Posts from the ‘Living It’ Category

German Police Smash Darknet…

I just read this in Tanzania news:

https://www.thecitizen.co.tz/tanzania/news/international/german-police-smash-darknet-child-porn-network-with-400-000-members–3385874

Faith in a Worldly Culture

People underestimate how they are manipulated and controlled by culture. I am not talking conspiracy theories here. I refer to the habits and customs that surround us and which we follow without thinking about even when they turn us into an anti-Christ. This cannot be overstated.

I will speak only of the Canadian culture here (though it is part of what is termed the “western culture”). We have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This particular cultural institution has become the foundational motivation for congregations that refuse to follow public health orders during the pandemic. Their claim is that they have freedom of religion in this document which means they are exempt from any law which they interpret to persecute their customary practice of religion. Notice that culture plays a double role in this fiasco.

The congregations are enveloped in a subculture that defines worship as meeting in a certain place at a certain time, and they define this further to be the primary definition of their identity. As prisoners of the wider culture of “rights” they use the secular laws to demand their religious laws as having priority over their responsibility for each other, inside and outside their circle.

This use of rights is entirely selfish. They refuse to see this because that would mean reviewing their subculture of privilege, that their right to act their way is superior to all other “rights”.

Jesus had the right to a fair trial, a right which was denied to the Christ. So did Jesus appeal the kangaroo court? Did Jesus whine on the cross about personal innocence and the injustice foisted upon the “Sinless One”?

No, because secular rights, won or argued in secular courts (or even religious courts) betrays an attitude of mastery or control instead of servanthood.

Here is the extreme example to verify the stand of the Bible (Matthew 5:40-41). Jesus taught that if someone sues you for your shirt, give them your coat also. If you are compelled by a military or civic power to carry a load for one mile, then carry it for two. “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).

If a public health order suspends the “right” of congregations to meet en masse in their precious edifice, then the congregation should not only obey it, but over-obey it somehow.

Instead we have self-righteous religious fanatics demanding their “human” rights to reject the teaching of Jesus, deny their community responsibilities, publicly declare that they have superior rights to others in the culture and forfeit the role of serving in their arena of operation.

What is their justification to abandon what identifies people as followers of Jesus instead of self and culture? They are heroes (self-appointed, alas) who are fighting for the human rights of all religious and spiritual people! I don’t need that. “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31b).

Even If

Even if the fig tree does not bloom
and the vines have no grapes,
even if the olive tree fails to produce
and the fields yield no food,
even if the sheep pen is empty
and the stalls have no cattle—
even then,
I will be happy with the Lord.
I will truly find joy in God, who saves me.

(Habakkuk 3:17-18 God’s Word Translation©)

Vital Versus Vapid #4 – Ministry

Teachings that are about Church organization, human authority, religious rituals or cultural requirements cannot be used to shape righteousness (“doing the right thing for the right reason for the Right Person [God]”), even if they seem to be Biblical.

Another teaching that is not foundational is the so-called Five-fold Ministry. “And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct]” (Ephesians 4:11 Amplified Bible).

This verse describes various functions within The Church, not a teaching that is necessary for salvation. Therefore, this teaching must be used with caution, because:

  1. This teaching occurs only once in the Bible, and is therefore more likely an answer to a specific problem at Ephesus (while things like Christian love, humility, servanthood, and giving glory to God alone are taught repeatedly and have no expiry date);
  2. The Greek of this verse can also be translated, as some versions attempt, that the last role in the list would be written in modern English as “pastor/teacher”, one person whose function is explained by The Amplified Bible translation “to shepherd…and instruct” (so there might be only four ministries listed here);
  3. These functions will not continue into eternal heaven as we will have no need of such an organizing principle when we live with Jesus face-to-face (whereas God’s grace and love will continue on forever, foundational to salvation);
  4. Misused, these functions become titles which the spiritually weak use to “hold absolute power over” those who are even more spiritually weak and undiscerning (“Jesus called the apostles and said, “You know that the rulers of nations have absolute power over people and their officials have absolute authority over people. But that’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26 God’s Word Translation©).

    Because this structure is conveniently helpful does not qualify it as foundational.

Godly Protest

How do I know when to be a protester? I have protested against the government, very publicly, and this is the basis I follow for knowing when to protest and when to adapt. This is not theory, dogma or philosophical thinking. This is what I have lived, and God grant I will never lower this standard.

  1. If I gain any personal benefit from the successful outcome of the protest, it is wrong to proceed. If I gain then my actions may be (or become) selfish, and even if only the appearance is that I stand to gain, then my protest is not driven by God.
  2. If people affirm my object, and I am energized by that, I cannot proceed. Right is right, and if I need human compliments to be strong in the cause I have no cause that comes from God.
  3. If I gain fame or notoriety from my actions I must stop. The cause is not for me, and if I become the focal point of the protest I have lost the purpose. For example, during a protest I help organize the media wanted to interview me. I had to decline assertively as they did not want to take “No” as an answer. Another person, who had no role in the protest at all, came to the scene and basked in the media coverage, gaining brownie points for advancement. That was as it should be.
  4. If people oppose what I am doing this is to be expected. If I stand for a godly cause and purpose then evil people and religious zealots will become vocal and actual enemies. If religion supports my cause I stop. God does not work through religious institutions, who have power, but through The Spirit whose purpose is to bring glory to God alone, not through financial, political or cultural clout.
  5. If at any point I trade humility for pride in what I am doing, I am compelled to cease. Human pride, close-minded confidence and disregard for spiritual wisdom from Scripture mean I am off the rails.

I have never published this testimony before, but in the present age I felt led this afternoon to be vulnerable and make this known.

May God “receive glory and honour and power” (Revelation 4:11).

Living for Jesus

Repeatedly I am confronted by people who claim to be disciples of Jesus, but all they want to talk about is their right to gather in a building and do their thing. Religion buildings do not come from God. The early Church did not build. The Roman Emperor Constantine (and his wife, and his Mother especially) started that in AD332. Buildings follow the pattern of his throne room, not heaven. The early Church believed what Jesus said, “Go and preach…teaching…” Paul made it clear that our bodies “are the temple of God”, not bricks and mortar. The cross, the centre of Christian living, has been displaced with religious rituals. Jesus died. Where is the life of sacrifice modelled by the Saviour? Jesus said, “Take up your cross every day…”, but in North America Christians take up their protest and placards and selfish interpretations of what is really important. When the early disciples said, “We must obey God rather than human regulations” it was because they were told to stop evangelizing, not gathering for religious worship! How does self-centred demands for personal traditions of worship teach God’s love or preach Good News that we can be forgiven and have eternal life?! Paul preached in the market place, beside the river (in Philippi), in prison (!!). Is it the poor and homeless and patients in ER with infections who are demanding their rights? No, it is those who live a life of privilege instead of the cross!! Do you want to be known as people who have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13), then start witnessing to the love and kindness of God, not whining about government rules that are designed to save lives. People of faith should not need a secular government to tell them to care more about others’ safety than personal dogma.

“Arise, O Judge of the earth.”

Psalm 94 is disturbing to me.

To modernists it is disturbing because in their arrogance they refuse to allow God to act against sin. For them God can only be gentle love and consolation.

That is not what disturbs me, however. What a heart-breaking poem Psalm 94 is because the wicked do wickedly and have no sense of remorse, even claiming that God doesn’t see what they do because there is no God except their power over others.

Personally I have been persecuted and treated with contempt for justice by those who have the power to do just that. Even years later these people show no remorse; they continue living like they can do no wrong because they can do what they do and, so far, God has not sent cataclysmic punishment upon them.

Without remorse there is no repentance and so there is no forgiveness which means their eternal condition is at stake.

God continues to show that racist bigotry, gender hatred and economic oppression or any evil are against the very fabric of the universe. The power-abusers don’t care, and as Jesus observed even from the cross, “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”.

In a long story in Matthew 25 Jesus points out that those who show sympathy, empathy and compassion will receive the blessing of The Creator, while those who are heartless, self-centred and malicious will also receive payback in kind, with eternal consequences.

If we steal from someone (reputation or property) or kill someone (through hate) or destroy someone through emotional vandalism we act as Apollyon (Abaddon), The Evil One.

We can never consider that we are right if we win against someone. Our call is never to be right, but to do right. And if we do right it will cost us something or build someone else up.

So have you been in a debate or argument and made someone look foolish in the eyes of others, or competed and took everything and left someone standing emotionally naked? Then repent and apologize.

Eternity is awaiting, for blessing or suffering. What you cause here is what you can expect there.

PSALM 94

1
O Lord, God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, appear!
2
Arise, O Judge of the earth.
Give arrogant people what they deserve.
3
How long, O Lord, will wicked people triumph?
How long? vengeance, appear!

They ramble.
They speak arrogantly.
All troublemakers brag about themselves.
They crush your people, O Lord.
They make those who belong to you suffer.
They kill widows and foreigners, and they murder orphans.
They say, “The Lord doesn’t see it.
The God of Jacob doesn’t even pay attention to it.”

Pay attention, you stupid people!
When will you become wise, you fools?
God created ears.
Do you think he can’t hear?
He formed eyes.
Do you think he can’t see?
10 He disciplines nations.
Do you think he can’t punish?
He teaches people.
Do you think he doesn’t know anything?
11 The Lord knows that people’s thoughts are pointless.

12 O Lord, blessed is the person
whom you discipline and instruct from your teachings.
13 You give him peace and quiet from times of trouble
while a pit is dug to trap wicked people.

14 The Lord will never desert his people
or abandon those who belong to him.
15 The decisions of judges will again become fair,
and everyone whose motives are decent will pursue justice.

16 Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will stand by my side against troublemakers?
17 If the Lord had not come to help me,
my soul would have quickly fallen silent ⌞in death⌟.

18 When I said, “My feet are slipping,”
your mercy, O Lord, continued to hold me up.
19 When I worried about many things,
your assuring words soothed my soul.

20 Are wicked rulers who use the law to do unlawful things
able to be your partners?
21 They join forces to take the lives of righteous people.
They condemn innocent people to death.
22 The Lord has become my stronghold.
My God has become my rock of refuge.
23 He has turned their own wickedness against them.
He will destroy them because of their sins.
The Lord our God will destroy them.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Our second daughter, as a newborn, would let no one carry her or comfort her except my wife. This went on for a little while and then I refused to let it go on any longer because my wife was wearing out. Besides, I was her Father.

So I picked her up. She screamed. After awhile it turned to crying. A little later it transformed into a whimper. Finally she went to sleep. After that I could care for her.

My wife and I with our 3 oldest Grandchildren, 2005

During this ordeal of behaviour modification my wife had to leave the house. A nursing Mother not only has an emotional reaction to her crying baby, but also a physical one.

I was just sitting here remembering that incident because a life event triggered a different memory, and this flashed into my mind afterwards.

It is for me a picture of how humans treat God. We complain when God reaches out to care for us, because we want it the way we want it and there is no compromise. So God performs a transformation to open our hearts to the mothering of our Creator, and it is sometimes an ordeal. (Imagine, we fight being cared for by the Creator of the universe Whose love transcends all limits!)

What my wife endured reminds me of how we look on at God working and we judge it and condemn it and blaspheme our dear Saviour because we do not understand what is going on, yet our in our humanity we assume we are all-knowing and can stand in judgment against the eternal, just and infinitely fair Judge.

Just Two Things

Human beings are rebellious. Whatever God’s instructions may be, they pervert them, and have reams of justifications for it.

The thing that drives humans up the wall is the utter simplicity of God’s grace and our obedience in it.

Humans make the simple voice of God into doctrine. Whether it is the Five-fold ministry, speaking tongues, Church authority, we make doctrine and to embellish the word of God and argue about how it applies, instead of simple obedience.

Praying during worship in Tanzania

For instance, Colossians 4 describes the life of discipleship as two things: pray + witness. There is no division of ministry, no miraculous overlay and no hierarchy of ecclesiastical authority. Just two things define mission and ministry: pray and witness. No doctrine or systematic theology, no conferences to teach a perception of Jesus, just two things.

“2 Keep praying. Pay attention when you offer prayers of thanksgiving. 3 At the same time also pray for us. Pray that God will give us an opportunity to speak the word so that we may tell the mystery about Christ. It is because of this mystery that I am a prisoner. 4 Pray that I may make this mystery as clear as possible. This is what I have to do. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward those who are outside the Christian faith. Make the most of your opportunities. 6 Everything you say should be kind and well thought out so that you know how to answer everyone.” (God’s Word ©)

Why were humans driven from the Garden of Eden? Because they thought, “the tree had fruit that was good to eat, nice to look at, and desirable for making someone wise” (Genesis 3:6 God’s Word ©). The very face-to-face life with God was not enough; they wanted to be wise, and as a result turned into arrogant, egotistical brain fumblers.

The apostles had these instructions: “We told them that they should not eat food sacrificed to false gods, bloody meat, or the meat of strangled animals. They also should not commit sexual sins” (Acts 21:26 God’s Word ©). In other words, avoid cultural norms for compromised living, and keep sex for love-making!

Do you know how many thousands of words denominations have as regulations to be a proper church member? And have all these doctrines and all this polity made the present-day Church a more powerful witness in the world than in the first generation of the Church? No!

Remember this verse that almost all Christians memorize: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV). There is no instruction from God to follow, obey or serve doctrine and denominational peculiarities.

God first. Everything germinates from that.

Gratitude