A Sidekick's Blog

A Trap Along The Journey

August 14, 2012
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This Part Three in a series. Please read the two previous posts to get the larger picture of my journey so far.

While I was newly converted and living in a non-Christian home with unbelieving parents, I was still able to share my faith with my parents and siblings. The abuse continued, but I was carried along through it by my Lord and Superhero, Jesus Christ. Had I followed His written word and remained under the discipline of those who had brought me this far on my journey, I might have avoided some of the heartache and “wilderness wandering” that my teen years introduced, which endured for over twenty years.

That time was not wasted, though! For despite my unruliness and vain pursuit of things other than what God has already provided to His children in Christ, God redeemed those years and used the experience to prepare me for a unique and wonderful ministry to hundreds of my fellow sojourners in that particular wilderness.

Most of the older kids in the church youth group caught on to a movement that had been sweeping through the Church in our little part of the world for a few years. Folks called it “the Charismatic Movement” and it was remarkable for it’s adaptability. Crossing denominational lines and sweeping away laymen and clergy alike, it became a means of seducing its followers into a world of subjective experience-seeking, superstition, chaos, and naturally following all that, spiritual abuse.

Seeking and receiving “Holy Spirit baptism” promised a whole new way of experiencing God. It promised unparallelled intimacy with God, supernatural powers, knowledge, and gifts, deeper and more intimate worship, and dominion of the surrounding culture. It promised to open the door to a revival of first-century Christianity complete with apostolic miracles and thousands of new converts adding to our number every day. The promise of being powerful was very attractive to a skinny, awkward, abused, mildly autistic kid like me. Now I could have real power and respect, and physical proof of God’s acceptance, approval, and anointing! If only I could get that Holy Spirit baptism.

But of course, in order to get it, there were conditions: No unconfessed sin, no bad habits, super faith that went way beyond the norm for most Christians, super Christian discipline, and complete practical holiness. It should have occurred to me that if it takes all that to qualify a person to receive the power to accomplish that kind of super-righteousness and super faith, why do I need Holy Spirit baptism at all? If it takes all that just to qualify for it, then no one could get it – at least not without already having it! Yet when I went with the big kids to these stirring meetings of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, and to the teaching meetings where Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, and other Charismatic leaders were teaching, everyone seemed to have this Holy Spirit baptism. The “proof” was that they could all speak in tongues (their “heavenly prayer language, known only to God”), and they could “sing in the Spirit” supernaturally uttering not only the inspired words, but an inspired melody as well. Truly beautiful to see huge crowds of people rapt with joy, hands in the air, and filling the auditorium with the beautiful, eerie sound of a tonic major chord dominating a madrigal-style fugue woven beneath it. Magical. These folks appeared to be suspended between heaven and earth inwardly, completely lost in the Spirit, and I desperately longed for such wonderful intimacy with my God.

It would be another two decades before I sought after intimacy with God in the one place I should have been seeking it – His unchanging, infallible written Word. I’ll submit other articles later which will demonstrate how and why the charismata of the first century was intended by God only for a single generation and served the purpose God had ordained for it. Suffice it to say for now that the sign gifts of tongues, miracles, prophecy, supernatural knowledge, etc served as a covenant sign to the generation of Jews that rejected and murdered God’s Son. Once the judgement those signs signified had come and gone, so too did the covenant warnings of that judgement. But that’s for another post. This one is about how the Charismatic Movement (Pentecostalism with a new name and interdenominational distinctives) took me far from the simple, unchanging, effective, practical, loving fellowship of God and into a world of superstition, fear, manipulation, and betrayal.

Some of those “big kids” in the youth group who got involved in the Charismatic movement invited me along to the meetings, and I went as often as I could. We even brought our youth pastor into it. Later on even our pastor accepted the theology of “second blessing” and was eventually expelled by the church, after they had expelled all the kids who refused to stop going to those meetings. Yup, they kicked us all out. Rather than TEACH and PROVE from the Scriptures why our pursuit of spiritual gifts was WRONG, they chose to do the easy thing instead of the right thing. May God reward them according to their deeds. For if the elders of that little church had acted properly, they could have spared dozens of people years of heartache, deception, and even madness.

Elders, Pastors, Deacons, Parents:
If your church has some heretical or heterodox error sweeping God’s people up in it, don’t simply rid the church of the problem by chasing the sheep from the fold and leaving them to the wolves! The elders of that little church did as much damage by dismissing us as our false teachers did by deceiving us. When the children are in trouble, their parents and spiritual shepherds and guardians should defend them! Fight for them instead of abandoning them to the wolves!

From that abandonment followed further seduction, betrayal, and abuse. But the choice of the elders of little Calvary Presbyterian Church all those years ago became the doorway to danger.


My Journey: Semper Reformanda (Part Two)

August 8, 2012
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Part Two: The Beginning of the Journey

In Part One I described three stops along my journey. But here in Part Two I want to tell how my journey began. And it isn’t what you might expect. My journey actually began before the Earth and the universe was formed. This part of my journey is described in the Bible! Lie everyone’s journey, regardless of where it leads, all journeys begin in God and end in Him. All of His creatures glorify Him, whether to the praise of His glorious love and mercy, or to the praise of His glorious holiness and justice. Either way, we all exist for His glory. Some of us are delighted to have such a purpose, while others resent it. But inevitably, everyone does in fact fulfill the great purpose which God had in mind for each of us before He formed the worlds. But don’t take it from me, take it from the Creator Himself from His own inspired Book:

  • In whom we also have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11).
  • For the children (Jacob and Esau) being not yet born, neither having done any good nor evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him who calls (Romans 9:11).
  • What if God, willing to make His power known, endured with patience the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction and to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:22-23_.
  • Having predestined us to adoption as children by Jesus Christ for Himself, according to the good pleasure of His own will to the praise of His glorious grace whereby He has accepted us in His beloved Son (Ephesians 1:5-6).

I’m one of those who delights in the purpose for which God created me. And He has even used sickness, wickedness, abuse, poverty, and pain to achieve it thus far. But if even Christ learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8) even though He was the sinless only begotten Son of God, why should I feel entitled to a life free of suffering? Indeed, suffering is – for those of us chosen to adoption – God’s means of raising His adopted sons and daughters to the likeness of His Son. The purity and depth of His love, His wisdom, His patience, His love of others, His compassion for the unlovely, all arose from His suffering. From His laying aside His rightful place on the Throne of the Universe and emptying Himself into human form, born to poverty-stricken parents in an occupied country.

Like Him, I too was born into poverty and lack. Like Him, I too suffered abuse and scorn at the hands of those who should have loved me. And my journey will lead me, eventually, to where He is and I shall be like Him, seeing Him as He is.

At the age of 8 years I grabbed any excuse I could find to avoid going home after school to a crowded home where physical, psychological, and sexual abuse were waiting for me. Some kids from school had a “Good News Club” that met at their house after school, and I went every chance I could just to avoid going home. It was there that the Lord found me and called me to Himself. When I heard about what He had done for me, I couldn’t refuse Him, especially because of His offer to adopt me! Wow, a real family with a Father who loves me and a big Brother to protect me. And so He did.

After my conversion to Christ, the abuse at home grew worse, and as I neared adolescence another family member joined in the sexual abuse. But strangely, at least to folks outside of Christ, it never occurred me that “a God of love wouldn’t allow a little child to suffer like that!” Almighty God certainly could have spared me, but look: He didn’t spare the three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meishack, and Abednigo from their fiery ordeal either did He? He could have prevented them from being discovered, arrested, bound, and cast alive into a furnace! But nooooooo. He just stood by and let it happen! Why!?

Because again, His purpose was and is always to show His power and glory upon vessels of glory and vessels fitted for destruction. How much more does it say about His character that He could accompany His children through their ordeal than if He had prevented it entirely? They emerged from the furnace without even the smell of smoke in their perfectly intact and unsinged clothing. The very same furnace that completely consumed some of the guards who threw them in! So it was with me, His little adopted sidekick. My Big Brother accompanied me through years of abuse so that I could emerge unscathed (except for what scars I allowed by disregarding my Lord’s warnings). The same ordeal that nearly ruined one of my older brothers did not affect me. I had my Big Brother, Jesus – the Fourth Man in the fiery furnace – accompanying me through my trial to show His character and power in a far greater way than simply preventing the abuse to start with could have done.

My journey has taken many turns in the years since that demonstration of His compassion and power, but He was there and never absent even while the flames of abuse licked at me and threatened to consume me with the same hatred, bitterness, shame, and addiction that took an older brother down for many years afterward. Even during these awful years, I got to know my adoptive heavenly Father and His only begotten Son. I learned that my Father has made me a co-heir with His only begotten Son! All that is His is mine as well! And I have many other brothers and sisters as well. They were there too, though not in the midst of the furnace, but by means of prayer and encouragement.

In Part Three I’ll describe the first major bump in the road and how it led me down a side road, away from my Father’s word, with seductive false promises of power and gifts.

My Journey: Semper Reformanda (Part 1)

August 5, 2012

Semper Reformanda!

That is one of the cries of the Protestant Reformation. It means, “Always Reforming.” That’s my theme, my narrative, the single phrase that describes my journey best. Long after the Reformers had set down their beliefs into single great Confessions of Faith – the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Augsburg Confession, the Belgic Confession, the London Baptist Confession, the Canons of Dorcht, etc., beginning with the great Creeds of the Christian faith – they always continued to seek more truth, greater clarity, a more Biblical faith, practice, and experience.

That’s why there are later editions of most of the Confessions and Statements of Faith. Even the Nicene Creed was amended for clarity by a second Council of Nicea. So this isn’t just a Protestant thing. It has held true in every orthodox expression of Christianity since the book of Acts. Whenever a church body departs from this quest for greater truth and greater clarity and purity of the faith, they end up betraying the larger Church and departing entirely from the faith. In my short little life I have seen this take three forms:

1. – We have arrived:
This is where a church or a minister declares the end of the journey; that he or they have finally surmised the purest, truest, most unassailable fortress of absolute and final perfection in doctrine, practice, polity, liturgy, and righteousness. And it always quickly follows that all others are false churches, false Christians practicing false worship with false faith in false religion. I always imagined that such arrogance was so rare I’d never see it other than in newspaper stories like those about Westboro Baptist church. I was wrong. It is very common! I have confronted such Pharisaical snobbery multiple times in my short journey thus far, and it never fails to sicken me. I can just imagine how God feels! Maybe I can’t know that, but I’d bet that Christ and His Apostles wouldn’t stand a chance in a church like that. They’d be condemned as heretics and excommunicated if not burned at the stake.

2. – Starting from scratch: This is where a church of minister throws away all previous study, debate, research, church councils, and starts all over again with absolutely no presuppositions other than “that God is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).” This is not unlike part of my own journey, where I determined to accept as true only what I could find fully supported in Scripture, not counting church history, tradition, the decisions of previous councils, authors, theologians, linguists, and fellow disciples. Such a search is always a dead end though, since the Scriptures are full of warnings against abandoning the traditions and journeys of our forebears in the faith. They are examples to us, and we are not to proceed as if we are alone and not part of the Body of which Christ has made us a part. He is the Head of a body, the Church, as well as all of its members. These are churches that love to say, “No creed but Christ; no Book but the Bible.” It all sounds so noble, but it’s dangerous and has only tragic results. Besides that it’s circular. Because you have to answer the question, “what is the bible?” And that question cannot be answered without taking into account how we got our bible, why there are different bibles for Eastern and Roman Catholic churches and still another for Protestant churches.

3. – It’s beyond me, I give up.
This too, sorry to say, has been part of my journey. But I’m not alone. Scripture itself declares these things “unsearchable” and “past finding out.” It really is beyond us! And we shall not “arrive” until we sit at His feet in the world to come and have all eternity to perfect our knowledge of Him. But just because we know we’ll never achieve it in this life doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try at all. We have simply just begun a journey that is a reward in itself. It is the struggle against sin that yields its own unique rewards and treasures we would never know if not for the lifelong battles we fight. Angels will never knew the joy of having been redeemed; the gratitude of having been rescued from death; nor the satisfaction of the indwelling Spirit of God in our hearts, taking greater shape over the course of our lives as we are “changed from glory to glory.”

My journey has elements of all three of these rabbit trails. I write it in the hope that others can avoid some of the same pitfalls and traps that the enemy of our souls has set in our way. In Part Two I’ll describe how my journey began.