Why Small Churches are the next Big Thing - Karl Vaters

There’s no shortage of studies bemoaning the next generation’s exodus from the Church. Yet while some have written off Millennials’ spiritually, this is a mistake—for the Church and for the Millennials.

In the face of this reality, a new opportunity is emerging. In fact, there’s growing evidence this new generation will bring the greatest opportunity for small church ministry in 2,000 years.

Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worship—what small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents.

But this opportunity comes with one, big condition: Millennials won’t give up quality to gain intimacy. And they shouldn’t have to.

Of course, Millennials have the same spiritual needs people have always had, including the desire to worship something or someone bigger than themselves, and to do so with others who have similar inclinations. In other words, Millennials need church.

But not just any church, and not the churches their parents built. Millennials are used to a high-quality experience in everything, and they won’t settle for less. In addition, Millennials don’t want a big Sunday morning stage show as much as they want genuine intimacy and relationships.

So how can churches provide this?

Simply put, churches can start small. Small doesn’t mean cheap, shoddy, lazy or low-quality—at least it shouldn’t. But what Millennials mean by quality will also be different than what their parents meant.

Too often, for Boomers, quality has meant excess. Glitz. Over-the-top. Bling. For any kind of church, however, quality can be summed up in one word: health. Health starts by getting the basics right.

  1. Real-world Bible teaching

  2. Genuine relationships

  3. Practical ministry opportunities

  4. Clean, safe childcare

  5. And yes, competent musicianship on the worship team

The good news is, your church doesn’t have to be big to do any of this. And even if one or two elements aren’t at the level you’d like, you can build on them if there’s high quality in other areas. People may even be compelled to step up and help where the church is weak.

Without such health, it’s no wonder Millennials aren’t interested in going to church. In a recent poll, the Pew Forum found what everyone has suspected: Millennials attend church less often than their parents.

But that’s not all. “Among Millennials who are affiliated with a religion, however, the intensity of their religious affiliation is as strong today as among previous generations when they were young” (emphasis theirs).

So, fewer of them attend religious services, but among those who do, their faith is as strong as ever. Their faith, instead of fading, is being carefully refined. And as typically happens when you find yourself in the minority, that dedication is likely to grow.

Studies about church demographics and attendance work well to illustrate the problem, but what we need next is to start working together toward a solution. What if we paved the way in showing the world what loving one another really looks like?

There’s no better place to express or sense that kind of love-leadership than in a small church. For this reason, I believe small churches are uniquely poised to meet the needs of Millennials and perhaps turn the tide on the trend of the unchurched.

No, megachurches won’t disappear, despite all the predictions to the contrary. And I hope they don’t. I hope any church preaching Christ and His gospel of grace continues to continue its good work.

Alongside megachurches, however, I see a growing hunger for healthy, high-quality, innovative small churches to meet the needs of upcoming generations.

The main reason I’m convinced small churches will be the next big thing is because they’ve always been a big thing. Since the day of Pentecost, innovative small churches have been the way the majority of Christians have done church. They’ve just stayed under the radar for 2,000 years.

If healthy small churches can provide opportunities for genuine relationships with God and each other—with practical ministry to the surrounding community—we can be the vanguard of a new church movement. Of course, it really won’t be a new movement—it will be the oldest one of all.

A Valentine's Dream Come True

Her mind drifted back to that evening years earlier, as she cradled her new born baby in her arms. She’d never forget that evening and how that the conversation went. 

Sarai passed the last dripping clay dish to Abram who was ready with a cloth to dry it. Other than the sound of washing dirty small cisterns from a now finished dinner, it was quiet in the small house they lived in. She was thankful, though they didn’t have a lot, they had a good life. Outside the sun was quickly setting yet the dusty streets of the city of Ur were still noisy from the foot traffic and sounds of braying market mules. 

Abram and Sarai’s conversation was in subdued quiet tones as each in a few short sentences described their day’s activity at the market. Sarai glanced at her husband, though he was still relatively young, she could see a deeper tiredness developing behind his eyes. Abram glanced back with a relaxed smile and his face lit up as if he had realized an opportunity. 

“Hon, I’ve been thinking these past few months…”; Sarai listened with a mixture of pragmatic skepticism and controlled excitement as Abram began to lay out a faith dream that God had been brewing in his heart. She could feel the joy in her heart grow as she saw her husband coming alive before her eyes. 

“Sarai!” Abram’s voice was a bit raised and he unknowingly had that expression on his face that he got when he was wholehearted about something, “Sarai, I really feel this is God…” the dish towel was now on the floor and both his hands were in motion, “there is a city out west that God is speaking to me about. It’s in a land that is totally foreign to us but I know God wants to give it to us and for our family.” 

Before Abram could finish his sentence her mind was already racing. Where would we live? What would we eat? Where would I do my shopping? Where would the money come from to sustain our living there? How would I tell my parents? 

With a tone wanting to be convinced Sarai chuckled, “but babe, aren’t we trying to have a baby?” Abram proceeded in that gentle way he had about him - a way that made her fall in love with him when they first met. He had a way of speaking life into her world of do-it-yourself and pessimistic realism. 

“I don’t know how it’ll all work but I trust you and I support you” Sarai couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth but somehow her husband’s belief was creating in her the will to believe and follow.

Sarah, now much older, looked out their small window as the sun had set. Baby Isaac had fallen asleep and his soft rhythmic breaths were soothing to hear.  She smiled as she realized her husband’s God and now her God as well, had rewarded her for her decision years ago; to follow The Call.

Maybe you’ve been there in the kitchen with a similar conversation when a faith dream was born. Your marriage needs an eternal, missional purpose, a purpose higher and bigger than your domestic mantras. A renewed playful passion in marriage springs up when your vision as a married couple goes beyond a manageable task or plan that you both can predict the outcome of.

Abraham and Sarah are an ancient example of a very human married people walking by faith, and not having it all together, but trusting in the omnipotence of God’s providential grace. 

Can you hear the God of Abraham calling you both to a city with your names on it? To a wild land that is waiting for your marriage to penetrate it with the gospel that shines out of your weakness and desperate dependence on God? 

Step out, follow where He leads, because like this missionary couple of old, you will inherit that land and you and your family will embrace in your arms, the very dreams you both seek. 




Compassion Fatigue & Spiritual Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD

Ps 32:7-9 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble, and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Every day we are are waking up to the catastrophic images of flooded neighborhoods, devastated homes, and hurting families in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. For those with the time and the resources, they are tirelessly wading into the waters helping with the recovery effort. We see on TV many are going full on with little sleep and poor eating habits. Meanwhile we are stuffing the shock and the depressing images we constantly see into a corner of our mind, then closing the door on them telling ourselves "I can’t wrap mind mind around this right now, maybe later”

This is a classic set up for Spiritual Post Traumatic Stress - or Compassion Fatigue.

When Hurricane Katrina came and went years ago, many first responders and relief workers suffered from Compassion Fatigue. If we are not careful as the Church and Ambassadors for Christ jumping into to mix to help - we too can fall prey to this paralyzing state.

Compassion Fatigue also known as “secondary traumatic stress” - it’s the 1st stage of burnout. It is the gradual lessening of compassion on those that suffer around us. This is a condition that results in the neglecting of our own soul and it’s edification. The symptoms of it can lead to frustration and anger at those that are suffering and in some cases aggression to them or those we co-labor with, hurting the very people we love and want to help.

The last two Sundays we have been dealing with ministry - the overflow of a cup that runs over. We need to first take care or our own soul, build that up with the love and Word of Grace so that what we serve with and give to people is not our own compassion and service but Christ’s overflowing grace and compassionate love.

When we minister to people we must remember that their most important need is spiritual before it is physical. We must be careful we are not promising people with false hope that God will bless them or give them double as Job experienced. That may or may not happen in His Sovereign Plan. But our ministry that gives the greatest hope is the comfort, and presence; the comfort of the Spirit and the Presence of God.

Isaiah 43.2,3 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Be sure to daily edify your soul with the personal intimacy of God’s care and re-affirm who you are in Christ as a new forgiven creation. Then when we disappoint ourselves and fail in our attitudes in service and ministry - it’s Christ’s unconditional love we abide in and not our own.

Encourage yourself in prayer and for each other. Remember to laugh, joke at times, shake off the stress knowing that in all our afflictions He was afflicted.

Is 63.9 - In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

Being mindful of these things we can all keep Christ's heart and mind as we minister, administer, coordinate and give during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, keeping ourselves in a healthy state spiritual and mentally.

An Introduction to the Book of Acts - The Book of the Action of Prayer

Acts 1.1-14 - NKJV

1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Matt Chandler says about Acts 1 - As the Spirit empowered them to witness, prayer united them to God...From the waiting on Christ’s promises in the Upper Room to the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church, the Apostles and disciples were marked by prayer.

We see a prevailing theme in the background of the Book of Acts - prayer. Prayer is mentioned at least 40 times in the first half of the book. But the mention of prayer in the first church does not end there.

Warren W. Wiersbe, in his Bible Exposition Commentary, notes - “In almost every chapter in Acts you find a reference to prayer, and the book makes it very clear that something happens when God’s people pray.”

Harry A. Ironside, in his Lectures on the Book of Acts, states “... when God is going to do some great thing he moves the hearts of people to pray; He stirs them up to pray in view of that which He is about to do so that they might be prepared for it. The disciples needed the self-examination that comes through prayer and supplication, that they might be ready for the tremendous event which was about to take place …” - wow, let’s stop a moment and ruminate on this...

So let’s go back to vs 14 - These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication - The apostles in vs 14 gave themselves to prayer waiting for the fulfillment of what Jesus had promised that would take place shortly in 1.8.

In a quick exegete - there is a definite article in Greek “The” before the word “prayer" suggesting that they may have been praying at the Jewish designated times of prayer. But we cannot stop there because prayer in that upper room was more than scheduled prayer, the Greek word “proseuche” sometimes has the wider meaning of worship, and it may mean that here in this passage -  indicating a greater sphere of prayer - waiting in prayer, worship in song, making petitions together in prayer, individually and corporately listening to God’s voice, meditating on his word and promise.

As they pray and worship this way in verse 14 - Luke here stresses their unity, a mark of the early Christians that Luke noted frequently in Acts - an inseparable relationship between prayer and unity and the will of God. The disciples were one in their purpose to carry out the will of their Lord.

J. Edwin Orr, in his book "The Fervent Prayer” points to the powerful relationship of prayer and revival. In that book - he writes about the worldwide impact of the great awakening of 1858 in the Northeast USA.

Prayer is historically directly related to the Spirit of God moving in specific geographic locations.

For example - it’s interesting to note what Hudson Taylor’s wife - Maria Jane, said in hind site regarding the churches birthed in China during her husband’s ministry - it is clear to see the difference between those churches that were born in the labor of prayer and those churches that were - with little prayer

So it is evident to us and any reader of Acts that prayer in our personal lives and corporately is the key for any move of God. The great move of God in the birth of the first church begins in a small room of men praying about 1 km or 2/3 of a mile from where Jesus ascended.

Let’s bring this in to context of a practical application for us as a church planting team. It is in our constant thoughts about God and prayers toward God that we hear from Him...God speaks into our inner person. He is addressing us through our thoughts, in our spirit.

We see the role of our spirit - the inner person described in Proverbs 20:27, "The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the inner depths of his heart."

Therefore - God, speaks to our thoughts, sheds light on our lives and guides our way. A Christian’s thought life is a channel for communicating with God— in the inner person, the inner sanctum - there we hear from God and respond to His call on our lives - this is a continual process defining what Paul meant when he told the Thessalonian church “pray without ceasing" in 5.17.

This continual communion was beautifully penned by a Seventeenth-century monk named Brother Lawrence, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.”

So to sum things up in this short intro of the book - The Book of Acts is an historical account of what God does through men and women that seek His mind and wait for His enabling grace to empower. Empoweringto pour out - loving on people the Gospel. Let's be challenged to wait, listen and hear from God in prayer - to discern His will for us individually on the team and cooperatively as a church plant.

The Touching Christmas Story in Action

Father Damien was a Belgian priest in the 1800s who went to a village on the island of Molokai in Hawaii, a village that had been quarantined as a leper colony. For 16 years, Father Damien lived with these people that no one else wanted to have anything to do with. He learned their language. He served them. He built homes for them. He organized schools and choirs. Rather than being careful to keep His distance from the lepers as most would have done, He got right up next to them. He bandaged their wounds. He ate with his patients, sometimes out of the same dish. He touched people that others considered untouchable. Gradually, throughout the course of his years of serving there, that village was transformed. Despair was replaced with hope. Yet for years he was still different in one very important point. They were lepers, and he was not. Then one day he stood up before his congregation and he began his sermon with two words. “We lepers,” for he had contracted leprosy while living among the people. From that moment on people in that village saw this servant in a whole different light. Now he wasn’t just living among them. He wasn’t just serving them. He had actually become one of them. Not only would he share their life, now he would die as they died.

On Christmas we celebrate the day that God came to our village. He didn’t just come to help us. He began His message by saying "we lepers." We sinners. He had become one of us. He took on our sin. 

The Cross - Powerful or Pathetic

{here are our notes from last Sunday}

1 Cor 1.17-19 - For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

The Scandal of the Cross: The cross splits the world.  Either you look at the message of the cross and think – that’s pathetic – or you look and you think – that’s powerful.  It’s either pathetic or powerful.  If you think it’s pathetic, Paul says “you are perishing in pride.” If you look at it and say “that’s powerful” then you are being quickened and set free. 


2 Sides of the Cross

One side - the Powerful Side: The place of salvation, the great exchange. The Just for the unjust. Where all our sin was taken and removed from us. No more guilt and no more shame! Free from the past. Hallelujah!


The Message of the Cross is so Powerful - The cross is not a person or a situation - “that situation is my cross”. But it’s a historical fact we reckon on:

  1. The Effectiveness of the Cross: Gal 6.14 - The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. We have no place in it anti has no place in us. 
  2. The Reconciliation of the Cross: Eph 2.16 - Jesus in His flesh, became the likeness of sinful flesh and it took away sin having slain the enmity caused by the law of Moses. 
  3. The Forgiveness of The Blood of His Cross: Col 1.20 - And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, 
  4. The Advantage the Cross gives us in Spiritual Warfare: Col 2.14 - Breaks the power of accusation sin, fear and shame.


Take up your Personal Cross

But there is another side that is very often overlooked by Christians, that’s the side of death, crucifixion - the side that appears very weak, undesirable & where the cross could be easily rejected. 

The side where we are set free from the power of the flesh, from the control of the right to live in my flesh, the security of my personality defects, my opinions and my will. An exchange has happened and I am no longer my own. [List some things that our “my own”]


No Personal Cross - No Power, only the Energy of the Flesh.

Ex. - Paul’s Ministry of the Cross in Corinth which was a very dysfunctional unhealthy church - The Corinthian church was rich, it was big, it was gifted but lived in the flesh grieving the HS thus they were not a spiritual church that God could use in that region. The Corinthian church was not being edifying nor was it edifying anyone.

Paul wasn't strong in his flesh towards the Corinthians: 1 Cor 2.2 - For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Paul was not worried about people’s flesh in Corinth - he wasn’t trying to manipulate his flesh or other people's flesh. The Cross already addressed that. He applied the cross in his personal life and toward the Corinthians. He was not lambasting the Corinthians. The cross did the offending and the conversion. 

The Offense of the Cross: Gal 5.11 - When Jesus spoke of the Cross in John 6.66 everyone left offended - they had other dreams and ambitions for Christ other than the Father’s Plan. Flesh always get offended.

Take Home: 
Healing is in the Cross by surrendering to God’s Grace & Love
delivers us daily from our selves, our flesh, the world and the Devil. We are either being offended by the Cross or we are being converted, set free in a new identity to live in compassion.

A Study on Gratitude differs from Thanksgiving

Luke 17.11-17 

11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.  13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,  16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. 17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” 



You can say the words, “thank you,” when there is not gratitude in your heart at all. Custom may dictate that you say the words when you don’t really appreciate what has been done for you. What it takes to turn the words, “thank you,” into gratitude is the real genuine feeling of gratitude. Gratitude is a feeling that arises uncoerced in the heart. It cannot be willed into existence directly if it is not there. 

"True gratitude or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what he is in himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on other grounds, viz. God's own excellency” - Jonathan Edwards

In other words, gratitude that is pleasing to God is not first a delight in the benefits God gives (though that is part of it). True gratitude must be rooted in something else that comes first, namely, a delight in the beauty and excellency of God's character. If this is not the foundation of our gratitude, then it is not above what the "natural man," apart from the Spirit and the new nature in Christ, experiences. In that case "gratitude" to God is no more pleasing to God than all the other emotions which unbelievers have without delighting in him. 

You would not be honored if I thanked you often for your gifts to me, but had no deep and spontaneous regard for you as a person. You would feel insulted, no matter how much I thanked you for your gifts. If your character and personality do not attract me or give me joy in being around you, then you will just feel used, like a tool or a machine to produce the things I really love.


17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”


3 Kinds of Thankers

  1. Flint: Requires a hammer to get anything out of it
  2. A Sponge: Needs to be squeezed
  3. HoneyComb: It just oozes out because it’s so full

One Soldier's Journey Facing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Many of our dear veterans have come home from war but there is a secret war still raging inside. I just read tonight the inspiring story of Bobby D. Gayton - A Christian Combat Vietnam Veteran who battles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how he struggled to find and to keep inner peace...

"I served in the U.S. Army as a combat infantryman soldier during the Vietnam War. My tour of duty in Vietnam was Sept. 4, 1967, to Sept. 1, 1968. I was assigned to Alpha Company of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Battalion, and 22nd Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division.

This unit was involved in four counter-offensives during my tour of duty. During my military service, I was not a Christian. After my military service, I struggled with the events of Vietnam.

As I sought help from the doctors, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This became my thorn in the flesh.

All I ever wanted was to have inner peace. I discovered that what I wanted was a struggle to find and when I found it, it was a struggle to keep it.

Jesus told the apostles, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

All the symptoms of PTSD prevented the inner peace that I so desired in life. To those who suffer from PTSD I say, I know where you are going because I know where you have been.

The symptoms of my PTSD are survival guilt, depression, withdrawal, inner rage, avoidance of feeling, anger, anxiety reactions, sleep disturbance, nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts.

When I became a Christian, I thought that God would take away all my memories of my past, but this was an irrational belief and I had to find the truth.

As a Christian, I struggled with the person I was in 1967-1968. It was and is hard to see me as that person. I studied the Bible from cover to cover, and I went back to college to study counseling psychology. It was a struggle to tell those with whom I studied the Bible that obedience to the gospel of Christ would bring peace when I knew that I did not have the inner peace I desired.

Help came when I re-studied the life of Paul (Saul). Paul continuously made “havock of the church.” The “threatening and slaughter (murder)” were the continuous element from which Paul drew his breath (Acts 9:1-3). After becoming a Christian Paul struggled with his past life.

How could Paul write in Philippians 3:13-14 that “this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”?

This took place in a Roman cell around AD 62. Later, he wrote to Timothy that he was a “blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious” and described himself as “chief” of sinners.

Paul forgot those things, which are behind. Were they gone? Paul was saying that he was not going to allow his past to keep him from claiming heaven for faithfully following the Lord. He replaced living in the past with living in the future.

Paul shows those who suffer from PTSD that the past will always be there, but it should not keep us from attaining heaven as our final home.

I found my answer by changing by irrational belief system, with telling myself the truth, no matter how hard it was..."

Binary Faith vs. Little Faith

Recently I was listening to a respected preacher on Matthew chapter 6. He was speaking on worry and anxiety and what the difference was. It was good and quite stimulating until he hit vs 30. Then he began to chide his audience because of the anxiety his folks were experiencing due to the looming economic crisis in their country. What little faith and joy this people walked into that church with was now squashed and left for dead on the hard wooden chapel floor. 

In Mat 6.30 Jesus uses a much misunderstood and mistranslated word in his discourse with the anxious disciples, the word is “Little”. His disciples are worried about where there their next provision will be coming from as they follow their Master by faith day and night. This exhortation by Jesus here is portrayed improperly today by some zealous preachers that skim the surface of the original Greek grammar and pound their people for their “little faith”. The consequence of this deficit textual understanding is blatant erroneous teaching and a misrepresentation of the original text and the mood of the greek. When we take the time to read the original and listen to the Sprit of Christ, we find that it really portrays a loving gentle challenge to his disciples. 

Jesus uses a word here “oligópistos” - from oligos - a feminine form of an adjective; a word that, yes, may be translated “small” but is better translated as “short”. When we reread the text in Mat 6.30 translating the meaning “little” as “short” we get clarity to what Jesus had in mind when he exhorted his fearful disciples. 

The disconnect that so often happens with us is that we look at faith as a metric, a measurement, like a scale or the rising and falling of the mercury in a thermometer if you will. This confusion easily happens with us because we are frail forgetful creatures bound to sight, to feeling and a natural rationalization of the threat levels in our environment.

Let’s be clear, Faith has never been, nor ever will be something that can be measured by how much or how small. Faith is digital, it is binary. It is a I or a 0. It is either on or off. It is either there or it is not there. Biblical faith is either “yea” or “nay” - never maybe.

Faith is not something a believer can have “a little of” or “a lot of” - God lives in Eternity and our beloved metric measurements or imperial weight system does not exist in God’s timeless state. He dwells in existential absolute.

A good way to see the true state of faith is the light switch in your home; flip the switch on and the light brightens the room, scattering the lingering ugly darkness instantaneously. Flip the switch off and immediately the darkness reigns. Yet there are Christians today that have “dimmer switches” installed in their souls, where they claim they control the amount of faith they have shining inside their soul - they mistakenly believe that their soulish dimmer switch is connected to their emotional state of the day and not based on the Biblical Truth of their immovable position in Christ. 

Let’s go back to what Jesus said to His disciples, & to us. “O ye of LITTLE FAITH”. Jesus in no way was questioning their faith. Why? Because Jesus defines that faith is in Mat 17.20. Faith is not a matter of substance that Peter can ask more of; “Lord increase our faith!”. Jesus radically defines mountain moving faith is as a “LITTLE MUSTARD SEED of Faith” - Faith is faith no matter what size. Light is light, whether it’s the blazing sun, or a candle in the middle of a field in the dead of night; light dispels all darkness - no matter how much there is.

So when Jesus uses this phrase 6 times in the NT, He is not measuring the faith of the disciples with the yard stick of the Law but rather the distance of it in the circumstances they were in. He is in effect saying to those worried brothers; “your faith was spot on, victorious, overcoming and righteousness revealing! You were trusting the Father’s Plan and His provision. But then at a certain point in time you stopped trusting God and His Word of Promise!” Case and point: Peter walking on the water. One moment he is defying all laws of physics and he is walking on the water with his gaze fixed towards Jesus. Then the next moment he is sinking, drowning. Peter didn’t sink into the raging see due to a lessening of his own mighty faith but rather he sank because his faith was “SHORT SIGHTED” - it was switched to the ON position when he was gazing at Jesus walking on the water. But when Peter became short sighted his faith became short and he sank. The issue was never how much faith Peter had but how far it could see through the storm to His Hero walking on the water.

Now that we understand that Biblical victorious faith is spiritually binary and not quantitatively analogue, we must ask the next obvious question “where does it come from?” What turns that switch on so that the light of the Grace and Love of the Word of God can shine deep into our anxious souls?

The answer is simply here in Romans 10.17 - “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” 

How to Deal with Emptiness Inside

Over the past 2 weeks I have spoken with several individuals struggling with emptiness though they were good Christians that were not living in sin. I would like to take a moment to write a few thoughts the Lord gave this morning. 

We all face times of emptiness when we do not feel the Presence of God nor the fullness of His Joy. Not to worry, do not live in self-condemnation or despair. It is part of the journey with God into His Fulness.

There are times when God may withdraw the feelings of our Christianity and the sense of persuasion from the emotions of our soul. He does so so that our faith would not reside only in the senses of our soul, but that our faith and conviction would to go deeper into our Sprit where it would be to reside forever. This is described by Jesus when He said "Let these sayings sink down into your ears" Lk 9.44

There are many things that may cause emptiness: a post traumatic reaction of stress or depression where all of our soul is poured out such as Job: Job 30.16. It may be because of intensity of ministry such as Paul 2 Cor 1.8. It could be also be from betrayal such as Paul often felt though the Lord stood with him. Emptiness may also be a symptom of loneliness or neglect to nourish our soul with daily bread and the daily cross.

What are we to do during these times? The answer is quite straight forward in the scriptures.

Let's look at the 4 steps of Ephesians 3:17-19 "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God"

First: define it. I am empty. Then act. Do not sit passively under the sway of the feeling or the lack thereof. Otherwise your soul becomes a vacuum and due to the laws of physics in nature, all empty spaces must be filled - with something. That means your soul, if passive, begins to suck in everything with no filter, the good, the bad and evil; Satanic thinking and projections. 

What is our action? "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith". We enter thought patterns and  series of intentional thoughts that are based on Spiritual Truth (thinking in faith) that Jesus dwells with us and that He never leaves nor forsakes the believer. We stay our mind on Him through the truth of our position in Christ in love. 

If there is something in our hearts that needs to be confessed - confess it quickly before God and let the current of communion once again flow thru our hearts. 

Second: let the Holy Spirit shed abroad the Love of God into your heart by spiritual illumination. The steady intentional thinking with God about your unshakable position in Christ in Love will lead your soul down the road to getting “rooted and grounded in love”. This is something we have to do on a daily basis, maybe even a few times a day.

Thinking in faith and in the illumination of the Spirit we get planted into unchanging unconditional love.

Third: one of the best ways to experience fulness is in the Body of Christ. Paul writes here: “to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height…” - When we feel empty we need to draw near the Body of Christ and there we enter into the dimension of fullness. Where God dwells, in the midst of His Church.

In the midst of His Church we have the opportunity to see every facet and every side of His Love. When we are alone and we are empty we experience loneliness, not fulness.

“Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” - this is the secret of dealing with emptiness

Fourth: lastly, it’s important to understand that God’s Love is not hindered by what it knows about a person. We hit the brakes when we find out something about a person that may cause us to judge. God’s love is not judgmental. It is free to pass what it knows about a person because of the Cross that satisfied God’s Justice. 

So what we know about ourselves is surpassed by God’s Love. We may be blocking the Love of God towards us in an experiential way because of what we are conscious about in ourselves. 1 Jn 3.20 tells us that if our heart condemns us because of what it knows about us - know this that God is greater than our heart and knows all things. This is the Love of God that passes knowledge of what we know because He is greater knowing all things. What does God know about us. He knows He loves us.

When we practice these 4 truths we are on the road to having our emptiness filled unto all the fulness of God.

A Spiritual Vocabulary is Absolutely Essential to all Thought

Social media & progressive language saboteurs seek to fundamentally change the venue of communication, to replace spiritual WORDS & vocabulary that have depth with non-thinking emoticons. To generate non-thinking "feelers" & "reactors". Vocabulary is absolutely essential to all thought: one cannot think objectively without words - God's Words. The same principle is true in spirituality. It is impossible to grow in the knowledge of God, the Grace Word & your personal calling, without the development and use of a spiritual vocabulary. Mat 4.4 Man shall not live by bread alone but by EVERY WORD of God.

Wisdom Sees the End of the Matter

Wisdom is defined in Proverbs 1 as understanding the consequences & dead-end that the road of sin takes us down. It's foreseeing the pain, suffering and inner destruction that sin surely causes. Self-Deception is just the opposite; denying the inevitable. The exits on the road to destruction are clearly marked. Living in daily wisdom takes the punch out of temptation and a daily Cross causes us to live in the New because old things are passed away.

Our love affairs with sin are not just a matter of morality, but of joy...

This was my manna this morning from John Piper....

"Our love affairs with sin are not just a matter of morality, but of joy. This is not just about faithfulness to God, but about finding our deepest, most satisfying fulfillment. Many people think following Jesus means surrendering their happiness. You can either enjoy a fun, passionate, and exciting life here for a short time or live a bland, boring, but safe life forever with God. That lie is a quiet, but violent concentration camp, fencing men and women in, keeping them away from God, and torturing them with lesser pleasures that only lead to a swift and yet never-ending death. If you want to be truly happy now, you want to be found with Jesus.

Experiencing the full life with Jesus, we say with David, 'You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound' (Psalm 4:7). We can be infinitely and enduringly more happy with Jesus than with anything or even everything in a world without him — even when that world is filled and overflowing with promotions and bonuses at work, on-demand television, all-you-can-eat sushi, grossly accessible pornography, always new and better technology, and countless other goods become gods.

God is not just a more morally or socially acceptable treasure, but he will satisfy you more than anyone or anything else. Christianity is not merely, or even mainly, about correcting your bad habits, but about satisfying and fulfilling you in the deepest way possible, and therefore making God look as great as he is. Our hearts were designed to enjoy a full and forever happiness, not the pitiful temporary pleasures for which we’re too prone to settle. Pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust are all woefully inadequate substitutes for the wonder, beauty, and affection of God. They will rob you, not ravish you. They will slaughter you, not save you. Looking to little, temporary gods for true and lasting happiness is a frantic and expensive treasure hunt for fool’s gold. You lose far more than you will ever find." 

A Word about God's Heart for Women on INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY

Tomorrow is March 8th - International Women's Day. Though we in the US don't really celebrate it - it is a huge, huge day overseas. Flowers are generously handed out with well wishes and women are really celebrated. But think of it with me, who hates women the most? Satan hates women the most. We see that a woman was the first target of the Devil in the Garden of Eden. Backwards religions in the world diminish, cover and shun them shamefully where they function practically as slaves in the home. Yet in sophisticated society they are abused as well by their elevation via culture and entertainment to be objects to stare at and satisfy creepy people's desires. Who really loves women the way they ought to be loved and valued honorably the way they desire to be loved? Who really recognizes their value and importance? The answer to that question can be found at the Resurrection Morning of Jesus. Who was the first person Jesus appeared to? No, not to His Disciples or the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. But to a woman. Mary Madeline. 

Women's status in the middle east those day was not much different than it is today. Women could not even be witnesses in a court case - yet Jesus appears FIRST to a woman and calls her by name. Just the way He says her name causes her to recognize who He really was, that He was not just the gardener she mistaken him for at the beginning. She is the first witness of the resurrection and goes and calls Jesus's disciples to tell the wonderful news. It was a woman that God choose to bear His Son into the world. 

So as we celebrate International Woman's Day, let's remember God's honorable and virtuous heart for women. True love is honorable love that finds tremendous value in what it loves that is followed up by care and protection. That is what we wish for all of our wives, sisters, mothers and godly friends in the Lord tomorrow!

God Must Test Every Relationship

As with Job, God tests every relationship to prove its real content. When God searches "to and fro" for the "perfect heart" it is a loyal heart that God seeks. When He finds it in us, He entrusts us with a spiritual stewardship - a ministry - a relationship with God & people that goes deep & long in trials & temptation. Though we fail God will not fail us - hence we may say, God I am captivated by your unfailing loyalty thus I say "Lord I am your servant - your disciple, loyal to you and your people to the end"

A Wasted Life? The Short Life of William Borden

"No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets." - notation in William Borden's Bible

"Do not put out the Spirit's fire." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:19

Quotations taken from Borden of Yale, by Mrs. Howard Taylor, Moody Press, Chicago

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden family fortune, he was already wealthy. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world's hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his "desire to be a missionary."

One friend expressed disbelief that Bill was "throwing himself away as a missionary."
In response, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: "No reserves."

Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman. Very quickly, however, Borden's classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn't that he had lots of money. One of them wrote: "He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. We who were his classmates learned to lean on him and find in him a strength that was solid as a rock, just because of this settled purpose and consecration."

During his college years, Bill Borden made an entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: "Say 'no' to self and 'yes' to Jesus every time."

Borden's first disappointment at Yale came when the university president spoke in a convocation about the students' need of "having a fixed purpose." After that speech, Borden wrote: "He neglected to say what our purpose should be, and where we should get the ability to persevere and the strength to resist temptations." Surveying the Yale faculty and much of the student body, Borden lamented what he saw as the end result of an empty, humanistic philosophy: moral weakness and sin-ruined lives.

During his first semester at Yale, Borden started something that would transform campus life. One of his friends described how it began: "It was well on in the first term when Bill and I began to pray together in the morning before breakfast. I cannot say positively whose suggestion it was, but I feel sure it must have originated with Bill. We had been meeting only a short time when a third student joined us and soon after a fourth. The time was spent in prayer after a brief reading of Scripture. Bill's handling of Scripture was helpful. . . . He would read to us from the Bible, show us something that God had promised and then proceed to claim the promise with assurance."

Borden's small morning prayer group gave birth to a movement that soon spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshman were meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale's 1,300 students were meeting in such groups.
Borden made it his habit to seek out the most "incorrigible" students and try to bring them to salvation. "In his sophomore year we organized Bible study groups and divided up the class of 300 or more, each man interested taking a certain number, so that all might, if possible, be reached. The names were gone over one by one, and the question asked, 'Who will take this person?' When it came to someone thought to be a hard proposition, there would be an ominous pause. Nobody wanted the responsibility. Then Bill's voice would be heard, 'Put him down to me.'"

Borden's outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He cared about widows and orphans and the disabled. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To try to rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. One of Bill Borden's friends wrote that he "might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ."

Borden's missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. Once he fixed his eyes on that goal, Borden never wavered. He also challenged his classmates to consider missionary service. One of them said of him: "He certainly was one of the strongest characters I have ever known, and he put backbone into the rest of us at college. There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of, and heroic missionaries of more modern times."

Although he was a millionaire, Bill seemed to "realize always that he must be about his Father's business, and not wasting time in the pursuit of amusement." Although Borden refused to join a fraternity, "he did more with his classmates in his senior year than ever before." He presided over the huge student missionary conference held at Yale and served as president of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa.

Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high-paying job offers. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: "No retreats."

William Borden went on to do graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead.

When the news of William Whiting Borden's death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. "A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice" wrote Mary Taylor in her introduction to his biography.

Was Borden's untimely death a waste? Not in God's perspective. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words "No reserves" and "No retreats," he had written: "No regrets."

Portions based on material in Daily Bread, December 31, 1988, and The Yale Standard, Fall 1970 edition.

Chronology / Dates
November 1, 1887 -- birth
1904 -- High school graduation (Chicago)
1905 -- Round-the-world trip
1909 -- Yale graduation
December 17, 1912 -- Sails for Egypt on way to China
April 9, 1913 -- Death in Egypt

Aiming too Low

Most of us, if not all of us, aim too low. Due to the gravitational pull of our fallen nature; our dreams are all too ego-centric, hence earth-bound, & limited to our natural finite abilities. The consequences are visions and dreams that are only as big as we are and no larger, thus we settle for far too little. Yet we should not aim at the high and lofty dream or ideal that we revere, but we must set our gaze on the Resurrected Christ seated above in the Heavenlies. When we look to Him - the One Who said “lift up your eyes for the harvest is plenteous” will gently lift our chin with His nail-scared Hand, raising our sight-line above the horizon of the fret & fray of this burdened world. It is then we discover we are not looking to anything other than into His Eyes of compassion. Consequentially natural dreams become as foolishness and a brand new vision takes over - a vision that is bigger than us, beyond our limitations impossible by nature. When our aim, our gaze is upon a victorious, gracious Savior - it is then we stop living the possible and we begin to live the supernatural. Only then will we be truly content and happy. 

“and Ye shall be as gods” - Part 2 - Notes on Christian Legalism & Neo-Gnosticism

  1. There are 3 common denominators between legalism and gnosticism found in churches across America today:
    There should be some level of achievement on the part of the believer for the believer to be a genuine, true, Christian. The required achievement regularly orbits around two main principles: behavioral modification (legalism) or intellectual attainment (gnosticism). Within those two poles it may vary. It can be an attainment in virtues & character, experience, holiness,  intellect, or mental sacrifice. There stands a threshold to leap over whether  mystical, doctrinal, adventurous, or ascetic.
The diagnosis of fallen man's spiritual disease in Neo-Gnosticism and legalism is in essence the same. It denies (or at least ignores) the depravity of mankind and his  sinfulness. Paving the way for an enbetterment through a self-devised program. The problem of sinners only finds diagnosis at a behavioral plane, and may even be detected deeper at the level of the soul - discovering that they are "curved into themselves." But the deception of gnosticism is the premise that self-help can reverse the problem of man and self-heal. Self-healing is touted as the answer through disciplined practice — religious, ethical, experiential, meditative, mystical, & aesthetic. The premise is: “It can be done if you will it..." This the language of the law of gnosticism guised in Christianity’s religious law. When troubled men and women stove to change, held or mend themselves to be more as the higher perfected self that religion projects as successful - it is religious “legalism". What is really dangerous about the gnostic form of legalism is that it takes the sinner's accuser -- the law of Moses -- and proposes it as redeemer. But the first error is its diagnosis of the sinner's disease - that it is viable - It is too shallow. Biblical definition for that incurable problem of sin is the reality that no self-help can redeem man from his demise. "Dead in trespasses and sins” - Eph 2.1; at "enmity with God” - Rom 8.7 and "in bondage to sin” - Rom 7.24. How can the gnostic attainment and the legalistic endeavors transform a person? It's not just that the sinner needs transformation -- radical change -- but God has to change, change from being the sinner's judge, the sinner's own executor   the sinner's jail keeper - change to being his savior.

Neither legalism or gnosticism needs the cross and risen Christ - any spiritual guru or life coach will do.  Somebody else, some exemplary figure, role model, life coach or, trainer or some guru, can do the job that needs doing to get the sinner back on the wagon again. The line of "All you've got to do is...” states for the legalist or neo-gnostic  that Christ is really not necessary. Instead of the law's verbage “do and live," the Gospel's contrasting verb is "offer." It is the language of gift, the grammar of grace.

“and Ye shall be as gods” - Part 1 - Notes on Neo-Gnosticism Creeping into the Church

Christianity's foundational belief in salvation through God becoming flesh, and by his bodily resurrection securing the hope of the resurrection of our bodies; was blasphemous to Gnosticism, as it was an offense to the Jews & ridiculous for the Greeks who generally saw spirit as good, and matter as evil. Gnosticism emerged as a form of mystical Christian spirituality blended together with ancient Greek, Egyptian and Persian paganism.

It was one of the gravest of threats to the early Christian Church - It is a heresy that continues to threaten the foundational teaching of the church. It is encapsulated in Satan's lie in Gen 3, "You shall be as gods." It is called "Gnosticism." St. Paul called the Gnostic prophets "super-apostles” in 2 Cor 11.5 who apparently knew more than God - their message went beyond what was written in the Word of God and what was contained in the teaching of the apostles (1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 John 4:6). They speak of heavenly secrets and offer techniques for escaping mundane earthly life. "Timothy," the Apostle warned, "guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge; by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith” (1 Tm 6:20). "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor 10:5). These elitist-apostles had preached a different gospel with a different spirit. "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Cor 11:13). 

The Apostles Paul and John spent much of the New Testament, especially the Gospel of John and the Epistles, teaching against the most dangerous heresy in church history. According to one of its early opponents, St. Clement of Alexandria, Gnosticism (from the Greek word gnosis, meaning "knowledge") consisted of the knowledge "of who we were or where we were placed, whither we hasten, from what we are redeemed, what birth is and what rebirth" (Excerpta ex Theodoto 78.2). Knowledge of these secrets was considered spirituality. The goal of this post will be to explain the roots and pull the mask off of Gnosticism creeping into American churches of all denominations and convictions.

All great moves of God in history eventually were accosted by the wiles of subtle and poisonous gnosticism. Though God was moving by His Sprit and Word, the spirit of gnosticism, which is of the devil himself; would be at work attempting to slip in alongside, like the mixed multitude that departed Egypt with the Hebrews for the promised land.

Gnosticism has its very ancient roots in world history and mankind’s religious culture. As a matter of a fact, gnostic roots lay the foundation of much of the occult and luciferianism. Gnosticism by nature is dualistic - you will notice the accent in the philosophy on “good” and “bad”.

There are 10 characteristics that may be noted about ancient Gnosticism. Note how these principles have made themselves comfortable in churches across America today.

  1. Gnostic syncretism - a belief in everything and anything for the purpose of avoiding a particular conviction in specific Biblical Truth. That is a tolerance, allowance as well as a syncretism of belief of any doctrine yet avoiding the Gospel of Grace; which is a stumbling block for the Jews and an offense to the Greek mindset (a prevalent mindset in our western society today). This syncretistic philosophy would assimilate and include other religious and pagan beliefs into the church for the sake of inclusion and acceptance of all people. 
  2. Individualistic and Subjective - These teachers and teachings were very mystical and elitist by nature. It is undeniable that the teaching is individualistic and subjective with an inward focus to the believer or follower. Meaning that the believer (the knower” or adherent of the gnostic teaching) had higher level of importance than God, the Object (that which is to be known). The path to knowing God was thru inward withdrawal, knowing of self, self-awareness and “being true to the heart”. The path of enlightenment and true knowledge was led along by the guardrails of the pursuit of personal happiness, personal rights, liberty and blessing. In fact, the self was the “indwelling of God”. This is also know as Greek Platonism. 
  3. God’s Nearness vs His distant Holiness & Sovereignty - God was near, so near that it negated God’s Holiness, His Self-Determination & Sovereignty. In gnostic writings the relationship between the self and “God” was described often as romantic, sentimental, a wooing, even erotic. Worship of this God from self could be characterized as almost a romance - words that were similar in the way to lovers exchange with other. This was considered sacred and very spiritual. 
  4. Spirit (being good) vs. Material (matter is evil) - We may know this philosophy better as “mind over matter”. The Greek (the western mind) and the gnostic worldview is “dualistic”, dichotomous - meaning that it divides the world into matter (bad) and spirit (good). This teaching states that evil people and their deeds, all suffering, sickness and disease including death are all associated with the evilness of the material world we live in. Thus matter is the source of all evil. The gnostic teaching on the fall of Adam and Eve in contrast to the Biblical account was that it was not a fall from innocence to disobedience but rather the transformation of  pure spirit beings to evil physical bodies of matter. Man did not fall on the inside. His mind and soul was still spiritual and perfect. It was his body that was fallen and now evil. Man was now a prisoner of his body trapped in a material world of limitations and imperfection. He was now separated from his true sprit home trapped in a dying body and he longed to escape to a new spiritual awareness from where he fell. This escape route was an inward path of discovering the soul and to worship a God outside of self and the soul was to be untrue to yourself and commit soul-suicude 
  5. Anti-Establishment by nature - Because of the gnostic view of the fall of man, mankind was now in-prisoned within the material walls of fallen flesh that was evil - that meant that anything limiting the freedom being sought for the sole interest of the self was bad. Institutions are viewed as spiritual enemies. They were seen as limiting, legalistic, depriving the self of it’s rights to discover itself and what it wants. Therefore the True God outside the subjective realm of the self as well as the outside Church, were enemies of the true self and soul. From the Gnostic point of view, the structure and discipline of the Church stifled the spirit. The Church and God were perceived as directing the soul-self away from the rightful inner experience - redirecting it to others and to formal cold structural authority, doctrines and traditions. The gnostic follower or believer was not a non-conformist overall, but they were disciplined in discovering and nurturing the individual experiences and concerns. They were ascetic in their belief in self awareness and serving that they forsook community feeling personal experience rather than doctrine form of corporate worship. 
  6. Hyper-Spiritual - Gnostic belief is that the occupation with self and it’s direct and uninhibited relationship with the Spirit therefore spiritual knowledge came through a mystical secret revelation and not by the means of material agents such aa a pastor-teacher, the printed Word of God, or systematic teaching from an outside teacher. Things such as church, fellowship with other Christians, water baptism, and other traditional forms of worship are not spiritual enough and are unnecessary. The outward forms of worship and teaching were for the unlearned, uninitiated, unspiritual people not educated in the secrets of the "higher spirituality”. This spiritual elitism was challenged by Jesus himself when he bypassed the pharisees and ministered to the common people preaching a Gospel of “whosoever will"
  7. Anti-History - Consistent with gnostic belief; that matter is evil, institutions are enemies of inward individualism, therefore the slow tedious process of time and its events with the details of life - are all unimportant and irrelevant. Because for the gnostic eternity is opposed to time. The gnostic follower will live in the experience of self for the now and ignore it’s reasons for consequences. Spirituality is to be timeless and the unspiritual details of life are a burden and a annoyance. The incarnation of Christ was a slap in the face for gnostics as he came from eternity and redeemed every moment in time - in the little mundane moments revealing the Higher Wisdom of God. In the Biblical account of creation God created the world and called it “good” not evil. God in His Plan used time and matter to reveal His Plan of Salvation for mankind. Contrary to gnostic belief, salvation does not take place by a supernatural spiritual sphere disconnected from mankind’s history. 
  8. Anti-Semitic - This may be surprising to the reader but gnosticism had an aversion to Judaic beliefs and traditions. This is because of the emphasis that the Hebrews had on blood sacrifices as a type of the incarnation of God in the form of "sinful flesh”. This flew in the face of gnostics who believed that salvation was through a (bloodless) descent into self and individual discovery - a self saving philosophy. The gnostics especially hated the discussion of a bloody violent death of The Savior of mankind. This produced a teaching that emerged in the 2nd century AD that viewed the Old Testament as to be rejected and unspiritual, not necessary for the gnostic believer. It was rejected based on the perception that God was an angry judge who created the world and placed pure spirit beings into physical bodies to be trapped. This teaching by Marcion held that the Old Testament was irrelevant but that the New Testament was opposite in that the Creator of the Old Testament was now a God of Love and a Redeemer. This was the Savior the Jews crucified and killed thus the anti-semetic views today of gnostics. 
  9. Anti-Male - Feminist by nature - gnosticism has two columns that everything is categories in due to its dualistic nature - “good” and “bad”. Because of the aversion of the gnostics to the God the Father figure of the Bible - and His wrathful anger, the male profile is in the “bad” column. Gnostics exalted the “divine feminine”. Femininity was characterized as “loving”, “nurturing”, “freedom”, “affirmation” & “intellectually developed” over men. The Greeks word for wisdom was in the feminine - “Sophia” therefore “Sophia” the goddess of wisdom became “God” for many Greek gnostics. Because of the primarily patriarchal and authoritarian characteristics of Christianity, gnostics placed the gender of God as not male, and maybe not even female but genderless “androgynous” or sexless so that the spirit of God would be free from the imprisonment of the male dominating gender that limited the free spirit. 
  10. Anti-Intellectual - Gnostics preferred a “heart knowledge” over “head-knowledge” - this was a dichotic definition that Christianity never had of knowledge. That being in the Bible the definition was the mind had a spirit and the heart of a man was not serrate from his mind. Thus gnostic knowledge and intellectualism was not intellectual as we would perceive to day but rather it was described as a heart felt knowledge aware of itself and it’s own desires eliminating any external objective knowledge. 

The Gnostic Savior - Satan in the Garden of Eden, there to set mankind free from the imprisioned bodies into redemption via an experience of self - wisdom and pleasing to the eye.

[Stay tuned for part two coming soon....]

God's Heart for the Kurdish People...A Wide Open People Group.

As my turkey digested from a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with my family I stumbled across this stirring video by FAI of a group of missionaries ministering to Kurds in Erbil, Iraq. With every victory the Kurds have over ISIS their fledging state of Kurdistan grows. They are  a very open people group where many are getting saved - we need to take a trip there. Here is the video, be blessed, stirred, pray and let's go!