Saturday, November 29, 2003

The Lingering Influence of Collective Totalitarianism

The 20th century has been described as the age of Totalitarianism as marked by the rise of communism and the national socialism of the Nazi or Fascist variety. The ideological struggles that came to climax with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Empire were a struggle between the all inclusive demands of the state on the individual versus basic fundamental individual freedoms. It’s not my purpose in making this connection to make any kind of a “political” statement. What I want to do is share some thoughts regarding how this can relate to spiritual abuse in the Christian church.

In our former church, one of the pastors who was involved in helping sister churches in our western states, commented several times regarding how the concept of rugged individualism "infected" those churches in the west. As I see it now, people in those churches asked questions and expressed their opinions on things in a way that went against the concept of what “elder rule” had come to mean in a large part of this particular movement. That pastor’s comments need to be seen in light of the fact that Western republican democracy was not totally immune from the collective mentality that dominated the ideological struggle of the 20th century. (Again, my point is not to make a political statement, but a comparison and link.)

The rise of principled individualism had its roots in Christianity and the Bible. The 1st century was faced with a religion teaching there was no difference in God’s eyes between Greek and Jew, male and female, rich or poor. This religion also taught there were times when the demands of individual conscience before God had priority over community concerns. With the Reformation came the emphasis on education so people could read, and in so doing, could read the Bible for themselves. This implied the concept of private judgment, that each person individually was to search the Scriptures to see and be convinced of the truth in their own heart.

It is in that light that Christian churches ought to be the one place where community demands are balanced with individuality in a way that enhances both without detriment to either. I believe the theological underpinning of that is found in the concept of the priesthood of all believers.

The influence of the 20th century collectivist spirit is seen when demands of community (church) are emphasized to the detriment of principled individualism (the priesthood of all believers). As I read stories of spiritual abuse, all to often “community demands” are really not legitimate community demands, but really the whims of a leader who uses the language of “community demands” as a cover for their own selfish ambitions. If you want to read a parabolic picture of how that happens, read “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. For you “youngsters”, Animal Farm was written as a parody of the hypocrisy of the totalitarian collectivism of the 20th century. Scary isn’t it?

In absolute monarchies, the King was the state. Caesar was Rome. Henry III was England. Louis V was France. Alexander II was Russia. An attack on their person was an attack on the state.

With the advent of the ideological impulses that drove the majority of the history of the 20th century, the same principle was brought into the Totalitarian regimes. Stalin alone was the heir of “real” Marxist-Leninism” revolutionary thought so Trotsky had to be assassinated as an “enemy of the state”. Hitler embodied the Third Reich. Mao was China. Ideology became the pretext for maintaining party or personal power.

Now, substitute “theology” for ideology. Put it in the context of a church that puts primary emphasis on its distinctive theology, practices, or ministry instead of its common roots with the rest of the Evangelical church. Add a view of leadership that is not servant leadership but “gentile” leadership. The “defense of the faith” becomes the rally cry to protect the abusive leaders. “Submission” to the leader or leaders becomes an issue of submission to the “truth”. Once again we ask where have we seen that before? Again the answer comes, in the collectivist mentality that ravaged the 20th century.

The winds of past or current thought will often find a subltle way to influence the best of us. The answer is in continually striving to maintain the Biblical balance and emphasis on servant leadership set in the midst of the priesthood of all beleivers.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Thanksgiving Eve Musings

Tonight we went to our church's Thanksgiving Praise service. It was a good time for our church family as young and old alike gave their thanks to God. Some who shared had in this past year gone or are even now going through deep waters. Others who had been through deep waters in years past were able to rejoice in God's taking of the ashes of their life and making something beautiful and precious.

I shared how we were thankful as a family for God's goodness to us. This past year has been one of the happiest years ever for us as a family. The reason is that we again know the joy of the Lord in our hearts and life in a way we had not known for many years, and this church had a major part in the restoration of that joy.

I had thought of many things I might post on the blog here tonight; more excerpts from other writing I've done, or things of others I've come across. But it seemed fitting to set those aside for another day and share a few of the many things I'm thankful for such as:

a wife who, second only to Christ, is my best friend;

two dear and precious children along with a good son in-law who we are also proud of;

two darling grand-children who live near by so we see them regularly.

a church where Christ is honored and His Word is preached,

people at that church who love God and opened their herats to us as a family.

that I'm still able to work and have a job to go to...

a warm house with food in the cupboard...

good friends..

a free country where freedom is cherished

for God's Word, the bible, and the many precous promises in it.

the grace, mercy, kindness,and goodness of God

The Lord Jesus Christ who is my only hope in life and in death..

May God bless you and yours this Thanksgiving season.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

[ I regret I do not know the original source for the following. My thanks to "Reg" for posting this on the SA Forum. ~ The Billy Goat ~ ]

Please Listen

"When I ask you to listen to me - and you start giving me advice, - you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me - strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.- Don't talk or do - just hear me.- Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper.

And I can do for myself; I am not helpless. - Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can stop trying to convince you and get about this business of understanding what's behind this irrational feeling.

And when that's clear, the answers are obvious and I don't need advice. - Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what's behind them.

Perhaps that's why prayer works, sometimes, for some people because God is mute,and he doesn't give advice or try to fix things.

God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me. - And if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn and I will listen to you. "

Monday, November 24, 2003

Note from The Federalist Brief:

24 November 2003

Federalist No. 03-48

Monday Brief


"It occurred to me that in our work with secular organizations, the leader shapes the heart and passion of the corporate entity. In our work with non-profit organizations, we have found the same principle to be operative. When it comes to the focus of the organization, the people who serve there tend to take on many of the core personality traits of the leader toward fulfilling the mandate of the organization. If this is true, and most churches seem to lack the fervor and focus for evangelism, is it reasonable to conclude that it may be because of the lack of zeal most pastors have for identifying, befriending, loving and evangelizing non-Christian people?" --George Barna

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Excerpt From a Letter to a Young Friend: November, 1968
(Edited for Publication)

"... It is odd and strange to think that Christ loved us when we were still sinners. He loved us when we were nothing but filthy rags, dead in our trespasses and sin. If He loved us then, can we not believe He loves us now, when we have been given a new heart, and He has given us the Spirit, and calls us His children. You know how much your earthly father loves you. That love of your earthly father is a picture that points to the love your Heavenly Father has for you my dear young friend. And if we know He loves us, then we know everything will be all right. Maybe not the way we think it should be, but it will be all right because God loves us, and has a purpose for us that goes far beyond ourselves and anything we can imagine..."

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Excerpts From a Letter to my Daughter, January, 2002

(Edited for Publication.)

"My Dear Daughter,

... I will not at all pretend that I’ve been the best father I could be. I am very aware of my many shortcomings both as a husband to your mother, and as a father to you as my daughter. I will make no excuses or plead any extenuating circumstances for any of that. Yet whatever my shortcomings and sins have been, my conscience is clear that I have over the years sought as best I could to point you to Jesus Christ as your only hope in life and in death, and that if any of us have any standing before God Almighty at all, it is on the basis of what Christ has done and has nothing at all to do with what we are or have done.

... The concern I have is that you need to find your security ultimately in Christ alone. If security were found ultimately in being in a family, we would have had you baptized as an infant in a Presbyterian church. If security were found ultimately in a church, the Reformation would not have happened and we would be Roman Catholic. Ultimate security is in Jesus alone.

In the normal course of life mom and I will pass away and you and your sister will lay us in our graves. Eventually, given a normal life span, we all become orphans. Your grandparents are orphans. It may not be too much longer and your mom and I will be orphans. Someday you and your sister will be orphans. It may be ten, twenty, forty, or maybe even fifty years from now, but that day will come. Ultimate security cannot be found in parents who will die and pass away, but in Him who is described as the God of the widow and the orphan (Psalm 68:5).

Finding security in a church is a precarious matter indeed. People like your cousin find “security” in the cults that have ensnared them. Even in churches that are not cultic, it is possible for the members to be cultic in their adherence to the church. It’s their security and it becomes very difficult for those people to let go of that security even when there is clear need to do so. The result is a fear not founded on a fear of God, but a fear of man. Obvious problems are overlooked and ignored because to face those issues will disturb the security that has been built on a foundation of sand that is quickly swept away when the storms roll in.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” (II Tim 1:7) In this we find the source of courage is in the power of the Holy Spirit living in our lives, the sovereign, unchanging, undeserved, un-conditional love of God in Jesus Christ in our heart and life, and the sound mind that comes with ongoing moment-by-moment communion with Him.

My dear, dear, daughter… Security must ultimately be found in Christ alone. It is founded in His doing and not ours. In all our many failures, assurance is found in Him and in His promises. Our obedience comes not from some twisting of God’s promises to mean we can somehow even as Christians “earn” more favor and grace with God. It is only when our security is based in Christ alone that we can find the courage that is spoken of in II Timothy 1:7. It is in His un-conditional love that we are able to respond to Him with the desire to please Him and serve Him in loving obedience.

... these are some pretty basic things. God has expectations of what it means for someone to say that they are a Christian. Problems arise when other people or a church has expectations of what it means for someone to say they are a Christian, which go beyond the expectations of God. God has clearly stated what fruit He is looking for in Galatians 5:22-24. This fruit is a matter of the heart, not a matter of externals such as dress, music, and a middle class life style, or other external cultural accoutrements that go beyond Scripture. God’s emphasis is on the heart. If the heart is right, God will work His will in that person’s life so all the externals will eventually take care of themselves, not according to the extra-Biblical expectations of men or of churches, but according to His will for that person’s life.

My dear, dear daughter… I am very concerned that you do not find yourselves bound by the expectations of men, but by the expectations of God alone. A corollary to that is that you do not have expectations of others that say they are Christians that go beyond what God expects. Do not let yourself be bound and do not let yourself bind others. It is way to easy to place God in a box. We get to think He only works certain ways and we are closed to how He may in His sovereignty choose to work in others. We then measure the orthodoxy or commitment of others by the limitations of our self-constructed box and fall into spiritual arrogance and sinful pharisaical pride. PLEASE, PLEASE do not ever do that. You will only end up crippling your walk with God and miss much of the breadth of the Christian life. God’s true church is not measured in terms of those who meet together in a particular place. His true church is measured in terms of all those whose heart and soul has been given to Him in response to his great mercy, un-conditional love, and everlasting kindness in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Please do not ever think I do not love you. It is true I may not always know how best to show that love to you, and in seeking to love you will often fail miserably, but I DO LOVE YOU, and whatever you do and wherever you go in life you will ALWAYS be my very own dear daughter who I love so very, very much.

Love and prayers,


~ The Billy Goat ~

Recovery From Spiritual Abuse - Article
How You Can Help

By Sharon Hilderbrant, M.A.

"Churches on the fringe exist in every major metropolitan area as well as in small towns and isolated rural areas. Some are large, "mega-church" organizations, while some may be small house-church gatherings. Most of them look fairly normal to outsiders. That is, until abused persons begin to leave and tell of their experiences.

Getting out of the group is only the beginning of recovery. Recovery involves, according to one survivor, getting "the group out of us." The effects of abuse are long-standing. The following outlines how Christians can help the spiritually abused in their recovery..."

...Many who begin to trust God again have much more difficulty trusting people in any church. It helps to confront the truth about God’s people with statements similar to the following:

• Leaders are not more favored by God over others in the church.

• All struggle spiritually, even leaders.

• All are in various stages of growth (no instant spirituality).

• All make mistakes, none are infallible.

• All can learn to hear God’s voice for themselves—no need to remain spiritual children who must submit to parental leaders.

• All need each other—none are needless.

• All have something to give and are valuable to God.

• All—leaders and lay persons—are called to live by the same standards.

• All need to have their own relationship with God apart from the involvement of other believers—including spouses.

• The church is not just one building or one gathering, but believers

Friday, November 21, 2003

The Foundation of Growing in Grace and Sanctification

" For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. "
Titus 2:11-14

Some months ago one of the Associate Pastors at our current church preached on Titus 2. As he was talking about verses 11 – 14, it hit me that in our former church they would have the passage read, “For the law of God has appeared teaching us to deny ungodliness….” and so on. Paul, of course, says it is the GRACE of God that has appeared bringing us salvation, AND teaching us to deny ungodliness…” and etc… The immediate application from Paul’s words is that it is a focus on the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord that will lead us as Christian believers to live holy lives.

The same point is made in Hebrews 12:1-3. We are not exhorted in that passage to fix our eyes primarily on law and duty. Unfortunately the result of that kind of focus produces the same thing it produced in the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. But if we want to grow in grace and holiness, it will be by "...fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith,". The Bible clearly teaches that holiness comes not from primarily focusing on law and duty, but from focus on the grace and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we focus on Him, responding to His love and grace, growth and maturity is nurtured. As the law cannot save us, neither can it sanctify us. Only Christ can save and sanctify.

~The Billy Goat~

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

"Resolution on Christ's Leadership: Resolution approved by the messengers of the churches in fellowship with the GARBC, meeting for their 72nd Annual Conference in Riverside, California, June 23-27, 2003 .

"Whereas Christ's leadership was:
  • Authentic in Life - 1 Peter 1:16
  • Compassionate in Care - John 11; Mark 1:41
  • Effective in Communication - John 1:14, Mark 1:22
  • Intercessory in Ministry - John 17
  • Focused in Mission - John 5:19
  • Forgiving in Failure - Matthew 18:21-35
  • Humble in Service - Mark 10:45; John 13
  • International in Vision - Matthew 28:18-20
  • Purposeful in Equipping - Matthew 4:19
  • Resolute in Persecution - Hebrews 11:35-40
Be it therefore resolved that we, the messengers of the churches in fellowship with the GARBC, meeting for our 72nd Annual Conference in Riverside, California, June 23-27, 2003:

Personally strive to develop the characteristics of Christ's leadership and therefore lead as Christ led! (1 Corinthians 11:1)

And whereas Christ characterized His leadership after the models of a servant (Mark 10:45) and a shepherd (John 10:11; Mark 6:34); And whereas the New Testament epistles teach these are to be the basic models for the church today, namely, some church leaders are to be servants (deacons--1 Timothy 3:8-13) and some are to be shepherds (pastors--1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2, 3); And since historically, we as Baptists have made it one of our Biblical distinctives to have our churches function under the leadership of these two offices, namely, servants (deacons) and shepherds (pastors);

Be it further resolved that we, the messengers of the churches in fellowship with the GARBC, meeting for our 72nd Annual Conference in Riverside, California, June 23-27, 2003 . . .

1. . . . realize the need to avoid current or natural tendencies toward a leadership style that is modeled after a dictator of a regime, a president of an organization, or a strategist in a competitive market, but to encourage one another that a commitment to Christ’s pattern of leadership is consistent with Biblical truth and historic Baptist teaching.

2. . . . renew our commitment to the two models of leadership Christ displayed and taught, namely, being servants and shepherds, and educate ourselves and those coming to places of leadership in these models of Biblical leadership. "

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

From "The Ministry of Prayer" by Ivan French

"Over the years men of spiritual stature have made strong statements concerning the importance of prayer in the Christian life and experience.

"The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution in history to world evangelization" (Andrew Murray).

"The man who can get believers to praying would, under God, usher in the greatest revival that the world has ever known" (Leonard Ravenhill).

Many such opinions might be cited. The statement that "the most important activity in which a Christian may be involved is the exercise of prayer" can be defended by several considerations....."

"The Ministry of Prayer" by Ivan French

[ If you ever sat in a class at Grace Theological Seminary taught by Ivan French, I'd like to hear from you. Add your comment below. I was at GTS from 1973 to 1976, but did not finish. ~ The Billy Goat ~ ]
Cogitations on Revelation

Those who want to say that the book of Revelation is to be taken, in the main, symbolically, seem to do so in a way that makes the reality pointed to by the symbolism to be not as terrible as the symbolism itself. By that reasoning the picture of the killing of a third of mankind in Rev. 9:15 is made to be something much less then the horror of the picture drawn in that verse. My contention is that the reality pictured in that verse is not less then the symbol, but is more terrible then what is conveyed in the symbol.

It is on this point that those who want to press for literalism in every detail of the book of Revelation also miss the boat. As my oldest daughter said when I was discussing this with her, if those who press the literal minutia of details understood the real horror of the actual reality being pictured, they would not be so quick to write about those things in the way they do.

So in reading Revelation, I find those given to symbolism on the one hand, and those given to apocalypticism on the other hand equally at fault. But I will still love them, God helping me.

~The Billy Goat~

Francis Schaffer on Christian Leadership
"In a fallen world there is need of organization, and there is also a need of Christian leadership. But the leaders, as office bearers stand in relationship to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the people of God, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as leaders. The Church as a whole, and the officers, are to function consciously on the basis of each one being equal as created in the image of God, and as equal in the sense of being equally sinners redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. In this way, believing in the priesthood of all true believers, believing in the supernaturally restored relationship among those who are brothers in Christ, believing in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each individual Christian -- organization and Christian leadership do not stand in antithesis to true spirituality.........

..... The Church needs to function consciously on the basis of the finished work of Christ and not on the proud basis of any inherent value in itself or assumed inherent superiority......"

(Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality)