The Church Under Fire
May 26, 2023
Acts 23:12-21 ESV
“When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, ‘We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.’
Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, ‘Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.’ So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, ‘Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.’
The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, ‘What is it that you have to tell me?’ And he said, ‘The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.’”
Now I am going to relate this story to our lives and world and church today. For what was going on here was deceptive. It was trickery. It was a trap. For they wanted to kill Paul in order to shut him up, and possibly also in hopes that the movement he was leading would then disperse. It is kind of like what they did with Jesus, hoping that by killing him it would silence not only his voice, but that his followers would disperse and that they would not have to deal with them anymore.
But I want you to be aware that this kind of trickery is going on within the gatherings of the institutional market-driven churches of today, and it is being done by some pastors and other church leaders as a method of controlling people and situations to go the way they want them to go. And even many pastors are being trained in deception and trickery as a way to make things happen the way that suits their marketing goals and purposes.
And my husband and I were church planters twice, so we went through some of this training. And at one of our training sessions we were taught that we are to use (take advantage of) “needy people” in order to get our church plants up and running. But once our church plants were well on their way, we were instructed to get rid of the needy people, for they would weigh us down. Wow! The people in our tiny congregation were needy people. For we were ministering to the hurting, and the rejected, and the neglected.
Also my husband and I had a ministry to college students and to college-age adults out of our home for 7.5 years, from early 1999 to mid-2006, and there were times when we tried to connect this ministry to a local institutional church, because we thought that was the right thing to do. And so we partnered with a local IC (institutional church). We provided the college ministry for their congregation, and they provided us with a facility where we could meet. And at first it went well.
I was doing some volunteer work at the church office one day when the pastor called me into his office to talk. He asked me, “Would you say that your praise band would draw in large crowds of people from the world?” I knew exactly where he was going with this, and I also knew that this was contrary to our partnership agreement. For we told him our goal in ministry, at that time, was to provide a place for young people where they could feel included, and where they could feel valued and needed and wanted.
What he said he wanted to do was to replace our band with another band, and he wanted me to talk about that with our ministry team. So, I did, and we decided to all meet with him, and we did. And when we met with him, I asked him to tell the group what he told me, and all he would say was, “I would never do that.” So I asked him, if he would never do that, then why did he ask me to ask our ministry team about doing that. But his answer remained, “I would never do that.”
So, what he was doing was a non-denial denial. He neither admitted to saying it nor did he deny saying it. He just said he would never do that. So, afterwards he and I talked more but he still would not answer my question as to why he said that if he never intended to do that. And then their “Session” (of the Presbyterian Church) called me to a meeting. But they made it a prerequisite that I must admit I lied about the pastor before I could come to their meeting.
But I didn’t lie. I am not the one who was being deceptive. And I had been totally submissive. So I asked the Session if they would remove that requirement and they refused. So, I could not attend their meeting, because I would not lie. And so they put me on church discipline, which is totally against the Scriptures and the whole purpose for church discipline. But what they did, and a lawyer was one of the ones involved in this, would be like if someone accused you of a crime, but before they would give you a fair trial to determine guilt or innocence, you would be required to admit guilt. If you could (or would) not admit guilt, then to jail you went, no trial at all.
Do you see how absolutely evil what they did was? That lawyer knew better than that, and so did that pastor. I think the Session did not really know what was going on, in my opinion, but they were just acting on the word of the pastor and of the lawyer. But they had to know that what they were doing was wrong. You don’t make someone admit guilt before you even give them a chance to be heard. That is criminal! But so many of these ICs are being taught to use deception and trickery in order to get people to do what they want them to do, and/or in order to get rid of the undesirables.
Bottom line, we pulled our ministry out of that IC, and we took it back to our home, which is where I believe the Lord wanted it to be anyway. And the reason the Lord is having me share this with you is so you will be aware of the kinds of trickery and deception and manipulations which are going on in many of these ICs which are market-driven and which are trying to draw in large crowds of people from the world. Since I was not on board with what they were up to they found a way to silence me, but they lost access to our ministry to college students as a result. So, keep your eyes and ears open.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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