Short Stack – Honest To God

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Philipians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus

This is the first in a series we will entitle “Short Stack”.  A ‘word bite’ of sorts where you don’t have to digest too much but still fill your soul with encouragement.

This short stack is something which struck me a few days ago, and something I shared with my son when he was struggling with an issue which he thought he had already decided upon.

Quite often you think you have worked through a concern with God only to find that it begins to worry you days or weeks later. Its as though you hadn’t prayed at all.

Here’s what the problem might be.

Sometimes we pray from our minds not our hearts. Sometimes our minds don’t have a full grasp of what we really believe.  Scripture tells us that with our hearts we believe and with our mouths confess.  I  have found that our hearts often hide truth that even our own thoughts can’t fathom.

God is truth.  He wants and expects truth from us.  Sometimes we need to tell God what is in our hearts not our minds.  It requires some deeper meditation, some real honest open discussion with God about how you feel, both good and bad, and may even involve some confession.  You may have a bad attitude without realising it.  You might just be blaming God for something.

The really exciting thing about God is that He isn’t offended when we share honestly with him.  He listens and appreciates truth.  When we speak from the heart and confess what is contained therein he is able to take the burden (especially if it is sin) and give us rest. Our heart has been called ‘deceitfully wicked – who can know it’ (Jeremiah 17:9).  We are also told to guard our hearts above all else because from out of our hearts flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).  Jesus said he came to heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61). So if our hearts are broken or tainted or affected by sinful attitudes, we are not going to have an abundant and fruitful prayer life.  We need to get our hearts right with God and not just pray prayers from our knowledge and opinions.

I find that every time I go back to God and really examine my heart and speak from the truth of the matter, I come away from my conversation with Him with an uplifted heart and a quietness and peace which stays with me for the day.

Bless you and may God help you to know Him in a deeper way.

Long Stack – The Shack and Windblown Media’s Response

 

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That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Eph.4:14)

 

WINDBLOWN MEDIA’s RESPONSE TO IT’s CRITICS – A STUDY IN CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Those who have been captured by this story are encouraged to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so and not trust us or the ravings of those who misinterpret this book, either threatened by its success, or those who want to ride on it to push their own fear-based agenda.”

By Wayne Jacobsen, collaborator on The Shack

We knew it would happen eventually. Frankly we thought it would happen far sooner and in far greater quantity than we have seen to date. But we knew 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.

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. I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy the meat and toss the bones.

What is surprising, however, is the hostile tone of false accusation and the conspiracy theories that some are willing to put on this book. Some have even warned others not to read it or they will be led into deception. It saddens me that people want to use a book like this to polarize God’s family, whether it’s overenthusiastic reader thrusting it in someone’s face telling them they ‘must read’ this book, or when people read their own theological agendas into a work, then denounce it as heresy.

If you’re interested, read it for yourself. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you. If it helps convey the reality of Jesus to you, great! If all you can see is sinister motives and false teaching in it, then put it aside. I don’t have time to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the reviews I’ve read, but I would like to make some comments on some of the issues that have come up since I’m getting way too many emails asking me what I think of some of the questions they raise. I’ll also admit at the outset, that I’m biased. Admittedly, I’m biased. I was part of a team with the author of working on this manuscript for over a year and am part of the company formed to print and distribute this book. But I’m also well acquainted with the purpose and passions of this book.

What do I think? I tire of the self-appointed doctrine police, especially when they toss around false accusations like ‘new age conspiracy’, ‘counterfeit Jesus’ or ‘heresy’ to promote fear in people as a way of advancing their own agenda. What many of them don’t realize is that research actually shows that more people will buy a book after reading a negative review than they do after reading a positive one. It piques their curiosity as to why someone would take so much time to denounce someone else’s book.

But such reviews also confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error and for those I think the false accusations demand a response. Let me assure any of you reading this that all three of us who worked on this book are deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the Truth of the Scriptures and who have studied and taught the life of Jesus over the vast majority of our lifetimes. But none of us would begin to pretend that we have a complete picture of all that God is or that our theology is flawless. We are all still growing in our appreciation for him and our desire to be like him, and we hope this book encourages you to that process as well. In the end, this says the best stuff we know about God at this point in our journeys. Is it a complete picture of him? Of course not! Who could put all that he is into a little story like this one? But if it is a catalyst to get thousands of people to talk about theology—who God is and how he makes himself known in the world—we would be blessed.

This is a story of one believer’s brokenness and how God reached into that pain and pulled him out and as such is a compelling story of God’s redemption. The pain and healing come straight from a life that was broken by guilt and shame at an incredibly deep level and he compresses into a weekend the lessons that helped him walk out of that pain and find life in Jesus again.

That said, the content of this book does take a harsh look at how many of our religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules and rituals that have long ceased to reflect the Lord of Glory. Some will disagree with that assessment and the solutions this book offers, and the reviews that do so honestly merit discussion. But those who confuse the issues by making up their own back-story for the book, or ascribing motives to its publication without ever finding out the truth, only prove our point.

Here are some brief comments on the major issues that have been raised about The Shack:

Does the book promote universalism?

Some people can find a universalist under every bush. This book flatly states that all roads do not lead to Jesus, while it affirms that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. Just because he can find followers in the most unlikely places, does not validate those places. I don’t know how we could have been clearer, but people will quote portions out of that context and draw a false conclusion.

Does it devalue Scripture?

Just because we didn’t put Scriptural addresses with their numbers and colons at every allusion in the story, does not mean that the Bible isn’t the key source in virtually every conversation Mack has with God. Scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. They are reworded in ways to be relevant to those reading the story, but at every point we sought to be true to the way God has revealed himself in the Bible except for the literary characterizations that move the story forward. At its core the book is one long Bible study as Mack seeks to resolve his anger at God.

Is this God too nice?

Others have claimed that the God of The Shack is simply too nice, or having him in humorous human situations trivializes him. Really? Who wants to be on that side of the argument? For those who think this God is too easy, please tell me in what way does he let Mack off on anything? He holds his feet to the fire about every lie in his mind and every broken place in his heart. I guess what people these critics cannot see is confrontation and healing inside a relationship of love and compassion. This is not the angry and tyrannical God that religion has been using for 2000 years to beat people into conformity and we are not surprised that this threatens the self-proclaimed doctrine police.

One reviewer even thought this passage from The Shack was a mockery of the true God: “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation….” That wasn’t mocking God but a view of God that sees him as a demanding, self-centered tyrant. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself as the God who would lay down his life for us to redeem us to himself.

The words, “I don’t want slaves to do my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me,” are simply a reflection of John 15:15. Unfortunately those who tend toward legalism among us have no idea how much more completely Jesus transforms us out of a relationship of love, than we could ever muster in our gritted-teeth obedience. This is at the heart of the new covenant—that love will fulfill the law, where human effort cannot.

Does it distort or demean the Trinity?

One of the concerns expressed about The Shack is that it presents the Trinity outside of a hierarchy. In fact many religious traditions think they find their basis for hierarchical organizations in what they’ve assumed about the Trinity. To look at the Trinity as a relationship without the need for command and control is one of the intriguing parts of this story. If they walk in complete unity, why would a hierarchy be needed? They live in love and honor each other. While in the flesh Jesus did walk in obedience to the Father as our example, elsewhere Scripture speaks of their complete unity, love and glory in relating to each other. Different functions need not imply a different status.

This extends in other ways to look at how healed people can relate to each other inside their relationship with God that defines authority and submission in ways most are not used to, but that are far more consistent with what we see in the early believers and in the teaching of Scripture. It is also true of many believers around the world who are learning to experience the life of Father’s family without all the hierarchical maintenance and drama that has plagued followers of Christ since the third century.

People may see this differently and find this challenging, if only because it represents some thought they have not been exposed to before. Here we might be better off having a discussion instead of dragging out the ‘heretic’ label when it is unwarranted.

Does it leave out discussions about church, salvation and other important aspects of Christianity?

This is some of the most curious complaints I’ve ever read. This is the story about God making himself available to one of his followers who is being swallowed up by tragedy and his crisis of faith in God’s goodness over it. This is not a treatise on every element of theological study. Perhaps we should have paused in the story to have an altar call, or perhaps we should have drug a pipe organ into the woods and enlisted a choir to hold a service, but that was not the point.

Is this a Feminist God?

The book uses some characterizations of God to mess with the religious stereotypes only to get people to consider God as he really is, not how we have reconstituted him as a white, male autocrat bent on religious conformity. There are important reasons in the story why God takes the expressions he does for Mack, which underlines his nature to meet us where we are, to lead us to where he is. While Jesus was incarnated as man, God as a spirit has no gender, even though we fully embrace that he has taken on the imagery of the Father to express his heart and mind to us. We also recognize Scripture uses traditional female imagery to help us understand other aspects of God’s person, as when Jesus compares himself to a hen gathering chicks, or David likens himself to a weaned child in his mother’s arms.

Has it touched people too deeply?

Some reviewers point to Amazon.com reviews and people who have claimed it had a transforming effect on their spiritual lives as proof of its demonic origin. Please! How absurd is that? Do we prefer books that leave people untouched? This book touches lives because it deals with God in the midst of pain in an honest, straightforward way and because for many this is the first time they have seen the power of theology worked out inside a relationship with God himself.

Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?

It does not. While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn’t embrace UR as sound teaching and didn’t want to be involved in a project that promoted it. In my view UR is an extrapolation of Scripture to humanistic conclusions about our Father’s love that has to be forced on the biblical text.

Since I don’t believe in UR and wholeheartedly embrace the finished product, I think those who see UR here, either positively or negatively are reading into the text. To me that was the beauty of the collaboration. Three hearts weighed in on the theology to make it as true as we could muster. The process also helped shape our theologies in honest, protracted discussions. I think the author would say that some of that dialog significantly affected his views. This book represents growth in that area for all of us. Holding him to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology.

That said, however, I’m not afraid to have that discussion with people I regard as brothers and sisters since many have held that view in the course of theological history. Also keep in mind that the heretic hunters lump many absurd notions into what they call UR, but when I actually talk to those people partial to some view of ultimate reconciliation they do not endorse all the absurdities ascribed to them. This is a heavily nuanced discussion with UR meaning a lot of different things to different people. For myself, I am convinced that Jesus is someone we have to accept through repentance and belief in this age to participate in his life.

Throughout The Shack Mack’s choices are in play, determining what he will let God do in his life through their encounter. He is no victim of God’s process. He is a willing participant at every juncture. And even though Papa says ‘He is reconciled to all men” he also notes that, “not all men are reconciled to me.”

Is the author promoting the emergent movement?

This guilt-by-association tactic is completely contrived. Neither the author, nor Brad and I at Windblown have ever been part of the emergent conversation. Some of their bloggers have written about the book, but we have not had any significant contact with the leaders of that movement and they have not been the core audience that has embraced this book.

That said I have met many people in the emergent conversation that have proved to be brothers and sisters in the faith. While I’m not nuts about all they do, a lot of the statements made about them by critics are as false as what some say about The Shack. They do deeply embrace the Scriptures. As I see it they are not trying to re-invent Christianity, but trying to communicate it in ways that captures a new generation. While I don’t agree with many of the conclusions they’re sorting through at the moment, they are not raving humanists. I have found them passionate seekers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who are asking some wonderful questions about God and how he makes himself known in us.

Does The Shack promote new age philosophy or Hinduism?

Amazingly some people have made assumptions about some of the names to think there is some eastern mysticism here, but when you hear how Paul selected the names he did it wasn’t to make veiled references to Hinduism, black Madonnas, or anything else. It was to uncover facets of God’s character that are clear in the Scriptures.

It’s amazing how much people will make up to indulge their fantasies and falsely label something to fit their own conclusions. Some have even insisted that Mack flying in his dreams was veiled instructions in astral travel. Absolutely absurd! Has this man never read fiction, or had a dream? Just because someone screams there is a demon under that bush, doesn’t mean there is.

We realize this would be a challenging read for those who see no difference between the religious conditioning that underlies Christianity as it is often presented in the 21st Century and the simple, powerful life in Christ that Jesus offered to his followers. Our hope was to help people see how the Loving Creator can penetrate our defenses and lead us to healing. Our prayer is that through this book people will see the God of the Bible as Jesus presented him to be—an endearing reality who wants to love us out of our sin and bondage and into his life. This is a message of grace and healing that does not condone or excuse sin, but shows God destroying it through the dynamic relationship he wants with each of his children.

We realize folks will disagree. We planned on it. We appreciate the interaction of those who have honest concerns and questions. Those who have been captured by this story are encouraged to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so and not trust us or the ravings of those who misinterpret this book, either threatened by its success, or those who want to ride on it to push their own fear-based agenda.

http://windblownmedia.com/about-wbm/is-the-shack-heresy.html

“The Shack is a Christian novel by Canadian author William P. Young, a former office manager and hotel night clerk, published in 2007.[1] The novel was self-published but became a USA Today bestseller, having sold 1 million copies as of June 8, 2008.[2] It was the #1 paperback trade fiction seller on The New York Times Best Seller list from June 2008 to early 2010,[3] in a publishing partnership with Hachette Book Group USA’s FaithWords imprint (Hodder & Stoughton in the UK). In 2009 it was awarded the “Diamond Award” for sales of over 10 million copies by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shack

In writing this post, I am assuming that readers are familiar with the ‘fictional’ work “The Shack” as referred above. Since the new movie of the book has recently opened around the world, it would be hard to imagine many who have not heard of it. If you are unfamiliar, there are a number of excellent reviews online which will give you a comprehensive understanding. It would take too long to précis the plot of the book, but the main gist is that a grieving father meets God in the shape of two women and a man in the shack where his daughter was murdered. The book centres on the conversation he has with God in the shack, and most of the controversy surrounding this book has been centred on the portrayal of the Trinity as female, or partially female, and the promotion of the heresy of Universalism.

In the article by the publishers Windblown Media, or more pertinently Wayne Jacobsen, there is a full scale reply to critics regarding the book. I wanted to address Jacobsen’s response as it contains a number of revealing attitudes which then present proof that neither the author, nor the publisher/author of this book and subsequent film are trying to enable Christians to grow closer to God they are simply out to make money from Christians.

I have wanted for some years to publish a dissection of Wayne Jacobsen’s “Is The Shack Heresy” and with the news that the long awaited film of the book is now out, I felt it timely to talk about this article. Apparently, Oprah Winfrey was considered for the part of one of the female leads (one of the Trinity as portrayed in ‘The Shack’) which doesn’t surprise me at all. She thinks she is a Christian and is certainly influential, but it doesn’t matter how many networks you own, you are still not God.

I will start by saying I have not read the Shack. I tried to read it, but after only a couple of pages, I began to feel very strange, as though I was being drawn into something which was stronger than me. I decided to go against the usual reasoning which says it is fair to read a work before you challenge it. What I am actually challenging here is this article rather than the book (although it amounts to the same thing) and the responses which I feel are far too tired and well-used. Unfortunately, in my experience, these responses are more often heard from the sorts of men who have catapulted Christians into the arms of works like “The Shack” in the first place.

While I have not read the whole book, I have read enough excerpts and enough critiques to make me very concerned. I am even more concerned about a film which will not stick to the novel, they never do, and will add other worldly elements to the script and therefore lead Christians even further down a whole nother path away from God’s word.

If I write a fictional story about you in which I represent you in a way which is not true to who you are, I am distorting how others see you. I may claim that it is fictional, but it still has real-life applications. This is the very issue which plagues celebrities, actors and others in the public eye. The media makes up stuff about them all the time. It may not be the truth, but for somebody who doesn’t know you, it becomes truth and for somebody who cares for you a great deal, it is insulting because it doesn’t portray you as you actually are. I would guarantee that if I wrote a story portraying you in a way which was both false and misleading you would get pretty upset about it. That is why people hate ‘The Shack’ so vehemently. It lies about God. You can’t claim that it is fiction and therefore you have the right to say what you like. On the Windblown Media site Wayne Jacobsen makes it perfectly clear that ‘The Shack’ was meant to be a theological work, with references to the scripture on just about every page. I have yet to see a theological work whose position in the library catalogue system is ‘fiction’.

Wayne Jacobsen in his article at Windblown Media fairly mocks those who read the criticism of the Shack but don’t read the book. People are told to read the book for themselves and not allow others to tell them what to think. But aren’t we being told what to think by Windblown? I have always been highly sceptical of any organisation which arranges it’s own in-house investigation of itself. The findings will always be coloured by self-interest. Therefore, Windblown actually comes across looking defensive and in fact the tone of the defense is pretty immature. It is the sarcastic rejoinder of the teenager who is trying to project sophistication and wisdom “Really, that’s what you got out of the book”, or even “You people really aren’t very smart are you”. It is snide, patronising and disingenuous.

We knew it would happen eventually. Frankly we thought it would happen far sooner and in far greater quantity than we have seen to date. But we knew 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.

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. I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy the meat and toss the bones. “

Jacobsen starts by saying “told you so” . Apparently the publishers knew it was going to cause controversy because it was so ‘edgy’. Hey, it’s a cool book and we knew it was going to cause trouble, that’s why we published it. But elsewhere in this response, he also claims that this book is only fictional and therefore people are making too much of it. Now you can’t have it both ways, either you use the defense (with a dismissive shoulder shrug) “hey it’s JUST fiction, you square dudes need to chill ax”, or you use the defense “hey we knew you square dudes needed to be shaken up a bit”.

The “I never thought everyone was going to enjoy this book” message is also more than slightly disingenuous. The revelation that the authors of the book were looking right from the beginning to make the book into a movie reveals that they knew darn well it was going to be widely read. It is controversial, therefore you publish it because it is going to sell despite the fact that many people will buy it because they know they aren’t going to like it. That is how marketers make money. It is my belief that those publishers who didn’t publish were more concerned with alienating their existing market of Christian readers who had traditional views. Those were probably publishers of books which sell really well in Christian book shops.

This book sold well everywhere and its position and longevity on the New York Times bestseller list affirms that it was making people take notice. It is not a book which would appeal to traditional Christians, and the authors knew that which is why they published it. Yet even for those who were always going to oppose the controversial portrayals of God and other theological issues, there was always the insistence that you have to read the book in order to be able to judge it. Well, it ain’t necessarily so. You don’t have to eat something in order to know it is poison. Yet, even if most of the Christians who were concerned about the book bought it out of curiosity, that right there is a huge boost in your sales figures.

They knew what sells as Jacobsen admits in this article. This is also affirmed by their insistence in a 2010 law suit that profits from the book be distributed according to authorship. See this LA Times article here. Young claimed he was the author, Windblown claimed they had just as much right to authorship and also that Young didn’t want the book made into a movie as they had originally agreed. Books, as we all know, which get made into movies (The Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter franchise for example) tend to sell well as books even during and after the movies, giving rise to further books and ultimately a highly successful and profitable market arises selling not only books and movie paraphernalia but spin off books from other authors, as well as fan fiction. It is a highly lucrative enterprise which every author dreams of entering into. Authors of books like this become billionaires overnight; not to mention the publishers, printers, agents and sellers of the book. .

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. I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy the meat and toss the bones

I don’t know about Wayne, but I prefer eating chicken without bones, and even the bones of a chicken, as every good chef knows, are used for making stock. So, chicken analogies aside, this statement reminds me of pre-pubescent boys pouring petrol down an anthill just to see what would happen when they light it.

The publisher states that he loves books which challenge his theological constructs. Yet in his next sentence he claims that this is especially true of works of fiction where people bring their own interpretations of the same events. This book is a work of fiction which discusses theological issues. In other words we are talking pretend stuff about a real person. The real person we are discussing is God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the most important real people in the universe, your maker, and your Lord. Where is the reverence and respect? You either do a fictional story about a real person who is by definition not that important because he is merely human so chill out all you people getting hostile out there, or this is a fictional story about a real person who is worshipped by millions around the world. Dang right this is going to be controversial Wayne. So stop pretending it is ‘just a story’ because you knew it was going to cause problems, remember? How did you know it was going to cause problems? Because nobody else would publish it? Wrong! Because your conscience was telling you that people wouldn’t like what was being said about God because it goes against the already accepted ideas of who God is. (The books I love the most are the ones which challenge my theological constructs) Which in layman’s terms (or cool dudism) means telling me what I believe about God is wrong. You can’t tell people that what they believe about God is wrong and then chastise them for getting hostile about it.

Wayne also tells us that he never views a book as all good or all bad. So, is he suggesting that ‘The Shack’ has some bad in it? If that is the case then he might need to explain why he hasn’t bothered to explain which bits he might think were bad? The bits which challenge our theological constructs perhaps?

It saddens me that people want to use a book like this to polarize God’s family, whether it’s over-enthusiastic reader thrusting it in someone’s face telling them they ‘must read’ this book, or when people read their own theological agendas into a work, then denounce it as heresy.”

Now back to the disingenuous thing. First of all Jacobsen tell us that he love books which challenge people’s ideas about God then he tells us that it saddens him that people want to use a book like this to polarise God’s family. Apparently publishing a book that you knew was going to be controversial isn’t deliberately trying to polarise God’s family. People are also apparently either too enthusiastic, and telling others they ‘must read’ this book, or they are denouncing it as heresy (because they read their own theological agendas into it). Now let’s deconstruct this. You have a publisher telling their reading public that it saddens them when the public who bought this book (proceeds going to Wayne Jacobsen et al) actually want other people to read it? I don’t think so Wayne. Remember, you knew it was going to be controversial, that’s why you published it because, remember, controversial books sell really well. Then they get made into movies. Then the authors of the book sue each other because they aren’t getting all the money from sales that they deserve. Because they are not only the authors of the book, they publish it as well. So, we aren’t going into hypocrisy overdrive here.

Then on the other side of the argument, Wayne also feels sad when people denounce the work as heresy. No, you don’t. You don’t feel sad. What you are feeling is the rise in blood pressure when your book starts selling like hot cakes because people denounce it as heresy.

Now Wayne starts to get a little tense. He doesn’t like it when people just accept other people’s reviews of the book. He would like the members of the public to read the book for themselves, preferably buying their own copy, which would increase sales.

If you’re interested, read it for yourself. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you. If it helps convey the reality of Jesus to you, great! If all you can see is sinister motives and false teaching in it, then put it aside

Now I am confused. You have two different attitudes conveyed in one paragraph. If this book helps convey the reality of Jesus then we think that is wonderful. Then the interestingly worded sentence, “If all you can see is sinister motives etc.” The words ‘If all’ suggests that Wayne is not as upset about polarising God’s family as he thinks he is. In fact he himself is polarising God’s family in this statement. Apparently you either read the book and see Jesus, or you read the book and see sinister motives and false teaching, and the words ‘if all you can see’ make it clear which side Wayne comes down on. So, you either get it or you don’t and if you don’t then we don’t care, just chuck the thing, but don’t get all hot under the collar about it.

I don’t have time to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the reviews I’ve read, but I would like to make some comments on some of the issues that have come up since I’m getting way too many emails asking me what I think of some of the questions they raise. I’ll also admit at the outset, that I’m biased. Admittedly, I’m biased. I was part of a team with the author of working on this manuscript for over a year and am part of the company formed to print and distribute this book. But I’m also well acquainted with the purpose and passions of this book.

Jacobsen’s attitude here is that of an overworked boss who has to take time to answer questions his staff have even though it is making him late for his dinner date. He also mentions that he is getting ‘way too many’ emails asking for his opinion. Why is this a bad thing? I would have thought this would signify, I don’t know, popularity, respect, or even just availability. However, he seems to find this kind of thing irritating.

What do I think? I tire of the self-appointed doctrine police, especially when they toss around false accusations like ‘new age conspiracy’, ‘counterfeit Jesus’ or ‘heresy’ to promote fear in people as a way of advancing their own agenda. What many of them don’t realize is that research actually shows that more people will buy a book after reading a negative review than they do after reading a positive one. It piques their curiosity as to why someone would take so much time to denounce someone else’s book. (my emphasis)

Jacobsen states that he hates the ‘doctrine police’ because they use words like ‘new age conspiracy’ or ‘heresy’ in order to advance their own agenda. And this is different to you advancing your own agenda of book sales in what way Wayne? Actually he answers the question with the next couple of sentences. Since he is so close to the publishing and writing business he gives us a lesson about why people buy controversial books. Hang on Wayne. Either you are saddened at people who ‘polarise God’s family’ or you are having a great day because your books are selling like hot cakes because of the negative reviews! You are right, you are well acquainted with the purposes of this book, and of the agendas of marketers and merchandisers. Conflict of interest is clearly not a problem for you.

The next paragraph is a master study in conflict of interest, and just conflictedness in general. Let’s look at it.

But such reviews also confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error and for those I think the false accusations demand a response. Let me assure any of you reading this that all three of us who worked on this book are deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the Truth of the Scriptures and who have studied and taught the life of Jesus over the vast majority of our lifetimes. But none of us would begin to pretend that we have a complete picture of all that God is or that our theology is flawless. We are all still growing in our appreciation for him and our desire to be like him, and we hope this book encourages you to that process as well. In the end, this says the best stuff we know about God at this point in our journeys. Is it a complete picture of him? Of course not! Who could put all that he is into a little story like this one? But if it is a catalyst to get thousands of people to talk about theology—who God is and how he makes himself known in the world—we would be blessed (my emphasis)

Jacobsen states that he hates that bad reviews confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error. What? In what way do bad reviews confuse people? People who want to know what this book is about (challenging theological constructs) will read both good and bad reviews. The bad reviews tell you what is bad about the book and the good reviews tell you what is good about the book, according to the authors of same. But Wayne hates that bad reviews confuse people who don’t want to be seduced into error, interesting language here. Wayne first of all tells you that he knows the book will be controversial but he loves books which challenge theological contructs so they published the book (which he helped to write). Then he tells you it saddens him that people are polarised about the book, and he hates when people write bad reviews because it confuses people. Right. He both wants people to see the book as good, even though bad reviews actually make the book (and future film) sell better.

Then he starts getting real upset and gets into defending his book. False accusations (and we know they are false why? Because they disagree with Wayne, the publisher and co-author) demand a reponse. Do they? Actually genuinely false accusations don’t demand a response, but your readers do, so you are going to keep everyone happy here by giving them what they want. Hence the diatribe.

So now we get the statement of faith. Jacobsen and his co-authors are committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the truth of the scriptures (truth and scriptures capitalised) who also apparently love to challenge theological contructs. Why? Because it sells books. Otherwise gentlemen, you would have kept your theological challenges to your emergent conversation around the coffee table and left off trying to merchandise them to ‘God’s family’ in order to make a profit through books and film deals (and out of court settlements) so get down off your religious high horses. Wayne states again gratuitously that he doesn’t have the whole understanding of God, and that his theology is not complete. So why get upset when somebody challenges it?

Wayne says that if this book is a catalyst for people to start talking theology (because lets face it accepted theology has been all talked out and new theology sells better than the King James – it also makes for a better film script) then that’s great. Now Wayne claims that this book is a catalyst to talk about who God is. How exactly? By presenting a completely different view of Him than the bible, then claiming that this is the same God? Well, that would surely lead people to just condemn the book out of hand. The ones sure of their faith I mean. The ones not sure of their faith are going to get confused and afraid of being seduced. Like the ones he mentioned earlier. The ones who are being led astray by those sure of their faith and condemning the book. So, is this book meant as a catalyst for discussion, or does Wayne Jacobsen et al really just want people to believe that this book is a great book which helps them get closer to Jesus?

I don’t think Wayne really knows what he wants, or at least he isn’t keen to be honest about it in these pages. If nothing else he is double minded, and scripture tells us that the double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Now we get some publishers blurb about this being a story of one man’s redemption. Apparently years of pain and grief are wiped away in one weekend’s retreat with Oprah Winfrey, and a couple of special guests. Really? I spent 15 years in a religious cult and spent 9 years trying to find healing and redemption, and in the end I went back to the scriptures and re-discovered my faith and the power of the gospel in a couple of weeks reading Romans. No lady spirit guides, no extremely cold dilapidated old shed and no controversial ‘christian fiction’ regardless of how well the rest of the world loves it.

That said, the content of this book does take a harsh look at how many of our religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules and rituals that have long ceased to reflect the Lord of Glory. Some will disagree with that assessment and the solutions this book offers, and the reviews that do so honestly merit discussion. But those who confuse the issues by making up their own back-story for the book, or ascribing motives to its publication without ever finding out the truth, only prove our point.

Now we are getting into even more confusion. One minute Wayne is talking emotionally about a couple of deeply committed Christian guys who are writing a little book about God and wanting people to talk about who He is and the way He manifests himself. Now he admits the content of this book takes a harsh look at how many religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules which cease to reflect God. Actually religion and rules never reflected God and were never intended to. So they never reflected God in the first place (talking third century and beyond now) and can’t then be suggested as having previously reflected the glory of God. A book can’t be both a little story which encourages people to talk about God and a harsh commentary on Christian institutions. You either have a theological book which critiques religion, or you have a parable type book which gently introduces the person of God into the lives of those who are hurting. Hurting people don’t need to be told that religion is bad, they already know that. Inflaming already hurting people against an institution which is only going to attack them further is a little gratuitous; again, the petrol down the ant hill.

I find it interesting that Jacobsen states that this book offers solutions to the institutionalised church. Which solutions were they then? Fantasy goddesses and a groovy middle eastern guy sitting in a humpy talking about God? Actually the answers are in the Bible already, and can be found by those who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ as is found in the bible. But then the bible doesn’t sell as well as the Shack, mainly because it isn’t as controversial….surprisingly.

Does the book promote universalism?

Some people can find a universalist under every bush. This book flatly states that all roads do not lead to Jesus, while it affirms that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. Just because he can find followers in the most unlikely places, does not validate those places. I don’t know how we could have been clearer, but people will quote portions out of that context and draw a false conclusion.

Okay now we get into the nitty gritty. Does this book promote universalism? This is an oft-stated perception of the book. Now if you are going to rebut an argument you need to use the proper method. You take quotes from the book as evidence for your argument against universalism, you rebut the argument with evidence not opinion. Wayne starts with a sarcastic and not very helpful put down. He states that this book says that all roads do not lead to Jesus. The book also says that Jesus is the best way to God. Both of these statements are not flat denials of universalism, they are well crafted non-statements. No, it is widely accepted that all roads do not lead to Jesus. But that is not what universalism is about. Universalism states that all people will be saved regardless of their spiritual condition (without having accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour). There is also the assumption that a loving God would not commit anyone to eternal punishment. There are plenty of reviews which cite quotes from the book which confirm this idea. On pages 119-120 for example ‘Papa’ or one of the fictional trinity posing as God says “I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it”.

Actual scripture, from the Bible, tell us in Romans 6:16 “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? “

I have just rebutted ‘The Shack’s theological error by using quotes from the Bible, the book of God’s actual words.

Yet Jacobsen doesn’t bother rebutting his detractors with actual quotes which prove his point. Now he is the co-author of this book, he could easily explain what he meant by these statements, instead he goes straight to an ad hominem argument. Apparently, opponents of universalism see universalists under every bush. Is this meant to be ironic? God saves everyone, therefore we are all universalists whether we know it or not, and hey, there will in fact be one under every bush because people are in fact everywhere?

Too much of a stretch maybe.

Jacobsen says that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. I have news for you, those who wander into sin are sinners who need to come to Jesus in order to be forgiven. If they cry out to him, he will come to them, but first they need to recognise their sin and repent of it. False beliefs, well, we all know those who have come out of heretical churches, so I am not arguing that one. But that is not what universalism says. It doesn’t teach that Jesus can’t save you whatever mess you may have found yourself in. Jacobsen has consoled himself by attacking his detractors by using the argument ‘people will always draw false conclusions’ without actually showing why and how these conclusions are false. Sorry, but you lost that one by default.

Does it devalue Scripture?

Just because we didn’t put Scriptural addresses with their numbers and colons at every allusion in the story, does not mean that the Bible isn’t the key source in virtually every conversation Mack has with God. Scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. They are reworded in ways to be relevant to those reading the story, but at every point we sought to be true to the way God has revealed himself in the Bible except for the literary characterizations that move the story forward. At its core the book is one long Bible study as Mack seeks to resolve his anger at God. (emphasis mine)

OK, now this is where Mr. Jacobsen proves that after years as a professional pastor (you know those dudes who make money off professing believers by taking advantage of that evil religious empire which Jacobsen hates) he still doesn’t know what the Bible says about God. Or does he?

In a straw man argument Jacobsen suggests that his opponents expect him to use scriptural references in the book to prove that his book has taken its key concepts from scripture. I don’t think that is their problem Wayne. Nobody expects a novel writer to use chapter and verse. You don’t see the books in your local bookstore labelled Christian fiction full of scriptures, Actually in the good ones you do. I remember reading Bodie Thoecne’s novels and the vast majority of them were fictional but they did occasionally quote the bible. But then they were just books intended to edify Christians not sell like hot cakes because they were controversial.

Apparently, according to Jacobsen, scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. Too many to mention by actual page number we assume. Not even one as an example? That’s too bad. It would have been helpful to rebut the argument with evidence. Apparently these scriptural references are reworded (I think your detractors would agree with that) in order to be relevant to the reader (what does that mean). According to Jacobsen, he and his co-authors sought to stay true to the way God reveals himself in the bible except for the (big important phrase)  literary characterisations which move the story forward. I find these euphemistic explanations entirely frustrating. A person attempting to explain a book which has already caused a lot of concern needs to be able to use direct uncompromising language which states in no uncertain terms what they book is about. Unfortunately, all I am seeing in these attempts at addressing issues are sarcastic put downs and generalisations without any proof texts.

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Now, I am not a genius, but last time I read Jesus’, Paul’s, Peter’s John’s words or any one of the other authors of scripture, I did not see any large African women or small Asian women. How can you claim that this book promotes a biblical revelation of who God is when the only time we see Him is either in non-human form (as per Moses) or in the form of a thirty something Jewish man. No women, no other identities. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in this way, nor is Jesus. I am pretty sure that is quite straightforward, and that is what people have a problem with. You are representing the almighty in fairly arbitrary terms, certainly not in scriptural terms.

Apparently this book is one long bible study. You haven’t given us any evidence of that either Mr. Jacobsen.

Is this God too nice?

Others have claimed that the God of The Shack is simply too nice, or having him in humorous human situations trivializes him. Really? Who wants to be on that side of the argument? For those who think this God is too easy, please tell me in what way does he let Mack off on anything? He holds his feet to the fire about every lie in his mind and every broken place in his heart. I guess what people these critics cannot see is confrontation and healing inside a relationship of love and compassion. This is not the angry and tyrannical God that religion has been using for 2000 years to beat people into conformity and we are not surprised that this threatens the self-proclaimed doctrine police.

At last, in this section of the article we see some quotes from the book, but not to back up Jacobsen’s argument. They are quotes from somebody else who apparently didn’t like the way God was portrayed. Further on Jacobsen quotes John 15:15 but only to beat somebody over the head with it because they are apparently too legalistic and don’t understand his portrayal of God as Oprah Winfrey.

Does it distort or demean the Trinity?

This extends in other ways to look at how healed people can relate to each other inside their relationship with God that defines authority and submission in ways most are not used to, but that are far more consistent with what we see in the early believers and in the teaching of Scripture. It is also true of many believers around the world who are learning to experience the life of Father’s family without all the hierarchical maintenance and drama that has plagued followers of Christ since the third century.

People may see this differently and find this challenging, if only because it represents some thought they have not been exposed to before. Here we might be better off having a discussion instead of dragging out the ‘heretic’ label when it is unwarranted. (my emphasis)

In general, Jacobsen does not confront his detractors head on, unless he does it in a demeaning and petty way. Those who criticise his work are considered to be narrow minded legalists who want God to be portrayed in the same way he has always been. How dare they contradict Wayne Jacobsen who is lets face it a former pastor who went to bible school and has paid his dues. He KNOWS who God is. I think the problem people have with this Wayne is that, well, so do they. Nobody wants to see God portrayed in other than the way he is portrayed in the bible.

You want to both promote controversy (why?) and accuse those who don’t want to engage in this as being either pedants or cowards.

This is the typical attack that rebels like to use. At heart, I think Jacobsen, and he won’t agree with me, is a hippy. He wants to stir up the ants nest and have people discussing God, but he doesn’t want to simply ask questions, he wants to portray God as a woman first of all, but have this woman use words which God has never used in order to ‘move the story forward’, and promote theological discussion. I am also deeply aware, as a woman, that women have always been oppressed by institutional religion. They are the wives and mothers and have no other presence in the church. They are not meant to preach or teach or have any authority, yet in ‘The Shack’ they are being used as a picture of God. Perhaps this is allowing those who have a problem with father figures to see somebody other than a man. Excuse me but this is exactly the sort of gender confusion that the world is engaged in at present. Maleness and Femaleness are no longer relevant. Whether you are gay, transgender, or any other form of sexual deviancy, the point is that you love somebody else and they love you back, love is not dependant upon gender. Now this idea is being superimposed upon God.

What Young is doing perhaps unconsciously is seeing God through the 21st century’s young person’s lens (scuse the pun). We are all being forced to look through this lens whether we consider it perverse or not, and now God is being reflected back to us as a woman. Not just one, but two. God is two thirds female apparently. Yet since this book is fictional, and you can use the term fictional to mean imaginary and not real, then you can assume that this God is not real. The problem is, that they are trying to portray this God as a picture of the real God. It doesn’t work like that. Some have suggested that this book is as much of a classic as “Pilgrim’s Progress”, but even PP has some issues. The issue of a works based salvation perhaps. Why did Christian carry that burden with him nearly all the way to the Celestial City when Jesus tells us to come to Him and He will give us rest because his yoke is easy and his burden light. Not even Bunyan gets it all right. As is the way with metaphors and parables, they can be stretched beyond the point. A little goes a long way with types and shadows, and even Jesus only spoke in very short parables not many paged novels.

Jacobsen has already stated that he loves books which promote controversy, and as a publisher and future film producer, there are clear conflicts of interest, which he has partially admitted to. These conflicts of interest however have not been completely resolved. He tries to defend the book but does so by attacking his critics rather than by proving that what they are saying is wrong. I get the strong impression that this is another PR exercise. Except it comes across as being motivated by the authors own hurt that his book is not being accepted as a theological work.

He says again in the last paragraph that he expected controversy and planned on it. Did he? I don’t think so or the overwhelming sense of outrage and hurt which comes across from this article would not be so overwhelming. A little miffed perhaps, but not to the point of refusing to properly and professionally addressing the concerns. My conclusion is that Wayne Jacobsen et al knew that this book would be controversial and he knew that it would sell well. I think any other issue is beside the point. If this book was truly a work to encourage Christians and promote the gospel, it would not have been on the New York Bestseller List. We are either friends with the world or friends with God, but not both. If we are friends with God, the world will hate us. Not exactly the best conditions for creating either a best seller or a blockbuster movie.

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.

God Commands All Men Everywhere to Repent

nothing-but-the-blood-of-jesus-what-can-wash-away-my-sin-what-can-make-me-whole-again-n

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.

The Red Queen’s Race

 

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“Now! Now!” cried the Queen. “Faster! Faster!” And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy. The Queen propped her against a tree, and said kindly, “You may rest a little now.”

Alice looked round her in great surprise. “Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree all the time! Everything’s just as it was!”   “Of course it is,” said the Queen: “what would you have it?”   “Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

“I’d rather not try, please!” said Alice. “I’m quite content to stay here — only I am so hot and thirsty! ”

“I know what you’d like!” the Queen said good-naturedly, taking a little box out of her pocket, “Have a biscuit?” Alice thought it would not be civil to say “No,” though it wasn’t at all what she wanted. So she took it, and ate it as well as she could: and it was very dry; and she thought she had never been so nearly choked in all her life.

“While you’re refreshing yourself,” said the Queen, “I’ll just take the measurements.” And she took a ribbon out of her pocket, marked in inches, and began measuring out the ground, and sticking little pegs in here and there.

“At the end of two yards,” she said, putting in a peg to mark the distance, “I shall give you your directions — have another biscuit?”

“No, thank you,” said Alice: “one’s quite enough!”

“Thirst quenched, I hope?” said the Queen. (Source)

I remember reading “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, and “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll as a child. I didn’t actually enjoy them that much, perhaps it was the ugly surrealism of the Tennyson illustrations, perhaps it was the vaguely emotionally disturbing conversations and characters. Everyone seemed either haughty, irrational, arbitrary, vicious, abusive or just plain stupid. Perhaps this is the way Carroll wanted his readers to feel, I haven’t spent much time reading about the author. They never seemed to be proper children’s books to me. .

I have thought more recently however, that these stories didn’t gel with me as a child, because I actually lived in my own ‘Looking Glass’ world. The Queen of Hearts was like my mother, indomitable, malevolent and ultimately inescapable. When you live with a malignant narcissist, you live like Alice every day of your life, trying hard not to rock the boat or offend anyone, but failing anyway. Alice spent a lot of time trying to understand the characters which inhabited her dreams, or her mirror, and in both stories, she seemed to be quite literally, the pawn, moved around the board at the whim of the other more powerful characters.

Reading this excerpt again, I realized that the topsy-turvy world of the Red Queen was very similar to the world of the cult. It was a natural progression for me to move from the restrictions of an abusive family, to the restrictions of an abusive religious regime. I saw many similarities between the narcissistic household I grew up in, and the environment of the cult. Again, you are at the mercy of those whose authority and position are unquestioned. Running as fast as you can in order to stay in one place, and being given dry biscuits to quench your thirst are only two of the paradoxes which you live with. In the cult, you had to work as hard as you could just to survive, and if anyone wanted to rise in the ranks of the leadership, you had to ‘run at least as twice as fast’ to get anywhere. When you had a need, you were not given anything to fill that need, in fact you were given the opposite. For example, when you went to the elders for comfort and support, more often than not you came away with condemnation, shame, guilt and anxiety. Don’t ask these men for a fish, because they will give you a snake.

“He must first be able to willingly receive and express shame when conviction comes. He must be able to blush as he owns the humiliation” (‘Dealing with Shame’ by Graham Pomery April 29th 1998)

This is just one example of the eternal paradox of living with narcissistic leadership. They don’t want you to just confess your sins to them, they want you to squirm and suffer. They don’t offer you comfort and encouragement, but further condemnation. Again, not an egg, but a scorpion (Luke 11:12). Not something to nourish and fill you, but something to poison and damage you. Never mind that there is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). I would suggest that people who are confessing sin are not walking according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Therefore, they would be receiving the comfort of Christ, if those ministering to them were not themselves walking in the flesh.

In a cult, there is no understanding that this world is different to the world outside the looking glass. In a cult, reality is defined by the leaders. There is no world outside the cult to speak of, and if you want to not only stay in one place, but to get ahead, you have to do an awful lot of exhausting running around. When you expressed your needs to the leaders, you were not given anything to help or support you, more often than not, what they gave you was like dry biscuits to a thirsty man. Not only was it the opposite of what you needed, but it was more than likely going to make things worse.

This ‘black is white’ type of existence produces fear, anxiety, confusion, striving to achieve the unachieveable. The goal posts were continually being moved, and then you were blamed for not having noticed. The congregation are kept off-balance so that they are continually questioning their own perceptions. They are expected to understand the notes and papers that they are continually bombarded with, with minimal explanations. This produces further confusion. The Theology of BCF is not clear and readily expressed. You wouldn’t find that many members of the congregation who are able to explain their particular beliefs other than in generalities. ‘I must submit to my husband as head of my family, and then to the elders according to the gospel of headship’ etc. What it ends up being is a reiteration of the jargon people hear on Sunday, or read for home group meetings, or hear others speak in conversation.

The difference between cult members and Alice are that Alice is at least aware that she is being pushed around.

“It was much pleasanter at home, when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits.” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

These men are as confident as the Red Queen, or the Queen of Hearts, or perhaps more aptly, the Mad Hatter, when it comes to being right, and Alice, the poor simple newcomer, must agree with their own interpretation of reality, or be pronounced stupid.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.”The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them – particularly verbs: they’re the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

‘Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice, ‘what that means?’

‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’

‘Oh!’ said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.Source

I used to often feel a vague sense of sickness and nausea that you experience with motion sickness (brought on ironically enough by a disturbance in the equilibrium in your ear which affects your balance). My balance was profoundly affected because it was meant to be.

This sort of behaviour is common amongst narcissists .

She makes you look crazy. If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse) that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten. This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.

Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative. You’re oversensitive. You’re imagining things. You’re hysterical. You’re completely unreasonable. You’re over-reacting, like you always do. She’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational. She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.

Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood. She didn’t do anything. She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her. You’ve hurt her terribly. She thinks you may need psychotherapy. She loves you very much and would do anything to make you happy, but she just doesn’t know what to do. You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.Source

This quote is regarding narcissistic women, in particular mothers. Having lived with this sort of crazy behaviour, I recognize it in the cult environment. One of the many examples of gaslighting comes when anyone leaves the cult. One particular member, the former wife of one of the elders was forced into a situation where the elders actually tried to prove that she was crazy in court. It failed of course, because she isn’t crazy. But the whole congregation now uses that description freely, because they have been taught to believe it by the leaders. Anyone who is not doing what they want them to do is anything ranging from ‘unsubmitted’, to ‘not of us’, to downright insane. It may work on the congregation.

In their view, antagonists don’t need therapy, they need to come and confess their sins, come back into the fold and be ‘adjusted’ by the leadership. If that sounds disturbingly like men who have lost their tenuous hold on reality think again. They know exactly what they are doing.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Post from Old Blog

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

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

This will be my last post for this blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah yes peace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

or   (my personal favourite)

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 61 (King James)

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

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

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

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A TimeTo Speak and A Time To Be Silent

Original Artwork Copyright 2017

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?

spinifex diaries.jpg

It is something of a paradox.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God keep us all from deception and false teachers.

What A Successful Christian Looks Like

small man

Nobody Special

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

1. You are Not the Popular Guy

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

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

2. You have a history of getting it wrong

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

3. You have not got that many friends

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

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

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

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

5. Few people agree with your views

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

6. People think you are weird

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

7. Nothing terribly spectacular ever happens to you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He who remains steadfast to the end will be saved!