Tuesday, December 27, 2011

State of the Church part 2: Are you tending your anchor?

Part 1: Love growing cold
Part 3: The numbers aren't good
Part 4: Carnal Carnival, &; the greatest sin pastors commit
Part 5a: When carnality leads to spiritual abuse
Part 5b: Is your church spiritually abusive?
Conclusion: Spiritual Leaders and Humble Relationships

In the Introduction/Part 1 of this series, I discussed the Matthew 24:12 prophecy Jesus gave of "love growing cold", and showed how that prophecy relates to believers. So then if love of believers for God and of each other is predicted to grow cold, in this series I ask what causes love to grow cold. I will also take a look at what will love growing looks like at your local church or in your life. Last, this series will hopefully (by God's grace) discuss how to spot waning love and what to do about it.

In this section I want to take a look at the primary reason love grows cold. In my opinion, Hebrews 2:1 has the answer. In the NKJV the paragraph is introduced with the title "Do Not Neglect Salvation." The first verse says "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away."

I love the nautical metaphors the bible writers use. Marine allusions never change throughout time. If we picture the church as a bunch of people on an anchored boat in front of a lighthouse, and we fail to tend the anchor frequently, it slips. It slips because there are tides, and currents and winds trying to push the boat off its anchorage, just as culture buffets us in the world trying to push us away from Christ. As the anchor slips, we drift away slowly at first. As any mariner knows, the less the anchor digs in the faster the drift becomes. Pretty soon the ground under the boat deepens enough so the anchor is still attached to the boat but it's just hanging there, not doing its job of digging in and keeping the boat close to the Lighthouse. Away the boat goes and in between the boat and the Light are many perils and things that could sink the boat. It does not take long in the neglect of tending the anchor, to become adrift on a cultural tide and too busy trying to control the boat in the currents, tides, waves, and wind to think of the Lighthouse anymore.

What are people doing on the boat that causes no one to notice the slipping anchor? Well, some are on the foredeck, sunning themselves. They say they are warm and comfortable, the sun feels good, and they leave the anchor-tending to someone else. (Sardis failed to keep watch, they are dead- Rev 3:1-3). Others go below, to cook and eat and play cards and to watch TV. (worldly spirit- 2 Timothy 4:10). They say that they finally have a chance to relax, being on this nice yacht, and they are going to take advantage of it. (wilful sin-Hebrews 10:25-31). Others are doing boat-things, like repairing sails, or changing the oil in the engine, but still they don't take the time to go up and glance at the anchor line because they are too busy. (appearance of Godliness- 2 Tim 3:5). One person noticed a fraying anchor line but when he told his fellow boat-dwellers, they said he shouldn't worry about it, the rope was strong enough for now. (They heard, but did not do- James 1:22). What they didn't know was that a storm was on the horizon that would fray the rest of it and cause them to drift. (Matthew 16:3; Luke 12:56). Everyone is supposed to be vigilant and take his or her watch, looking out for storms, fraying anchor line, slipping anchorage. We are a body and we all take a watch. We as individuals and corporately must monitor our position in front of the Lighthouse! Leaving the anchor-tending to one person (the pastor) or worse, no one, means for sure sometime you will slip away. The Lighthouse is still there and always will be. It is the boat that drifted away. We have love growing cold because too many people are abdicating their watch.

I used to live on a sailboat for two years, me and my husband. We rarely went in to a dock, which means we anchored each night. We handled the anchor twice a day, letting it down at dusk for the night and lifting it up in the morning when we left. We would look for two things: good anchoring ground and a protected area. Then we would make a plan for anchoring, me at the helm and him at the bow pointing us to the spot he had decided on. Next, we made a pass over the spot, ensuring there were no hidden dangers that would give a nasty surprise that night. Then we would go through the process of anchoring, making sure the anchor was well set. Finally, though we were stopped for the day and relaxing, we never fully relaxed. One or the other of us would continually take sightings, check the anchor line and generally be on guard, even getting up in the night, lest we drift away. Props to my husband (and me) because our vigilance and fore-planning meant we never slipped anchor. We always awoke the next morning where we had stopped the night before.
We up anchor at sunrise on a Georgia river, circa 1994.
The thing that begins love growing cold is taking your eyes off Jesus the Light and replacing Him with a world view. A world view is satan. The second you give satan an inch, he will bring his crowbar in and pry you away from your first love, inch by incremental inch. That is why it takes an entire body to be on guard, you may not notice your own drift away by inches, but someone else looking at you may spot it. Admittedly, it is a lot of work to tend the anchor of our salvation. You cannot relax, yet our carnal nature very much wants to.  I understand that. What people consistently fail to understand is how devastating even a few moments of relaxing are. Ultimately, failure to tend the anchor is a neglecting of our salvation and that salvation was bought at too great a price to neglect it. (1 Corinthians 6:20). So, in part 3, let's talk about how many people fail to maintain their biblical worldview by the cold, stark numbers.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns. (Psalm 46:1-5)

Part 1: Love growing cold
Part 3: The numbers aren't good
Part 4: Carnal Carnival, &; the greatest sin pastors commit
Part 5a: When carnality leads to spiritual abuse
Part 5b: Is your church spiritually abusive?

11 comments:

  1. Wow, I really, really, really needed to read this.

    I thank you Lord for speaking to us and I pray in the name of Jesus that you grant me and all Your children that read this Your grace and strength to be vigilant and continually set our eyes on you. When we are weak, You are Strength and You ALONE are our Rock, our Fortress and our Hope. Amen.

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  2. Amen, Debbie.

    I so enjoying reading your posts, Mrs. Prata. It reminds of myself, and the blog I used to keep, where I wrote many scripture based entries, much like yours. There was much revelation even I received, as I was writing, and as Holy Spirit lead me. I've missed it, but life circumstances drove me away from it, (severe criticizing, persecution, harassment and stalking, etc) and I lost the fire to do it. So reading yours is like a reflection of my former years. I'm so glad that there are more people than just me, people like you, who carry the torch and share God's truth.

    I wasn't popular, but then, God's truth isn't that popular is it, as your numbers in another post, show. I've met so many Christians who deny scripture, such as the flood. I don't understand how they can say the believe in God, that they are Christian, when they don't fully believe in Him, trusting completely His word is the whole truth, start to finish, it is infallible. Still, though I wasn't popular, I always hoped someone was reading what I wrote, and that it was getting through to them, that it was having a positive impact on them, and that it was either bringing them up out of a pit; closer to God, or that it was leading them to Him for the first time ever. I wont know just what all of an impact I've had, but I do so hope I will learn that I did good worthy of God's praise.

    Thank you again.

    J.L.

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  3. The first and second part of this series surely make one think and have many good points. But I stopped reading there because there was already enough to think about and write about, and I get the drift of where there rest is going by the title of the sections. But I dont necessarily agree with the tone of the sections I read, and some of its points.
    The tone I am getting its all the churches and church leaders fault and we better not drift away. I dont think that the love growing cold is necessary within just the church (part or all of the church), but universal. First of all you have great brothers and sisters in the faith that are not growing cold, because they are being persecuted, like in the underground churches of China, India, or even in dominated Arab countries. The church is actually growing there, despite the persecution. Like Tertullian wrote, "the blood of the myrters is the seed of the church", which i know is not scripture but i think summarize points of scripture well, and is show evident whether it be by historic examples, quantity or quality. We cant forget that there where another 6 churches in rev. which were like 2 good and 5 not good (different from bad, because it gives hope).
    I feel the lawlessness which leads to cold love is more of a universal event, that has lead to it infiltrating the wealthy countries and influencing its churches.
    It seems that some people from those lawless part of the world will be like Herod only wanting to see Jesus for entertainment. I think many of the gay movements make up their own rules and become lawless and their love growing cold and into lust, is a good example that prophecy. Augustine talks about a City of God and a City of Man. Where the city of God is motivated by loving your neighbor, while the city of man is motivated by making laws to protect yourself and love yourself.
    For some reason your expansion of the word drift into a whole metaphor with explanations, dosent sit well in my heart. Though I know you have good intentions and did with a good heart. I think if we do the work of God we dont have to worry about drifting as much. If we do drift while doing his work it will be for a little while.
    I think and feel the solutions is Jesus and the Holy spirit. Not just* necessary, spiritual leaders, and humble relationships, though they are important. Scripture says that the holy spirit is our counselor, and will guide us. So following scripture and the holy spirit is key, they both must be important and go hand in hand, as well as good leadership and humble relationships. Our great passion and intimacy with God should be our main mission and motivation in life period.
    I have found this clip to be very helpful in figuring out what is important in our walk with God, and not getting cold love.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTWyT79MbbY

    Hector ><)))">

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  4. Hello hector,

    I'm sorry you stopped reading at part 2. Part 3 discusses the numbers of American congregants who do not holds a biblical world view, and how their secular beliefs impact the church- in America. Part 4 discusses the cycle of pastors who seek to draw carnal people to the church and then use increasingly carnal means to keep them there - at the expense of the few true believers in the church.

    The cycle surely includes both congregants and leadership, which I also addressed in parts 5a, 5b, but God's judgment will be placed more strictly on the leaders because they are charged by God with leading the sheep. (James 3:1)

    In the first post I did seek to show thru scripture that the love growing cold IS aimed at believers. It goes without saying that love is already cold in the unbeliever's heart. If I failed to make that clear, I'm sorry, and also apologize for not making it clear that it is the American church that is in such dire straits.

    Hector I agree there are wonderful believers in the faith everywhere. But while focusing on Jesus and His true sheep, we also have to look clear eyed at the prophesies. Therefore as for your comment about 'we better not drift away' you are right. Hebrews issues that warning. Paul warned wolves will come in *from among us*, not sparing the flock. And Jesus issues the warning about how love will grow cold. These things WILL happen, so this series explores how these facts will affect the church. So yes, to a large extent, in the body of Christ, we are warned that a lot of what is happening IS the church and the leaders' faults. We need to heed the warnings. If the tone offends you, I'm sorry, but Paul the writer of Hebrews,and Jesus started it ;)

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  5. Hi EP, Sorry for not reading the whole thing, i was in a hurry. And I am a slow reader and horrible writer.

    yes, I do think you interpret correct in that there will be lawlessness in the church, and there there will be wolves cast in sheeps clothing, among us. And now that you bring it up it does seem like it will be systemized. And that part of the article does not bother me a bit.

    But depending on what you mean i might* not agree that scripture says that "love is already cold in the[all] unbelievers heart's."
    Yes there are definetly people who are unbelievers who have rejected Christ and are very cold at heart. But Scripture also says that the harvest is plentiful! and there are many outside the church who have not come to Christ yet, and I would say are not cold at heart. Especially when you look at the parables of the kingdom of God being a treasure or great pearl to unbeliever [those who have not heard the gospel yet, OR better yet those who have had a misrepresentation of God through the church or have been shun away from the church, as not worthy of God and any good... the broken and lost!](NOTE- [this might be close to a subject i have closely studied and would like to have your opinion on, possibly on another post] Being cold at heart seems to me to be close to having a full/wealthy spirit, which is the opposite of being poor in spirit, and depending on God... make sense?)

    And that is one of the main things that the focus of this article is not focusing on and its the main thing God want us to do, which is to tell people about him, his great love, mercy, grace, and passion for the lost and broke. I cant help but repeat that loving Christ and having the same passion he has for the lost, is the main mission. And I miss that mission all the time. My heart wonders away from Him constantly, just like in the hyme, Come Thou Fount. Its not about just preventing ourselves from drifting away from Him.

    The solution to lawlessness with in the church, which results in love growing cold, and the wolfs in the church is not stated near those passages, is not given, and I dont think there is one. Scripture just say that it will happen, it does not tell us to try to prevent it, but just help ourselvs.

    So I dont think we should try to stop it/them, but warn people. Scripture say we will be able to recognized the good and bad fruit through scripture. In a similar passage Christ give us the solution to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves (matt 10:16). He did not say to depend on leaders or have certain types of relationships. But we must depend on Him. I think that is the tone* I was talking about.

    I guess the word "unbeliever" is very vague in out talk and has through me off. Sorry for poor editing... I did a lot of it... i must go to church.

    But if you feel there are unbelievers in "church", who go out of tradition but don't KNOW and abide in Christ.

    If you feel that is your calling, you got a tough calling. Ive skimmed and have bad editing already to countinue now.

    I b back ;)

    Hector ><)))">

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  6. Hi Hector,

    I am not saying "all" people/believers will grow cold. Only most. Because that is what Jesus said "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" Mt 24:12

    I am sorry the word 'unbeliever' is vague to you. To me that means people who do not believe in Jesus. Other ways to say it are "the lost" "Pagans" or "the wicked".

    I am not sure I accept your interpretation that the harvest will be plentiful, at least according to what I read, in the Church Age it will be very paltry. The scripture in Mathew 9:37 says "Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." In my opinion that means the lost are plentiful but the people willing to witness to them are few. Actually Jesus said that the love of *most* will grow cold, meaning the love of the people toward God will grow cold. Also He said in Luke 17:26 "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man." which means again few people believing. And there is the Thessalonians verse talking about multitudes falling away...I fear that true faith will be hard to find and already is.

    The antidote to love growing cold is to have a biblical worldview through faith in Jesus. That is expressed in part 3.

    Perhaps if you share scriptures that inform the foundation of what your unease is, I can better understand. The scriptures are always clear, aren't they? :) Please feel free to share the verses.

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  7. 1/2
    Elizabeth,

    I think the scriptures are definitively clear, its just that "we" over categorize things sometimes. So we are doing good here.

    Matt 24:12 I understand that you are not saying that ""all" believers will grow cold". But most will, but What I was not really agreeing is that "all unbelievers" love is already cold and lawless, though many of them will probably be so. To me that scripture is general to all humanity not just believers. I haven't seen how that verse is specifically just for the church. Just like in v. 11, where Jesus warns about false prophets deceiving people, he does not limit that to just the church, im sure its to non-believers as well. Im not seeing the enemy kicking out the non-believers from a services of a false prophet.

    You mentioned the scripture about the time of Noah being wicked and so will the day of man be as well Lk 17:26. but that does not necessarily say who is in church or out, or who is a believer or not, besides just Noah. I can see you make a valid argument for supporting you belife, that Noah represented the church or believers, and connected to the prophecy in Matt 24:12 of lawlessness increasing and the love grows cold. I dont think it specifically connect to saying its only the church being effected in end times and because the rest of non-believers are already cold. You can read into the scripture either way safely, without being a heretic. But I am in agreement that that prophetic verse say that the church will be growing colder after, and to me the best condition of the rest of the world could at least be as good as the church, which is still pretty sad.

    Call me an optimist in hoping to see people with great faith who are not believers, just like the centurion, whom I dont think is categorized as part of the Church or a believer, as we normally do, but still surprised even Jesus Matt 8:5-13.

    Matt 8:5-13 Now here is a part where I have issues with. How do we categorize the centurion here. Part of the church or not? Believer or not? I know we instinctively call him a believer, which I believe he was both, and was getting really hot on accepting Christ as his savior, if he did not already. But is it using the same technical categorizing we usually use for believers. what services did he attend, did he do it regularly, weekly, monthly? did he repent of all his sins to God? Did he do a sinners prayer? (I know Christ did not resurrect yet, im playing the devils advocate to make my point) You tell me in what way was he a believer. Scripture does not necessary finds it important to rush to put him in one of those categorize at that moment or in the future. but we do that all the time... interesting. This is the first time he encounters Christ (sounds like it) but did he come back to become a devout followers, for the rest of the time Christ had his earthly ministry? Its kinda hard to do a simple categorizing for him, like we normally do. Just like the Samaritan women in the well, with Jesus. John 4. She worshiped, if she actually did it or not, in the terribly incorrect ways of the Samaritans, compared to the ways the Jews did it. How do we categorize her now. Jesus did not give her instructions to correct her ways of worship tho she was a believer. Was she the part of the church now? In what ways is she now the church? Does she have to wait for the future (when people worship in spirit in truth) to be a believer? My following point will give a better explanation of what Im getting at.

    (countinue to 2/2)
    Hector ><)))">

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  8. (continued from 1/2)
    I believe the bible gives us enough information and instruction for us, as individuals and even as a church, to have an intimate relationship with him and guide us to everything we need to do for him.
    Yet at the same time I KNOW that the bible does NOT tell us everything we would LIKE to know, to satisfy our all our curiosity and need to over control things, because its in our best interest for Him not to do that, because we would most likely mess things up if we did. There is an actual reverence I get towards God in knowing that he knows it all and we dont.
    Matt 24:36 My point with that is where Jesus tells us that only the Father know the time of his return, and purposefully does not tell us when that return will be. Which is is Ironically located next to the the days of the fathers return is like that of the time of Noah.
    Phil 4:6 Also tells us not to be anxious but to pray about everything. To me it also means not to try to figure out everything, but pray it all out. i know we have to do our due diligence, but I have almost gone nuts at times trying to figure out everything.
    Prov 4 (and other proves as well) says that we should trust in the Lord, and lean not in our own understanding. Which gives me much relief as well. We must gather what we can from scripture, and act trusting in that the best we can, but from then on God will guide us, and do things in our lives, that we cant fully comprehend on how it will work out.
    To further help you understand what im trying to say is to understand that Jesus was talking in parables, to help us understand what the kingdom of God is all about, in the big picture but not really and exact explanation of all the details that happen in the kingdom of God/heaven will be. And to me a parable is a simple story or saying that helps people understand something else, But not really what that something else is exactly or fully about. Kinda like getting the spirit of something.

    My one example of parables could be the explanation of atoms through different school grades.
    In Elementary an atom is something like an nucleus with pluses and a few negative electrons orbiting around the nucleus in a single circular paths.

    In J. High an atom is something like a nucleus that can have different amount of positive protons which coincide with the number of number negative electrons and the different circular motions the electrons travel.

    In H.S and college an atom get even more complicated. Its something that doesnt always have a neutral charge, the electrons are not traveling in circles but all kinds of crazy "cloud" formations, where you cant even pin point electrons position around the atom because there so fast. Only gases atoms are found alone, they are usually always found together with other atoms.

    In higher sciences when you talk about specific reactions you always have to mention the certain types of atoms your talking about, you cant just say some atom. ohh the joys of sciences... lol.

    In that way I sometimes see the parables of Jesus. Where he tells us thing to the most basic ways of understanding things, but they can really get more complex and specific and even technical than that.

    From here i would like to just go back to our main focus as followers of Christ should be... and its to helping those in need, especially the widows, fatherless, feeding and dressing the poor, visiting jails, and so forth. Our heart should break for them. Preaching the Gospel and making disciples also something we should be focusing on as well.

    We should not be to worried about drifting away if we focus on those things, as we keep intimate with Christ in our daily walk.

    I still havent slowly read the rest of your series. but I will try some time this week.

    Hector ><)))">
    From CA.

    ps. Happy new year!
    ps2.( had to do it in two pices... it thought I was doing HTML)

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  9. Hector you are spending a lot of time meandering. It is not as vague as you make it.

    1. The unbelievers not only have not love, not only are they are cold, they are dead. Eph 2:1,5; Col 2:13

    2. All the people in the world at Noah's time were cold and dead except Noah and his family. That is why the unbelievers were drowned. Genesis 6:5-7.

    3. If it makes it clearer instead of using the word 'church' we can say "The Body" because we are all a body of Christ. Those outside the body are cold and dead. Those inside the body are growing cold (Mt 24:12, Rev 2,3)

    3. Unbelievers are nice people. They love, they marry, they have children whom they love etc. The kind of love spoken of here is love of Jesus. Those outside the body of Christ don't have it. Many of those inside the body are losing it. (Matthew 24:12)

    4. I don't know why you're discussing the time of Jesus return, we agree no one knows. But believers will know the season and are exhorted to witness and live with urgency. (Mt 16:2-3; 1 Thess 5:4; Mt 24).

    5. The bible is sufficient for understanding God and living and the Holy Spirit is sufficient to help us understand. Where the bible is clear, it is clear. Jesus said "The love of most will grow cold" and that is not vague.

    6. You said, "Phil 4:6 Also tells us not to be anxious but to pray about everything. To me it also means not to try to figure out everything, but pray it all out" but this is wrong thinking. First, it implies that seeking a better understanding of God thru scriptures it to be anxious, it isn't. Second it implies that it is impossible to find clarity in the scriptures, which is wrong. We can. Not total clarity, but wisdom and understanding as we grow. (James 1:5). Third it implies that therefore we should not seek a better understanding of God thru scriptures, which is false. See below.

    Increasing in the knowledge of God is part of Christian maturity and is something all Christians are to experience as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

    "One of the key ingredients in this journey is understanding that the Bible is God's Word and is His revelation of Himself, His promises, His will. The Bible is essentially a love letter written to us from a loving God who created us to know Him intimately. What better way to learn about our Creator than to immerse ourselves in His Word, revealed to us for this very reason? And it is important to continue this process throughout the entire journey." more here about the importance of seeking God thru scriptures, which I recommend you read:

    http://www.gotquestions.org/knowing-God.html

    I think we have spent enough time sharing scriptures and opinions...better to let this rest a while, percolate, and you can have time to read the rest of the series.

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  10. I wholeheartedly agree with your answer to Hector. Whenever I don´t understand a verse, I put a question mark in the margin and I make a note in the back blank pages and ask the Lord to show me. Sometimes it takes time, because a sheep has to ruminate while lying in the pasture. But invariably God answers, at times through another scripture cross-reference, a teaching on the subject, a conversation or SS class. Other times it comes through an experience, insight or illumination from the Holy Spirit. Thank you, I am learning, being encouraged, edified and blessed through your writing. Jean-Louis.

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  11. Hi Elizabeth,
    I really appreciate the work you are doing warning people and the gift the Lord gave you to explain clearly and succintly the scriptures. I also can learn from the wise, patient and gentle way you answer those who disagree with you and tend to get sidetracked in long arguments. This post on drifting and the anchor was especially important to me because it´s exactly what happened to me after a few years of walking with the Lord. As a result of desobedience, sinning and lack of solid discipleship, I ended up away from the Lord and fellowhip with other believers for 14 years. After being involved with the New Age movement, yoga, meditation and other occult metaphysical teachings and practices, the Lord in His grace and mercy rescued me using the love and patience of dedicated Christians who took their time and showed me the way back. I and my family paid a dear price. But I am glad that the Lord loved me enough to discipline me, and fulfilled His promise to never leave or forsake his sheep. I will read the next entries in the series. I have search your blog for some copyright restrictions, but don´t seem to find any. Would you allow my reproducing some articles of yours if I list your authorship? This one in particular. You are already on my list of important links and I hope my visitors will stop by your blog. Blessings to you. Jean-Louis.

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