Loose Canon

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There is a huge cache of written analysis and testimonial on the internet. Let’s call it the canon of lay-knowledge relating to abuse.  I don’t include the works of professional psychologists here because, especially in relation to Narcissism, these works hadn’t made it onto the internet until a vast supply of information from non-professional quarters had been published.  I am more than a little suspicious that all of a sudden online psychology magazines take Narcissism as their pathology du jour just when there is a critical mass of interest and discussion.  Psychologists after all are part of the mental health industry and it is in their best interests to be where the work is.  That said, this body of knowledge, this accepted canon (accepted by the victims of abuse that is) holds an interesting conundrum.

Many of us, including psychologists, are good at recognising the problem and it’s patterns. We are good at describing those patterns.  We just can’t really understand why they do it or how to fix it.

It seems that in the main chronic abusers are either psychopaths or malignant narcissists.  These are the types of people who act purely on a desire to create chaos and destruction and they seem to sadistically enjoy seeing the pain in their victims’ eyes. In plainer terms, they abuse because they want to.  This is an almost impossible concept to understand and if you have trouble getting your head around this, be grateful. It means that you are an empathetic individual with a conscience – most of us are.   Certainly all of those who share their experiences of abuse and abusers have trouble understanding why they were victimised in the first place.  It seems that generally speaking you don’t have to do anything to be targeted for abuse.  You can be born into an abusive family, or you marry an abuser, or you are friends with an abuser or you work with one.  They are, unfortunately, everywhere.

The psychologists will tell us that abusers were born that way or that they were made that way by their parents or somebody who abused them. That makes about as much sense as stating that everything in the universe came from an explosion of nothing into something.  Abusers may be born with certain genetic material which makes them more likely to be abusive, and yes they may also have been abused by others as children. But if abuse causes abusers, then what happens to all those siblings of abusers. Why aren’t they out abusing everyone.  And if there are in fact abusers who enjoy abusing, then this counters the argument that they were so traumatised by their abuse as children that they simply go out and abuse others because they don’t know any better.

The problem is that nobody understands why malignant character disordered people do what they do.  There are many suggestions as to why, but nothing definitive. Nothing at least which satisfies most of us. Personally, I believe that abusers who enjoy abusing others and do it without remorse and do it even more when you try and point out that their actions are hurting you are simply wicked people.  It sounds trite, but as a Christian, I believe that this is actually a biblical explanation.  I won’t go into it on this post, but I believe there are precedents in scripture.  Good men have had evil sons.  Jacob and Esau are a perfect example of two sons born to the same man; one who was favoured by God and one who was profane, or godless. Job the righteous had delinquent kids for whom he needed to sacrifice daily ‘just in case’, and King David’s son tried to overthrow his rule.  The patterns are historical, writ large and undeniable. It simply remains for the rest of humanity to ‘get it’. Why is it that many of us feel that this will never happen?

There is a greater question in my book, even greater than why it is that wicked and repellent people do what they do. And that is, how do they manage to get away with it?  They seem to have a network of supporters, some who are both powerful and influential, who will deny the possibility that the abuser could do any wrong.  They are not just loyal friends, they seem to be devoid of any ability to question or critically assess the reports of victims.  It seems to be a near constant, at least from my own research over the last decade or so, that abusive people are more likely to have a Greek chorus of apologists and adherents than the genuinely deserving.

Internet blogs and commenters tend towards calling this Greek chorus ‘flying monkeys’ which is a cute phrase taken from the Wizard of Oz.  The witch in this movie/book had an army of literally flying green monkeys who did her bidding.  However, the term has a larger meaning in the online canon of abuse and abusers.  A flying monkey is somebody who not only does the bidding of the abuser and applauds their every move, refuses to believe what the victim says because they are invested in believing that the abuser is a good person, but also will gossip and spy on the victim and carry information to and from the abuser in an attempt to reinforce the abuse. They are not the silent and innocent bystander (who by the way is also an accessory), they are co-abusers.  They turn the acts of abuse by the individual into a reign of terror.

Why would anyone do this?  To me this question has even greater import than working out why abusers abuse.  At least ‘being evil’ carries the understanding that some people just love being mean.  Every child who has ever seen a Disney villain or a pantomime will know that some people are just evil.  In real life of course, that brainwashing loses its impact.  Evil is not obvious, it is very often banal, to quote  Hannah Arendt’s book ‘Eichmann’ which was based on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the nazi war criminal.  She posits the theory that people who carry out evil acts are not necessarily psychopaths but simply following the orders they are given.  Stanley Milgram, a sociologist carried out a series of experiments at Yale University in the 1960s from which he asserted that 7 out of 10 people will follow orders from somebody they perceive as an authority even if those orders are hurtful and wrong.  This may explain the mindset of flying monkeys in some cases, but often the monkeys are not in a position of working for the abuser or even relying on the abuser for ‘orders’.  Often the flying monkeys are simply friends with or relatives of the abuser, whom they seem to genuinely like and respect, and they believe that the victim of the abuser, moreover the victim who speaks out against the abuser, is actually the evil person. This assertion is both counter-intuitive and counter-logical.  Simply speaking the truth does not make you bad or even abusive.   I don’t know whether flying monkeys do what they do because they truly believe that victims are lying about their experiences or whether they are attacking the victim in order to avoid having to look at the facts that the victim is exposing.  Either way, their actions are often worse than the original abuse because in their zeal to protect the abuser, they are re-traumatising the victim.

If you read the previous post relating to the rape victim from the Master’s University, you will see a classic case of the abuser’s supporters creating even more trauma for the victim of the rape than what she originally experienced.  The upshot of these flying monkey’s actions was that the rape victim was denied the right to graduate despite having already finished three years of her degree and having her name slandered and her character assassinated in the college community she had known all that time.  Few people stood up for her, and the devastation of the rejection and betrayal of so called mature Christian leaders and the Christian friends she had known all that time was in fact worse for her than the original crime.  The rape itself was bad enough, the abuser was unrepentant despite his final ‘confession’ that the act was in fact non-consensual after a long period of silence.  This was nothing to those who led the inquisition against this young woman, in fact I would go so far as to say that the men who attacked her as a consequence of the rape and her refusal to acquiesce to their completely insane demands to withdraw legal charges and ‘let them deal with it’ were in fact pathological abusers themselves. John Macarthur’s church is well known for its abusive practices and some have gone so far as to call it a cult. It doesn’t surprise me that he and his staff re-traumatised this poor girl for having the courage to not only confess a crime against her body and soul and one which carries shame and humiliation, but looked to them for help. This is what predators do.  In the face of a terrible experience, they have shockingly backwards reactions.  Normal people would help the rape victim and condemn the abuser.  These men attacked and blamed her and attempted to blackmail (itself a crime) her into lying about what happened.  Not only are these reactions abhorrent to God and anyone with a working human soul, they are proof that the environment in which the rape was covered up was in itself malignant.  Whether or not they were trying to protect their college’s reputation (too late gentlemen) the means manifestly did not justify the end. And despite their own delusions as to their pristine reputation, the facts, which they themselves so ably demonstrated, were that their college is run by wicked men.

Incidents like this are hardly uncommon.  Flying monkeys do what flying monkeys do in just about every instance where sociopaths or malignant narcissists or in fact any kind of abuser exists.  The canon of knowledge and experience attests to this fact and has done since it’s inception over ten years ago.  And this is the interesting thing about abuse.  Since the advent of social media and blogs in general, abuse victims have used the resource to speak up about what happened to them.  Comments from other victims, who often write their own accounts later, testify to the common attributes of both the abusers and their apologists.  It IS a canon of knowledge simply because of the fact that the information has been shared and acknowledged as true by so many other people from so many different backgrounds and so many different experiences. The abusers are male or female, the apologists can be related or not related, the abuse can be physical or mental or both, but the actions of these people form chilling patterns which simply cannot be ignored.  Hence the rise of the psychology journal articles and their authors who have proven by their use of it that the canon of information out there is not only authentic but creditable.

It is our belief that abusers, true to their predatory and calculating characters, will choose supporters, acquaintances and contacts from among those who will best suit their purposes.  To these ingenuous and just as often disingenuous individuals, they show their best faces.  They are kind, helpful, supportive and ensure that the relationship is mutually profitable.  Thus when the victim chosen by the abuser begins to speak up, the true venal nature of the abuser becomes clear.  The unwitting supporter thinks that his good friend is being slandered and opposes the slander out of loyalty, and the collaborating supporter slanders the victim out of knowledge that they will be rewarded for their collaboration.  This works in a professional environment, in a familial environment and in a church environment.  And it proves beyond a doubt that our carnal human nature can be successfully manipulated by the truly evil.

It takes a great deal of wisdom and discernment to pick a human predator.  Often the very worst abusers hide by choosing careers in the caring professions because they know that the victim’s guard is down especially if they are vulnerable.  Patients need their doctors to be above suspicion or they would never trust them.  Children need their teachers and other significant adults to be trustworthy or they will never learn or grow.  In the same vein, the very worst kind of abuser is a character disordered parent who uses their own children both as victims and as flying monkeys.  The adult child of a narcissist suffers for the rest of their lives as a result of being abused throughout their dependent years, sometimes as many as twenty or more.  That is a very long time to be under the intimate influence of an abusive adult.  And if there are more than one abusers in the family, as the canon has proven to be common, the victim must not only deal with their parents but often their siblings.  This does not end at adulthood and leaving the family home. It is a very common scenario that a victim of abuse often seems to discover the truth of their family lives into their forties and fifties.  Why does it take this long? We believe that maturity, experience and worldview play into this. Also, now the internet canon of information is available, more and more victims are discovering what abuse really is by recognising the patterns from the testimony of the thousands who report what their abuser did.  Finally, the victim can read these reports and have something of a slow epiphany in their own lives. They recognise the patterns in their own family, compare it to what they see from other’s accounts and reluctantly and with trepidation make the connection to their own lives.  If nothing else, recognising that you were either raised by or married to a predatory individual is the very worst kind of revelation.  But in the end, the truth changes you and the lives of those who care about you.  When you know the truth, you can live differently.  It will be painful, but it is necessary to remove the rot. In our lives, we determined that we would end the cycle of familial abuse with our own generation.

The internet has allowed many victims to speak out, both anonymously and openly.  Initially, we spoke out about the abuses of the cult Brisbane Christian Fellowship under assumed names. We found that whether we hid our true identity or not, the flying monkeys descended, some claiming they ‘knew who we were’ with the sinister overtones that they were somehow going to ‘get us’ for having spoken up.  We received threats of legal action and yet nothing eventuated.  You don’t actually need anything to eventuate if those threats come from the people you knew while you were in the cult.  You know what they have done already – destroyed the faith and relationships of individuals and families – and you know that they were willing and able to slander and destroy your character and reputation to everyone else in the cult.  In the end though, it was at the borders of the cult’s influence, and narrow and petty they were too, their threats lost power.  They might attempt to bad mouth you to other churches, but the fact that their own reputation was scarcely pristine even to those who did not know of their covert destruction of marriages and lives would ensure that their gossip remained just that.

Speaking out is seen by our society as ‘airing dirty linen’ and is treated as shameful.  It is seen this way in churches also.  We are told ‘not to judge’, yet the apostles themselves had no problem writing public letters regarding false brethren and leaders and teachers and naming names.  There is a scriptural precedent for warning of false teachers.  But where there is freedom to speak, believers have been known to  use it as a license for carnality. There are now many so called ‘discernment’ ministries which are nothing more than lists of every christian leader with whom the author disagrees theologically.  Disagreement over certain texts does not mean a person is a false teacher.  If Paul, Peter and John all declaimed false teachers to the point of cursing them to the blackness of darkness forever, and if John said that even bringing  a false teacher into your home causes you to participate in his evil deeds (2 John 2:10-11), then false teachers are not simply believers with different opinions to you. These sorts of people are actually the same as chronic abusers.  Genuinely false teachers have wicked hearts and intentions.  No believer who is simply either immature, carnal or who has an unrenewed mind is described in the New Testament as being cursed. Only those with a reprobate mind and soul would be so designated.

Despite these problems, the internet is still a place where real stories can be written and read and real comfort and help can be gained.  The ‘canon’ has been loosed and is accomplishing a great deal more than paid professionals could ever hope to.

 

 

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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.

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)

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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!

What God Has Been Doing Lately in Our House

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A few weeks ago our family went through a time of fasting and cleansing. We haven’t posted much lately because some of us have been getting born again. God spoke to our family a few weeks ago and called a three day fast and during that time God did mighty work. The result of which are still ricocheting through our house and I would suggest through some other people’s houses and all.

Our family lived in a cult for 15 years from 1989 to 2004. During that time the faith we had was undermined and eventually destroyed. By the time we left the cult we couldn’t even open our bibles without experiencing severe emotional distress. All we heard was the condemning voices of the men who had run the cult. They had taken every critical verse of scripture and made it their own, turning everything into a mockery of Christ and his work on the Cross. It was an authoritarian, abusive, controlling and destroying cult. People’s lives, marriages and families were broken, and they are totally unrepentant. Even some ex-leaders who have left have never openly admitted and repented of their false gospels and the damage they did to thousands of people. So God has, for the past twelve years, been undoing the damage that was done to us slowly, painfully and piece by piece.

In the process of healing and changing we have had to address false doctrines which have snuck into our family, destructive habits – sin in actual fact – and other things which needed to change. Last weekend was kind of a culmination of that. All of us were affected in one way or another, and those we thought needed the help the least were the ones who had been, unbeknownst to us, needing it the most.
But here is the thing….

We didn’t go to some conference, convention or convocation. Yes, we need the body of Christ, but when we are addressing issues that arise in our private lives within our family, God is quite capable of dealing with it between the people who are involved and not some stranger who we think is more spiritual than we are.  We have been listening to a section of a .Podcast from the Grace Community Church in California wherein John Macarthur has admitted that he didn’t know when he gave his life to the Lord, that he never really knew when he was converted and he isn’t worried about that. This was up on Pastor John Coleman’s website, (see link) Coleman has been a strong critic of MacArthur for some years but not from personal gripe, simply from examining his actions, teaching and the testimonies of members of the Grace Community who have had to leave due to abuse.

One of the most high profile evangelical ministers with an impressive pedigree of five generations of preachers and ministers (and high ranking freemasons) who has edited his own bible and run a huge international organisation admits that he actually didn’t ever get converted, he just kind of always sort of knew he was a Christian. As the host of the audio tape (Pastor John Coleman) said,  everyone he knows and has asked knows exactly when and where they got saved and how it affected them. I agree.  I remember distinctly the second week of the May school holidays in 1977 in my second year of High School, late one night in the bunkhouse of a Scripture Union camp saying a prayer and asking Jesus to forgive me for my sins.  I didn’t have a huge understanding of what I was doing then it wasn’t until much later when I was baptised and baptised in the Holy Spirit that I realised what the Cross and Resurrection were all about. But it changed me, and I went home to my unsaved family and told them what had happened and faced rejection and abuse because of it.  I have never regretted that decision nor have I wavered from it. I knew when it happened, I might have only been 13 at the time, and 19 when it all made sense, but I knew when it happened.

John Macarthur, evangelical Super-Pastor of the Universe apparently doesn’t know and doesn’t care. But then as we discovered later he is a Calvinist and Calvinists believe in predestination. If you are saved its because God has chosen you and you have no free will to make that choice yourself. So, John Macarthur figures he doesn’t need to have made that choice, its clear he is saved, obviously, duh, he runs a mega-church right?

So John Macarthur needs to get saved too. And he doesn’t need somebody who is more spiritual than he is, all he needs is to have his ears opened to the gospel and his heart convicted by the Holy Spirit. He KNOWS what to do, he just didn’t think he ever needed to do that. I think we need to pray for him, and his poor church organisation which according to reports is taking over other people’s churches, abusing its congregants and generally behaving like a cult, false doctrines and all. Who knew? We shall certainly pray for the congregations to get saved as well.

So, when God does a work in your life or the lives of those closest to you, remember that it is because of prayer, it happens in His timing not yours, and it is because you are open to hear his voice, obey his voice and to repent where you need to repent. Nobody is excluded from this. Nobody. I don’t care how many bibles have your face on the front cover.

 

Nick’s Testimony

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My name is Nick Brady and i have been alive for 22 years. I came to Christ when i was 17, growing up in a christian home. Giving your life to Christ at that age was pretty hard for me as i was in my second last year of high school. I know it shouldn’t be hard but let me explain.

One of those pesky teenage traits was to have everyone like you (haha I’m still dealing with that one). So being courageous in my faith was one of those things that went to the back of my head as soon as i went through the school gate. However, that didn’t mean I wasn’t put into situations where I had a feeling deep down to let Christ be heard.

About halfway through my senior I had the opportunity to go on a geography excursion to Fraser Island in North Queensland. The week before I mentioned to my parents that I thought that God had been telling me to take my bible along. Just that, not preach my heart out, not give it to one of the 15 people going along, just take it along. I should probably mention by this point that I had been both baptised in water and the Holy Spirit. So I made the decision to take it along. Everything went well the first night, but on the second night (of the 5 days that we were there) I felt the urge to get out my bible and read it. I did this by myself, my teacher made some comment on how it was good that I was doing so. Still to this day I don’t know why he made those comments as he wasn’t , from what I could tell, a Christian.

Anyway that all went down, and then on the next night the Spirit of God really started to get things moving. I had decided that I wasn’t going to go off by myself and read on my own. That night I sat in our cabin and read my bible. There was about 6 guys all in the cabin and for the time that I was reading they came in and out. Once the lights out call had been given everyone settled down. Now that I look back I’m pretty sure we pushed the lights out a further hour or so. I’ll tell you why. A couple of the guys noticed that I was reading and asked what it was that I was reading. I told them that it was the bible, and then things kicked off from there. I had all sorts of questions flung at me. What do you believe? Why do you read it? You don’t really believe that do you? Then the next night the girls who made up the rest of the group ask me to read to them. Every student that was on that camp heard the word of God. A rather strange fact was that the people who owned that camp that we stayed at their main land address was 666. Creepy right!

So for the rest year twelve I didn’t have any other major opportunities to sharing of my faith. Questions where asked in both of the history classes I attended, when religion was the main topic of conversation. High school is always about fitting in, and for me that was paramount until I made the decision to follow my faith. I think by the time it came to graduation I had a better understanding of who I was in the world. I remember clearly one of my friends said to my once ” You are different Nick! Not a bad different but a good different”. I knew what he was talking about but he didn’t. He had picked up on something about me and that meant a lot, that people could see the difference.

After high school came a stint in Uni where I found that I was not cut out for all the demanding academic work. Later I fell into a job at a large department store.  Since starting full time work I have had multiple incidences where my faith has been discussed. Some of the older people have questioned it more sceptically then the younger people I have talked to. I have had opportunity to pray for a couple of people and also offered to pray others who are hurt. My position in the store is managing the stock replenishment team and that affords me the opportunity to talk to multiple people throughout the store. I pray often for the chance to talk to them about my faith, I doesn’t happen a lot but when it does I really relish the chance to talk to them about my faith.

So to sum everything up into a nice neat package I have chosen to give my life to the Lord, I have made mistakes but who hasn’t. That is what the power of the cross is for. My journey hasn’t been long but that doesn’t matter. Everyone is different.  I think what makes a big difference in the lives of young Christians is the ability to recognise when you have sinned, whether it be from the Lord through the Holy Spirit, through parents and or friends. It is like a radio, where you go to tune to a station, it takes time but when you finally get the station you can hear it loud and clear. It is also not just that ability to recognise but also humbling yourself before the Lord and going about the right way to cleanse yourself before a God that can not look upon sin. I can testify to the importance of this as I feel that through my mistakes and Cross bound redemption I am hearing more clearly from the Lord. That channel is becoming clearer and clearer.