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The Pony Club – a modern day parable

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There once was a Pony Club that enriched the lives of its members for many years.  But as time went on fewer and fewer people joined.   The Pony Club no longer attracted as many new members because it demanded hard work, determination and perseverance.  All the members that had joined in the past  were all changed by the Pony Club – for the better. The current leaders however were more interested in numerical growth and ‘attracting’ new comers so they changed the Pony Club rather than letting the Pony Club change its members.

pony clubThis story like all parables is based on a true story and contains a story about Truth:

Among a certain cognoscenti it is well known that the most fun a child can have is provided by one humble yet well respected establishment. It is not expensive and it is not exclusive. It embraces hard work, long days, grit and determination and yet it is what many teenagers spend their school days dreaming of.

While incomprehensible to non-members, there is an unspoken understanding among its members, a kind of secret society of those in the know, that the most enjoyment a child can ever have is by being a member of The Pony Club. The 87-year-old institution announced this week it intends to shed its stuffy image.

The comedic, Thelwellesque reputation forged by indomitable district commissioners dressed in tweed jackets and ties, barking orders at a rag tag army of dishevelled children on hairy ponies is no longer desirable. The new chief executive, Pip Kirkby, feels that in order to thrive the club must adapt to the 21st century and embrace a more modern and liberal stance.

The Pony Club may be relaxing its membership rules – but I hope it never changes by Marina Fogle

Truth is timeless and universal.   Truth isn’t about numbers or members. Truth is its own attraction.  People will be drawn to it or not depending on their inclination.  Truth doesn’t need to be liberal, conservative or modern.

The Bible tells us that God’s call is never about numbers and always about commitment.  Time and time again Scripture describes God’s desire for quality and not quantity.  It’s not about numbers it’s about God; “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me,  My own strength has saved me.’” (Judges 7:2)  Yet the world thinks otherwise.  ‘Soulishness’ demands numbers and large memberships. That’s the way of the world.19ea5ed2ed7ef9779c12ead704bcc041

Jesus established His church on the Truth.  He told it simply, without compromise and with authority.  He didn’t sugar the Gospel with easy entrance requirements; “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) Nor did He go easy on His disciples in the hopes that they would naturally want to be better people; “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) He had His eye on eternity not modernity.

But then again, Jesus was establishing His Church not a Pony Club!

Why do I have to accept your stupid meme?

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When people give in to  memes their minds shut down to the need for thought and debate on real issues that are important.  Wikipedia defines a meme as; “‘an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture’. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.” Memes are more like a stupefying virus than positive cultural ‘genetic’ material.polarization

Polarizing memes are an example of  memes that shut down minds and put people on a group think track that so often leads to the collapse of thought. This kind of meme forces a person into a fake choice between only two alternatives thereby reducing debate to either-or gut reactions.    I have posted an example regarding hand holding vs gun holding.  Sadly this is what passes for cultural commentary and ‘deep thought’ on social media today.  Being framed as a question the meme  carries the weight of an accusation – you have already chosen now explain yourself!  Initially your gut reaction is to go for the ‘hand holding’ rather than the ‘gun holding’ alternative.  For a secular humanist it’s a no-brainer; hand holding is the only sane alternative!  This meme attempts to force  Bible believing Christians and other people of deep religious convictions into a gut wrenching choice of the lesser of two evils!  See how it shuts down public debate on  important social issues while advancing a hidden agenda.  This has become the ‘new low’ of social activism.

For the record, I don’t want to see either – men romantically holding hands or violent men holding guns with evil intent. Does that make me a ‘homophobic’, ‘ISILaphobic’, misogynistic, red-neck, ignorant ‘dinosaurus’ Christian?

Marriage, Authority and Soul Ties

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When two people marry they are united at a far deeper level than just a legal contract.  They are joined emotionally as well as physically.  Jesus explains; “. . . from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,  and the two shall become one flesh’;  so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)  This means that what affects one affects the other in a deep lasting emotional way that has spiritual implications – the physical bond created in marriage extends deep into the souls of husband and wife.  This bond affects their spiritual health.

body_soul_spiritWe are body, soul and spirit.  Scripture tells us that body, soul and spirit are all connected; “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)  That’s why marriage is of special concern because it’s reach extends carries from one soul to another – it is called a soul tie.  Soul ties are created through deep covenantal intimacy coming out of friendship, family and marriage.

The soul ties arising out of our sexuality can be a blessing or burden to us and those around us.  The Apostle Paul explains the seriousness of sexual sin; “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”  (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)  The becoming ‘one flesh’ is in essence a soul tie of the deepest connection between two human beings. marriage triangle

The Apostle Paul explains the deep spiritual ramifications of soul ties.  For Christians when we accept Christ as Lord and Saviour we are joined with Him in the spirit.  Negative soul ties or usurped legitimate soul ties bring a great deal of spiritual damage to us because they are an affront to the purity of the Holy Spirit;  “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a man can commit is outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body”  (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)  How counter-cultural is that!!!!

Not only does a married person sin against their own body, when they fall into sexual sin but because of the soul tie with their partner they drag their spouse into the dirt with them. Both must deal with the emotional baggage and the spiritual poisoning that the resulting resentment brings.  This puts lust and pornography into stark perspective because Jesus says; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The Holy Spirit in us demands Peace with God  by confession and repentance from sins done in the dark because we are never alone. What we do or fail to do always affects others – especially those closest to us!

As long as husband and wife follow Jesus in their marriage and are guided on a daily basis by the Holy Spirit, all is well; “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.”  (Proverbs 18:22)  The guidelines are simple; “’Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor [including wife or husband],’ for we are members of one another. ’Be angry, and do not sin’; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”  (Eph 4:25-27) And; “Be careful that no one falls short of the grace of God, so that no root of bitterness will spring up to cause trouble and defile many.”  (Hebrews 12:15)  Notice that God’s Word stresses people don’t just affect themselves but many – ‘we are members of one another’ and ‘defile many’!  Christian community is a fellowship linked by the Holy Spirit.  Deep friendships and love grow out of this extended family and many positive soul ties develop.  A church community of healthy families makes for a vigorous healthy church.

darkness get inBut what happens when things go wrong in a marriage?  Let’s take a look at one of the most dysfunctional marriages in the Bible – King Ahab and Jezebel his Queen! Ahab was the king of passive resistance and Jezebel was the queen of control.    In one particular instance when Ahab wanted something and couldn’t get it he pouted and felt sorry for himself to the point of going to bed refusing to eat.  His wife Jezebel didn’t want anyone to see how childish and weak her husband the king was so she got Ahab what he wanted.  Jezebel used Ahab’s authority in lying manipulative ways to control the situation.  An innocent man was killed and Ahab was ok with it because he got what he wanted.  (1 Kings 21)

The spiritual dynamic between these two infamous characters was the abdication of responsibility and the illegitimate taking of control in the absence of righteous authority.  Ahab and Jezebel fit hand in glove in their wickedness, each feeding off the other.  The spirits of aggressive passivity and the spirit of control is named after this nasty pair and they can plague marriages and communities today.  How?  Ahab had no respect for God and considered holiness trivial.  He was an anointed King but chose to ignore his responsibility and squander his authority to the point of releasing it to his wife Jezebel.  Jezebel didn’t respect Ahab.  She loved the prestige Ahab had as King and manipulated every circumstance to exercise her control over situations so she could usurp his authority for herself and achieve what she thought was best.    When men walk away from the God-given responsibility and authority they have in their family a spiritual vacuum opens up in their marriage.  A door is opened for a spiritual incursion that invites not only the spirit of Ahab into the man’s soul but through the soul tie established with his wife the spirit of Jezebel sees an opportunity to enter.

A few weeks ago at Bible study a sister in the Lord remarked; ‘Women do tend to control!’ We all laughed.  I responded; ‘Men like to do their own thing, and be like big kids!’.  We could all see the humor in these common tendencies.  The Holy Spirit reminded me that neither tendency was all that funny because  it is so commonly working in our own lives that we accept it as normal.  Yet we see a spiritual dynamic at work that has eroded much of the intimacy and quality of our married life.  But since it is not blatant and acute like the antics of Ahab and Jezebel, we don’t notice the spiritual workings of it –  in our souls and relationships.  Our families and fellowships are eaten away.  Our souls are beset, our soul tie becomes a burden not a blessing and our relationship with Jesus is hindered because of the spiritual poisoning resentments bring.  Our family including the church family is affected as this affliction moves through soul ties including those established through the bonds of friendship so often established in close communities.  That is why healthy marriages and Godly relationships are crucial to  the  health of a church.jesus at the centre

How do we contend with these unholy spirits that beset us?  The Holy Spirit will not abide them.  If we ask God for help He will help; “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)  The first step is confession.  Confession is confronting – naming our oppressor is to name the demon – name the sin!  The next step is repentance; “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)  Turning back means to turn to Jesus and live according to His Word.   Men, rise up and accept your responsibility so your wives won’t be tempted to take control because of your absenteeism.  Women, respect your husbands and wait upon the Lord!  Jesus leads your husbands. Have faith!   Brothers and sisters, all is possible through Jesus’ strength (Phil. 3:19) Once the Holy Spirit is appealed to –  His presence will drive out all unclean spirits – including the  Ahab and Jezebel spirit; “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.”  (Zechariah 4:6)

This is revival!

Amen

Marriage, Community and Jesus – a message for Bible believing people

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There are three relationships that are the most important anyone can have in life. All three are intimate, life changing and maturing.   The relationship husbands and wives have with each other in marriage is the basis of family.  The relationship people develop within their church is the basis of true lifelong community.  The relationship that people have with Jesus Christ is foundational for both marriage and church fellowship.  Today  marriage is under attack and churches are in drastic decline because few have any real meaningful relationship with Jesus.  Many churches have  lost their  way accommodating the world.  Marriage has become what is fashionable rather than Biblical.  And both institutions  in becoming worldly – church and marriage – are unable to nurture families that produce  the next generation of  Bible believing Christians.marriage triangle

A couple of years ago my wife and I took a course on pastoral counseling and when the teacher came to the topic of marriage, he said the number one relationship killing issue in marriage was the issue of ‘centrality’.  Who is at the center of your marriage –   you, your spouse, your kids, mortgage, finances, possessions or lifestyle?   I believe the real root of  brokenness  in marriage AND church is centrality – Jesus is not at the center.  If a man doesn’t love Jesus first,  he can never love his wife the way God intended.  If a church doesn’t put Jesus first and foremost, that church can never build up true community fellowship and nurture family based Godly marriage.

The devil has taken over many a church and destroyed many marriages by getting people to focus on themselves only – their desires, fun and fitting in with the world – rather than Jesus.  Paul tells the church at Ephesus; “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24).  This is so counter cultural today – few accept it.  How many women balk at submitting to their husbands while professing to submit to Jesus and His Word which includes this instruction?

godly menBefore the women start feeling condemned let me say this – I don’t blame you for balking because men can be absentee husbands – emotionally and spiritually – showing up in the marriage only for physical comforts and preferential treatment.  I was a husband like that. Perhaps you were too?  And many still are today.   Wives put up with it and so does the church! How many husbands come to the altar rail to pray for their wife and family?  How many men take a real interest in the church and come forward on behalf of their church community and family?  When was the last time you heard a father in the church testify to his need for Jesus in his life, marriage and family?  How many young men as sons and young women as daughters see their fathers stand with his peers accountable before Jesus and His church for their family life – and not just for the successes and praise but for their failures and brokenness?   Men will give up their authority so they can do their own thing without being accountable.

Who are we accountable to? Rarely the church and this is very sad because it wasn’t always that way.   In the 1700’s John Wesley’s discipleship groups would remove people from their fellowship if they habitually fell short: “If there be any among us who observe them not [rules of discipleship], who habitually break any of them, let it be made known unto them who watch over that soul as they that must give an account. We will admonish him of the error of his ways; we will bear with him for a season: But then if he repent not, he hath no more place among us. We have delivered our own souls. -Wesley’s Works Vol. 8. pgs 270,271,272-274.”   Some may think that very harsh but which is worse – maintaining a community discipline that protects by  holding  men accountable or the indifference and silent acceptance of absentee  husbands and fathers in order to avoid confrontation?take a stand

As a former school principal I know that order breaks down when the leaders – those in charge of the classroom – are lax and don’t take the rules seriously themselves. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. What havoc is wreaked when the entirety of God’s Word isn’t taken seriously by the Church and by those who God places in authority!  Every institution and the relationships fostered within them decline.  Marriage is in decline and families are falling apart because many churches have lost their way and decline as well.

What instructions does God’s Word have for married men? “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) Clearly love in a Godly marriage puts your wife first, after God and above all your own needs.  Ultimately there is no room for selfishness.  How can a man live up to that kind of dedication?  Without Jesus front and center men drift back to the love of their own comforts, leaving wives a distant second at best.  If you won’t submit to Jesus and follow His example in your marriage – what right do you have to expect your wife to submit to you? Men give up all spiritual authority and right because we want to please ourselves and do our own thing.  When we abuse and abdicate the authority placed on  us by God we leave it to the devil by default! And the devil is only too happy to take it and your family!

Church communities that have accommodated to the world’s notions of marriage and family are not Christ centered – How could they be since they don’t follow His Word. Jesus Himself said; “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4,5) . And if the world loving churches are not Christ centered they can’t disciple and support people in Godly marriages.  Ironically, the very society, these accommodating churches deform themselves to get along with, deems them ‘irrelevant’ and ‘silly’. Young people leave the church and live lives of empty fun and materialism in what passes for community in our fake impersonal world.

cost of silenceEven churches that appear to follow  His Word but remain silent about the unholy curriculum of our public schools regarding sexuality, marriage and family run counter to Jesus’ call upon His people; “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) There is much talk of pornography from the pulpit and there should be because that too is a marriage and family killer but we remain silent about sending our children to public schools everyday where they learn about same sex marriages and gender blending.   These churches too will decline because in one generation no one will take God’s Word on family, marriage and sexuality seriously.  The child grown up will say to their parents- that’s not what I learned in school and why should I believe the rest of the Bible either!

I’ll conclude with Paul’s remarks about the mysterious linkage between healthy marriages and the true church.  Paul quotes Jesus;  “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:31-33) When the devil attacked the institution of the family and marriage with the blessing of some churches and the silence of other churches the quality of family life declined, marriage got shakier and now many young people see no need for this covenant relationship.

Where is Jesus in all this mess? Where are the Godly leaders pointing to God’s Word on these important issues? If there is no Jesus in the center, there can never be Godly love or respect in your marriage, your family or in your church.  Respect from the wife is earned by the selfless love a husband gives his wife following Jesus in a Godly marriage – this is the basis of a stable nurturing family.revival

What can we do? Individually we can read and accept all of God’s Word, not just the parts that don’t conflict with our worldly views.  We can accept the responsibility and authority in our churches, marriages and families and not shirk it.  As men we can abide in His Word – really abide in it on a daily basis.  No more absenteeism.  I know God is faithful to forgive our shortcomings if we confess and ask Him (1 John 1:9).  If Jesus isn’t at the centre of your life, your marriage and community – ask Him to be.  He will fill the void  (Rev. 3:20).  He does it for me and he will do it for you.

Corporately as His true church we can repent and pray; “. . . if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)   God saves His people and protects them from the evil one.  Jesus at the centre of the church individually and corporately brings blessings and Godly order to our community, our marriages and our lives.

Amen.

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