Delaying Life

Have you noticed that people don’t start life until very late these days? By the time their grandparents were their age that earlier generation had built a career, raised children, taken responsible roles in church and community and gained maturity from each of those ventures.

Today, however, adults are still locked into the insecurities of youth: uncertain in themselves and non-starters in the journey of life. People today are delaying life, in the hope they can get enough momentum to have a go!

While there have always been people who struggle in life, it is now as if whole generations have fallen into that pattern. They fill their days, but never seem to move forward in the very things they want to do.

Insecurity?

Is the problem insecurity? Youth are normally insecure. They are moving into new territory and changing emotionally, physiologically and socially at the same time. So the insecurity of youth is to be expected. But do we really expect people who have lived half of their natural life to still be in the same condition?

It is as if modern culture, with all its “advanced” thinking and godless concepts, has left whole generations without a foundation for moving forward. The “If it feels good, Do It!” philosophy has produced a much weaker strain of human than the “This is your responsibility, Live up to it!” philosophy.

Self-indulgence and being pandered to by the culture have caused endemic insecurity. And that insecurity also manifests in the ever-growing dependence on psychologists and other props

Religion is a Prop

I recall with a smile those who would taunt Christians with the accusation that “Religion is a prop!” They were suggesting, of course, that they did not need props and were somehow more self-sufficient and complete than Christians.

I like the answer one of my friends gave to that “prop” taunt. He said, “Jesus Christ is not my prop. He’s my Iron Lung! I don’t just lean on Him. I am totally dependent on Him!

I think it is fair to say that faith in Jesus Christ provides a very real additional support to the human heart and our life in general. The Holy Spirit is our ‘parakletos’, meaning the one who is called alongside to help us on our journey. The Angel of the Lord surrounds and protects us. God’s wisdom sustains us. Faith in God gives us peace that passes understanding, provides solutions to heart issues that would otherwise eat holes in our lives, and enables us to be set free from sins that would otherwise totally enslave us.

So, “Yes”, I think it is true to say that Christianity is a much needed support for human existence. I for one certainly would not like to face life without it.

What’s Your Prop?

I have met many non-believers whose whole existence is dominated by something they totally rely on. My neighbour was a drunk. I have met womanisers. I know many ‘workaholics’. Australia has many sports fanatics. I have met ego-maniacs, sex-addicts, political animals, control freaks, entertainment junkies, computer game slaves, food fiends, choc-aholics, academia idolaters, fantasy escapists, gambling addicts, druggies, and the list goes on.

If people do not have the divine means of resolving life’s issues they have to become dependent on weak and beggarly things. Despite their pride in self or confidence in their chosen life focus, they are leaning on a broken stick. Their football final won’t solve the problems in their life. Money won’t buy them happiness. Multiple relationships won’t heal the soul.

But, I digress – let me get back to the delayed life.

Life On Hold

Many of those whose life is in a holding pattern think that it is normal to be where they are. Their peers are probably in much the same boat.

Youth are put on a slow paced and ever expanding academic treadmill. The degree they may achieve in their late 20’s is inferior to what students achieved up to a decade younger, less than 200 years ago. Today’s youth are not “getting an education”, but “getting swallowed up in a system of delay”.

Youth are also distracted with all manner of meaningless and mindless things. Their great achievement in life is to master some intangible and vaporous thing, like a new level in a computer game that will soon be obsolete. Instead of achieving tangible things that will be the foundation for their future, they spend their energies on illusory distractions, thus denying them the maturity that can only come from reality.

In these and many other ways today’s youth are put “on hold” and they can stay in that pattern for much of their life.

Admiral Farragut

A famous American naval officer, during the American Civil War, was Admiral David Farragut. What impressed me about this man is not his achievement in his latter years, but the fact that he was a great achiever as a lad.

Born in 1801, young David became a midshipman by the time he was 10 years old. That role was normally given to young lads from well-to-do families, so they could be trained up in the officer stream. A midshipman was required to learn navigation and other skills in preparation for taking charge of a ship in due course.

At age 10 young David revealed his capabilities, by capturing an English ship. David was given command of his own ship at the age of 12 years!!!!

Now, think about the 10 year olds you know and tell me whether the training processes of our culture have prepared them to capture a ship yet? Think of those who are 12 years old, and tell me whether they have any hope of being made captain of a ship, over a crew of full-grown men.

Cheated

I suggest that today’s youth are being cheated. They are being robbed of their true potential, by a social order that lulls them into complacency, blocks their maturity, eats up their years in dumbed-down processes, distracts them with vaporous illusions, fills them with silly notions, cuts away their foundations, and leaves them to flounder in uncertainty.

Meanwhile the siren song of the media and pop-culture asserts that we have ‘evolved’ to new heights and new levels of self-fulfilment. We have not moved forward, but backwards!

It’s all a “matrix”-like delusion. And the real evidence is the multitude of people who have spent half their life and have nothing to show for it. They are still insecure, holding onto scraps instead of substance. They have filled their life with samples, but never bought the real product.

Sampling Life

Marriage has been replaced with cheap samples of sex, and throw-away relationships, supposedly in preparation for the real thing. Family has been replaced with the age-streamed peer-group. Direction has been replaced with the latest pop-culture fad. Self-actuation has been replaced with addiction.

Responsible leadership has been displaced by illusory status-symbols. Moral character has been displaced by academic learning. True achievement has been displaced by material goods.

Generational integration has been displaced by the drinking buddies. Wisdom has been displaced by information.

All anyone has after a life-time of these fraudulent substitutes, is a bag of samples. They cannot show a family lineage or a life proven by consistency through the decades and against all the storms. They have not developed character or earned things of substance to pass to their descendents. For many there is little connection or care for those ‘descendents’ anyway, since the mess of their life has damaged those ties.

Disclaimer

Now, I am not saying that to be single at 35 means that life has been wasted or that people are lost in insecurity. I know many who have very purposeful lives and who are yet waiting to find a spouse.

What I do see, however, are people who reach that age having been through a series of cheap relationships and half-hearted ventures with silly ideas about themselves and the world in which they live. These are the ones I am concerned for.

Those who seem incapable of doing the things their grandparents had no difficulty achieving are the ones who have been deceived and had their lives stolen from them.

The Solution

At heart, the solution is for people to find their true selves, under God’s direction. The problem is that the cultural messages are so overpowering that God’s truth is filtered and watered down, even as it is received.

There is a corporate blindness which the enemy has blanketed western culture with. It is endemic deception, such as Christ identified to the Apostle Paul in launching that ministry 2,000 years ago.

Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision and told him that Paul was to turn people from the blindness which the devil held them in.

“To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so they can receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:18

We need an “eye opening anointing” upon this generation. They are blind and are being led by the blind. Only when people know the truth can the truth set them free. So, please pray with me for deliverance for today’s generations, so people can stop delaying their life and become powerfully effective in the destiny for which they were created.

Unworthy Still

The skinny weakling staggered before the hulking thug. After several knock-out blows that had sent the upstart to the hard floor of the ring, it was a miracle the bony stripling could move at all, let alone dance to duck the next lethal blows. The jeering, cheering crowd urged their hero to finally finish the job and mince the lanky fool.

That the weakling had already endured so much beggared belief. It was as if his fragile frame was recreated after each crushing blow smashed it to the floor. Was there no end to this insect dodging around the ring?

boxer

An Allegory

Got the picture? That’s what a faith venture can be like at times. We are totally unqualified for what we believe for. We are totally incapable of bringing even the tiniest portion to reality. Yet we get into the ring, against fears, spiritual foes, oppressive circumstances, medical prognosis, obvious facts, and other belligerent opponents who smash at us with their destructive fists.

At times we are hit and knocked to the ground. The facts, the medical results, the legal opinion, the circumstances turning against us, our own ineptitude – all pound upon our weakling faith and throw us around like a leaf in the wind.

Yet, with nothing more than determination to believe God and His Word, we stagger to our feet again. Somehow new strength surges through our mangled limbs and they straighten again. New energy lifts our feet and we begin to duck and swerve around the obvious, belligerent realities which stand squarely against our faith expectation.

Unworthy Us

Clearly we are unworthy of the fight. We are no match for the foes that arraign themselves against us. We are not able to quench or quell their determined violence. Our only hope is the Lord. Our only ambition is to stay in the ring until the Lord declares us the champion.

boxing 2

We cannot strike a blow. We cannot get the smallest point for our prowess, strategy, footwork, or for laying the least blow upon our enemies. We can only hold on, in desperate hope of survival.

We will not win the fight. Jesus will win it for us. We will not defeat the foes. Jesus has already done that for us. We will not have the strategy. We rely on Him for that. We do not know the way forward. We look to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We bring nothing into the ring but our determination to face the foe with the Lord as our deliverance.

Knocked Down Again

Then another powerful blow knocks us to the ground. The enemy sneers, “What are you doing here? Go home where it’s safe. Only a fool comes here to confront us!”

Our heart is gripped with the realisation that we are getting nowhere. There has been no breakthrough. We still face all of our foes. The facts have not changed. There is no new development to rescue us. Our resources are depleted even more. The taunting voice of the enemy speaks the truth. There is no reasonable excuse for expecting anything to change. We are fools to take up such a venture and attempt so daring a breakthrough.

It’s All About Him!

And then, by God’s grace, a voice reaches us from somewhere and asks, “Were you relying on your own worthiness?” And we realise the answer is, “No!” The battle has never been about us. It has never relied on our ability, our wisdom, our special skills, our divine calling, or anything else of ours. This challenge is not about “us”, but all about “HIM”!

We stagger to our feet again and wave our arms to the crowd. We shout, “I am unworthy! I am undone! It has nothing to do with ME! I stand here today in His name, under His grace, seeking His miracle working power, looking for His Kingdom, according to His will, relying only on Him, and giving all the glory only to His holy name!”

Strength surges through our limbs again. Long, lanky, useless limbs that can barely hold the weight of sweat-drenched gloves begin to move again. We face our foe yet another time. He stares in consternation. How did we rise after his last powerful blow? He cannot figure it, but be moves toward us yet again. We duck and swerve and break into a smile of joy.

Hope to Endure and Win

We are still alive. The battle is not over. We have not been destroyed. We are being sustained. And he who began this good work in us will continue to perform it until it concludes with the revelation of Jesus Christ made flesh in our circumstances! The miracle is on the way! We are being supernaturally sustained. We are taking hold of that which is far beyond us. We will prevail!
And so it is that useless ones, like you and me, move from the pit where we should be to the exalted place where the Lord wants us to be. We do not progress in God’s Kingdom by jumping through the world’s hoops. We don’t get there by natural means. We need “hind’s feet” to reach the high places of God. Colleges can’t get us to Mount Zion. Money, positions, peer approval, government endorsement, big congregations, professional programs and the like will never give us victory in the fight that counts.

It is our insane faith, claiming things that don’t belong to us (in natural terms) as if they are rightfully ours by God’s perfect will and Christ’s perfect sacrifice. That is what teleports us from unworthy to worthy. That’s what makes a sinner a saint. That’s what makes a loser a leader. That’s what makes a has-been a hero again.

Fight the Good Fight of Faith

Fight the good fight of faith. You will get knocked to the floor, but the very fact that you can stand again is testimony to the Lord’s sustaining power. You will learn to rejoice in your unworthiness, not in your natural credentials. You will wave your weakling arms and all heaven will break loose, while those with natural strength watch on in dismay.

To all those who resonate with the call to live by faith I say, “Go for it! Stand to your feet yet again. You won’t win the fight, but you will be declared the victor. The Lord will fight for you. He just needs you to stagger to your feet again and determine that you are useless, but that your weakness is of no consequence.”

Some time soon a champion will step into the arena and tear down the ring in which you have been tormented. He will carry you out on his shoulders and take you to the place of victory you dared lay claim to. So, hang in there, you hopeless thing, you! That’s what I’m doing, and I’m just as hopeless as you are.

It’s a pretty good place to be, this ‘hopeless’ place. Now it’s all about Him! And HE is pretty amazing!

Illegal Laws

In an earlier lesson, Logophile on Law, I explained that there are various types and levels of law which impact us. Not all laws are equal, even though we call them all “laws”, and so it is important to understand the various types of laws and which ones apply to us.

This lesson jumps into the subject of Illegal Laws, showing that just because something is called a “law” and someone asserts, “It’s the Law!” does not mean we are bound to obey it. In fact it may be most appropriate for us to challenge that law, as an Illegal Law.

gavel

Oxymoron

It seems to be a contradiction in terms to say that a law is illegal. Such a contradictory thing is an oxymoron, where the description is too outrageous or inappropriate to be real.

The way a law can be illegal is if it contradicts the higher laws upon which it stands. Since laws are hierarchical, depending on a higher law to give them their authority, it is illegal, yet possible for a lesser law to be created which violates the higher law which it relies on for its authority. In such a case the lower law is invalidated by its own violation of the higher law on which it stands.

A secretary is not officially allowed to boss their boss. A General is not authorised to use the soldiers under his command to attack the Military Commander. A policeman cannot assume the office of President. Similarly, rules made by a sub-committee cannot overturn the rules of the club which the committee serves. Each is subject to the higher rule.

Hierarchy of Law

I contend that the highest law is Divine Law, the laws of God. Since God created us we are all accountable to Him and will be evaluated against His moral order.

In the Australian context, similar to many nations, the human legal basis on which the nation stands is that of Common Law and the Imperial Acts (Laws made by the ruling English monarchs over many centuries). Those laws reflect the application of Biblical Law (the Laws of God as given to us in the Bible).

When Australia was created as a nation, just over a century ago, a Constitution was created to define the new nation and how its government and law is to operate. The Australian Constitution was built upon the foundation of Common Law and the Imperial Acts.

All statutes (what the Government calls “laws”) created by people in authority in Australia are only possible because of the Constitution, and its foundation in Common Law and Imperial Acts. Those government ‘statutes’ are simply the local rules for functioning within Australia. They are much lower in authority than God’s laws and the principles of Common Law and the Imperial Acts.

Statutes

We call statutes “laws”, even though they are significantly inferior to God’s moral law, Common Law (which covers murder, injury, theft and deception) and Imperial Acts, which define the legal principles by which people are to be governed.

Statutes are not ‘laws’, strictly speaking, but are treated as if they are laws by those in the society to which they apply. They are “given the force of law”, even though they are not of the same order of laws as moral law (God’s Law, Common Law and Imperial Acts).

The only reason government agents, parliaments and others in a country can create “statutes” is because they are given some right to do so by the Constitution. And the only reason the Constitution holds any authority is because it is based on Common Law and the Imperial Acts.

Contradictory Laws

If a State or Federal statute (called a ‘law’) is contrary to the Constitution, Common Law or the Imperial Acts, then the statute is invalid. No statute can contradict the authority on which it relies.

Consider a person becoming the Prime Minister of Australia, by normal Constitutional processes, then declaring himself to be the King of Australia. He could argue that, as Prime Minister, he has the authority to elevate himself, but the Constitution does not give him that privilege. He can be Prime Minister, but not take additional, non-legal authority.

As soon as such a leader acts unlawfully he disqualifies himself from holding the authority lawfully entrusted to him. You cannot violate the law on which you stand without violating your right to stand.

Restrictive Laws

A statute from a Government, State or official department within a country can only restrict freedoms. No government has the right to give you freedom to break the law. Governments cannot lawfully make murder, rape, theft or deception legal. They are not able to lawfully declare an illegal action to be legal. So statutes never increase a person’s freedoms. They can only take some right or freedom away – supposedly “for the greater good”.

Our real laws come from God and have been distilled into the Common Law and sealed by Imperial Acts. That is where are true legal position is found (at least in former British Commonwealth nations). Statute laws cannot overturn those primary laws. All statutes can do is further restrict human freedom by regulating what people can do and how and when they can do it within the national setting to which they apply.

Illegal Government Actions

Governments and their officials may find themselves frustrated by the limitations they are under, and choose to go outside the law or their lawful authority (ultra virez) in order to have their way. If they want more money, for example, they may impose taxes or fees which are outside their legal authority to impose.

If getting the citizens to fit in with the government’s agenda proves too difficult for the government it may be tempted to pass a “statute” which demands that people do what they want.

In such situations it is possible for governments to act outside their legal rights and responsibilities. Governments may pass statute laws or make demands of their citizens which contradict the freedoms given to those citizens in Common Law, Imperial Acts or in their Constitution.

Governments have had to repeal (revoke) laws they created but which proved to be illegal. Governments have had to pay compensation to various citizens or entities which were wrongfully treated by the rules, decisions, statutes and actions of the government. This is not a mythical phenomenon, but a reality of human fallibility, ignorance or opportunism.

USA Tax Laws

There is much discussion about the fact that the tax laws in the USA are outside the law. It is claimed that it has been proven in court that there is no law upholding the American taxation regime. Yet the tax office operates with vigour and successfully pursues and penalises American citizens.

Some would argue that the USA Tax Laws are illegal laws, denying American citizens their rights and freedoms. I can’t speak to that subject, but there is an abundance of discussion available for those to whom it may relate.

Illegal On-the-Spot Fines

One of the privileges which Australian citizens enjoy is protection through the historical Imperial Acts of English monarchs. One of those Imperial decrees gives every citizen the right to a trial by a jury of 12 of their peers before they can be determined to be “guilty” and before any penalty can be imposed on them.

Every “on-the-spot fine” and every charge made on a citizen before there has been a legal conviction before a jury in a duly convened court of law is contrary to the legal rights of Australian citizens. Yet most Australians pay those fines, or go to court to fight and only end up with a greater penalty than they started with.

Ignorance is Not Bliss

Ignorance of the law means many people are denied their rightful rights (silly to have to say it like that). Because most citizens are ignorant and are happy to stay that way, they have been duped by populist ideas.

They believe that the more modern laws have superseded the old ones and that society is evolving all the time. They think that something from 100 years ago is really ancient and has lost its significance. They think that the ruling of a magistrate or the interpretation given by a current legal adviser is the final word in legal reality for them. They think that a new law completely eradicates the previous legal reality.

Ignorant citizens do not know what their true position is. They do not know what protections they have. They do not know their rights. They think their legal standing and their rights are gifts from their government, and not from God.

Get Your Own Education

This lesson is a wake-up call. But if you are determined to stay asleep and to live under the control of laws that may not be laws and “laws” that are “illegal”, then I can only wish you well.

It is not my place to live your life for you. It is not my place to save you from your own wilful ignorance. You have a free will given you by God and you have to answer to Him, not to me, for how you use it.

My job is to rattle your cage and shout “Wake Up!”

Now, I’ve finished for the time being.

I think I’ll have a nice cup of tea and leave you to your own future. Happy legalities !!!!

Pagan Christianity Book Review

Pagan Christianity (book review) by Frank Viola and George Barna. 2002 / 2008. Exploring the Roots of our Church Practices

Disclaimer

I skimmed this book in a few hours (Sun August 16, 2009) – and so I have not done the book the service of a thorough scrutiny of all the content. My observations are based on what I did see in the book and what its case presented itself to be to a reader picking up the highlights.

Overview of the Book

Barna & Viola argue, from the perspective of historical review that much of what we take for granted in Church life, including church buildings, denominations, sermons, individual leading pastors, purposes for the offerings and modern forms of worship, have developed from pagan concepts. They further assert that those things stand in the way of the expression of Christianity as it was intended, but which only operated widely for the first century or so.

They support their contentions by describing fellowship groups which operate today which they see as superior to modern churches.

Main Case

Barna and Viola’s principal case against the modern church is that it is “pagan” in origins, and thus, by implication, not what God wants in the church. They assume in their minds that “pagan” means wrong and offensive to God’s purposes. Therefore they suggest that modern churches are wrong, ‘guilty’ by association with the pagan roots of their practices. Their principal non-historical argument is that most modern church meetings are directed and controlled by people and programming (liturgy) which preclude the ordinary member from taking any leadership. They see the pastor/leader model as counter to the expression of the priesthood of all believers. The modern examples they commend involve a relatively un-structured format where no one person is leading the meeting. By this open format all the participants can contribute by sharing something or leading out in a song. The particular quality they extol about this model is that the meetings are “led by Jesus Christ”, not led by a person or by a programmed ritual.
By implication, then, they see that planned meetings, or ones led by only selected people, are likely to exclude Christ from the place of leadership in the church.

Their argument, then, is both historical and perceptual. History provides the incriminating link between modern church practice and ancient pagan practice. Their perception is that modern church services obstruct the personal expression of ordinary members in a way that blocks Jesus Christ from taking leadership moment by moment in the church meetings.

Positives

It is good to review and challenge our practices and to be open to correction and direction. Barna and Viola offer various criticisms of modern church life. Those criticisms are not new. Thoughtful people have addressed these issues and there are many variations of church service and types of church meetings, providing redress to some of the concerns raised. The challenge should remain open and godly wisdom should be prayerfully sought.

Concerns

Barna and Viola have principally resorted to inspection of the “roots”, not inspection of the “fruits” (although they do point out various outcomes). I suspect that both of these men were able to achieve much of their personal spiritual development in the grip of the very church processes which they now challenge. Multitudes of churches and millions of Christians across the globe, from jungles to cities, are successfully bringing people to salvation, discipleship, maturity, and effective ministry, using the very methods and models which Barna and Viola seem set against.

This observation does not negate Barna and Viola’s case, but it reveals that their autopsy on the “roots” generates a different sense for the thing than Christ’s instruction to inspect the “fruits”.

While Barna and Viola include a huge amount of evidence for pagan influence into the church model as we know it, they fail to recognise that those elements are not the intellectual property of pagans. Their case is akin to saying “terrorists use public transport, so public transport is evil”.

Origins of Preachers

While Greek orators can be accused of seeding the modern concept of a preacher, that does not make preaching suspect. Moses preached and taught, as the exclusive voice to his audience. The prophets spoke, instructed, elaborated on their insights and taught followers and the public. Ezra organised preachers who would expound the truth. John the Baptist was a preacher. So too was Jesus Christ.

So to lambaste preaching, because of the connection that can be made to Greek public speaking, belies the issue. Preaching was never the exclusive preserve of Greek orators. Preaching is a form of communication which God commends.

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1Corinthians 1:21

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14

Leadership Responsibility

We also find that, while there is place for all believers to contribute, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, there are those who are given more specific responsibility. We see Paul on his missionary journeys not holding open “go with the flow” meetings, but specific, long-winded times of serious didactic input from him. He saw himself as one who would ‘impart’ something. He exhorted Timothy to be diligent in such things as preaching, rebuke and exhortation.

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2Timothy 4:2

This instruction was not to all the members, but to those selected, by Paul the Apostle (not some later generation of bishops), and charged with a more central responsibility.

Along with that Paul expected Timothy to raise up other specialist speakers who would make specific contribution into the life of the church.

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” 2Timothy 2:2

Barna and Viola could be guilty of creating the kind of distortion which they accuse pagan influences of imposing into the church. Barna and Viola seem to be denigrating a Biblical reality (the place of preaching), tarring it with the brush of paganism, and promoting their personally preferred church service model that seems to reduce the place of the preaching which God gave to the church and which the Apostle Paul elevated.

Other Issues

The same doubts about their case could be raised with regard to church buildings, organisational structure, hierarchical leadership, financial administration and so on.

Does the fact that pagan temples influenced early church buildings mean that God does not want churches to have dedicated buildings? Barma and Viola imply that God is opposed to church buildings, especially since they can be linked to pagan meeting places. Yet in old testament history the Jews developed a new building called the Synagogue. It was not prescribed by God, but developed during the captivity and continued thereafter. Although this building concept was not instigated by God it was used by Christ and the Apostle Paul. There is no sense that it was to be rejected because of its origins. So, I contend, Barma and Viola’s criticism of modern church buildings is of little if any consequence, despite the connection to ancient architecture.

The feast of Purim, which the Jewish leaders instituted in honour of the events recorded in the book of Esther, was not ordained by God. Yet there is no suggestion by Christ or the Apostles that it was to be condemned or rejected because of its origins.

Leadership Issues

With regard to church hierarchy and supervision we have the examples from Moses of seventy elders selected to share his leadership burden. We have the appointment of captains over tens and captains over thousands. These various leadership appointments were not always ordained by God, but that did not make them bogus or worthy of rejection. Indeed, the heathen nations doubtless had similar leadership hierarchies to administrate the social, military and religious process of their culture. Any similarity between one administrative set and another does not negate the institution. Yet, to Barma and Viola it seems that such similarities render church leadership as suspect.

Conclusion

My conclusion is that, despite the well researched and scholarly complexity of historical information garnered for their treatise, Barna and Viola have erred in their essential premise. They seem convinced that guilt by association renders the modern church to be little more than a pagan religion, masquerading as true Christianity. The effective practice of modern Christianity, under the weight of this pagan heritage, challenges their most basic assertion.

Their work errs toward the irrelevant, despite its eloquence and the conviction with which they press it upon their readers.

I am concerned that some readers will be beguiled by the scholarly quality of the work, giving it credence as relevant for its sheer weight of detail. I am also concerned that some weak souls will become infected with an allergy toward the modern church, avoiding fellowshipping with the saints or listening to preaching of the Word of God. It is possible that the arguments put forward by Barna and Viola will subvert the soul of some who would otherwise meet with the saints and hear the Word of God. Should that occur, then their contribution is decidedly toxic and not beneficial.

Yet I am sensitive to their concern. They wish to advance discussion on a matter that concerns them. They seek to liberate Christians from slavish servitude to human structures, empty liturgy, man-made agendas, and the like. I fear that they will muddy the waters, by taking such a negative position, on such unworthy grounds for their case.

They Should Promote their Model

I suggest that they could do better by discarding their interest in the pagan roots they perceive in modern church models, and uplifting their alternative model of worship. Christ said that “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to myself”. I suggest that, if the Barna/Viola model is worthy of Christ, then simply lifting it up will produce a drawing effect upon all who see it.

Rather than go down that path Barna and Viola have taken the popular road of attack upon the status quo. They hope to draw followers to their preferred worship model by attacking the current model. I, for one, believe they have damaged their own credibility, by the spiritual murkiness of taking the offensive. Rather than perceive the good, many of their readers will be distracted in the defence of what they have attacked.

Rejection 17 – Self Pity

A Rejection Profile is handled differently by people. So there is no exact image of a rejected person. I suggest that there are several lifestyles which people carrying rejection will be drawn toward. Which one any person settles for depends on their personality and other factors.

This lesson looks at the first of the “stopping points” where a rejected person may end up.

The Defeatist

Some people respond to rejection by simply giving up all hope for a normal life. These people tend to be the defeatists, who take on a self-pity based persona, as their response to what they have suffered. While others may have a strong sense of fight, or be motivated by rage or a desire to be popular, the defeatist seems to wallow in their pain and make it the focus of their life.

Since all rejected people feel at some point that everything is against them, the defeatist succumbs to those impressions and gives up any hope of winning against them.

This does not mean, however, that the person buried in self-pity is not still quite cunning, exploitative, manipulative or the like. Their choice to live in self-pity is, in itself, a survival strategy.

reject-02-heart-cryPity Poor Me

The defeatist takes on the persona of a loser and plays the “Pity Poor Me!” performance. Some are genuinely shattered and unable to find their feet. Others have simply chosen that they have no real chance of winning, so they may as well exploit the sympathies of others around them.

Many people on welfare have taken the “pity poor me” value system, but can be quite demanding and exploitative, despite their helpless position.

Those who are emotionally unstable may be lost in their depression and downcast feelings. Those who are more resilient emotionally may be careful to look out for those they can manipulate to assist them, no the basis of their “pity poor me” situation.

Withdrawal From Life

The ‘loser’ mentality that goes with the Self-pity persona may cause some people to withdraw from life. They have certainly withdrawn from the race and the competitive elements of life. They no longer expect to have the nice things that others have. They expect to live life on other people’s left-overs and charity.

Sadly, many people who go down this road lose their ability to take responsibility. They have withdrawn to the point of refusing to take responsibility when it is appropriate for them to do so.

I have seen second generation welfare recipients refuse to take up opportunities for personal success, since they will then lose their ‘benefits’. They have withdrawn to the point of refusing to re-enter life, even when they are well able to do so. One lady I knew was forced back into employment and excelled at her work, achieving financial freedom. But initially she refused to even try, for fear of losing the benefits she had become addicted to.

Emotional Wreck

Some people become so messed up emotionally that they weep openly and have public displays of emotion which others would avoid doing. Rather than hide their shame, pain and need, they let it all hang out, spilling their mess without any care. They seem to be beyond embarrassment.

They have given up. They have abdicated from life. And in so doing they have lost the ability to hold themselves together or to show appropriate decorum in certain situations.

People in this situation pull at the heart strings of the compassionate, and that leads to the next problem area for the “pity poor me” reject.

Dumping Onto Others

People who have given up usually try to find others to carry them. They need support emotionally and in most other areas of their life. Rather than being able to contribute to relationships and life in general, these people tend to always be making emotional withdrawals, at the expense of others. They dump their problems onto others.

The welfare networks and caring professions are often targets of these people. They look for people who could or should help them and they exploit that help when they can. They may ask others to manage their money, fill out their paperwork, make decisions for them, be there whenever they call, and otherwise become their permanent lifeline.

They usually have an excuse for everything and often have a whining story to tell about their hard-luck background. “I always wanted to play piano, but we were too poor for lessons.” “If only my dad didn’t leave things would have been different.” And so it goes.

Such people are terribly draining and usually wear out or burn out those they rely on. They become a bottomless pit of needs.

Manipulation

Some people in this self-pity mode become experts at wheedling their way into situations, exploiting other people, especially those who have a soft heart, and using people for their own ends.

When a self-pity person is denied any support they can prove to be quite resourceful, but when someone comes along who they can manipulate, they suddenly become “helpless” again.

When there is something to get for nothing, or some opportunity somewhere, the self-pity person can often be the first to line up, expecting to get whatever is available.

Sadly, these people are almost impossible to satisfy. When they are given more, they find some reason to put it down as “not enough”. Their need is not so much real, but perceived from their own internal mess. So, no matter what is done for them they never rise out of the situation they are in.

Irresponsibility

The self-pity mode is one of irresponsibility. The pity-poor-me person has stopped trying to make life work with God’s grace and the responsible use of what they have. Instead, they have chosen to give up and even to make other people carry their load for them.

This position of abandonment undermines their life and leaves them on the ground of complaint, unhappiness, inability to be fulfilled, and so on. They are controlled by the feelings they have given in to.

It can be very difficult to help these people to move into true freedom. Freedom means they will have to accept responsibility shoulder their own load and take their place in society. They will no longer have an excuse or be able to dump their responsibilities onto others. So, they are likely to resist coming into freedom. It takes a work of grace to awaken their hunger for wholeness and their hope in God for glorious liberty.

A Temporary Condition

Many rejection sufferers, however, do not wish to remain in the trap of self-pity. So in the next few lessons I’ll discuss some different outcomes which rejection victims gravitate toward.

Once that is done we can look in detail at how the Lord sets people free and I can share more of my own testimony of coming into freedom.