Watch out that no one deceives you

Matthew 24 is an interesting chapter of scripture. We read what Jesus had to say about the time leading up to his return.

He spoke of political unrest (wars and rumours of wars and nation rising against nation).

He spoke of unrest in the natural world (earthquakes in various places).

And significantly He spoke of spiritual unrest (false prophets, false Christs, and persecution).

Most of his discourse relates to the spiritual unrest, warning his followers of the dangers and giving them encouragement to stand firm. The other areas of unrest receive only a brief mention. To me this has something in common with warnings He gave to His disciples, just before He sent them out to minister to “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt 10).

“…do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”. (vs 10)

Political unrest and natural disasters can only kill the body – but succumbing to spiritual attacks can lead to more eternal consequences and therefore they are the more serious danger to be faced.

I believe that is why Jesus made such a big issue of those things – so that those who heed His word would not be left unprepared. However, if we ignore His warnings of those spiritual dangers or merely brush them aside, we leave ourselves vulnerable to those dangers.

We therefore should not be complacent with the truth and take too little care about who we allow to influence our walk with Him. Those false prophets and false christs are out there now – and they are not hard to spot for those who really have a love for the truth; but many people still fall into step behind them and many are very quick to defend them when others point to their falsehood.


“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ 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. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 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.


Try reading through the whole of Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 24 and note the number of references to the spiritual dangers of deception and persecution.


How Does My Garden Grow?

My Garden December 2011

Winter does strange things. It sent my gardening ambitions into hibernation. I lost interest. The backyard was bare (except for some persistent weeds) and I didn’t care.

In late autumn I’d planted a few broccoli seedlings, but winter seemed to come early and they refused to grow. I prefer to grow brassicas over winter because it’s a cabbage moth free time when there’s less chance of caterpillars spoiling the crop. Few things are more off-putting than finding boiled caterpillars hiding within the stalks of broccoli on your dinner plate.

This year we had no winter broccoli. They didn’t have the chance to become established and start cropping before the coldest weather set in.

Things have changed now and a few things are starting to grow. The broccoli has recovered from its few months of inactivity and while it’s still early days, we are able to pick enough whenever we want some to add to a meal.

We’ve also had our first taste of asparagus. Only two spears, but it’s a promising start. I noticed there are another two generously fat spears almost ready for picking.

The warming weather has also inspired me to get back in the garden, preparing beds for lettuce, beans, tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, zucchini and pumpkins, but I still have to work out where to sow the corn.

It will be a while before the onions and garlic, planted before winter, will be ready – and they are taking up quite a lot of room at the moment, spread across three different beds.

It’s a time of excitement and anticipation, a time of promise, with a healthy crop of home grown food to look forward to; a time before the pests emerge to compete with us for that food. And a time before our neighbours start avoiding us through fear of having to accept another kilo or two of our excess zucchinis.

If Only I Could Paint Like Ben Quilty!

Painting has been difficult over the last couple of weeks. I’ve not been happy with anything I’ve done since I finished the paintings illustrated here:

Most of my time was taken up painting the one below, to which I’ve given the title “Prophet”. But I’m not happy with it. I quite like the colour and texture of the face, but not the features. Around the face I’ve included stencilled phrases from scripture, but I’m not happy with those I chose to include. They give the impression that the face represents Jesus Himself – but that was never the intention.

(this was photographed at an angle to catch the light on the stencilled words – the shape of the face therefore appears a little distorted.)

Until I decide what to do next, I’ll put this one aside and start to try something different.

I think the attempt at a portrait came about because I’ve recently seen a couple of documentaries about Ben Quilty, a young Australian artist who recently had a short stint as a war artist in Afghanistan. I’d seen him previously in some tributes to the late Margaret Olley whose portrait he had painted, winning him the Archibald Prize.

Quilty isn’t known for delicate and detailed work. He makes a lot of use of pallet knives to apply thick layers of paint squeezed not from tubes but from large cartridges more like a building product than an artist’s material. Even though he applies paint like a bricklayer applies mortar, the results have a detail capturing much more than the physical appearance of his subject. He somehow manages to capture their heart, their thoughts and their emotions.

My own attempts at portraiture have a long way to go – but I’ll keep returning and giving it another go. One day I’ll get it right (I hope).
See this excellent article about Quilty

There is no God but Abba and Jesus is His Son

We can be sons of God too, through adoption.

The reality of Sonship and the offer of adoption is one of the most significant distinctions between the One True God and the alternative “gods” presented in other religions. Other gods have no sons and/or they make no provision for mankind to be adopted as heirs.

He fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

…because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Andrew Strom and Prophecy.

Andrew Strom has closed discussion on his latest topic with the following comment:

Andrew Sep 21st 2012

It saddens and distresses me that so many are now so comfortable with “writing off” virtually every dream or vision. If we despise prophecy we are disobeying Scripture and impoverishing the Body of Christ. Blessings to all. Andrew Strom.

Strom continues to push his line about despising prophecy – but I don’t think I’ve ever yet seen him address the WHOLE of the section of scripture he’s alluding to.

Scripture says:

“Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good”

This is my public response to Andrew. I post it here because I am blocked from his blog. I have previously submitted this to him by personal email:

Andrew, by your lack of TESTING of prophecy YOU in fact despise it and impoverish the Body of Christ. YOU disobey scripture by your casual attitude to the prophetic gifts.

It would be wonderful to see Andrew genuinely repent. Then he may be freed from the attitudes that led him to move his family half way around the world to chase the Kansas City prophets.

He may have turned his back on that group after experiencing them first hand,  but he clearly has not turned away from the reasons he was drawn to them in the first place

Word versus Spirit: The false Dichotomy.

Dichotomy is one of those words I picked up at university. It means a division of something into two parts that are have nothing in common but are contradictory.

 It’s not exactly a word used in the common speech of everyday people, but in this situation it seems to be the most appropriate to use. And what situation is that?

The persistent pitting of Word against Spirit in “Christian” discussion.

How often does that argument have to be raised and how often does the quote “the letter kills but the Spirit gives life” have to be used as a basis for supporting that division? As if there is a lack of agreement between the Holy Spirit inspired scriptures and the Holy Spirit Himself!

The clear danger presented by this erroneous division has been demonstrated throughout the charismatic/Pentecostal church. Scripture has been neglected or even pushed aside and “spiritual” revelation has been accepted in its place. This has resulted in some very disturbing beliefs and practices that would easily be dismissed if scripture was still given its due regard.

But people choose to chase “prophecies” and “signs and wonders”. They neglect the sound foundation of faith provided by God through scripture which would give insight into the nature of those things being chased. Through scripture we are shown the difference between true prophecy and false. We are shown what God is like and how He acts – and are therefore equipped to discern the nature of signs and wonders.

The Word and the Spirit are not in competition. They do not contradict each other. They have the same ministry and purpose: to testify of Jesus. They work together.

Creating difference and pitting one against the other is not merely unhelpful, it is destructive.

Highlighting the Word and neglecting the Spirit results in theology lacking life. It leads to arguments based on selected proof texts – arguments that ignore equally valid texts that contradict a person’s favoured position. This stance tends to see that the scripture is God’s word regardless of context, as if the words have authority within themselves, even when they are isolated sentences removed from the stream of thought they are really expressing.

Highlighting the Spirit and neglecting the Word results in mysticism. The void left by neglect of the word is quickly filled by other things and it’s not surprising that the resulting experiences seem to have more in common with areas of the occult than they do with anything we can see in scripture.

But argue against these “signs and wonders” and what are we told?

1 That you can’t put God in a box

2 That if we ask for the Spirit God won’t give us a snake

3) That Satan can’t create, he can only counterfeit, so while the “signs and wonders” we see may be identical to occult manifestations, they are really the genuine article that Satan has copied elsewhere.

There are probably more of these excuses around, but these are the three I’ve most commonly come across. But how are we supposed to deal with these seemingly rational claims?

1)     What is meant by “you can’t put God in a box’? Does that mean God can do absolutely anything? That He is unpredictable? That He has absolutely no limits? What about His character? Can He act outside of that? Can He do anything contrary to His own Holy nature? Scripture tells us He can’t lie – isn’t that a kind of “box”? Isn’t that a limitation that we can be assured of?

2)     Scripture tells us that a natural father, desiring to give his child good things, won’t give them a snake if the child asks for a fish – and how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask? So is there truth in the assumption expressed in the second argument listed above? Of course there is – but is it the HOLY Spirit that we are seeking? Or is it a spirit of something else? What is GENUINELY being sought?

 We should also take note of Israel in the wilderness, when they complained about the blandness of the diet God was providing they expressed a desire for fish –and what did God send them? Poisonous snakes! Like the “God in a box” claim, a reasonable sounding assumption based on ignorance of scripture (or at best a partial knowledge of scripture), is given precedence over what scripture actually reveals.

3)     The third claim is perhaps the easiest to deal with. Find a single statement in scripture that says Satan can only counterfeit what God does and that all occult manifestations are only imitations of what God has done: and then get back to me.

 As far as I can see that claim is totally fraudulent and should have no place in the beliefs of any Christian. But you need the plumbline of scripture to be aware of that. You need the plumbline of scripture to be sure that the spirit at the heart of your beliefs is actually the HOLY Spirit and not a counterfeit. But as long as the word is denigrated and set at odds with the Spirit, people will fall victim to all manner of weird and not so wonderful beliefs.

Tired of the violence or ignoring accountability?

In today’s Daily Telegraph (Sydney Australia) Randa Abdel-Fattah described as a Muslim lawyer and commentator notes the irony of Muslims violently protesting against a film that depicts Muslims as being violent. She says:

 “Some Muslims, apparently seeking to repudiate a certain film’s claim that Muslims are violent, took to the streets and engaged in violent protests. It would be the stuff of a comedy skit if it weren’t so depressing.”

But in her article she also asks why moderate Muslims in general should always be required to speak out against what is described as a Muslim minority who have resorted to violence, whether in the recent protests or in the extreme events of September 11 2001.

She asks:

“When Anders Breivik massacred 77 people in Norway we did not expect Christians the world over to explain why his actions were a clear abomination of Christian teachings…”

I’m sure I can answer that accusation of double standards with two clear and obvious statements:

1) Breivik was not a Christian and few would describe him as one.

2) He was an individual acting as an individual – the recent violent protests by Muslims are going on across the world and are strongly supported by huge numbers. What actually happened in Sydney was mild in comparison to what is happening in nations with Muslim majority populations.

The reality is, people see what is happening around the world and even on our own doorstep and are made afraid by what they see. If Islam is genuinely the moderate religion that the writer of the Telegraph article implies, then THAT is why the moderate Muslim community ought to be keen to distance themselves from the violent displays that cause fear and suspicion.

The Telegraph article is here:

Freedom or persecution?

Protests around the world turned violent as Moslems demonstrated against a film they  found offensive.

In Australia the morning news shows have featured interviews with Moslem leaders trying to distance themselves and the greater Moslem community from the violence that marred an intended peaceful protest. The fact that a peaceful protest regarding an insult against their religion could even be considered shows the vast difference between western, nominally Christian, but mostly secular nations and those that come under Islamic law.

How free would Christians be to protest in Saudi Arabia? Is the true picture of Islam shown by the Moslem spokespeople featured on the morning news in a country where Islam is still a minor (but growing) faith? Or is it shown in those nations where Islam is dominant?

These links to the Open Doors site are interesting:

A list of top 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most intense:



Word and Spirit and…

Christians tend to be conditioned to rely on the teaching of professional clergy for their understanding of God and His ways, I see that as being counterproductive and very dangerous.

My own view is that believers need to search the scriptures for themselves and to rely on the Holy Spirit to teach rather than man. However this in itself, if practiced in isolation, can be no less dangerous than blindly accepting the teaching of a church pastor or priest. It is easy for us to project our own prejudices and expectations into what we read in scripture and think that understanding came from the Holy Spirit, when it really came from our own imagination (or worse!).

In addition to the scriptures and the Spirit I see a third requirement – fellowship.

By this I don’t mean meeting with a group of virtual strangers in a designated building for an hour or two each week to sing hymns and listen to a talk. To me fellowship is regular interaction with (Spirit led) believers by any means possible, wherever possible.

This contact gives the opportunity for our personal understanding to be tested. The conclusions we have drawn through our interaction with both scripture and Spirit can be confirmed or corrected through relationship with spirit led believers as long as we genuinely desire the truth.