Tuesday, November 29, 2011

LEARNING FROM WOLF ATTACKS


Have you seen the influence of a wolf in a flock of sheep? Unless the wolf is dealt with, the sheep scatter in fear. They panic as one of their group is destroyed by the predator.

There are spiritual wolves in Windsor and any other community you may have lived in. If you have been abused, led astray or deceived by an alleged spiritual leader you will be hesitant to trust again. You may have been infected and damaged by their destructive behavior.


How can you learn from wolf attacks and be prepared for future dangers?

It starts with the recognition that you were vulnerable and deceived. No one plans to be fooled or seduced by a wolf. Predators watch for vulnerabilities. They look for blind trust and people who are impressed with results.

Prophecy is a valuable gift in the church. We are encouraged to seek God’s message delivered through members of the faith community. We need to be willing to let God use us to prophesy. Do you know that wolves can also prophesy?

Deliverance from demons is part of the gospel. Wolves might even pull that off.

Miracles from God are signs of the Kingdom. Wolves can do miracles.

All of the supernatural attributes are intended to operate amongst God’s people. They are good gifts, but they do not signify that the one acting has godly character.


Matthew 7:
 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’


At issue is the fruit that grows in a life. You can put a strawberry in a thorn-bush. It did not grow there. But you may think it did.

The image of the tree and the fruit reminds us that behavior flows from character, and in Christian teaching character comes through being born again rather than merely through self-discipline. Our own best efforts at restructuring unregenerate human nature are doomed to failure (Gal 5:19-21). By contrast, a person transformed by and consistently dependent on the power of God's Spirit will live according to the traits of God's character because of God's empowerment, just as trees bear fruit according to their own kind (Gal 5:18, 22-23).[i]

Wolf bites require help from the Great Shepherd. He knows how to bring healing to a ravaged lamb. He can cleanse the infection left by the bites and abrasions. He can mend broken bones and still the beating heart.

When trust is lost, you may question whether you will ever trust again. That is understandable. What can we learn from wolf attacks?


     1.     We need to be vigilant and pay careful attention to what grows out of a person’s life. Trust is earned from observing something deeper than a person’s ability to get results.

     2.     Wolves have a taste for blood. They will plan elaborate con games to get their appetites satisfied. They masquerade as knowledgeable teachers with a message from God. Every teacher should come under a stricter judgment because of the trust they receive. Avoid teachers who put others down and claim exclusive rights to God’s message.

     3.     Wolves are most likely to attack sheep that are at a distance from the shepherd. Find good shepherds to follow as a protection from false prophets and false teachers. Remember character is more important than charisma.

     4.     Bring gentle correction and guidance to the more vulnerable sheep in the flock. If you are spiritual, bring healthy direction to those who habitually wander and get lost. A flock needs to stick together. Wise sheep recognize the need to stay in a group.






[i] IVP New Testament Commentary

Saturday, November 26, 2011

POKE THEM WITH YOUR SWORD


Some people will tell you that you should automatically trust people in authority. The logic follows that they would not have spiritual influence unless God wanted them to. False teachers sometimes demand an allegiance that leaves you no room to question their motivation. God told them, so who are you to question?

Jesus says watch out for wolves who masquerade as God’s spokesperson. How do you know if a person is a wolf or a sheep?

When I was first in pastoral ministry, I worked at a church near Ottawa with a pastor named Clair Mullen. He was from the Maritimes and had many colorful statements and euphemisms. He once asked me how I would know if a person were a wolf or a sheep. I had opinions, but experience had taught me that listening to his opinions would be much more interesting. I played dumb to the question. He replied, “The way to tell is to poke them with your sword!”

He might be right. Confrontation is a great way to bring a person’s character to the surface. You may need to ask questions and probe beneath the surface to find out where their values lie.

Jesus said wolves could be recognized by what grows from their life.


Matthew 7:
16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.


We need to carefully scrutinize the lives of those we choose to follow and help us.  Jesus described people who appear to be one thing, but reveal a ferocious, destructive nature when away from public view.  There are people who take advantage of others in the name of the Lord.

How do you know whether you should trust a person in a place of spiritual authority?  Bad seed produces bad fruit.  Immaturity breeds immaturity.  Anger produces anger.  Lust produces lust.

Conversely, good seed produces good fruit.  Patient people produce patient people.  Truth loving people lead others to love truth.  Those who love greatly influence others to love greatly.  Forgiveness begets forgiveness.  We all produce after our kind.

While telling us not to judge others, here Jesus is telling us to be careful about whom we let influence us. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

THE WOLVES OF PALESTINE


Matthew 7:
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 


Wolves were common predators in Palestine at the time of Jesus. The countryside was dotted with shepherds herding their flocks to pasture. Good shepherds were vigilant and ready for a fight in case one appeared.

When David was a shepherd, he had fought and killed a lion and a bear on separate occasions.[i] This was the aggressive side of shepherding. You had to be a roughneck if you wanted the job.

So, when Jesus warns of wolves, people knew the risk and danger he spoke of. But a wolf dressed up as a sheep? What was this in reference to? Matthew Henry ties the wolf in sheep’s clothing image to the common dress of Old Testament prophets.


They come in sheep’s clothing, in the habit of prophets, which was plain and coarse, and unwrought; Elijah’s mantle the Septuagint calls ‘he melote’ —a sheepskin mantle. [ii]


Jesus is talking about people who claim to represent God. He’s saying that you cannot trust everyone who appears to be a prophet or teacher. You need to consider investigating their character before you sign up as a monthly supporter or get involved personally. Not everyone who appears to be doing God’s work actually is.

The purpose of a sheep costume is deception. You can fool shepherds at a distance and cozy up to the sheep. Once you have close proximity to the flock, your true nature can be unveiled.

We need to watch out for spiritual wolves.  There will always be people who use spirituality and religion as a disguise to get what they want from others.  Wolves love power, money and sex.  They will sneak in undetected to rob you blind.  They might look like a lamb and sound like a lamb, but they’re after the lamb chops!  In the end, their house will fall flat and be demolished.

Don’t follow wolves.  They will lead your house to ruin as well. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

KNOW YOUR SPIRITUAL CONTRACTORS


I cannot help but respect Mike Holmes. The rugged contractor in t-shirt and overalls exudes confidence and authority on his show ‘Holmes On Homes’. The basic script involves removing and repairing shoddy workmanship from dishonest and unskilled contractors who take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. 

The moral of Mike’s story is this: A contractor may have a nice truck, a business card and a cell phone, but that that doesn’t mean he is honest or capable of doing what he says. You need to do your homework before you hire.

With the numerous renovations around our church, we have observed a thing or two about finding trustworthy contractors. We’ve had great ones and an occasional stinker.

Unfortunately, this pattern also holds true with spiritual leaders. An appearance of success, convincing salesmanship and even a few miracles thrown in do not establish the credentials of a solid pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet or apostle.

Have you been misled, misinformed or taken advantage of by an impostor? Jesus spoke about who to follow and who to avoid. We need to examine our spiritual contractors.


Matthew 7:
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 


Friday, November 11, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: SACRILEGE



My family and I just returned from our first Caribbean cruise. During one of our family hangout times, my son Jesse made the comment, "We go to an inner city church and we're on a cruise. We're Christians and we watch South Park." He was pointing out the seeming opposite sides of our lives.



My read for the week was Hugh Halter's 'Sacrilege'. If I had any reason to feel guilty for being on a cruise instead of ministry to the poor, Hugh's book was a good way to unpack my baggage.

Jesus was considered to be sacrilegious by the religious authorities of his day. This is a book about living our lives not as disciples, but as apprentices of Jesus. Here's a definition of 'sacrilege'.





sacrilege
n
1. the misuse or desecration of anything regarded as sacred or as worthy of extreme respect to play Mozart's music on a kazoo is sacrilege
2. the act or an instance of taking anything sacred for secular use
[from Old French sacrilège, from Latin sacrilegium, from sacrilegus temple-robber, from sacra sacred things + legere to take]
sacrilegist [ˌsækrɪˈliːdʒɪst] n
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


Part expositor/part story-teller, Hugh Halter brings fresh thoughts to the Beatitudes. He reminds us poignantly that Jesus was the friend of sinners. They actually liked him... alot! 


As apprentices of Jesus, we are learning a life that religion cannot give us. This is a book about God's grace in all the wrong places.


Is anything sacred? Halter says 'yes', but not always in the ways that we have called things holy. 


This book is a slaughter house for sacred cows. 


_______________________



"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group". 




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