Beware of Platitudes* and Excuses

Prior to His ascension, Jesus commissioned His followers to a dynamic and powerful mission of preaching the gospel accompanied by the same kind of signs (and even greater) than those that accompanied His own ministry.

Yet, today, arguments against Jesus’ own words are more likely to be seen than arguments for. And as for any evidence that Jesus was telling the truth, it seems like the majority would rather not think about it. Otherwise they might have to consider what they themselves aren’t doing, and why such things are absent from their own lives.

Instead, among those who do step out to address the issue, the most dominant voices seem to be the ones speaking platitudes and making excuses about why things are so different now, or why Jesus’ words no longer apply to our time – none of which stands up to the teaching of scripture.

But how can we expect that kind of ministry – preaching a gospel to the unsaved, confirmed by accompanying signs – if members of the chruch can’t even believe and receive what God has promised to the body of Christ?

Look at the many promises given regarding prayer?

If you believe you WILL receive WHATEVER you ask for in prayer. (Matt 21:22) NIV

I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)NIV

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)NIV

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5: 14-15)NIV

Do you believe those promises?

Do you believe them WITHOUT making excuses for them not working in your own life – such as “well, sometimes God answers no…“? (I suggest the link be followed to see what scripture says about that).

Of course, there are biblical reasons that God wouldn’t answer prayer. James shows us two of them.

…when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1: 6-7)NIV

But how dare anyone accuse “me” of not having faith? Surely it must be God sovereignly denying my request…

Err NO!

Swallow your pride and consider that your faith may not yet be as perfect as you think.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4: 3) NIV

Maybe with this quote in mind it might be worth revisiting two of the promises above that spell out conditions: “If you remain in me…” and “ask anything according to my will…”. Both of these would ensure right motives.
As for the other promises, they are all conditional upon faith/believing. But how does one believe without doubting that they will receive something from God if they aren’t totally convinced that HE is able and willing to give it?

Faith, the ability to believe with no doubt, is dependant on knowing God’s will.
And (another promise with a condition of faith) –

…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 112:6) NIV

So let us stop the faithless excuses and platitudinal clichés, and start seeking God through His word, by His Spirit – to discover the truth. If we are willing to do that, then maybe we’ll stop being the insipid, downtrodden, illness-ridden, and faithless people that the world has seen for far too long. And, surely, we’ll start to demonstrate more of that dynamic gospel ministry delegated to the church by Jesus Himself.

 

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*  A common platitude goes something like this: “We’ll all experience the ultimate healing in heaven”.

That clearly misses the point. God’s provision of healing won’t be needed after we’re dead, because we’ll be getting a completely new, glorified body anyway.

Healing and health for believers is needed here and now, so we are fit for the job Jesus commissioned His church to do.

If all we are doing is looking to the benefits of the “afterlife” we’re believing a false gospel. The gospel is about the here and now, preparing us and others for entry into God’s coming new creation. (More about that to come…)

Giving Careful Thought to the Paths… Fellowship

It’s been several years now since I’ve been involved with a church.

After moving to my current town, I attended a sizeable (by the town’s standards) charismatic fellowship, but found it was too enthralled with a variety of fads, and had an unfortunate, close relationship with teachings and practices originating in the Toronto “Blessing”.

Following that I went to the other extreme and was involved in a traditional denominational church, that was sadly steeped in Calvinism. After a year or so I chose to leave them to prevent the increasing conflict that would have continued had I stayed.

In a small country town, there aren’t many options.

While I, and my faith, survived despite the limited fellowship opportunities – clearly my current situation shows that neither thrived.

Now, with my determination to seek God to turn things around, the church/fellowship issue has become the next thing I need to address. But how?

At the moment I’m following up two options. One local and one in Canberra.

The local fellowship is very small, but conveniently close to home. The Canberra group is quite large but too far away for frequent personal involvement – but even infrequent would be an improvement on nothing.

If both groups show potential, there should be no reason to choose one above the other. Both are affiliated with the same Pentecostal denomination, and I could combine ongoing involvement with the local people, and occasional visits to those in Canberra. If possible that could become a best of two worlds scenario. From experience and observation, having no or little contact beyond an individual group of Christians can lead to an unfruitful insularity.

But all of that depends on a few factors.

Are they in thrall to fads and non-scriptural practices and ideas? Do they look more to “anointed” men instead of to God? Following the latest celebrity preacher, prophet, or claimed miracle worker, without judging the fruit of their ministries?

Are their beliefs and teachings mostly in line with scripture? If not are they so rigidly fixed upon their doctrines that they refuse the possibility of learning something different should the Lord try to correct them?

And how committed will they be to the members of their congregation. Will they be quick to abandon and shun them should  a member leave their group, instead of maintaining ongoing contact?
Sadly EVERY past experience I’ve had has leaned more to the shunning than any ongoing contact, even when I’ve personally tried to keep in contact, it has always been one way and unreciprocated.

There are a several things I consider to be essentials.

  1. Word based – having God’s word, scripture at the heart of their beliefs
  2.  Spirit filled -recognising the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s work in the individual and the congregation through His sanctifying work, and the operation of His gifts.
  3. Faith based – not doubters, waverers or excuse makers.
  4.  Love based – genuinely caring for people, not just seeing them as seat fillers, increasing the size of their congregation. That also includes maintaining an interest and demonstrating genuine concern for the well-being of anyone who might choose to leave them.
  5.  Have a foundation of prayer, including frequent corporate prayer meetings that are more than a token event.
  6.  With committed members interested in more than only attending Sunday services.
  7.  Genuine recognition of each members role in ministry – in other words, not restricted to a one-man-band, or an elevation of “clergy” above “laity”.

Do I expect too much?
From past experience … probably yes.

But I also want to challenge myself to be more accepting and patient, willing to listen. To trust my discernment. To not dismiss everything just because some things may be wrong. To allow others the room to grow and learn, as I know I need to grow and learn.

And I need to maintain a strength of conviction, to take a stand when necessary, but to do so with love and not impatience and without giving any impression of hostility, recognising that I also need to fulfil those expectations I’ve listed above.

Confusion Breeds Dependency

This is what Paul said about Jesus providing mature “ministers” of various types to serve the body of Christ:

 

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ”

 

However, in practice in the church today, I think the reality is more in line with the following from Jeff Weddle’s latest blog post.

 

“The Church has routinely made theology complex. We’re told the Bible is too hard for us to understand.
You would think the Church would get busy teaching people how to use the Bible. You would be wrong.

The Church wants you confused, because your confusion means their job security.”

 

The question I think we need to consider – is what can (and should) we do about it?

Below is a link to Jeff’s full article.

anti-itch meditation

The US tax code is a mess. It’s one of the more complicated things on the planet, even more than DNA at this point.

Efforts to simplify the tax code have repeatedly been shot down. Leading the resistance are accountants!

The US legal code is increasingly complicated. Lawyers don’t seem to mind.

Professional investors want you to be confused by the markets and dividends and bonds and stocks. It’s too much, just give me your money and I’ll invest for you (for a fee).

Football rules are becoming more complicates. We can’t even tell what a catch is anymore. Outcomes of games are determined more and more by referees.

“Keep It Simple, Stupid” is one of those phrases you hear in life that makes sense, yet why do so many do the exact opposite?

The more complicated a thing becomes, the more people in authority get power. Confusion breeds dependency.

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