Spiritual Bullies . . . To Thine Own Self Be True!

 To lie is to deliver a false statement to another person which the speaking person knows is not the whole truth, intentionally.  So, what is truth?  It’s not what comes out of someone’s mouth per se, but rather what actually happened or what IS.  The first step to healing or recovery is being able to speak or acknowledge the TRUTH – that is to say, what happened or what is happening.  The Word tells us that Satan is the father of lies, so to be called a father of something means there are offspring.  Therefore, I don’t write this for those of the world, for they’re doing what’s in their nature to do.  I write this to those who profess – not confess – to know the I AM.  First John 2:4 says, “the person who says I know Him, but does not do what He commands, IS a liar and the truth is not in him.  So, even scripture identifies that truth is evidenced, established and proved by what IS, not the “what” that is said.

My daughter is quite perceptive for her age.  I’m often astonished during our conversations when I’m helping her decipher between what she heard versus what happened.  At six, her response generally starts out with “xyz said thus and so.”  I then begin to ask her to start with “what she knows for sure” and then assist her in walking through the steps to arrive at the heart of her question.  At some point in the process the light goes on and I can see she’s arriving to the destination of knowing what she can now say is truth.

Paul penned a letter to Timothy charging him to oppose false teachers.  But how could Timothy do so if he didn’t know what to look for?  From the books of Matthew, John, Acts, Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Hebrews, James, I and II John, and Jude we are warned repeatedly about them and how to detect them.  They will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inside they are greedy, predatory wolves.  Look at what they’re compared to – wolves — predatory in nature.  Why are they hard to detect?  Well, because they know how to fake humility and they are often gregarious and very studious in the Word.  A thief, a greedy person and one who uses power to obtain sex are all seizing something that does not rightfully belong to them.  Yet, many professed Christians are following them?  Many who pastor, teach and evangelize today were liars, thieves, greedy, adulterers, fornicators, pimps, womanizers, child molesters, drug users, abusers, etc., etc., etc. and yet years after their professed conversion show evidence of some of the same behavior – spiritual bullies – and love to often use the example of King David, while trampling upon God’s grace, to explain it away.  Romans 6:1-20 teaches that we are slaves to who we obey, whether it be of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness; we should be dead to sin and not slaves to carnal lusts.

Bullies often browbeat, harass, frighten, oppress, persecute and terrorize people.  Paul, in his unconverted nature, was a bully of bullies and good at it.  He went on crusades looking for Christians to terrorize and imprison.  In I Timothy 1:12-14 Paul confesses that he was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man.  However, Paul states he was shown mercy because he acted in ignorance and unbelief.  A spiritual bully uses laws, teetotalism and theology to control people from questioning their authority.  Spiritual bullying is taking the truths of one’s religion, and using them to intimidate, hurt, and manipulate.  Spiritual bullies verbally assault with dogma, keeping people “in check” with threats of excommunication within the church or removal from a position.  In some cases, they might force you to choose sides as they use the tactic of placing friend against friend or a family member against another relative.  The most effective weapon by far of the spiritual bullies is fear.  They want people to be afraid and use ultimatums, manipulate others to agree with them, or threaten to expose the victims’ faults.  Often the spiritual bully in the church is a professing Christian and it is possible that he or she is a true believer who is living a life of disobedience walking in their former lifestyle.  Spiritual bullies are modern day Pharisees who use religion and God for their own self agendas.

It took the intervention of a sovereign God with his grace to rescue Paul from his spiritual bullying and made him to be the greatest edifier of the church in all history.  Something happened to Paul – he was converted on the road to Damascus and throughout scripture we read evidence of that conversion and learned what he suffered for Christ and the Kingdom’s sake.  Jesus was an expert at putting spiritual bullies in their place, read John 9.  Jesus exposed them for who they were, stubborn and spiritually blind, guilty of sin and judgment.  It is bad to be ignorant, but that’s a state easily changed by the gaining of knowledge.  Paul came into the knowledge of Christ on that road.  Today, spiritual bullies tend to be those in positions of leadership and while they can be dealt with, typically they aren’t.  Why?  Often because they’ve gotten those they “bestowed” leadership positions or titles to, to do their bidding.  Let’s consider the charge given to Timothy to guard against partiality and to be careful  to not participate in the sins of others . . . working to keep himself pure.  (I Timothy 5:22)

This above all:  to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”  Shakespeare

Here’s a tip:  Those who cannot admit truth to themselves lack the ability to tell the truth to anyone else.

© September 11, 2013
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God’s Got You Covered . . .

In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6). Has it ever seemed that in your prayer for direction and guidance you feel God has somehow misheard you and has led you into what you believe is unfamiliar, dangerous, or even uncharted territory? I know exactly how you are feeling, but want to encourage you today as I encourage myself, “don’t lose heart, God really does have your back!”

The fourteenth chapter of Exodus details the account of the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea. Look at what God spoke to Moses. God wanted the Children of Israel to change their direction for He knew Pharaoh would think that the change in direction would give him an advantage over God’s people. But God had a plan all along. You see, the thoughts He has towards His children are always good and not evil, meant to bring about an expected end and the end will always work for good!

You see, Pharaoh had obviously forgotten what God had already done for the Children when He brought the 10 plagues upon Egypt or maybe Pharaoh thought that was the limit of God’s power. There is a parallel to this in the spiritual life. We sometimes think that Satan will let us go easily, or we think that once we leave his kingdom he forgets about us. Yet, like Pharaoh, he will pursue us attempting to keep us “straddling the fence” of his domain or hoping to destroy us if he could.

But this is what I find so interesting about this passage; look at the response of the Children of Israel in verses 10-12. The Children of Israel saw the Egyptians marching after them to force them back into bondage and they became afraid. How quickly are we to forget about the things God has delivered us from? You see, the Children of Israel had preferred to stay in bondage and now fear that listening to Moses would bring about a worse fate than slavery — their deaths! They saw no hope for themselves – the Red Sea was on the one side and Pharaoh’s army on the other; they thought they had been led into what seemed like a death trap and the only way to escape was the way they had come in, and the enemy had that path blocked.

These words provide so much comfort for me today as I ponder my own path, Exodus 14:13-14:

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.

Do not be afraid. Stand still! You see God hadn’t told Moses how he would deliver, but only that He would. Hasn’t God assured us of that as well? Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but God said he would deliver us out of them ALL. Stand still. Fear will often make us retreat and impatience makes us want to act NOW and thinking we can create a plan for ourselves will have us running into the water before it’s even parted for us! Moses knew God would fight for them. Lord, help me to have this same confidence in ALL things, at ALL times in ALL of my WAYS.

Last night I found myself telling my daughter than when life gives us set-backs to acknowledge them, but to keep moving forward. That confused her as to how one could have a set-back and continue to move forward. You see the enemy wants us to become paralyzed by fear with the hopes that we’ll remain stuck in our situations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ: (i) it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart, (ii) it was God who told the Children of Israel to change the course of their direction; (iii) God knew Pharaoh would pursue His people and (iv) God had already made a way of escape that would give Him honor so that the Egyptians would know that He is. If you’re finding yourself fearful of your new course of direction, right in this moment, stop, stand still, gather your thoughts and then say, “God, I trust your plan.”

You see Pharaoh questioned God in Exodus 5:2 asking “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” When God delivers His children from a temptation or crisis, it is as much a testimony to our adversaries as it is to us; God uses each victory in our lives to show our adversaries that He is the I AM.

The Lord is our Shepherd and he leads us for His name’s sake. If He leads, that means we should be following. However, situations in our lives will arise that will necessitate God having to also change His course of direction. Instead of going before us, He may follow behind us; will we yet trust Him? In the 19th and 20th verses of Exodus 14, God changed His direction of leading.

“And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. This it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.”

The Israelites felt hopeless in their situation fearing that they would die. Haven’t we felt like that in our own attacks? And just like the Israelites, we can’t even begin to imagine how much and what God is doing to protect us from the attacks of our enemies – seen and unseen, known and unknown. God created a barrier between Israel and the Egyptians – the same pillar that was a source of light to the Israelites was a source of darkness to the Egyptians.

When our course has been changed, when we feel God has become silent or we can’t sense Him, don’t fear — maybe God has also changed His direction. No matter the situation, take comfort in God’s Word and His faithfulness. As I encourage myself I also encourage you today and want you to know, according to Psalms 121 He’s got us covered our going out and our coming in, God has our backs!

Let’s pray: “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. And although heaven and earth shall pass away Your Word never will. Your Word, Father, is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my pathway. I will not fear; I will stand still; in you will I trust. Surely, Your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Amen. AMEN!
© September 10, 2013
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