Fellowship

There is such a sweet fellowship at church. It can come from no other place. The gathering together of the saints on Sundays is a sweet, beautiful event where people can talk about their struggles, joys, victories, witnessing encounters, home life, prayers, hopes and dreams. All because we have been united by Christ to God through His blood. This is an extremely important event filled with many joys. All manner of races, people groups and skin colours attend, yet they’re all united under the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But sometimes it’s hard to get to. In fact, if you have children… small children… it’s one of the most tiring days of the week purely because of the beforehand work that goes into getting to a service. That being said, it’s always worth it. Sometimes the best services attended have been those where we have struggled ten fold to get the kids dressed, washed, cleaned, ready for the car (then the seat belt exercise) to get to church. After this ordeal and ten tantrums we arrive tired, drained, filled with emotion and ready to sit down with our arms folded. But as soon as we shake hands with our pastors kids, the families that attend and our pastor – this all falls by the wayside to Christian fellowship and love.

lets go

I’ve had some of the best conversations with our pastor about doctrine, family, theology, church practices and evangelism over a coffee after these long, hard mornings of getting ready. And they stick in my mind for a long time afterwards, and always give me something to think about, some encouragement, some training or some sharpening.

So this is why I believe the Bible stresses not to “forsake the gathering together of yourselves:

“Let us hold resolutely to the hope we confess, for He who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. 25Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25

This powerful gathering that surpasses all others is that it is done in reverence of God’s redeeming work, and His Holy Word as it’s preached faithfully:

    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

This is why we sing reverent songs to God, not out of performance to please Him but out of heartfelt gratitude for having Him save us from death, hell and the eternal consequences of sin. We are redeemed people, bought with the precious blood of Jesus. This is reason to celebrate in a way that honours God. Not in a chaotic, irreverent flashy show of pure emotion, but a deeply joyous, humble, meaningful celebration. This is why church is so, so good – even when the morning has been the absolute worst.

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Charles Spurgeon preaching in the Music Hall in the Royal Surrey Gardens

In Christ,

Luke

Pain

Acute/Chronic/Redemption

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animal pain

Tonight I have acute back pain. I work in aged care so there are multitudes of ways I could have obtained pain in my lower back. But God is able to heal. I know this because He has healed people I know from illnesses, cancer, aches and pains. So I pray that He removes the pain. He says we should ask Him for what we need according to His will, so I do. But I also know that God has not promised complete redemption of my body until that day when I’m in heaven. Or He calls me there with those who have repented and trusted in Jesus for salvation. This has been the healing thought of Christians for centuries, at least those with a robust understanding of God’s plan to redeem earth from its current cursed state, that will continue regardless of what any preacher, healer or charlatan may say in a pulpit.

God has always been involved in the affairs of man, but also sovereignly allowed difficulties, accidents, medical trauma and pain because of reasons we’ll never know until He reveals it when we meet Him again. One of the greatest scriptures on this issue is found in Romans 8:18

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (ESV)

Hope

Though we may suffer in all manner of ways on earth emotionally, physically and perhaps through persecution and attacks as we’ve seen in Europe these past few months; take heart! God has overcome the world, and has prepared a place for us with no more suffering that is an eternal reward for trusting Him fully in this life. Nothing… absolutely nothing, whether famine, shame, fear, suffering, death or even any manner of evil that we experience on this earth can compare to the weight of glory coming when we get to heaven.

Pastors, teachers, Mums and Dad’s: preach this to your kids and congregations! Suffering will occur here, because earth is under a restrained curse held in effect by God for a momentary time. One day this earth will melt like wax, and a new heavens and earth will be in its place. This is our eternal hope! Jesus has overcome this evil age. His death, suffering and resurrection have overcome death and the grave.

romans-8-18

 

 

 

 

Priorities

What are our priorities as Christian Dad’s and men? Are they merely to provide money and give hugs and kisses to our kids at bedtime, or do they go much, much deeper? S. Michael Houdmann from gotquestions.org gives us some insightful wisdom into this matter:

“The proper perspective for this leadership comes from Ephesians 5:25–32. The goal of every believer’s life is to become more and more like Christ (Romans 8:29). For men in their God-given role, this means leading and loving their wives in the same way Christ loved the church: sacrificially (Ephesians 5:2), through service (John 13:14–15), and in selfless love (Ephesians 5:28). Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal yet serve different roles, so, too, can men and women be equal in value and in spiritual worth yet have different roles to play.

The fundamental requirement for biblical manhood is a proper relationship with God (Micah 6:8). This informs and empowers every other responsibility a man has in his life. Humility means an acknowledgement of his imperfection (Romans 3:23), acceptance of Christ for salvation (2 Peter 3:9), and a continual sense of dependence on God (1 Peter 5:7; Hebrews 13:15). A godly man will study, learn, and understand the will of God (Matthew 6:33; Romans 12:2) through the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). This gives him the tools to meet all of his other obligations; it does not automatically make his life biblically sound (1 Corinthians 3:2).”Got questions ministries, 2016 “What is biblical manhood?” viewed June 29, 2016 <http://www.gotquestions.org/biblical-manhood.html&gt;.

Fundamentals

There are fundamental differences between male responsibilities and female responsibilities in marriage and Christian life. These are God-given and essential for Christian witness, as well as complementary male and female relationships as a whole.

I think that humility and having a servant attitude around the home and our spouses helps greatly in the area of male responsibility. I know that around our home if I refuse to help my wife with anything to do with cleaning, cooking, children or home education that I am going to burn her out with my ignorance of her need. The same applies to spiritual leadership. If I let my wife take the lead in spiritual direction of the home, then I’m neglecting my God given role as male and husband to lead our family to the point of trusting Christ for salvation with our kids, and completely leaving Peta in the dark spiritually as to where our family is heading, what we believe and how we are going to present Jesus Christ to this dying world. We work on family devotions together, but ultimately I’m responsible for the leading of this event in the home. It is an office given to males in the church structure itself as well as the home. A Godly man will trust Christ, be humble, submit to God, faithfully preach the word to his family & wife, and ultimately lead his children to Christ in this sense. This is a huge, terrifying responsibility.

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Scripture teaches that a man’s backbone will be his ability to interpret scripture well, guide his family well by persistently reading scripture to his kids and wife together, will be strong, lead well, be courageous in standing for Christ in a dying world, and that he will love his wife with a sacrificial, self-denying love as Jesus did for the church. A godly man will acknowledge his failings and apologise to his wife and children when he makes a mistake or is hot-headed or arrogant, and will boldly confess his weakness and inability to do anything well without Christ as the head.

Ultimately our priority lies with leading the family with scripture soaked family worship, having a continual self-denial (especially when it’s perceived as being “well deserved rest”) and a love for spiritual truth, which is only found in the Holy Scriptures!

A Godly husband and father will earn a respectable income (it does not have to have 6 figures), listen to his wife when she’s wanting to unload, be there to support her, love his children with disciplinary and open love, yet firmly stand strong when temptations to become lazy and flat present themselves. This happens often!

But all of this is an ideal, and hard to do when you’ve got responsibilities, a mortgage, a car loan and have had no sleep for 6 months. There is simply a flesh nature that wants to undo all of the responsible work done daily as a husband and Dad. But the anchor that holds all of it down is that knowledge of the truth that Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost, and our families are in need of that message presented as often as possible.

Our priorities are to preach to our mini-congregations of children, and to love and lead our wives with strength and reliance on God’s word alone for life and practice.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is onto something when he quotes about growing a beard, but is more astute when he said:

“Train up a child in the way he should go – but be sure you go that way yourself.”

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Teaching kids the Bible

Together
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Right before family worship, checking out our new daughter Willow

One of the best ways to learn scripture as a family is simply to do it together! At a couch, dinner table, floor or even out in the backyard around a plate of food. If the whole family’s there (even if it’s 3 people at the moment) then you have a mini-congregation to share the gospel with! Our devotional times are after tea reading Daily Light on the Daily Path to everyone, then explaining, briefly, the message behind the cross referenced verses. This has sparked some amazing conversations and questions from our children, and just yesterday night our oldest son asked us, “what does someone have to do to become a Christian?” This brought tears to my cold face (it’s winter here… 16oC in the day… 5oC at night).

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A praying family. Beautiful

Family worship and devotions don’t just “happen.” Much of our parenting could fail due to waiting for something to “happen” on its own. Make a quick, simple time to read scripture together. Short passages, or short doctrinal kids material is extremely important. Our children soak up entire verses in around 3 readings, so pay attention to the theme of the verse and explain it simply to them. For example, we’ve learnt Phillipians 4:6 by memory recently, and did this by repeating the verse together 3 times at each teaching.

Philippians 4:6 English Standard Version (ESV)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

The children remember the numbers, and theme easily! Explain that it means that we should not worry about clothing, food or where we will end up living, because as we pray and trust God for every need – He takes care of us regardless of any situation we’re in. Explain that praying to God with prayer and supplication means with thanks – a thankful heart to God for all He gives us, and that we can request things we would like to happen.

Use a good coloured printout that conveys the themes well such as this from here:

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A simple verse, with a gospel truth, that can point a young person to Christ!

Biblically

heresy

This may sound weird to some of my readers – but the Bible is not about us! Every old testament figure and story in scripture is about Jesus. Jesus Himself said in John 5:39,40:

The Witness of Scripture
(Luke 16:19-31)

39You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.

What is the Old Testament pointing our kids to? Good character? Behaviour modification? How to be a brave warrior? No, it’s a redemptive story about how God miraculously preserved a people so that Jesus could come to earth to die on a cross for our sins & rise again to return to heaven in glory! It’s totally, sufficiently and beautifully about God’s dealings with a stubborn people who can only rely on the mercy of God for salvation and preservation – the Israelites. If anything, the only people that we can read ourselves into are the Israelites!We are completely void of any merit before God – except for bringing Him our guilt, sin and unbelief. We need a Saviour, and the Bible points to Jesus in every way.

2 Timothy 3:16,17

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

 2 Peter 1:21

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Every major Bible character has a gospel-pointing nature: that they are a type and shadow, in one way or another, that points us to the finished work of our Saviour. This is not what is taught in most homes and churches around the globe regarding the Bible. We have turned it into a life-improvement manual on how to avoid this-and-that mistake by this-and-that person. If we perform steps d,e,f then we will achieve results g,h,i in time. This is a completely twisted and wrong way to view scripture in light of what God and Christ say about the Bible. It’s a book that testifies of the goodness and mercy of God to a sinful, rebellious and stubborn people – US! So our kids need to hear this message in those stories. Not that they are a super-champion like David or Joshua or a great visionary like Nehemiah. Those characters are not types and shadows of us – they point us to Jesus Christ!

Deception can begin early on by teaching kids silly things like soaking in the spirit by meditating on a phrase whilst listening to music, practising mystical experiences instead of filling their minds with scripture, and allegorising passages when they’re historical events with a purpose. Each passage of the Bible that contains a blessing/cursing phrase is actually about the old covenant. The Mosaic covenant! Yet we as Christians use Deuteronomy 28:1-6 for all kinds of ridiculous claims of bliss and wonderment. We forget that the very next few verses are about the curses that God will inflict on the Israelites if they disobey any of God’s commands! Why do we do these things with scripture? Because we’re taught wrongly from a young age that every single verse we read has an implication now or a principle to learn from that literally applies for all time – such as the Old Covenant blessing and cursing system spoken of here. How wrong we can be!

So point your children to their need for a saviour by exposing their sin using the law of God – the 10 commandments – in an engaging, textural, fun, informative way that grabs their attention, but do it accurately so that the simple message that we are all in dire need of a saviour gets through.

This is the only way we can reach our children with the truth early on. Be persistent and realise that there’s no greater thing you could be teaching your kids than their need for Jesus Christ and His forgiveness. You’ll be eternally grateful you did.

In Christ

Luke

How important is scripture?

PhotoSpinChristian Religious Icons Objects
© 2001 PhotoSpin
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PhotoSpin Christian Religious Icons Objects © 2001 PhotoSpin http://www.photospin.com

Is The Bible Sufficient?

Many teachers find themselves in a pickle. Do I continue to teach God’s word as commanded in scripture, or do I use all of the wacky gimmicks that the more successful churches are pulling to gain more influence, and more congregants? That battle would be intense because of the pressure to mould into what the big guys are doing uptown. However, with every pragmatic (whatever works) ideology comes a price. A heavy price. With every massive church that treats the Bible as a launching pad for more exciting endeavours such as sex talks, purpose finding exercises and practical life lessons, a little piece of the puzzle that scripture clearly has put together regarding church structure, redemption, our sin problem, Jesus as the solution and even the real character of God Himself is thrown away, leaving an empty shell of a church that remains doctrine-less or even anti-doctrinal behind. The result?

Well, people in hell.

Ultimately an attack on the sufficiency of scripture for all life and practice is a sure fire way to send people into believing absolutely anything new, thus ending their faith in Christ – save some kind of miracle. How does this happen?

I want to lay out exactly how – and why.

Step 1 – Convince us the Bible’s outdated

Despite all of its glory and sufficiency (ability to suffice for everything), scripture has for around 45 years, been under an attack from within as to its efficacy to hold people’s attention. It may not have necessarily been an attack on content at first, but scripture has undergone a steady deconstruction since readers were told to have a “personal” experience type relationship with Jesus Christ, and to read the Bible the same way – as a privately interpreted book that is open to be pulled apart & reconstituted as a muddled mess of words. This meant that readers were to try and understand the text they were reading any way possible – paying no attention to context, the writers hearers, the location of the story, the covenant the Israelites were under at the time or distinguishing between law and gospel. Instead, private interpretation became the way to understand everything, and to dare attack that or question its truthfulness was a huge no-no. Thanks to teachers such as Rob Bell formerly of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids USA and the infamous Nooma productions, and earlier in the 1990’s with Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California we have a new perspective on scripture – and that is that the Bible is simply a map to give us things we want like more money, health, more successful marriages, better outcomes and a bigger purpose in life. Rick Warren has even gone on the record saying that Christians are designed to simply “make the world a better place.”

But first this had to be eroded slowly by telling us the Bible is outdated and insufficient to be preached solo on a Sunday. Church had to change, and with it inevitably came the destruction of the purpose of scripture – to display the very nature of God and Christ, our fall and redemption – through the verse by verse preaching of His word! The Bible has become a back seat to more important topics such as making money, serving the poor, being nice to others and dealing with different personalities in the workplace. Here are some strung together quotes that make up the current modern seeker friendly model from the very book, “The Purpose Driven Church” that sum up the errors of post modern thought about scripture:

    “Figure out what mood you want your service to project, and then create it. (p. 264); We start positive and end positive. (p. 271); We use humor in our services … it is not a sin to help people feel good. (p. 272); Cultivate an informal, relaxed, and friendly atmosphere. (p. 272); We made a strategic decision to stop singing hymns in our seeker services. (p. 285); We have attracted thousands more because of our music. (p. 285); Saddleback now has a complete pop/rock orchestra. (p. 290); Use more performed music than congregational singing … (p. 291) (emphasis on entertainment); The ground we have in common with unbelievers is not the Bible, but our common needs, hurts, and interests as human beings. You cannot start with a text … (p. 295); Make your members feel special … they need to feel special.” (p. 320,323) posted on rapid.net

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This strange, determined and calculated move has been a rapid change for the modern evangelical church, and I have seen in my time many churches change to this model and lose their Christian identity through and through. One of its glaring errors, though, has been to completely change the role of scripture in the pulpit, from being exegeted and preached faithfully to it being a

The summary of this change is dramatic and scary for many reasons.

#1 The mood is set by the visionary leader. They are the boss. They are the gears and brains behind the change. Their ideas, motives and doctrines are what’s taught – not the infallible word of God and anybody whatsoever who disagrees with the teaching taught, methods for evangelism, messages preached or focus of the sermons (i.e. the hearer only) is a dissenter, and banned from leadership, volunteering and church activity. The visionary is God’s appointed vision caster, given a holy direction for whatever works to bring unsaved people to church.

#2 The service is not at all for the believer. The music, lighting, smoke machines, PA system, sermons, style, clothing and even hyper positivity is all designed to attract and keep the sinner in church for as long as possible. The opposite of what the Bible says about church – that it is the, “gathering and equipping of saints.” Almost every purpose-driven vision casting leader will lambaste their congregations with phrases such as, “only babies cry and want doctrinal milk,” and, “you silly leeching sheep..always wanting to go deeper in the word…,” and, “you Christians wanting theology are just fat and lazy… get off your fat bottom and do something for Jesus instead.” This language ostracises the real Christians who want the truth preached from their crowd, and essentially their “individuality,” gets them kicked out of that church. Or at least barred from any leadership position.

Ephesians 4:15–16

15 but 1speaking the truth ain love, 2we are to bgrow up in all aspects into Him who is the chead, even Christ,

16 from whom athe whole body, being fitted and held together 1by what every joint supplies, according to the 2proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself bin love.

 

Anybody who comes to church who is saved is actually a sheep under Jesus shepherding through the preaching and teaching of he apostles doctrine. This is neglected in seeker sensitive churches for a more corporation approach – where the individual is absolutely powerless to interpret and discern what the scriptures say on their own – they are completely at the peril and spell of the vision caster’s own doctrines, materials and Bible study methods for every small group meeting an leadership training course. These are craftily developed under strict supervision, and anybody who dares to teach a different book to what the pastor is into… he/she is out. Scripture is completely undermined in this regard because the individual can no longer approach the volunteers or pastor with concerns about the prosperity gospel, heresies such as modalism or even the over-emphasis on physical healing in the Charismatic church because they are not to dare question God’s “anointed one.”

This entire process for pastors is wrong because it breeds celebrity pastors who have their very own kingdom they’ve built that’s their own “brand” of church, and their charismatic leadership is what is followed instead of the “whole counsel of God” and all of Jesus teachings. Discernment Research Group posted this quote on their blog Herescope regarding “vision casting” as a modern church practice:

“Christians are being deceived into thinking that “visioning” processes such as these are necessary to bring about the Kingdom of God. Nothing could be further than the truth!

“I know of no scriptural requirement that our visualization is necessary to fulfill Jesus’ prayer ‘Thy Kingdom Come.’ His Kingdom will come with or without our visualization. But it could well be that our visualization — deliberate disobedience of God’s prohibition against sorcery — could prevent us from entering that Kingdom!” (Constance Cumbey, A Planned Deception, 1985, pp. 179-180)

#3 The believer is to only focus on what he has in common with unbelievers in church, instead of reaching unbelievers outside the church with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the seeker sensitive person is to reach out to the sinner by what he has in common in his own life and the church’s programs & style itself. This completely obliterates the actual need of the sinner – that he is depraved, dead in trespasses and sins, completely incapable of pleasing God and under His wrath and needs saving! Instead, he is turned into a searching individual, unlucky enough to have looked in all the wrong places for Jesus and can happily sin, swear, raise his fist at God and refuse to believe any of His Word and be welcomed into church with open arms – declared saved after being forcefully pushed into saying a magic prayer. With enough love bombing and hugs, the seeker is lulled into thinking that God is completely fine with his life as is… and current unsaved condition, and that Jesus died for him and demands nothing in response. In fact, the seeker is already a Christian – he just doesn’t know it yet! All he has to do is be convinced about how much God loves him and he’s all set! This is fundamentally wrong. And scripture is nowhere to be seen in these styles of services. It may be open on a pulpit… but the Bible is usually a prop. A fixture either held or left alone and completely unused week in and week out, starving those in the congregation who actually treasure Christ and want to hear His Word rightly proclaimed. Jesus Himself told us that, “thy Word is truth.” So if we neglect God’s inspired word, we reject Him.

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#4 The goal of the service is to make the sinner belong.

All seriousness I must give to this section because I have experienced first hand this takeover attitude of leaving scripture at the door and performing all kinds of worldly stunts and gimmicks for the sinner to enjoy instead on a Sunday morning. I once went to an emerging leaders camp for my denomination, the Australian Christian Churches. A Pentecostal movement loosely connected together with autonomous churches in Australia. At this camp, several things were emphasised that we must do to remain relevant, in touch, moving, on top and growing. These were: darkly lit rooms for worship, ample seating, ushers at the door no matter the size of the church, great food, great day care for the children, great smelling rooms, a café, the most excellent worship we can muster, many community outreaches, use our own building for the unsaved to have functions in, and finally… do a tour of big churches to copy their tactics in reaching lost people.

Was doctrine mentioned? No. Neither was asking God for power to preach repentance and faith faithfully, or a firm study of the Bible to show ourselves approved to preach well. Training leaders to be smiling, robotic copycats of every city church leader they see. This breeds a business model of church, where success is based on customer satisfaction. We even ran through examples of how great chain restaurants have the best customer service, and that we are the same! Hmm… I beg to differ. The function of pastor has completely been overturned to become a business leader who does motivational pep talks to the congregation, seeking to flatter them until their head bursts with pride and self-confidence. This is no way to preach or teach scripture. In fact, the very things we learned to do at this camp were the very things that false teachers are revealed to be doing in Romans 16:17-19

17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

Gotquestions.org offers a wonderful article on the whole idea of flattery, and it’s certainly eye-opening:

“Some teachers use flattery as a means to increase personal followings. Leaders desiring to attract a crowd sometimes water down their message until the gospel is reduced to little more than a God-tainted self-improvement program. They pepper their talks with cheerful verses and illustrations designed to make their hearers feel better about themselves (and about the teachers). There is much talk about discovering one’s potential and developing personal greatness. This is nothing more than flattery intended to create popularity for the speaker and his or her message. It sells books and media time, but it often bears little resemblance to the message Jesus proclaimed.” (Gotquestions.org 2016, “What does the Bible say about flattery” viewed June 15 2016 <http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-flattery.html&gt;.

This notion of grooming the sinner to like church and become attracted to Jesus is kind of scary, because it means that the whole congregation must beat around every bush, walk on every theological eggshell and essentially shrink away from talking about anything to do with God’s nature, Jesus life, Genesis and creation, hell, heaven rightly understood, God’s wrath, even God’s love because ultimately it’s best displayed by being crushed by God in our place… everything is off limits if it offends the sensitive, seeking, fragile and unclear-in-the-mind sinner who walks in. So, church is void of all power, all truth, all knowledge and all footing to even exist as a faithful witness to the world.

What’s left?

This

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When the Bible is undermined and pushed to the very, very back storage room of the church as the beacon of truth and light and conviction and exhortation and equipping… the church becomes a sugary, tasteless, bland, wobbly, plate full of mush that the world can step on and it scatters & is ruined. In an instant.

Here is a link to one of the best satire pieces on the issue of building your own megachurch that leaves scripture at the door.

In Christ

Luke

My dream/purpose/desire is not what I’m doing right now

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Thinking…thinking…dreaming…

There is a growing trend amongst the evangelical landscape to promote, teach and exegete anything to do with our “God-given purpose.” This popular teaching involves shouting at the congregation phrases such as, “now is the time!” “You are given a God given purpose in life, your dreams are planted in you and will give birth when you make them happen by faith,” and “God wants you to achieve His will through you right now! Just reach out and grab your dream now!” This ethereal, dreamy, high and pious sounding speech is directed at uncomfortable, bored, dead, tired and frail people who already feel like they aren’t doing their childhood dreams whilst sitting in church listening to the barrage. As well as everybody who’s actually doing God’s will already. It also appeals to the younger generation who think that they can change the world overnight with limited effort. But there’s a problem… The “everyone’s special and needs to achieve their dreams” speech is for movies. It’ a Disney fairy-tale theology. Now I’m not bashing the willpower and reality of individuals to get degrees, fight for justice, take an adoption journey or start a church – but there are ordinary jobs and tasks that people listening to this are already doing that are perfectly, completely, totally inside of the will of God! Even doing the dishes! This blog is about living out our Christian walk doing what God wants, despite it being difficult and sometimes ordinary.

What does scripture teach regarding dreams?

Scripture says what God’s will is regarding our positions at work, our roles at home and our children’s roles as kids under a parent’s authority. It already makes it plain and clear that we are to evangelise the world, preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus name. We are to baptise those who believe, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teach them all that Jesus commanded us. Which is everything He has taught in scripture. Ephesians is a brilliant place to start to unpack exactly what God’s will for men and women is on earth. But biblically speaking the Bible never mentions Christians being required to “fulfil their dreams,” or even to strive for a “God-given dream.” Anywhere. Now, this isn’t to say that we’re supposed to be aimless despots wandering the streets, but our character and roles are most certainly mentioned, as well as our goals for the whole world to know Jesus Christ as Saviour and come to repentance.

Ephesians chapter 5 perfectly lays out Christian behaviour that is God’s desire once we become saved and indwelt with the Holy Spirit. It tells us how to act as employees, children, wives and husbands, and does a perfectly fine job of promoting those wonderful things that we as husbands and wives, mothers and fathers do to run a household and raise children. This is the antidote for the borderline insane teaching that everyone needs to drop their jobs and go and forge a rock music career touring the globe (or to do their amazing purpose immediately. Drop those kids off to the nearest nanny. You have some real ministry to do…).

Children of Light (Ephesians 5-6 ESV)

8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, 9for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. 10Test and prove what pleases the Lord.

11Have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that is illuminated becomes a light itself. 14So it is said:

“Wake up, O sleeper,

rise up from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

15Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless indiscretion. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wives and Husbands
(Song of Solomon 1:1-3; 1 Peter 3:1-7)

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Saviour. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her 26to sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to Himself as a glorious church, without stain or wrinkle or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.

28In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29Indeed, no one ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. 30For we are members of His body.a

31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”b 32This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Children and Parents
(Deuteronomy 6:20-25)

1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2“Honour your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3“that it may go well with you and that you may be long-lived on the earth.”a

4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves and Masters
(1 Timothy 6:1-2)

5Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and sincerity of heart, just as you would show to Christ. 6And do this not only to please them while they are watching, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7Serve with good will, as to the Lord and not to men, 8because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

9And masters, do the same for your slaves. Give up your use of threats, because you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with Him.

The Armour of God

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11Put on the full armour of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

13Therefore take up the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth fastened around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, divine utterance may be given me, so that I will boldly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it fearlessly, as I should.

Final Greetings

21Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know about me and what I am doing. 22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about us, and that he may encourage your hearts.

23Peace to the brothers and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

24Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

This scripture passage is full to the brim with practical knowledge on exactly what good works God has prepared for us in advance to do. Obviously the first and foremost is to work hard with our hands and minds – supporting our families and honour God with our bodies. We are to preach the gospel to every creature also, wherever and whenever we can. But the scriptures also make it abundantly clear that we are, whilst doing these things, sitting right in the middle of God’s will! His revealed will regarding a specific task, idea, movement or location for us may not be evident. That comes by just doing Biblical good works whilst trying out different things to see if they go well. God gives us desires to teach, play music, reach nations for Christ, give gifts or use hospitality for others, but if they’re done out of a love for the lost or edifying believers then there’s no reason to believe that they’re not the “big plan” God has for us. Our desires to do “great things for God” may actually be delusions of grandeur some of the time also – such as teaching people when we’re unqualified or simply not ready, or wanting to become a famous preacher when really we have responsibilities elsewhere that God is already watching us do, such as parenting, helping relatives or simply preaching the gospel to co-workers or strangers. If we think that we’ve been given a God-given dream and it directly contradicts scripture (such as doing evangelism inside of strip clubs, for instance) then we are running into a problem from the get-go. I have seen many, many people who felt they were “called” to preach, yet every sermon they’ve given has been something completely heretical or downright silly, and others who have neglected their actual household entirely to pursue a business career with potential to franchise given the profit whilst ditching motherly responsibilities to train up their children in Godliness and character of a Christ ambassador. There are actually boundaries that God specifically gives for certain positions in church – such as senior pastor. Anyone who feels called to pastor a church simply needs to look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 to see if they fit the bill:

Qualifications for Overseers

1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Therefore an overseera must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,b sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (ESV version, emphasis mine).

The truth is that we – including those of you reading who are mothers at home educating your children, gardeners mowing lawns for a living, fathers tired and resting at home with your children on the couch before tea – are right where God wants to minister to you and to others. His “dream” for your life is to simply do what is laid out in Ephesians 5! And this isn’t a bad desire! There is a certain guilt trip being perpetrated today that if you are slugging it out in a respectable job, raising your kids and teaching them God’s law and the gospel from scripture, obeying your boss and running your business well – that you’re not really living.  This dangerous obsession with  “big visions” and “thinking big”  really can just be a front for some quite selfish ambitions that completely fall flat compared with God’s written word and neglect the already revealed will of God in Ephesians. We may even believe it to be sinful if we don’t fulfill our gigantic vision of running a multi-million dollar business by the time we’re 30. This is wrong to lay on people. And dangerous, as it is a complete diversion from the gospel and the good works prepared in advance for us to do. Take, for instance, the story of Elizabeth Gilbert from the famed book entitled “Eat, Pray, Love”

    “At 32 years old, Elizabeth Gilbert was educated, had a home, a husband, and a successful career as a writer. She was, however, unhappy in her marriage and initiated a divorce. She then embarked on a rebound relationship that did not work out, leaving her devastated and alone. After finalizing her difficult divorce, she spent the next year traveling the world.

She spent four months in Italy, eating and enjoying life (“Eat”). She spent three months in India, finding her spirituality (“Pray”). She ended the year in Bali, Indonesia, looking for “balance” of the two and fell in love with a Brazilian businessman (“Love”).

eat_pray_love

Can you see the resemblance here to the most popular sermons about “following your dreams,” and, “not living a mundane life, but a fulfilled life.” These catchphrases are blurted out without any real thought to the implications time and again, and the results are a huge guilt trip on the hearers who are actually completely devoted to Jesus and doing exactly what He wants! Daily! Like this woman who wrecked a marriage that should’ve been worked on, left a great career that was probably suitable for life, and a superfluous second relationship that should’ve not happened if she’d worked on the first one, she created a narcissistic, self-absorbed idea to live a “fulfilling life,” doing what most young people want to do today: traveling, loving up in foreign countries,  eating fine food and generally wasting time that could’ve been spent on glorifying God and proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus… She wasn’t saved, but obviously the parallel is identical to that of the modern message most preachers have continued to perpetuate: that every believer needs to do big things for God, and fulfil their God-given potential that is inside of them. This, of course, is found absolutely nowhere in scripture! We are actually to die to self-interest and self-seeking behaviour, and to devote our lives to doing what God wants us to do. This usually involves hard work and perseverance, not flashy lights and comfortable sun baking by the Greek islands. Most of what God truly wants us to do is with a degree of hard work, or self-sacrifice. Any parent, employer, evangelist, Christian missionary or grandparent will tell you that. God’s interest is in His own glory, not our self-satisfaction. He wants us joyful – but not at the expense of His name being slandered and snuffed out by fame or ease.

Yes, God gives us desires and giftings, so using those to work well and serve others is a must, but some very “specific, undeniably special, huge, important, life-changing purpose” that is meant to be audibly given by God Himself is actually an aloof idea that was concocted to provide guilt for those ordinary Christians who are actually already doing God’s perfect will. Hitting people over the head with the purpose doctrine only encourages false notions of grandeur, not a Godly reverence for the ordinary, yet necessary things He daily wants us to do in our Christian walk. It’s a legalistic pull towards striving for more pleasing things for God that we aren’t currently doing, and a doctrine that paints people working, ministering to others and evangelising as “not good enough.” It’s quite an alarming trend that’s, quite frankly, taught in almost every pentecostal and liberal modern church. And it is spreading very, very quickly.

dream book

One example of guilt tripping believers


Here are Jesus last words to His disciples before He ascended into heaven – our mission and goal as believers:

The Great Commission
(Mark 16:14-18)

16Meanwhile, the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain Jesus had designated. 17When they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubted.

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The Answer?

The answer to this super special purpose doctrine is the simple re-telling and promotion of the actual things Jesus has told us to do as Christians! To reclaim the beauty of motherhood and raising kids as believers, to promote and train Biblical manhood and fatherhood once more – especially the role of mini-pastor that Dad’s are to their family, to refocus the church on the great commission of preaching repentance from sin and forgiveness in Jesus using whatever means necessary to get that message out to strangers. To recommit the church to planting more churches that preach verse by verse scriptural truth to multiple generations at once. To rediscover those Biblical roles for men and women in the home and church again and properly engage with what they are. To highlight the importance of a good job, stable work, consistent Bible teaching from Mum and Dad to the children, teaching young women to love their husbands and keep the home, to the promotion of evangelistic endeavours that really speak to the culture with truth, to not be afraid to delve into those scriptures that deal with sin, judgement to come, God’s holiness, creation, hell, heaven, the end times, apostasy, money hungry preachers and the role of the believer in their everyday living as a student or boss. These things are almost gleaned over as “boring,” and “useless” topics for the modern church because they are seeking super heroes with capes to fly in and do mighty works from a place of importance. The truth is that every major Bible figure didn’t “achieve their dream for God,” they obeyed Christ’s command to preach the gospel to every creature, whilst also doing the good works prepared for them as laid out in Ephesians! They actually forsook their dreams and desires to follow Christ and preach Him crucified. This is far different to the doctrine today of doing big things for God that He tells us to. Often our carnal desires get in the way of true good works, and this is evident by the way that some “dream doctrine” preachers have actually fulfilled their dream of having a large church, great sounding worship, good multimedia and a comfortable congregation whilst actually neglecting to preach anything about repentance, Jesus, the cross, laying down our lives or anything of the sort! They’ve actually usurped God’s authority and the commands of the Bible to pursue a seeker-driven model of church and achieved it completely off their own backs, with the fruit of false theology the only thing notable after doing so. I know of no “dreamer of dreams” preacher who actually teaches sound doctrine! Which is the alarming thing I’m trying to get through here. All “dream destiny” preachers teach that we can do whatever we want, and have it blessed by Jesus because we are a champion, when in fact the exact opposite is true – we are to die to ourselves and do the hard things that Jesus commands us to do. Those things bring God glory. Those things reach the lost. Those things really do change nations for the gospel. Not any old dream we concoct for ourselves, but God’s actual revealed will!

Seeds of Greatness

The “seeds of greatness” doctrine needs to go. It’s harmful. It takes our eyes off the crucified Saviour and onto ourselves. Our desires. Our dreams. Our need to want to make a difference in the world that involves recognition for something. And the grand old heresy that we as believers were somehow “great” and simply needed to be shown how great we were by having someone die for us on a cross… This self-esteem doctrine was birthed out of a hatred for Christ and His message of repentance and forgiveness exclusively in Him. Robert Schuller made sure of this & spread the self-esteem gospel to America and the world.

The truth is that when we become Christians we are given the sufferings of Christ as the mark that defines us. His cross-carrying act before He died is what marks our life. Our devotion now is to make Christ known by preaching repentance from sin and forgiveness in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins to all creation. That’s our new goal. Whatever means possible that this would occur. That is God’s ultimate desire – that as many souls as possible would enter heaven and God can declare to us at our death, “well done thy good and faithful servant. Come and enter the joy of thy Father’s house.” Any desire we have to preach, teach, start an orphanage, rescue people from the sex trade, save animals, cook for the homeless or visit Nepal on a mission trip is to be completely bolstered to the idea that during all of these if disciples are not being made by preaching the law and the gospel, then it’s actually probably our own idea and not God’s. This interesting article from Ministry Today’s Tommy Barnett gives us an insight into how this dream doctrine language has infiltrated the church, by perpetuating it further:

    “6. Journal your dream.
Once you are able to define your dream, write it down. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.'” If you want to move ahead in your dream, you must write it down–inscribe it indelibly.

That shows resolve, definition and form. It is not enough to have an idea of what you want to do; you must have a plan for implementing it. Dreams do not come true by fantasizing–you have to write them down and let them become a guiding force in your life.

It has been said, “No individual has the right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it.” But most people have lost their dream.

It seems impractical in this world to believe you were born for something great. Somehow it becomes more important to have a steady job, pay the mortgage, keep things moving forward with the least amount of disruption and the highest possibility for what our society calls “success.” But the fulfilment of your dream has little to do with what our society considers success–it’s much bigger than that. Are you dreaming big enough? (Charisma Media, 2016 Emphasis mine).

navelGazing1

Now…this passage in Habakkuk actually has nothing to do with dreaming up a plan for our lives, writing it down, then showing it to people to pray over and be jealous of… it’s about a prophetic vision that one of God’s Holy prophets saw and was to write down, regarding God raising up the Chaldean people to judge Israel with strength. Funny how Tommy has taken one tiny verse about “writing a vision down” to mean that all Christians have to physically write down their destiny and show it around. It’s missing the entire point of the passage – which is primarily about Israel’s rebellion and God’s nature. A good doctrinal lesson here is the Christ-centredness of the Old Testament – it primarily deals with God redeeming a stiff-necked and stubborn people who haven’t deserved favour, not a lesson in how to have an improved life.

Did you spot the rest? Having a job, paying your bills, moving forward with your career and not disrupting others is a cursed thing! Now granted, there’s much more to life than paying stuff – but this neglect of the very things God calls us to do (being good fathers and husbands, keeping house, providing for our families and others, praying for one another, serving in our churches) is totally in vogue right now. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there is a perception out there that any Christian who isn’t touring globally with a band, running their own celebrity ministry, opening a Bible college or receiving millions of reads for a blog is considered “lame, man,” by these dream destiny preachers. They constantly want every church member to give more, do more, be more, rise higher, go further, climb faster, push harder, dream bigger, stare at their naval more until all they can think about is just how they measure up against God’s Holy “dream standard,” for us. This places pressure on us so far as to say that we may even be sinning if we’re not living up to our “potential…” as if that’s the mark of sanctification! The seeds of greatness doctrine says that no Christian should live an ordinary life. At all. Joel Osteen best describes it in his blog from August 21, 2015:

“God never created you to be ordinary. He created you to leave your mark on this generation. He wants you to go further than anyone in your family. You have seeds of greatness on the inside.

I declare that yoke of average that’s been around your neck is coming off. God is about to thrust you to a new level of destiny. It’s going to be exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond. You’re going to see the yoke-destroying, burden-removing power of our God like never before. This is a new day. Yokes of depression that have robbed you of your happiness are being destroyed. Yokes of sickness and chronic pain are being destroyed. Yokes of fear, lack of confidence and intimidation are being destroyed. That yoke of compromise that keeps getting passed down—”like father, like son”—no, they’re being destroyed. From now on, it’s going to be “like heavenly Father, like son.”

If you will receive this into your spirit and not talk yourself out of it, it will ignite your faith and become a reality. Then reinforce the truth by meditating on the Word of God. Declare, “This is my destiny. Something new is being birthed. Yokes are coming off of me. Chains are being broken. I am stepping into the fullness of my destiny in Jesus’ name!”

Header_JoelAndVictoriasBlog

Teeth! Those teeth!

 

So nobody should be sick, in pain, have debt, be out of work, should ever die, be worried, have problems or limitations of any kind whatsoever. Hmm… This doesn’t really work in the face of cancer, disease, poverty, war, famine, tsunamis, tyrants, dictatorships or religious persecution, but hey… it makes a great blog… The problem lies with the application of this doctrine. If this is the case, then pretty much every believer I know who’s ever lived hasn’t actually lived up to their full, proper, maximum God-given potential. Are they sinning? Are they believers? Are they saved? Has God left them? Are they not carrying the Holy Spirit inside of them? What happened? Answer: The ordinary, hard, good fight of Christian faith happened. They fought the fight and are aiming to have won the race, striving for the imperishable crown in heaven that’s theirs upon dying and having believed in Jesus for their forgiveness. I’ve seen countless people who don’t believe this doctrine actually doing much , much more important work for Jesus than those who do. That’s for sure. Our very own pastor preaches and teaches from scripture every Friday night and two services on Sundays faithfully and expositionally… and doesn’t buy into this nonsensical grandeur theology of self aggrandizement or “dream destiny doctrine.” He simply believes the gospel and wants it proclaimed to nations truthfully. This is the job of a pastor. And he does it well. Others I know who don’t believe this doctrine have been preachers or evangelists that biblically proclaim the gospel even to the Vatican in Rome…. and God hasn’t struck them down dead for sinning against their dream destiny… It’s a farce. And a guilt ridden doctrine that actually puts Christians into bondage through fear of not fulfilling their full destiny. And it has to end. Everybody who hears it could be searching for their destiny for eternity, only to have neglected those God-given moments that present themselves to us to do His will whilst we do our good works!

There are ordinary people like you and I that can promote Biblical works as the ideal. Those lofty dreams that sound great when we say them may actually be antithetical to the gospel. Lets promote what Jesus said we should do, and what God says we should do on earth instead of any far reaching dream that may well be the death of us should we worship it instead of our God and Saviour instead. Will you help the church end it? Will you gladly promote those seemingly ordinary acts that believers do daily that are, in reality, supernatural miracles from God to the world? Will you?

P.S. I once dreamed of being a cartoonist as a kid… that was my own idea. Then I dreamed of being a famous worship leader in my 20’s… this also fell flat when I had kids. There’s countless things I could be doing instead of looking after and caring for my family, but these are practically all selfish desires. I have learned this lesson the hard way myself… to embrace where I am as a Dad – a mini-pastor to my family and overseer of a household of God! So I’m in your shoes!

In Christ

Luke