The worship was like a bullet train that had just left the station; starting out slowly then building, gaining, rejoicing in emotion as it sped to a glorious destination, taking its’ passengers to another realm.
The teacher waited at the platform for the people to grab their emotional luggage, and then find their places in the pews. He did not want them to settle down; he would need their excitement to fuel his own soul. Though he was younger than most of the congregation, still he stood looking over them with exuberant delight, as if they were his own children. He held them captive with a look of stern compassion, yet the look was not to diminish the excitement, it was silent in its demand for respect, a godly glare.
The teacher that now stood before them did not seem like the quiet & gentle man that greeted them earlier. It seemed he had a twin and this one was the excitable and louder of the two, but he was one man.
Most, if not all, of the people mistakenly called this “an anointing”.
Jesus was anointed, but his strength came from above. Never did he grab the emotional shirt tails of the people to energize his words. He ministered according to obedience, never according to need. He was moved with compassion, not by it.
Of course, I can say these things today, but back then I rode that train with them and I lent my excitement to the pastor along with them, and what’s worse, he took it as his own. His strength was gleaned from the sheep of the pasture, not the Shepherd.
The truth would have to yield against the strength of emotions as the religious elixir was poured on our unwitting hearts. A deceitful balm of Gilead.
Seeing ourselves as “less than” because we were not called as this man did nothing but turn us into drunken puppets of one mans theology.
None dare question the words, the teachings, the notions of that man; to do so was to “touch Gods’ anointed”, a crime worthy of death, but of another kind.
Blind and deaf; none of us saw nor heard the “hiss” in the sanctuary as the serpent wove his way through this mans soul, all we saw and heard was an angel of light.
Enlightenment, illumination of any kind had to be good, didn’t it?
It wasn’t until I engaged the man in conversation, a heart wrenching, soul searching doubt that I had, that I felt the fangs pierce my spirit and inject its venomous “truth”. The man looked at me with eyes that were not those of a mere mortal, diabolically leering, searching, searing in intensity, scanning my soul, looking for an opening, a weakness, a “chink” in my armor. Coiled, the man could not believe that he had been challenged, questioned, doubted, he struck with a vengeance.
“Contending for the faith” is often mistaken for the more subtle “defending what I believe”.
Within a month I was called “rebellious” and it was told to others in the church that God had no choice but to kill me. The scarlet letter of my being “unteachable” was branded on my forehead; people that used to shake my hand and hug me, now cut a wide berth through the foyer to avoid being “touched by a leper”. None dare approach, to do so would draw the devilish stare of correction from the “powers that be”. They were to have no dealings with “the unfruitful works of darkness”.
I was stunned by the verse; the very sword that was to be unsheathed to protect was used to decapitate me. To cut me off from the people.
Being a, so called, free country they could not force me to leave.
Also, it would be to that mans glory to restore me, a trophy for his prophetic mantel.
I tried, I really did, to “see” what they wanted me to see. I did not want to be rejected and I longed for the days of “service to the King” and if I was wrong and they were right I risked forfeiting my dream of being in the ministry.
Certainly they had to be right and me in error. Look at the life I’ve lived compared to theirs.
I just couldn’t bring myself to accept that the Serpent would use a pastor.
I looked for reasons to stay, He gave me reasons to go; but I had determined to remain until He had given me a “sure word”. This verse was also used effectively to keep me prisoner, although it was spoken through the mouth of a man, that man was not the author of it.
The shroud of light around this gospel ghoul was dimming and I began to see it for what it truly was.
The venom was so intoxicating; the day my son died one of the pastors came to the hospital to visit us. He told me “God is so good.”
“Yes, He is, but what do you mean when you say it?” I took a defensive stance, more aware of the serpent than before.
“God is so good, Don. Don’t you see? He killed your son instead of you.”
Needless to say, that was my “sure word”, but it didn’t come in the way I assumed it must.
We left the church.
So far, this all sounds quite dramatic and that too is the stealth of the snake, not in these words of mine, but in his ways of “ministering” to mankind. The sensationalism can be deceptive. The “that hasn’t happened to me so I don’t really have to listen” attitude can cause one to drop their guard.
All of this I learned in my twenty years now removed from that fellowship. (Honestly, I cringe to use the word “fellowship” in this way) But, to call it a “fellowship” disarmed the ignorant. The viper was free to roam.
It was a thing “sensed”, behind the scenes of the seen and heard; this empowered the angel of light. His ability to remain in stealth mode is our not being discerning.
Excitement had dulled the saber of discernment while we prided ourselves on being “a cutting edge church”.
The alarm could not be heard above the cacophony of religious fervor.
The under-shepherds roared so loudly that none could hear the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
Were it not for the season at this church I am sure that my definition of “subtle” would have stayed the same. A venomous being slithers undetected in the garden offering “truth, life” and lies to Gods’ people.
Just as Lucifer used the serpent in the garden he’ll use things that look good to us; a three piece suit even.
I watch as other people take up serpents, that is, they adhere to teachings that poison their soul. Some venom affects the respiratory system while still others affect the nervous system.
If and when a teaching subtly keeps your vision horizontal and your praise as well; the respiratory system has been impacted. The movement of air from within you that enables you to speak is restricted. The air you breathe is not the “rush of a mighty wind”. Prayer is often offered with words, but if you find that prayer is burdensome, you may have been bitten. Your vocal cords are bound because of something you believe. Not the physical apparatus of breathing, it’s a matter of the heart.
If a situation or event no longer stirs compassion, you are beyond feeling; you may have been snake bit. The nervous system of your soul is not what it once was.
Mercy withheld may only be a symptom of having been poisoned. Grace that must be earned is an indication. Forgive, but not until “they repent” is another.
For years my hearts desire was to “say something” and up until recently I have.
I read things online and hear conversations at home that I know are “angel of light” things and I rush in, as if I were some sort of Internet Messiah.
Some of you have endured my well intentioned critiques. Well, to those of you that I have struck with the self righteous sword of my own perspective, I am truly sorry.
“Leave that to Me.” He says.
“But, Lord, they are killing themselves.” I defend
“Since when is their death a bad thing?” He shocks me with His reply.
“Lord, you came that they might have life.” I try to manipulate Him, forcing Him to do my will about His will.
“Son, until there is death, there is no need for resurrection life.”
“So, are you saying that I say nothing at all?” I can hardly ask the question; still my lack of trust gives me a voice. “If they continue on their present course, Lord, they’ll fall away.”
“I told you that I am able to keep them from falling.” His correction is gentle, but why does it hurt so much?
“Son, this is not about their falling. It’s about their living and until the poison of their religion kills them, they have no need of me.”
“But, Lord….” I am at a loss for a valid argument, but my religious prejudices inspire me to at least try and find something to say.
“Son, I sent serpents into the wilderness and those that had been bitten could look at “Him who had been made sin for us” and live. This, I have not changed.”
Just when I thought I knew something of trust, He shows me that I know less than the half of it.
As for those folks I worshipped, prayed and praised with?
I hope the snake has bitten them all and the venom of religion has taken their life.
If they still have their life I’m grieved, because I now know they don’t have His.
At the risk of sounding callous, I don’t grieve because they are dying any more. I grieve because they are not dead.
Dead to themselves and alive to Him; but He assures me that He is Lord and their times are most certainly in His pierced hands.
The snake bit Him too.
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Don, I read this carefully. You are good with words, but I perceive there is more than just well written words here. The line above I quoted assured me you have a heart of compassion for others. Else you would not have written a desire for them to be alive to Him. There are times I want to speak out that I feel led to be quiet for the moment instead. There are times I want to remain silent, but I feel led to speak out. I have to be careful to make sure I am listening to God and not satan. Let us pray for those whose zeal is for themselves and not for God. Let us strive to be in His will, to be listening for His voice, and to be channels through which He can work. God bless you.