Break up your unploughed ground and do not sow among thorns.

Jesus told the following story to the crowd of people who were following Him.

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Later He explained what the parable meant,

The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.

I find the story offers clear cautionary advice about the way we treat and receive God’s word, and the things that can prevent it from being fruitful in our lives.

1) We can allow birds/ Satan to snatch it away before it has any effect. It isn’t allowed to penetrate into our lives so becomes an easy target for removal. Something prevents the importance and relevance from being grasped and nurtured, it is ignored ,and therefore quickly lost.

When I’ve thought of “the path” where seed falls, I have pictured one of those tracks worn through a field by frequent foot traffic. People taking the easy route, creating a path trodden down and established by regular traffic. It gives me a metaphor for the traditional ways of those who have gone before, leaving us with a well-trodden rut to blindly follow and creates the kind of surface impervious to seed falling upon it. The perfect, seed resistant feeding ground for hungry birds (Satan).

2) Similarly, seed/ the word can be lost if its not given enough room in our lives. The initial acceptance of it isn’t nurtured and fed, so the roots don’t become established and its effectiveness is allowed to wither and die, especially when difficulties arise. How easy it is for discouragement to set in, How easy to give up when things start to get difficult.

It’s no coincidence that  faith and patience are linked together as needed when we are believing one of  God’s promises. Without patience faith will give up when results aren’t seen as soon as we would like. We have to retain confidence in the integrity of God and His word and not allow sensory experience  to make us doubt them.

3) Thirdly, the seed/word might be received and nurtured, even producing some growth, but it gets mixed with other interests and cares, and while there may be an appearance of health, that can be deceiving, and what may seem to be a thriving plant remains fruitless, thereby failing its reason for existing.

I recently came across the following quote in Andrew Murray’s Holiest of All. Regrettably it perfectly describes influences in my life until recent months, and sadly, I suspect, the experience isn’t mine alone, illustrating the effects of trying to grow a crop mingled with weeds.

The power of the world, the spirit of its literature, the temptation of business and pleasure – all of these unite to make up a religion in which it is sought to combine a comfortable hope for the future with the least possible amount of sacrifice in the present.

The conditions in our lives that make us open (or closed) to God’s word depend on us.

We can resist, neglect or compromise His word and get a fruitless outcome. Or we can make sure we are receptive to it.

The following instruction from God through the prophet Jeremiah seems appropriate – a command that if heeded would prevent the problems mentioned in Jesus’ parable of the sower, and would ensure a healthy harvest with no loss of seed.

“Break up your unploughed ground and do not sow among thorns”

In other words, preparation for, and commitment to, receiving God’s word is helpful.
Don’t sow the Word into a field of rigidity or distraction.

Be assured, that if the necessary attention is not paid – the birds will swoop in, the viability of the sprouting word will be compromised, or the eventual growth will seem impressive, but fruitless.

Giving Careful Thought to the Paths…repentance.

A very insightful and informative article from Art Thomas about the “guilt by association” accusations that have been levelled against his ministry and others.

I thank the Lord for it.

I know that a few weeks ago I probably would have eagerly dismissed and cautioned against ministries like that of Art Thomas and Todd White, not because of anything inherently wrong with the work or the message, but because of alleged associations with others.

Lord, I repent of that attitude and the broad-brush condemnation that it fuelled.

 

What is the New Apostolic Reformation?

What is the New Apostolic Reformation? Why is it such a big deal to so many people? And what threat does the New Apostolic Reformation pose to the Church?

I want to offer a balanced response to these three questions and hopefully clear up some of the rhetoric and confusion that’s out there. My primary goal here is to give the Body of Christ a reasoned look at a complex topic so that we can be discerning and loving in how we interact on the subject. My secondary goal is to call out false teachers, slanderers, and children of the devil who have built their audiences out of innocent people whose itching ears are eager to hear what they want to hear.

Today I’m going to expose some wolves in sheep’s clothing, prominent theological errors, and divisive lies that are tearing apart the Church.

But it’s probably not going to look like what you expect.

In my best attempt to be like Jesus, I intend to love and defend the innocent while not pulling punches against those who have sown lies, discord, and false doctrine in the Church.

So hold onto your hat!

https://supernaturaltruth.com/understanding-new-apostolic-reformation/

See full article at link above.

How Many Impossible Things Do You Need to Believe?

How many impossible things do you need to believe to not believe in God?

There is a decision to make.

Whether to believe in the existence of a single intelligent creator responsible for the complexity of the universe and life on earth – or to believe that an unimaginable number of spontaneous events somehow happened in order to bring about the same result, out of nothing.

The main difference as I see it, is that one scenario raises the possibility of us being accountable to a Creator God, and that can be a scary prospect for some people.

Over the past few days I’ve had a small discussion with a few unbelievers on a secular news site.

One of the responders asked a version of that old, naïve question:

…how do you explain your ‘single intelligent creator’, does he just pop into existence from, er, nothing?

Basically, if the universe and life within it required a creator, who created that creator?

To some that question must seem the pinnacle of sophistication – the argument to end all arguments, and yet there is a very clear and obvious answer that does not favour the doubter’s assumption.

The Bible describes God as being eternal with no beginning or end.

But Science recognises that the universe DID have a beginning.

Therefore, unlike the universe (according to the materialist viewpoint), God did not need to “just pop into existence from nothing”.

As for the question of how many impossible things need to be accepted in order to disbelieve in a Creator God, the following response in the same discussion shows how willing people can be to practice all manner of irrational, intellectual gymnastics to close their eyes and minds to God.

That ‘unimaginable’ number of spontaneous events took place over an equally unimaginable expanse of space and time, and if the many-worlds interpretation is correct, over an almost infinitely large number of universes. From another perspective, given these conditions, that series of spontaneous events had to occur somewhere, at some time. It just happens that here and now is where they occurred.

Just look at the many assumptions and speculations required to fuel that argument.

1) The assumption that given enough time, anything can happen no matter how improbable or impossible.
(Excepting the existence of a Creator to whom His creation might be accountable, of course)

2) If the “many-worlds interpretation is correct.
(One might as well say “if the easter bunny was real, chocolate eggs would magically appear at easter. Again – an avoidance of pondering whether the Creator God “interpretation” could be correct.)

3) An almost infinitely large number of universes?
(So now we have the existence of an infinite number of universes that spontaneously appeared, not just one).

4) Given all of those imagined conditions then this very real universe had to appear out of nothing.
(Do I need to comment further on that?)

So I’ll return to my original question…

How many impossible things does someone need to believe to not believe in God?

Overemphasis: Love

Can there be an overemphasis of “love”?

I suppose that depends on what the emphasis may be and what defines our understanding and application of love?

Is the biblical definition of love the same as our own understanding of what love is? How much has that understanding been coloured by popular culture and its often romanticised ideas?

Do we believe that all we need is love?
Or should we be more informed by the Bible than by The Beatles?

Have our expectations of love become sentimentalised? And to what extent might that have shaped our expectations of God’s love?

Only a week or two ago I saw letters to the editor in national news papers, in which a significant ignorance of God was demonstrated.  The writers had the all too common understanding that the message of Jesus was all about love and nothing but love, and therefore He was no longer concerned with sin and unrighteousness, that His love makes Him blind to man’s moral short-comings.

I’d suggest that any idea about God’s love somehow nullifying everything else about Him is an idea that overemphasises love.

God’s ultimate act of love – the extraordinarily costly gift of His Son, should show us how seriously God considers mankind’s’ sin. The price for forgiveness and cleansing from sin was not cheap.

Sin is not something that can be brushed aside in the name of some kind of lovey-dovey romanticized sentimentality.

God’s love bled.

Painfully.

 

sacrifice

 

“Judeo Christian” Weeds and Thorns

How many of our assumptions are really based on truth? And how many are based on what we’ve been led to believe or what we prefer to believe?

How does this affect our views of the “normal Christian life’ and how we try to live one?

Which has most influence over our understanding? The Bible or our local culture – particularly our western “Judeo-Christian” culture.

I’ve asked previously, to what extent are many of the things we attribute to God’s blessings in reality more related to the thorns and weeds that choke God’s word and make us unfruitful? [see parable of the sower]

Has the “Judeo-Christian” influenced western world really been blessed with prosperity and freedom because of that “Judeo-Christian” foundation as I’ve seen claimed recently?

Or again, have we been seduced by those choking thorns and weeds and have we created a mythical foundation to justify and legitimise them in our lives?

Does the term “Judeo-Christian” even have any valid meaning if it’s reflecting something other than an accurate, bible based faith in Jesus?

Just what is that alleged “Judeo-Christian” foundation based upon anyway?

Is it genuinely based entirely on biblical revelation? Or does it have more to do with the highly flawed doctrines and politics emerging from Christendom?

I can’t help comparing my personal experience and observations of Christian life in the “Judeo-Christian” west with those of believers I read about in accounts from Christian-minority nations; from Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist majority countries. Or those under atheistic communist regimes.

Which background seems most conducive to maintaining an active faith in Jesus?

Initial impressions, along with a kind of romanticising of the persecuted Christian would seem to indicate a more thriving faith when under pressure. However, returning to Jesus’s parable about the sower, that is not necessarily the case. Jesus also refers to seed falling in stony ground, representing those “who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.”

So persecution doesn’t always lead to stronger commitment – just as exposure to  a “western” lifestyle doesn’t presuppose someone to be seduced by materialism; however awareness of personal circumstances and recognising what is most likely to present personal challenges, according to our own circumstances is essential.

Therefore as a western based believer I need to be extra conscious of the potential pitfalls presented by the society in which I live, and make sure I don’t try to justify the very real seductive power of those pitfalls by attributing their “benefits” to God.

 

Overemphasis: Grace

Can there be an overemphasis of grace? Of love? Of prophecy? Of faith?
In my previous post I wrote about my personal experience with “faith” teachings.

Another example of excess that I’ve seen over the years relates to “grace”.

Most recently I’ve seen some professing Christians with the attitude that grace over-rules everything else. They say we are saved by grace – and effectively THAT becomes the only thing that matters. Nothing else is needed, and therefore once gained, by grace, salvation can never be lost – even if a person turns their back on God.

That idea tends to be supported by appealing to one partial bible verse, but it is completely refuted by countless other parts of scripture, a reality that highlights not only the importance of addressing scripture according to context, but the importance of a broad biblical understanding as opposed to a knowledge of parts of the bible.

The people I saw promoting that view of grace and salvation were recommending articles on a website propagating a theology known as “Free Grace”. But they are not the only ones to overemphasise grace.
Previously I have seen other “grace” dominated theologies being promoted.

Calvinists have their “Irresistible Grace” through which they insist that God saves those who He has personally elected for salvation. It is a kind of grace that effectively forces people to believe, over-ruling the totally depraved nature that Calvinism insists prevents anyone from turning to God through personal choice.

Arminians answer the Calvinist belief with the idea of “Prevenient Grace” – which suggests that hearing the gospel can empower people to choose (despite a depraved nature), of their own free will, whether to believe or not.

I think an important thing to note is that the terms “Free Grace”, “Irresistible Grace” and “Prevenient Grace” can be found nowhere in scripture and they each describe different types of “grace” that have different and contradictory, outcomes.

Grace has an important role in the gospel message and without God’s grace salvation would be impossible, but it is NOT the ONLY thing at work and God’s grace does not nullify His character or His word, or the standards He requires of His creation

Some theological views not only claim that God’s grace makes “works” unnecessary for salvation, they also portray works as being counterproductive, being tantamount to attempting to earn what is given freely with no strings attached.

Other theologies speak of justification by faith alone (sola fide), with a similar insistence on the counterproductivity of works, but James in scripture not only tells us differently, but actually the complete opposite, (“a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone“).

Clearly, the fact that salvation is provided through the grace of God by faith, does not nullify the  requirement of fulfilling God-given conditions to receive and maintain our salvation.

As with my experience of WoF teaching, any teaching that focuses primarily, and exclusively, on grace (or faith), will inevitably detour into error.

Grace is not the be all and end all of salvation – it is more like the starting point. God through His grace has made the way to salvation possible and accessible through faith. Both grace and faith are each important, but they are only PART of the whole gospel reality.
Neither should be given prominence in isolation, and neither should be defined or practiced in ways contrary to the revelation of scripture – the WHOLE of scripture.

Overemphasis: Faith

Can there be an overemphasis on grace? On love? On prophecy? On faith?

From personal experience I suggest there can be.

Back in the 1980s I was caught up in Word of Faith teaching – in particular that of Kenneth Copeland.

It wasn’t the confess and possess (blab it and grab it) aspect that seduced me – my involvement started quite innocently and probably for legitimate reasons. As my friends continued to rave about Copeland’s teaching, and as I resisted their recommendations, out of the blue I suddenly had an understanding of faith that I’d never had before.

To that point I probably had no real clue what “faith” meant. It was an airy-fairy word. Faith was what made us believe something for which we had no proof, or had no logical reason to accept. It was a bridge between the provable and something we could not prove.
In experience it was tantamount to wishful thinking.

As I resisted the proselytizing of my WoF friends, something broke through. I saw faith in God as believing Him and His Word, no matter what other evidence may suggest. If God said it – THAT was truth, THAT was reality.

At the very basic level, I didn’t need to FEEL saved in order to be confident I was saved. As long as I met the requirements of salvation revealed through the Bible, it didn’t matter what I felt.

If God had promised something, and the conditions of the promise were met, then I could believe in that promise no matter how long it seemed to be unfulfilled, or how unlikely eventual fulfillment seemed to be.

But WoF teaching moved far beyond the initial understanding (revelation) that I’d received one night in the early 1980s. I made the mistake of filling my time with a lot of teaching that veered in dangerous  directions. I was hooked, thinking these people were teaching worthwhile things that would expand upon that new understanding. They seemed to offer the kind of answers I longed for – to bring my experience of  Christianity closer to what I was reading in the Bible. My church seemed to fall short in practice, of a lot of things they claimed to believe.

Over time, however, I found that WoF was just a different version of what had already disappointed me. Big on talk, small on results. How could something that had excited me so much become such a let down? Clearly something was wrong.

I eventually suspected that a major problem with WoF teaching was it’s constant focus on “faith”. Where does a “faith” teacher go once the basic aspects of faith have been covered?
He or she starts to push the boundaries – and it doesn’t take long to push beyond the very thing that is allegedly the foundation for their belief: the WORD part of the Word of Faith label.

Definitions and characteristics were given to “faith” that were less and less biblical. Faith became a “force” that anyone could use, either positively or negatively, especially through speech. Hence the phrase “confess and possess”, with positive confession bringing about good results, and negative confession bringing about bad results. Faith being a force put the power within the individual using it, instead of in God.

Having faith in God was altered to having the faith OF God – that believers could have the “God kind of faith” that brought things into being. It was no longer a matter of believing God or having faith in Him. It was taught that we needed to have faith in our faith. Faith was the active ingredient that worked (for good or bad) separate from God.

So many things that were promoted in WoF teaching, even though it was supposed to be based on scripture, were in reality based on parts of scripture ripped out of their context. Scripture phrases were cast around like magician’s spells, spoken (confessed) out loud to release the power of the word, just like God spoke creation into existence.

Scripture was being made to mean things it was never intended to mean. Individual verses were viewed  as universal promises, even if their context made it clear they were intended for a specific person or specific people. The justification for that was another out of context (partial) verse – ” God is no respecter of persons” – so, according to WoF teaching, what He gives to one, He makes available to all, not to do so would mean God was favouring one person above another.

Returning to my opening questions, I have seen that even the most central realities of the Christian faith can become exaggerated beyond the truth.

My personal experience relates to “faith”, but I’ve seen others fall for equally distorted beliefs through an exclusive focus on other things. I would even consider that ALL theological error has its roots in that kind of unbalanced emphasis.