in our conversation, he must have figured he was either in over his head, or that he just didn’t have what it took to help us. He explained he was on his way to Canberra to some sort of political conference and couldn’t help us right now.. The impression we got was that his agenda was politics, and not pastoring. Now that is another subject entirely, but suffice to say he should not have met with us at all if his attention was focused on his own career, and not his job description. We weren’t part of his portfolio, so he passed us on to ‘somebody who can help you better than I can’. It was just a shame we spent so much time and emotional energy talking to someone who couldn’t help us.. We sent him a few emails after that trying to clarify a few issues, but his attitude was clearly that of somebody who had already decided he didn’t want anything else to do with us. Ok then.

So, he passed the buck. That meant we would have to go over the whole thing again with another complete stranger. Unfortunately, the complete stranger that we spoke to had previously spent 30 years in MCF and was still struggling with the fact that his daughter hadn’t left with him. He was clearly devastated and used the opportunity to spill out his agony to my husband when he phoned him. Still more unfortunately, my husband let drop that we were not attending a church. He told us we would lose our children if we didn’t immediately go back to a fellowship. At that point, we had just had enough. More accusations of irresponsible parenting, or ‘backsliding’ as a Christian (whatever the hell that actually means) we did not need. Besides, this gentleman was hardly in a position to be helping others since he had clearly not come to terms with his own grief on this issue. He was very intense and confrontational. So, lesson learned…you would think. You would be wrong.

Some time later, I made the mistake of telling my story to the administrator of a course that I had taken at my local TAFE college. I was not happy with the actions of a teacher who had some serious issues with misogynistic and inappropriate behaviour. I made some complaints to the administration, (who had confided in me that I wasn’t the first person to complain about this man) wasn’t getting anywhere, and felt that if I explained my background to these people, they would understand why I was felt so distressed by the behaviour of this teacher. I was wrong. I was essentially giving them a reason to not follow through with my complaints. Instead of allowing the issue to hang on its own merits, I sought to give it some extra oomph by explaining my personal interests in attending a college which took some effort to make sure its teachers were not abusing their positions. What happened instead was that my ‘history’ now mitigated my complaints, and actually lessened the potency of my case against this teacher. I became the ‘cult survivor’ with all of the insinuations that carries about my alleged emotional and mental stability, rather than just being a concerned female student. Although they went through the motions of passing the buck from one department through to the next, no real action was taken and I got tired of being ‘wrangled’. In the end, I felt I had exposed myself and my personal history in a way which did not honour myself, or even my own family for that matter, and the information was not treated with respect.

They were not ‘bad’ people as such, but I wasn’t using discretion, I was getting desperate enough to think that if I ‘confessed’ they would support me and deal with the teacher who was behaving inappropriately towards me. The fact is, this is exactly how I functioned at BCF. Confessing your struggles, your most intimate secrets, your bad experiences, your failures is a way of lifting the burden of guilt that you carry with you daily. Apart from that, you are expected to go to the ‘fathers’ in order to be matured as a christian. The more you lay yourself open to them, the greater your spirituality is supposed to be. It doesn’t work that way in practice however, everything you say is taken down as evidence and used against you at the soonest opportunity.

Only other cult survivors can truly understand what you have been through when you exit a cult. The trouble with that is, often cult survivors want to get as far away from the cult as they can, and that means they don’t want to socialize with other cult survivors that much. All you end up doing is rehashing the experience, and it can be ten times as stressful as talking to someone who doesn’t share your background. You are not only living your pain, you are living other’s pain as well. Despite that, you still need to construct a support group to replace the one which was so cruelly ripped away from you, so the process of recognizing and relating to emotionally healthy people is a very complex one. There is no such thing as pre-packaged premium grade materials with which to build a truly supportive and loving ‘family’ to replace the one which you either didn’t receive when you were born, or the one which you thought would do you in its stead, your local christian cult. So you are not only having to use some wisdom in knowing who to talk to, but you need to be able to bounce back from the inevitable disappointments and frustration of coming across people who are either completely incompatible with you (despite their initial apparent concern), or are actually out to use their position to take advantage of your vulnerability. Yes, life is a bitch. Or to put it more eloquently, small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life and few find it. But then, this is all part of the change of attitude I needed to espouse on coming out of the cult. Cults make everything black and white, right and wrong. Life just isn’t like that, and if you have a penchant for easy answers, real life has a way of knocking you back down every time you think you have got it all pegged. But then, I think everyone faces that frustration, not just cult survivors, its just much harder for us because our brains are hardwired to ignore the inevitable anomalies to our world view. When you exit, you have to find another world view. Therein lies the problem.

 

I was looking for emotional and personal support. I didn’t find it at college, I didn’t find it at the church we went to, I didn’t find it in my family (who are dysfunctional anyway) and I didn’t find it from the counselors I spoke to. Counsellors and psychologists who claim to be ‘good with cult survivors’ generally aren’t. Unless you have experienced it first hand, don’t even think that you know what you are talking about. It’s like a virgin looking up a sex manual and going, ‘yup, know what that’s all about’, and then teaching a sex education class. Not only will you be giving out faulty information, but those with experience are going to pick your lack of it very quickly and any credibility you may have had with the inexperienced is going to fly out the window. You will in short get your bottom kicked very quickly and you will deserve it. Unfortuntaely, nobody kicks the bottoms of most psychologists or counselors, they tend to just not go back to them if they aren’t good at what they do. I think the professionals tend to pass this off with the euphemistic phrase ‘not everyone is compatible’. They fail to see that sometimes they are just not good at what they do. So what’s the answer? When I was looking up scriptures while writing this post, I came upon that old group of couplets from Ecclesiastes 3:

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

 

What I think is interesting is the line in verse 8, ‘a time to love and a time to hate’. There is a time to hate. A time to hate what is evil. There is a time to tear down, and then there is a time to build. For us, these last four years have been a time to tear down. We have had to tear down the wrong, the evil, the bad, the destructive, the lies, the deceit, the toxic relationships, the friends who weren’t, and the family who had no capacity to love. We have had to deconstruct the world according to Meg and Burnie and replace that with the truth. Truth has to be sought. It doesn’t stare you in the face. If it did, Paul would never have had to be knocked off his horse. We have had our time of weeping, in fact, I wouldn’t like to say we are done yet, I think we have some weeping still to do. We have had our time of mourning, and our time of throwing away, our time for war. Now we are looking at a time to rebuild. Our time for healing from the destruction is now, and that means that we gather the wisdom we have gleaned from our mistakes, the mistakes we have made since leaving BCF, and we recognize that not everyone is our friend. Not everyone even makes a good friend. Not everyone who appears benign is so, not everyone who says ‘tell me your sorrows’ is genuinely good at listening. Not everyone with a title has the attributes of that title, not everyone with a profession is naturally gifted in that profession. I guess this is not exactly a revelation for most people, but it is what we have learned over the recent past.

I am overlooking the good in all of this however. There are people in this world who are compassionate, good at listening, selfless, patient and gentle. They are not as common as they need to be. Finding them takes time and effort, and for every time you think you have struck gold, be prepared to realize that fools gold is always more abundant than the genuine article and you are going to be disappointed now and then. Having said all that, God himself fills in the gaps that people leave. For as many times as you strike out, the comfort of God can give you encouragement which makes up for the frustration. He also gives you the ability to keep going long after you have grown tired of other people. Once you are stronger, you are able to accept other’s inadequacies, and you learn to lean on Jesus more often.

I was going to title this post ‘note to self’, but it applies to everyone I think. There is a time when you realize that the need to tell your story is completely valid, but your story is so important that you make a lot of mistakes trying to find the right avenue for it. You need to talk, that much is absolutely vital. I still need to talk. I need to get past those tapes in my head which still say ‘who the hell do you think you are’ every time I voice an opinion. After the initial gush of talking, when you find your voice, you discover the elegant, subtle and much overlooked virtue of discretion, and recognize that you have the unrestricted power to choose what you will say to whom, and how and when you will speak. It is an unadulterated pleasure to me to think well before I speak, and to make my decisions with the maximum of forethought rather than being hasty and deciding because I feel pressured by someone else. I am even learning the art of the well-timed retort to presumptuous questions; learning I say, not good at.

Telling your story is important, and when the urgency has faded to a low roar, you are more in a position to choose your words wisely. This is a skill learned slowly and carefully, and not one I would insist on for those who have recently come out of abuse. Your need to talk is too great and I wouldn’t want to smother anyone. To each, the wisest course is best discovered in their own way and time.

How Can I Know I am Deceived?

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It is something of a paradox.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God keep us all from deception and false teachers.

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.

You Can’t Serve God and Mormon

zacharias
Ligonier Ministries discussion

Steve and I listened to an informative video the other night.  It was a recording from the 2007 Ligonier Ministries conference.  I can’t post it because WordPress won’t let me but here is the link. It was a conversation regarding the errors of the post-modern liberal theology which has permeated the evangelical church over the last two decades.  The three men discussing this were Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler.  They were intelligent erudite and entertaining.  Each speaker in his own way had an eloquence which only professors at university who speak for a living could have.

We were enthralled and we also appreciated the wisdom of the combined years and experience that these men had.  Its actually a real shame that not many younger Christians appreciate the perspective that age can give.  The longer you live, the more you see because time has given you an understanding that you simply cannot have when you are younger.  It is almost impossible to explain that to a young person, and they will not appreciate what you are saying because you can’t until you age.  It’s a puzzlement.

I had heard of these men before but didn’t really know much about them.  As they were talking however, it dawned on me that their orientation seemed to be leaning towards Calvinistic beliefs. Sure enough, when I did some research, both Mohler and Sproul are firmly reformed in their theology.  Al Mohler is currently president of the Southern Baptist Convention in the States and is what is termed a ‘New Calvinist’.  R.C. Sproul  is a Calvinist theologian and founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries.  Ravi Zacharias is not a Calvinist I believe, but is well known as a speaker and author and apologist.

Ravi Zacharias in particular was very droll and charming and had a way of speaking which made you want to hear more.  He was more of a story teller than anything I think.  Their strong distaste and concern for the errors of post-modernist theology were helpful to us as we realised that the problems in the Emerging church have actually been around for many decades, even centuries.  Sproul even playfully suggested that Satan was a post-modernist since his lie to Eve “Did God really say?” was the essence of emerging thought.

But even as we listened to these gentlemen, something was not sitting right with me.   The more I listened to them, the more I realised that in actual fact a lot of their statements were wrong.  We are not Calvinists, and don’t agree with the five points of Calvinist theology, believing they are neither defensible nor biblical.  But while I previously mentioned the wisdom and experience these men have, there is also a disturbing arrogance which came with it, and its not the first time I have seen this.

John MacArthur, a popular Reformed pastor with his own Bible commentary, is another Calvinist of this stripe.  Yet there are many who have left his Grace Community church believing it is a cult due to the way they are treated and the utter refusal to brook any dissension.  These are two of the biggest pointers to spiritual abuse.  If pastors will not discuss concerns with members of the congregations or even visitors to the congregation, they are not allowing for the possibility of error.  And even if they are not in error, they should still be able to converse civilly with those who disagree with them or have concerns.  Not so John Macarthur.  There are more issues that I have with Mr. MacArthur’s theology and that of John Calvin, but I don’t want to talk about that here.

I wanted to mention how much these men were name dropping.  They talked about the various universities they had taught at and the various people they knew and it was like a very subtle competition. But you could see that they revelled in the fact that they were well known and sought after speakers.  There is nothing wrong with being famous, but it seems no human being can cope with it for too long without it going to his head.  My concern was that their fame had changed who they were as Christians. There was little in the way of humility and some of Sproul’s jokes were disrespectful to God’s word and fairly tasteless.

Added to this, there seemed to be a marked sense of being in a good ole boys club. and not only that but that they recounted incidents in which they had changed their minds on issues within a day or so of some great man or other telling them that they disagreed with them.

Al Mohler mentioned that he had held very strong egalitarian views on women in the church when he was at University and when he had stated these views to a visiting complementarian speaker whom he very much admired, he immediately (overnight) changed his viewpoint.  This speaker had told him that his (Mohler’s) views were an embarrassment and immediately Mohler decided to look into why it was that his hero of the faith felt this way.  When a young man changes his mind that quickly because a famous man tells him to, you can be sure that he doesn’t really know what he believes.  You can’t do a thorough study of either approaches to the subject of women in the church overnight, and in order to really understand what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church on this matter, you need more than a few hours prayer.  Mohler claimed that he had not been influenced at all by the words of the visiting speaker, yet evidence would tend to suggest otherwise.

Likewise Ravi Zacharias who seems to have slid into false teaching very quickly, told the story of his invitation by the Mormon Church to speak at the LDS Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City in 2004.  Initially he said he turned it down, he did not explain why this was.  But then he apparently was accosted by everyone from his wife to famous Christian authors and pastors like James Dobson, psychologist and founder of Focus on the Family and Charles Colson former counsel  to President Richard Nixon. These are not minor Christian celebrities. All of them told him to accept the invitation to speak, they told him that it was necessary for him to be there, presumably to preach the gospel.  Now not once did Zacharias mention what God wanted him to do, he was completely focused it seemed on what everyone around him, especially influential famous men, wanted him to do.  I do not believe he should have gone to preach there since scripture tells us to have nothing to do with false teachers. Not only that but Ravi Zacharias has a history of ecumenist preaching and attempting to ‘dialogue’ with false teachers, as though being friends will make other people more open to listening to what you have to say.  It didn’t do a thing for the Middle East conflict and will never do so.  You can’t be friends with people who hate your guts and want to destroy you.  It is the same when you are talking to a cult which has had a strong presence in the U.S. for many years and actually believes it is a Christian church.  They are not.  Ravi Zacharias was not preaching the gospel of repentance from sin, he was trying to compare notes about what they do believe.  They do not worship the same God or the same Jesus.  Why on earth would a cult want Ravi Zacharias to preach to them in the first place.  There is something profoundly disturbing in the fact that a false religion likes a particular Christian apologist’s messages. That tells me that Zacharias’ preaching is far too watered down to actually do anybody any good.

It is important to recognise a number of things here.  You can be preaching a false message and still be a great speaker and a charming person.  You can be preaching a false message about one issue and a true one on another issue.  And thirdly, even if, like Mohler and Sproul your theology is deeply flawed, you can still have biblical beliefs on a number of issues such as the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.  It is even more proof that we need as Christians in these last days, to test the Spirits, to keep our bibles with us at all times, and to do some research if we sense within our spirits that something just doesn’t sound right.

When Steve and I were in BCF, there were a lot of times when I knew something was wrong, I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  It wasn’t until we left that we were able to understand the gravity of the error. It’s too easy to sit passively and be entertained or informed, but you must always have your critical thinking cap on, first of all dowsed in the blood of Jesus Christ so that you will have the mind of Christ and you will know whether what you are hearing is right or not.

The Resistible Revolutionary

shane-claiborne

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

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

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

And another one..

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

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

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

sheldon

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dissenting Life

sock puppet
Sock puppets don’t talk back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anita Brady

From Such Turn Away

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Dead Oak Tree – Ansell Adams

God has taught us a great deal about reprobates.  One hard lesson we had to learn was that the leaders of the cult we left were not just false teachers but reprobates.  As such, they are twice cursed, and God himself will reject them ‘Depart from me for I never knew you’.

Not only did we need to recognise that the leaders of the cult we were in were reprobates, but that we ourselves were cursed because of our involvement with these reprobates.  Paul tells Timothy to turn away from them, Paul curses them, Peter tell us that the blackness of darkness is forever reserved for them, and John tells us that if we even greet them we are partakers in their wickedness. I think that these warnings are enough for us to wash our hands of them, shake the dust of their villages from our shoes and walk away.

This is hard for many people to do. 

It was hard for us to do. For a number of years we tried to work out what had happened.  We didn’t know. Were these people knowingly deceiving us, or were they themselves deceived?  Yes and Yes. Were they just led astray or were they truly evil?  Time has proven that one.  Over the years we held hope in our hearts for them. But when one of the elders we had known for a great many  years before the cult took hold of our church left, we questioned him.  His response was to tell us that he was as an innocent lamb.  He compared himself to Jesus who opened not his mouth at those who crucified Him. This man claimed to have been like Jesus when he had preached a false gospel for decades, led others down the path of destruction, taken part in destroying other people’s faith and family and even deliberately destroying people’s marriages.  He was not able to be reached, and he was a very old man.  We do not believe this man will be in heaven, he is too far gone, and as Paul said, ‘men will grow worse and worse’.  He is somebody we need to turn away from.

But for us, the most important question is not ‘how were we dragged into this’, but ‘Lord will you show us our hearts and help us to repent of ever having been involved with this false gospel and its practitioners’.  What is ironic is that the cult members are taught to shun people who leave.  If you see them in the streets, they literally turn away from you.  It is we who should be shunning them, not in retaliation, but in obedience to God, who himself shuns the false brethren and teachers who put heavy yokes on the necks of His people and then say they do nothing wrong.

For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we[b] do not lose those things we worked for, but that we[c] may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses[d] and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

2 John 2:7-10

12 But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, 13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children

2 Peter 2:12-14 (see whole chapter)

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

Galatians 1:6-9

It is all there in black and white, Peter, John and Paul all testify that those who preach a false gospel are reprobates who are cursed by God.  And those who follow the reprobates, support them, give them their money, eat with them, and agree with their teachings are likewise cursed.

I know this is a hard thing to digest, and initially we may not want to deal with this.  But I have to say that when you recognise this fact, repent of your involvement and ask God to forgive you, the blessings and freedom you experience are amazing.  Things will begin to happen in your life that you will find hard to process mentally because God will begin to bless you in the way He has always wanted to bless you before, but was unable. Because although you are out of the way of these false teachers, you are still excusing them, still visiting their websites, still fellowshipping with the ones who agree with them.  You can’t do any of these things and be free from the curse which taints them. Remove yourself from the reprobates, and separate yourself to God, and God will begin to work in your life in miraculous ways.

I wish I could tell everyone who has left our former cult about this, but I know that many of them would simply attack us for being judgemental.  So be it, only the Holy Spirit can open somebody’s eyes and we certainly didn’t do anything except read scripture. Even still, it has taken us 12 years to see the truth.

We trust that anyone reading these words will likewise be motivated to seek out the truth and realise what God tells us.  There are wicked and evil people who trample the truth underfoot and actively seek out innocent Christians to turn them against the true gospel in order to deceive them with the false, take their money and their adoration and make them like themselves.  Don’t do it, and don’t condone their behaviour.  They are cursed reprobates and will, as Paul warns, grow worse and worse with their ‘form of godliness’ which deceives thousands but must not deceive the elect.

Blessings,

Anita Brady

Monday Mornin’ Ministration

rainbow

A quick word of encouragement this wonderfully wet winter Monday morning…

If you are a genuine believer, every single decision of importance that you will ever make will be opposed by somebody else – especially other Christians.

About twelve years ago when we left the abusive religious group we were part of, we had to re-inspect every element of our belief system.  In fact, we had to recognise that a ‘belief system’ is not what Jesus died to give us.  We have a relationship with Him, and a part of the Kingdom of God and the Body of Christ.  We are united with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But we had to look at alot of issues we had not previously considered because we had lived in a religious bubble for 15 years. The world was much bigger than we thought.

Did we believe the gifts of the Spirit, miracles, casting out demons, speaking in tongues etc are still active today or not?  Were we cessationists or continuists?  I shake my head as I read that sentence.  We are brothers and sisters.  Thats.  It.  Yet, such is the environment today, there is far more error in the Christian church than we ever thought possible.  Our little cult experience was the thin end of the wedge. We still had to understand the arguments that well meaning believers put forward and understand what scriptures actually taught, rather than what somebody told us they taught.  We had lived in a church which did not practice any kind of faith in God, it was all about faith in men and in erroneous religious traditions.  We had to learn to weigh the arguments and decide for ourselves, a scary thought. So, in the end, we settled in our hearts that yes, we believe the Holy Spirit is the same yesterday, today and forever, and He still heals, still delivers us from the enemy, still sets us free, still heals the brokenhearted!

Then there was the old ‘place of women in the church’ issue.  Did we believe it was OK for women to preach in the church or did we believe that women should ‘remain silent’. Having spent 15 years being told everything that went wrong anywhere was the fault of women, more specifically wives not ‘obeying their husbands or the elders’ and watching women’s marriages and families torn apart by controlling meddlers who claimed the right to separate what God had joined together, you can imagine we were not all for ‘submission to men’ by all christian women or anything like it.  I am not a complentarian, nor am I an egalitarian.  I am a woman, filled with the Spirit, who obeys what the Spirit tells me to do.  I don’t go to a church, so I don’t have to worry about offending somebodys religious sensibilities, if God wants me to preach the gospel to somebody I do, if God wants me to teach somebody something from the scriptures I do, and I don’t get hung up about labels.

But here’s the thing.  After 12 years of having to weigh options, pray through and make choices about what we believe, we have realised one very important thing.  Whichever position you take, you need to take it in faith and you need to cling to Jesus with all of your heart and resist the devil because he will oppose you. He will bring doubts, fears and worries about ‘what other people will think’ to you.  These thoughts, my friends, are the same thoughts which assail the unsaved.  Fear of men is universal.  It is NOT from God!

Whichever belief you hold, you will be attacked for it, especially on the internet.  If you are a Calvinist, you will hate Arminians. If you are a Baptist you will hate Pentecostals.  I am obviously making sweeping statements here to make a point.  I am against siding with any dead white theologian of any stripe, with the possible exception of Paul and the Apostles.  I hate the anger and the hostility and the abuse which is thrown around by some of those claiming to be ‘watchmen’ for the body of Christ. If you believed these men everyone who didn’t believe exactly what they believed would be going to hell. In my experience, they need to be ‘watching’ their own attitudes because these often tend to prove their immaturity and fleshly natures more than any amount of ‘discernment’ that they apparently have in exposing other people’s faulty theology.

Be assured my friends, you will be attacked and opposed for saying what you believe.  Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and he is having a field day out there.

Search your hearts, search the scriptures, spend huge amounts ot time in prayer and hold fast to your faith.  True brothers and sisters will stand together regardless of whether or not they believe the rapture will happen before or during or after the Tribulation. True lovers of Christ will love the brethren in word and deed and will take very great care not to offend another because of their own beliefs.  We no longer have issues over meat sacrificed to idols, but we are going to be held accountable for starting and/or contributing to feuds over whether or not a woman can teach Sunday school to boys over the age of 13 or not.

Come on, lets remember that Jesus died for us, not for our belief systems.  We are one with Him, and preparing ourselves as a Bride waiting for her Bridegroom!

Lets strap that armour on, and pray for one another earnestly and with love!

Anita Brady

 

Putting Away Childish Things

nesbit

Recently I came across an article which examined the life of Edith Nesbit. Edith Nesbit was a nineteenth century English writer who was also one of the founding members, along with her husband, of the English Fabian Socialist Society. Apparently, she was also a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, if you go to their website you will see her name listed proudly in their members list. The most famous member of this order was Alistair Crowley, evil influence on so much popular culture, everyone from the Beatles to L. Ron Hubbard, the author of Scientology who thought of himself as Crowley’s successor to Anton Le Vey founder of the Church of Satan. Apparently, this group do not believe themselves to be strictly satan worshippers, as their beliefs are a mixture of a number of different philosophies and religions; Theosophy, Kabbalah and others. However, they do have a very strong focus on the practice of magic and the occult and have been quoted as being the influence for the wiccan religion in the modern era.

Edith Nesbit is a well-known and well-loved author; children of many generations have read her books, myself included. Two of my favourites, both made into movies and TV series, were ‘The Railway Children’ and ‘Five Children and It’. Nesbit wrote a great many other books which I had read at one time or another which introduced the reader to characters and stories about magic, myths and ancient civilizations.  One story in particular ‘The Amulet’ involves time travel and goes to a future Britain in which H.G. Wells is venerated.  Wells was also a member of the Fabian Socialist Society. At the time that I read these stories, they were only fairy tales to me and I thought nothing much more of them other than, as all children would, to think of how wonderful it would be to have a fairy at the bottom of the garden who would grant you a wish a day or travelling on a magic carpet. I think most of us have considered the excitement of having all your wishes come true. It is the desire upon which all of Satan’s servants and Satan himself have built their deception. Even today you hear of movie or rock stars making what appear to be ironic statements about having ‘sold their soul to the devil’ for fame and fortune. Except that to them it is very real as a lot of them are into the occult as well.

Everyone from Walt Disney to just about every advertising executive in existence have used this very human yearning to be free from pain and difficulty in order to sell their agendas. Edith Nesbit was a follower of occult practices which also promised to bring her fulfillment. The Fabian Socialists have had an agenda for a one world order, albeit a socialist one, since their inception. It is easy to see how fairy tales and the hunt for answers from outside human knowledge can be informed by a yearning for a better world. Unfortunately, Satan’s agenda is also to rule the world in order to bring everything tumbling down into chaos and have every creature worship himself. He doesn’t care how he deceives human beings, whether they believe they are worshiping nature as wiccans or pagans or businessmen who worship money or politicians who worship power or rock stars who worship fame or silly human beings who worship their pastors and end up falling into error that way. Satan is happy to use whomever to bring about his eternal plan for world domination and the destruction of Christians whom he hates with a vengeance.

It has been a theme in our lives lately that God has been showing us the truth behind all of our fondest memories of childhood. It seems that no stone has been left un-turned. When we turn to God with our whole hearts and ask Him to accept us as His own, he will take us at our words and come and crush every deception, tear down every imagination and destroy every idol we have worshiped, often unbeknownst to us, from our past and in our present. Discovering that one of my favourite childhood authors is a witch was really not that terrible, but it was a shock. What it really did was open my eyes further to the reality behind the veil of the fantasy that my childhood was a place of innocence and sunshine. In fact, it was a place of deception and darkness.

The Bible makes it clear that all things that are in darkness will be brought to the light (Mark 4:22). When God takes us on the journey down the narrow path, His word becomes a light to our feet, but not just as we read the Bible. His indwelling word, His Holy Spirit, make it abundantly clear when something is not acceptable to God. While God does not hold us accountable as small children for our actions, especially for those things which have been introduced to us by our parents, as we grow, he does show us that we have a choice. Even as a teenager I was reading Edith Nesbit without thinking, and I became a Christian at the age of 13. Nobody I spoke to ever warned me against fairy tales or books which contained Greek mythology mixed with so called ‘Christian’ parables such as CS Lewis’ Narnia books. I read JRR Tolkien’s books as well although I skipped great swathes of the writing because I found it boring. I was never into the mythology behind the books as people are nowadays with the advent of the films and the internet and the manifestation of a ‘Tolkien culture’. Apparently you can even learn the fictional Tolkien ‘Elvish language’ at universities now. ( http://www.lotrplaza.com/archivesindex.php?Archive=First%20Age&TID=51368).  The ‘runes’ which are actually an occult alphabet used by witches and Satanists did not originate with Tolkien however. So what you are actually doing by entering these classes is entering a portal to the occult. Many students, and teachers I fear, would have no problem with that since they are often atheists as well. So much for higher learning.

So while I was not aware of the inherent dangers in reading books written by occultists or of the errors of mixing profane with holy, introducing children to the ideas of magic and fairy tales, I was still being led down a dark road which opened doors which I would otherwise not have encountered. It is useless to say that these authors knew the stories were only fantasy because I don’t believe this to be the case. Edith Nesbit practiced witchcraft. To her at least, the supernatural was not make believe. Why else would she be part of a group which involved itself in so much ceremony to worship demonic spirits and invite them into their lives if she thought it all to be imaginary. Likewise, Clive Stapes Lewis was a great lover of the Greek myths, the worship of Norse and Greek gods, and set much store by them. Towards the end of his life when visiting a Greek temple, he is quoted as saying….” I had some ado to prevent Joy and myself from relapsing into Paganism in Attica! At Daphni it was hard not to pray to Apollo the Healer. But somehow one didn’t feel it would have been very wrong — would have only been addressing Christ sub specie Apollonius. We witnessed a beautiful Christian village ceremony in Rhodes and hardly felt a discrepancy.” (Roger Lancelyn Green, C.S. Lewis: A Biography, Revised Edition (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Inc., 1974), page 30, 274) Emphasis mine.

Again, you can hardly say that the Narnia series was merely an allegory or fable when the author was a self-confessed former pagan who apparently even in 1960 when this quote was made was still ambivalent about his faith. Here is a man whose understanding of God himself was completely flawed, and he was not, as many profess, a great Christian theologian. Anyone with any genuine grasp of scripture could not possibly call Lewis’ writings theology. To be sure he wrote about those things which interested him, but he was interested in a great many things, the occult held a very great power over him even from his childhood. His matron at boarding school was a theosophist, theosophy being the major influence on the Golden Dawn group and had a huge influence on him as a source of comfort and encouragement and Lewis himself has confessed in ‘Surprised by Joy’ that feelings are everything. Here was a man who was focused completely on the fleshly carnal nature and had little understanding of the Holy or Consecrated life. I fear that many Christians, myself included have been seduced into practicing idol worship in the guise of ‘fairy tales’ instead of worshipping God.

“As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. 5But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.…” (1 Timothy 1)

Like Lewis, many Christians are focused on what feels good. But the motto of the church of satan is ‘do what thou wilt is the whole of the law’. La Vey has obviously tried to create a biblical feel to his writings using the old English ‘thou’ and ‘wilt’ as thou this was ancient writ. The ideas behind it certainly are because satan is as old as creation and his agenda has not changed. He questions God’s word and tries to get Christians to worship himself instead of the one who alone is worthy of our worship. I think it was Carol Matriciana, a Christian speaker and former follower of New Age and Hindu teachings who said that Satan promised Eve that she would ‘become like God’ when she was already perfect and in a perfect relationship with God. You couldn’t get any better than that but satan managed to convince our great ancestor that she could achieve something God could never give her, and he was right of course. By obeying satan, Eve sinned and was wrested away from that perfect relationship with God and her husband, she became that which all pagans and seekers after occult knowledge wish to achieve, she discovered rebellion.

 

In fact, satan does not offer us anything but himself and he is an altogether dark and bottomless abyss of pain and suffering. No human being was created to be in relationship with evil, we were created to be in relationship with Holiness and Goodness and Perfection and Light. God himself of course, through his Son Jesus Christ and through Christ’s cleansing blood and His sacrifice on the cross, wants to be once again our one source of life and healing from this ugly sinful existence. Yet so many Christians fall prey to the lies which satan peddles in the form of ‘fairy tales’ or the imaginary which some might call fiction. I used to be a great fan of fiction, but now even Christian fiction tends to produce more irritation than edification. At its core is emotional responses to pretend characters and their stories. You are responding to a person from somebody else’s imagination, birthed from the womb of their own minds. How much more uplifting to read the Word of God, or to listen to genuine testimonies from real people who have experienced the life of God or the salvation of God or the healing of God or something real from God rather than something unreal from another human being. The ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ is what drives all fiction, but so called ‘Christian fiction’ should not exist at all.

I know this sounds harsh and some may question why I have such a beef about something which apparently only gives people a ‘good read’. I am opposed to anything which originates in the flesh or the imagination of human beings. I am not interested in fairy tales either in the pulpit or in books or on the internet. We pay for the privilege of being able to read stories and we forget that the whole time we are indulging in the mire of somebody else’s imaginary world. This is not the real world, this is like stepping into somebody else’s deception and seeing what they are seeing. You are opening yourself up to another influence, but is it godly? Most of the time, no, it is not.

Oral history is one thing, myths and stories are something else again. Passing down the Word of God through the Rabbis and the family members was important for those who could not read. Passing down stories which are entirely fictional with no basis in reality might as well be the same as passing a marijuana cigarette. Let’s all get high on this story which will cause us to be happy and sad in turns and in the end we will put the book down with a huge sigh because we have been on a roller coaster of emotion and lived somebody else’s life for a few hours. What is the difference between this and a drug induced ‘trip’ in which you step outside of your own reality to embrace the effects of chemicals in your brain.

Look at it this way. Many children’s authors of the past have been found to be borderline pedophiles (Lewis Carroll) or malignant narcissists (Enid Blyton) or as I have mentioned witches (Edith Nesbit) or pagan idol worshippers pretending to be Christians (CSLewis). You often don’t know who these people are when you read their stories. I certainly had no knowledge of Carroll, Lewis or Nesbit when I read their stories. Was I entertained? For sure. Was I ushered into an existence which both frightened and excited me? Yup! Was I being covertly introduced to the occult? Absolutely! We think that reading is harmless because it is all ‘in our imagination and it isn’t real’. Wrong! Truths are bound up in myths because the whole unvarnished truth would freak most people out. Lewis Carroll’s books were disturbing and not terribly enlightening to me as a child. He was a very strange character with an obsession with photographing naked children. Today he would probably be on a psychiatrists couch if not in jail with his computer confiscated. Why would I want to be inside his head? The same could be said for pagan worshippers or witches. These are not God’s people, they are confused and they worship somebody I would not wish to meet in a million years, yet I meet him daily through the foolishness and darkness of human understanding. Fiction is not harmless, it is the result of a human being’s thoughts many of which are placed there by demonic forces. NEVER forget that! I would go so far as to include Paul Young’s ‘The Shack’ in this denunciation of ‘fiction’. Young would like us to believe that God can be portrayed as two women and a man rather than a Holy Trinity of one man who is also God and Two disembodied Spirits. God is the only one who is able to define himself but I find now on the internet that there are discussions about God’s ‘gender’ as a result of these ridiculous Christian fiction books which want to introduce controversial subjects in order to engender debate!

“I never thought everyone was going to love this book. Art is incredibly subjective as to whether a story and style are appealing. I have no problem with a spirited discussion of some of the theological issues raised in The Shack. The books I love most are the ones that challenge my theological constructs and invite a robust discussion among friends, whether I agree with everything in them or not in the end,. That is especially true of a work of fiction where people will bring their own interpretations of the same events or conversations.”  https://www.lifestream.org/is-the-shack-heresy

Jacobsen states that the books he loves the most are the ones which challenge his theological constructs. As the co-editor and publisher of ‘The Shack’ he says in the first paragraph of this article that he ‘knew that The Shack was edgy enough to prompt some significant backlash, which is why so many publishing companies didn’t want to take it on at the beginning’. Yet this books is fiction. Now we have fictional books with fictional ideas about God and who he is masquerading as ‘just a good read’ which also purport to be reconstructing our theology as believers. And so many believers have claimed that this book has changed their lives. We live in perilous times.

Current trends in young people’s literature now bring the occult out of the closet. We are looking at witchcraft, satan worship, the glorification of vampirism and shape shifting werewolves and zombies as though they are again all imaginary.  These things are not pretend, they are very real, they are part of the real world of the demonic and profane spiritual planes. The Bible does not pull any punches about the demonic. We are told by both Jesus and Paul and the other disciples that we need to cast out the demonic, to reject that which titivates the flesh and excites the carnal mind and instead embrace the light, and that which God himself has given us through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. The power and salvation offered by God through the Holy Spirit has no parallel. He has come to save us from this present darkness and not to encourage us to indulge our senses and our fleshly imaginations in pointless narratives about so called Christians dealing with fictional events. How is this uplifting our spirits when in actual fact none of this is real and comes from a human being NOT from God. Are Christian author’s telling us that their stories are in fact the same as or as good as revelation from the Holy Spirit? Are their stories on the same level as the canon of Scripture? No, they are not and they do not. There is no spiritual benefit in stories or myths or fairy tales or what in actual fact is falsehood. If it is not true then it is a lie right? If it is a lie then why are we filling our heads with it? We are in fact filling our empty souls because we feel the need to ‘chill out’. Why do we need to do that? Because we are beset with our own anxieties and sins. There is only one place to go to deal with that. The cross of Christ deals with sin and ‘in the multitude of my anxieties your comforts delight my soul’. (Psalm 94:19)

God wants to comfort us and His comforts are far more delightful to our souls than any amount of fiction, television, internet games or fantasy games. Let’s put these things aside and focus on the Saviour and Lover of our souls, Jesus, who will give us everything we will ever need for life.

as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

(2 Peter 1:3)