Why Everybody Hates You

 

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John 7:7

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

John 15:18

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

John 15:19

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

John 17:14

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

1 John 3:13

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

1 John 2:15

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

1 John 3:14

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

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

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

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We read in Deuteronomy 32:15-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 135:15-18 emphatically teaches this principle:

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

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

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

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

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

Acts 2:36-38

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

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

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By then it is too late.

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

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

God commands all men everywhere to repent.

Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessings,

Steve.

God’s Word is my Woobie

mr-mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse 19 is the big revelation for me.

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

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

I have a question to ask you.

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

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

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

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

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

Refining Fire

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Our family were in the Dandenong Ranges during the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria a few years back. We did not suffer loss, but we had friends who did.  It killed many, changed many lives.  Many who were not even affected by the fires made significant life changes as a result of them.  They left the hills and went to live closer to the city where there is less bush to burn.  The reason they went to the hills in the first place was to find a haven, a tree change in the midst of the rat race.  What they discovered that living in the country has its own hazards and you can’t outrun the long arm of the Lord.

Suffering loss through a natural disaster covers the gamut of experiences.  As I said, you can remain physically untouched by the fires but still decide, out of fear for the future, to move house, and that is a traumatic enough experience, especially if you have lived for many decades unmolested by misfortunate and at peace.  Or you can lose everything.  One family we know of built a home amidst the bushland and literally away from everybody with only a dirt track running up and down gullies to get to their home.  When the fires struck they were in real danger.  What they thought was a secure haven became their worst nightmare.

This was supposed to be a good news story.  Just give me a paragraph or two.

One of the methods to fight large bush fires is to backburn. The rule is where the fire has already been, it cannot pass over again.  So fire fighters remove the source of the fuel where they think the wind is going to send the fire.  This usually happens in open country where the fire is getting out of control. Sometimes you get fire fighters in Australia doing what we call ‘burnoffs’ in the winter when the possibility of bush fires is a lot lower. They burn in the winter in order to reduce the severity of any possible fires in the summer when the conditions are a lot worse.

I find it really interesting from a spiritual point of view that when God talks about our works being tested by fire to see what will burn, God is pretty much doing the same thing.

But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 13 :10-15)

Once the fire has taken everything from you, there is nothing left to burn. You get to a place in your life where there is literally nothing left in you, no  more idols, no more fleshly attitudes, no more obsessions or things you won’t let go of.  There is just you and God and your faith in Him because He has tested you and tested you.  I am here to tell you that the testing sometimes gets very very hot, to the point that you can’t think of one more thing that could possibly happen to you.  Once you get to the place where you trust God in all things because all of the fight has been burned out of you, you are just about numb and can do one thing and one thing only and that is praise God, then you know you have come to a place where you are on holy ground.  God does not try us to destroy us but to destroy our flesh.  He takes us through every possible testing, if we are willing, and wants to know what we will do with it.  Will we, like Job, choose unrighteousness over affliction?

Do not desire the night,
When people are cut off in their place.
21 Take heed, do not turn to iniquity,
For you have chosen this rather than affliction. (Job 36:20,21)

Or will we say to ourselves, like Job, God gives and God takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

There is another thing about back-burning and God’s ways.  Sometimes He burns us before Satan gets a chance to.  If He controls our lives by taking us through afflictions so that He can burn away the dross and get to the refined gold, then Satan will have less with which to whip us if he gets a chance to set a fire in our lives. Because both God and Satan can arrange a scorched earth session.  If Satan gets to it you can be assured he will make it burn hotter for longer than God ever would.  He seeks to destroy, God seeks only our good. This is why God looks for the response of faith in affliction.  Remember:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous but God delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19)

koala-bushfires
The iconic picture that went viral after the Melbourne fires. It sums up the plight of the survivor. God gives us the cool water of the Holy Spirit to minister to us in the midst of our afflictions. Thankyou Jesus.

To be able to worship the Lord in the midst of affliction is the change God seeks in us.  But to get to this place, we can’t just wish it upon ourselves, God has to work the change.  Sometimes you think things just can’t get much worse, and then they do.  What I have discovered is that if you really look back at your life, you will see that you actually did survive, even if you feel like you have been run over with a truck.  Not only did you survive but you survived to praise the Lord. And this my friends and family is the place of true joy and life.  For God is eternal and unchanging, and whether we live in the best of times or the worst of times, He does not change.  He is still holy, perfect, righteous, just and merciful and He goes with us through the battle, through the pain, through the devastation, through the outrage.  And if we choose His ways, and to praise Him through it all instead of cursing God and turning away from Him, we will change.  We will become the sons and daughters of God that He is looking for.  People who do not look to their outward circumstances for evidence of God’s faithfulness, but recognise that His faithfulness is eternal and is therefore worth praising regardless of how we feel.

I used to hear sermons like this as a young Christian.  I don’t hear them nowadays, they would be considered to be ‘offensive’ to many.  Yes, because they are offensive to the flesh, they are offensive to the natural mind of man, not to the Spirit, and to the nature of Jesus Christ which He is working in us.  And He is not looking for men to pay lip service to Him either.  To find the genuine ability in a human being to praise God in the midst of difficulty is a rare thing, because narrow is the way and few are they that find it.

To be able to declare God’s goodness in the land of the living (as opposed to Hades) is a wondrous thing. How can any human being do such a miraculous thing unless God himself touches us.  He scorches our land, takes the fire through, takes everything, burns it to see what it is made of.  If it is flesh, it will burn, if it is Spirit, it won’t, because of course that which is of God is made of gold, silver and precious stones, as is the New Jerusalem. We must be made of things eternal, which moth and rust and thief can destroy (not to mention fire).

This is not a popular thing to say. Nobody wants to be told in the midst of difficulty that God is testing them.  Paul tells us that nobody enjoys chastening but afterwards reaps the peaceable fruits of righteousness (Hebrews 12 7-11)

11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

But it is true nevertheless.

Being in the midst of a trial makes you blind. You can’t see the big picture, often you can’t even see your own hand in front of your face. You often can’t see God, can’t hear Him, don’t know if He is listening to your prayer.  But keep going.  In fact, let me just say this. You may have what psychologists term ‘suicidal ideation’.  It’s just a fancy term meaning, even death looks good compared to this.  They just don’t want to use the term.  But I will.  Because death to the flesh is actually what Christians are involved in every single day of their lives.  But you have days when your life is turned upside down by difficulty and trauma, sometimes from all sides at once, and you think you can’t possibly cope with any more pain.  Yet you do.  Guess what?  The earth has just been scorched.  Once God has burned the ground, it doesn’t burn again.  You are safe on the scorched earth.  If you stand there, you are free.  You have nothing left but God. Yes it seems like its the worst possible thing that could happen to you, but it isn’t.  Allowing God to test you in the fire is going through death in order to find life.  It’s no longer I that liveth but Christ that liveth in me.

Have I made it?  Am I that person who can praise God in the midst of trauma?  Let me just say that in all honesty I wish I was.  But I am BETTER at it than I was ten years ago.  I am not blowing my own trumpet here, I am just able to say that yes, the fire has scorched the earth and I am standing on ashes, but what burned was necessary to burn, and what has not burned is my spirit and my soul, and I can stand and praise God and focus on Him and know the truly peaceable fruit of righteousness. AMEN!