What goes on in most churches is heartbreaking.

The sheep are being beaten.  And, bottom line, THAT is what is heartbreaking.  But what is perhaps even worse, is that the sheep are allowing themselves to be beaten.  They sit idly in their chairs or pews as the guy up front tells them all of the things they are doing wrong.  Forgetting that Jesus Christ paid a tremendous price to take away the sins of the entire world.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  (John 1:29)

The last time I was in an actual “real” church — as opposed to the outside-of-the-box Bible Studies I’ve been attending the past decade — I witnessed one of these public beatings.  I went to hear their guest speaker, a famous author of “Christian books” (How did his books become a Christian?  I guess the books got saved?).

He gave an end-times message which ended by telling the humongous audience (1,000 or more) that since Jesus was coming back soon they had better shape up.  They were reading the wrong novels and magazines, watching the wrong movies, and doing all sorts of other things wrong, and “When Jesus comes back, people, do you really want to feel ashamed when you stand before Him!?”

By this time in my life, I had only recently surrendered to the fact that I am a completely forgiven person, so my own welts and bruises were still raw; the lashes on my own back from 12 years of such beatings were not yet healed.  So when the guest speaker finished his message and asked the packed-out crowd to bow our heads in a prayer of repentance, I wanted to scream out, “No!”  Instead of bowing my head during his prayer, I kept my head lifted high and searched the room for the pastor of this church; why wasn’t he running up to the podium to interfere and apologize to everyone for letting this happen!?  Why wasn’t the pastor reminding the crowd that Jesus is NOT ashamed of us!! (Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 11:16).

But it wasn’t only his fault . . .

The sheep accepted their beating; they took their lashing without complaint.

Once it was all over, I walked among the huge crowd looking for anyone who might be as upset as I was.

Nope.  They were all fine.

Some were visibly giddy.  They were busy chatting to friends, and perhaps making plans to watch “Fireproof” for their next movie night.

Meanwhile, I felt as if I were about to burst into hysterical sobbing.  (Which I later did, once home, and after holding back the storm of tears during the 20-minute drive home.)

What I experienced that night was not unique.  I have been to an enormous number of churches in my life, and these beatings are taking place everywhere.

Yet, He is not ashamed of you if you have believed in Him and believed in the gospel.  If you have done that, then you have done all the work that He requires of you.  Now it is time for you to rest.

“Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.””  (John 6:28) 

 

 

Is there power in prayer? A Q&A by Aaron Budjen of Living God Ministries.

“I do not believe in the power of prayer. I only believe in the power of God.”

This article can be found here; it is posted at the Q&A section of Aaron’s website.

QUESTION:

I am preparing a sermon on prayer, and was wondering what your thoughts might be on the subject.

ANSWER:

As I see prayer expressed in Christianity today, I really believe there is a very fine line between prayer and witchcraft. In witchcraft, prayer is exercised as a means of getting spiritual entities to respond in a way to inflict good on some other person. Of course the witch determines what is good and what is evil, and either the overall spiritual consciousness or individual spirits respond to the prayer being invoked. The concept of believing in the power of prayer did not originate from the recent Christian mantras, but has been a fundamental tenant of witchcraft for many ages.

I do not believe in the power of prayer. I only believe in the power of God. Now, many Christians respond to me when I say this in agreement with me, but in their hearts they really don’t believe me. They truly believe that God is going to respond to them because of their prayers to Him, and hide their pride by saying something like, “if it’s the will of God.” However, deep down inside they really believe that they can have an influence on God, and that they now have some mystical power they can draw on to effectively inspire or even control the hand of God. While this is certainly very attractive to our flesh, prayer has nothing to do with getting God to respond to us.

God is so often portrayed in the same way that God is portrayed in witchcraft. He is some kind of impersonal spiritual essence that we call upon when life isn’t going the way we want it to go. Many Christians have no idea that God is a real person, who is actively living His life as we live ours. He inspires people, and communicates with them. He effects events and sometimes intervenes in miraculous ways in the affairs of mankind. But He decides when, how, and what He will do regardless of what we tell Him we would like Him to do. He does retain His autonomy and sovereignty quite often in spite of us.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6-7 that we are to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. It is a comfort to me when I experience anxiety that I can speak to God and He hears me. However, as my focus is turned towards Him, I recognize His love for me, and can experience a peace that can only come from Him. This is not because I think He is going to respond to me and give me what I want, but because I recognize who He is in the midst of my circumstances.

You can’t imagine how people are often offended when they ask me what they should be praying for me in my life, and I respond with the fact that I’m not particularly anxious about anything at the moment. It is so offensive because they personally are often consumed with their own anxiety, and they can’t pray anything for me to make themselves feel like they are concerned more about others than themselves. Don’t let such a comment stop you from praying for me, in fact, this may inspire you to pray for me more if you don’t agree with me, but let it be put on your heart by the Spirit of God within you to pray for me if He inspires you to do so. And if He inspires you to pray for me, I can’t imagine Him not also telling you what to pray for. Otherwise, prayer can easily become a mechanism and a religious excuse to stir up gossip.

In my own personal life experience, I have found my life of prayer to be more a time of expressing thanks than asking God for something. He has given me everything I need for life and godliness, 2 Pet 1:3. So, what can I ask for that I don’t already have? Generally what I don’t need for life and godliness. Should I really expect God to respond to that? Not necessarily. Don’t get me wrong. There are many occasions when I do pray and make requests that appear to be directly related to my flesh. The important thing to realize is that this does not have anything to do with my relationship with my God. So often people ask for Him to do what He never came to do, and reject that which He already gave. All that remains is the giving of thanks, which I do as I pray and live my life with a dependency on Him. Subsequently my prayer life becomes more an act of listening than of talking, wanting to hear from Him about what He has given me, and how it applies to my life.

Aaron Budjen

 

Faith Introduces Us To His Grace

Is faith some sort of magical power that we can wield in order to change our circumstances for the better? Does faith allow us to overcome all of our problems? Of course not.

Is the Christian life one where we use our great faith to ‘stand’ on the Scriptures, or we exercise our faith to ‘claim’ some sort of victory?  No. That is babyish.

Faith is not a mystical force that allows us to live a victorious life of health, wealth and prosperity. Beware of preachers who tell you so, who teach that your faith can bring you great material and physical success. In his first letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul calls such false teachers, “men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”

Don’t believe the liars who claim that faith should be used as a way OUT of tribulations.  Listen to the apostle Paul, who tells us to rejoice IN THE MIDST of our tribulations!

What is faith? Faith is responding to God with a heart of trust. Faith becomes trust, or belief, when we respond to what the Lord Jesus reveals to us. In other words, the abstract noun ‘faith’ becomes the active verb ‘to believe’.

My relationship today with the Lord God is more real and fulfilling than any other relationship I have on this earth. That is only possible through faith. Every day I trust Him; every day I respond with faith to His presence in my life.

If you are drifting away from God, you can reverse that path by having more faith, which means deciding to trust Him more.

For example, if you think God is ashamed of you, you must exercise faith that God is NOT ashamed of you. (The fact that we still think and do things that ‘are’ shameful is not part of the equation.) We must believe what He has said in Hebrews 2:11.  He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters.

If you think He needs your money, your works, or your service, then you must exercise faith by believing that we have nothing to offer Him.  The apostle Paul speaks the truth when he says this about God:  “He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25).

If you think that He still holds your sins against you, then you must exercise faith in the truths He gave us in 1 John 4:8 & 16 and 1 Corinthians 13:5:  God is love, and love keeps no records of wrongs.

When God tries to teach you something new, when He reveals a new truth to you, you will have faith in Him if you believe Him.  Cast out the lie, and accept the truth.  If you do, you will have demonstrated “faith that pleases God” (Hebrews 11:6).

It seems that the trials and tribulations of life provide God with the greatest opportunity to teach us and to guide us.

Church attendance had always been very important to me, so after my husband quit church in 2002, at least I could say that we continued to go on Easter and Christmas Eve. But one year, he did not want to go. He wanted to go out and buy whiskey instead.

This was a potentially terrifying dilemma for me, the final blow to my dream of raising my kids in a Christian home.  But I was prepared.

God had been teaching me that He is looking for real faith that comes from the heart, as opposed to outward acts of religion that come from the flesh.(1 Samuel 16:7, John 7:24, Romans 2:28, 2 Corinthians 5:12, 2 Corinthians 10:7, 2 Timothy 3:5)

That evening I chose to trust God by not insisting that my family go to the Christmas Eve service.  Instead I gave my husband permission to go out and buy whiskey.

Let me reassure you by saying that my husband is not a drunk; he drinks very modestly and infrequently. The point of the story is that God led me to give my husband grace, to give up my efforts at trying to change him, to decide to accept him just the way he is, to show my husband the kindness of God.

It was the beginning of a new way of life for me: a life of faith.

God revealed a new truth to me — that church attendance is not important — and I responded by believing Him.  It’s that simple. God shows us truth and we respond by trusting Him.  That is faith.

Faith can not be observed; it can not be faked. God looks at a person’s heart, not at what can be seen or observed.  Church attendance can be both seen and observed. It doesn’t take any faith to go to church; it doesn’t take any faith to sing worship songs, or pay tithes.

Walking by faith means that you live according to the Tree of Life. You cannot live a life of faith if you are living according to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

If I had trusted in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you can be sure I would have insisted that we go to church (good), and that Christopher NOT buy whisky (evil).

God would eventually lead me to quit church entirely, and to stay home with my husband.  This is an example of the “obedience of faith,” that Paul speaks of in Romans 1:5. (By the way, I was thrilled that God allowed me to return to a tiny church two years later, in 2007.)

But that particular Christmas Eve night, all He was asking for was my faith:  to simply believe that He is trustworthy.

We are saved through faith by grace, and from then on our continual faith in Jesus leads us to a deeper knowledge of grace.  Every day, faith leads to more grace.

So faith introduces us to His grace.

“Through our Lord Jesus Christ…we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

The obedience of faith is the missing puzzle piece that many Christians are looking for; they need to add faith to their daily lives, which leads to an understanding of the grace of God.  Our faith in Him leads us to a deeper knowledge of Him who is gracious, and kind. Grace belongs to Him; HE is gracious.

Being a Christian is all about growing in grace and in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus. We are not told to grow in faith, we are told to grow in grace (2 Peter).

Allow faith to be your introduction into the grace in which we stand.