Saturday, 29 March 2014

Lover or Prostitute?: The Question that Changed My Life

By David Ryser. Re-posted from his blog Catch the Wind

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of teaching at a school of ministry. My students were hungry for God, and I was constantly searching for ways to challenge them to fall more in love with Jesus and to become voices for revival in the Church. I came across a quote attributed most often to Rev. Sam Pascoe. It is a short version of the history of Christianity, and it goes like this: Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise.

Some of the students were only 18 or 19 years old--barely out of diapers--and I wanted them to understand and appreciate the import of the last line, so I clarified it by adding, “An enterprise. That’s a business.” After a few moments Martha, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand. I could not imagine what her question might be. I thought the little vignette was self-explanatory, and that I had performed it brilliantly. Nevertheless, I acknowledged Martha’s raised hand, “Yes, Martha.” She asked such a simple question, “A business? But isn’t it supposed to be a body?” I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was, “Yes.” She continued, “But when a body becomes a business, isn’t that a prostitute?”

The room went dead silent.

For several seconds no one moved or spoke. We were stunned, afraid to make a sound because the presence of God had flooded into the room, and we knew we were on holy ground. All I could think in those sacred moments was, “Wow, I wish I’d thought of that.” I didn’t dare express that thought aloud. God had taken over the class.

Martha’s question changed my life. For six months, I thought about her question at least once every day. “When a body becomes a business, isn’t that a prostitute?” There is only one answer to her question. The answer is “Yes.” The American Church, tragically, is heavily populated by people who do not love God. How can we love Him? We don’t even know Him; and I mean really know Him.

What do I mean when I say “really know Him?” Our understanding of knowing and knowledge stems from our western culture (which is based in ancient Greek philosophical thought). We believe we have knowledge (and, by extension, wisdom) when we have collected information. A collection of information is not the same thing as knowledge, especially in the culture of the Bible (which is an eastern, non-Greek, culture). In the eastern culture, all knowledge is experiential. In western/Greek culture, we argue from premise to conclusion without regard for experience--or so we think. An example might be helpful here. Let us suppose a question based upon the following two premises: First, that wheat does not grow in a cold climate and second, that England has a cold climate. The question: Does wheat grow in England? The vast majority of people from the western/Greek culture would answer, “No. If wheat does not grow in a cold climate and if England has a cold climate, then it follows that wheat does not grow in England.” In the eastern culture, the answer to the same question, based on the same premises, most likely would be, “I don’t know. I’ve never been to England.” We laugh at this thinking, but when I posed the same question to my friends from England, their answer was, “Yes, of course wheat grows in England. We’re from there, and we know wheat grows there.” They overcame their cultural way of thinking because of their life experience.

Experience trumps information when it comes to knowledge.

A similar problem exists with our concept of belief. We say we believe something (or someone) apart from personal experience. This definition of belief is not extended to our stockbroker, however. Again, allow me to explain. Suppose my stockbroker phones me and says, “I have a hot tip on a stock that is going to triple in price within the next week. I want your permission to transfer $10,000 from your cash account and buy this stock.” That’s a lot of money for me, so I ask, “Do you really believe this stock will triple in price, and so quickly?” He/she answers, “I sure do.” I say, “That sounds great! How exciting! So how much of your own money have you invested in this stock?” He/she answers, “None.” Does my stockbroker believe? Truly believe? I don’t think so, and suddenly I don’t believe, either. How can we be so discerning in the things of this world, especially when they involve money, and so indiscriminate when it comes to spiritual things? The fact is, we do not know or believe apart from experience. The Bible was written to people who would not understand the concepts of knowledge, belief, and faith apart from experience.

I suspect God thinks this way also.

So I stand by my statement that most American Christians do not know God--much less love Him. The root of this condition originates in how we came to God. Most of us came to Him because of what we were told He would do for us. We were promised that He would bless us in life and take us to heaven after death. We married Him for His money, and we don’t care if He lives or dies as long as we can get His stuff. We have made the Kingdom of God into a business, merchandising His anointing. This should not be. We are commanded to love God, and are called to be the Bride of Christ--that’s pretty intimate stuff. We are supposed to be His lovers. How can we love someone we don’t even know? And even if we do know someone, is that a guarantee that we truly love them?

Are we lovers or prostitutes?

I was pondering Martha’s question again one day, and considered the question, “What’s the difference between a lover and a prostitute?” I realized that both do many of the same things, but a lover does what she does because she loves. A prostitute pretends to love, but only as long as you pay. Then I asked the question, “What would happen if God stopped paying me?”

For the next several months, I allowed God to search me to uncover my motives for loving and serving Him. Was I really a true lover of God? What would happen if He stopped blessing me? What if He never did another thing for me? Would I still love Him? Please understand, I believe in the promises and blessings of God. The issue here is not whether God blesses His children; the issue is the condition of my heart. Why do I serve Him? Are His blessings in my life the gifts of a loving Father, or are they a wage that I have earned or a bribe/payment to love Him? Do I love God without any conditions? It took several months to work through these questions. Even now I wonder if my desire to love God is always matched by my attitude and behavior. I still catch myself being disappointed with God and angry that He has not met some perceived need in my life. I suspect this is something which is never fully resolved, but I want more than anything else to be a true lover of God.

So what is it going to be? Which are we, lover or prostitute? There are no prostitutes in heaven, or in the Kingdom of God for that matter, but there are plenty of former prostitutes in both places. Take it from a recovering prostitute when I say there is no substitute for unconditional, intimate relationship with God. And I mean there is no palatable substitute available to us (take another look at Matthew 7:21-23 sometime). We must choose.

An Update on My Story

Creative Commons
A little while ago, I heard of a rather ironic turn of events at the church I 'left' - elder J had announced his resignation from leadership. Now this is a guy who was so determined to be THE leader that he was willing to bully and abuse his brothers and sisters to achieve it. Of course, the decision to resign was cloaked in the spiritual language of 'feeling led' etc, but it just sounded like spin doctoring from where I stood. At the end of the day people had been sacrificed on the altar of this man's ambition. 

But I was reasonably certain that elder R, who had been part of the founding of the church, would never let J take control of what (I conclude) he sees as 'his' church. When it's the same person who is left standing after each and every leadership spill, you can join the dots for yourself...

Why do we keep seeing churches being run like a business? Same cut-throat methods, same 'leadership' style. People damaged without compunction because they are seen as being expendable. Why do people see the church as a place to play politics and create a power base.

Didn't Jesus denounce the religious leaders of his day for acting this way?

There are far too many stories of heartbreak, betrayal and abuse in the one place where everyone should actually be safe! But what should be a place of sanctuary has become a place of danger. How can we keep behaving this way, or allowing this to happen without raising the slightest murmur of alarm?

Two Related Conditions with One Solution: Preparing for Persecution, Part 2

Reblogged from Neil Cole's blog site: Cole-Slaw

 am convinced that there are two related conditions we have not experienced in the Western Church in recent days: rapid multiplication movements and persecution. These two conditions are directly related to one another though the sources of these results are quite opposite. 

I believe that we are not persecuted simply because our enemy is content with the way we currently are. Why would he want to mess up the church when we have done so for him with our selfish ambition, competitive spirit and greed? He’d be a fool to mess with that, and he is no fool. Our influence is marginalized in society and our reputation is of hateful and selfish people–the opposite of Jesus. Satan is quite content with a once a week, consumer driven, model of church that is a mere shell of what we are supposed to be.

The second thing we haven’t experienced in the Western Church is rapid multiplication and I believe that is not the enemy’s fault, but God’s. Frankly, God doesn’t want to multiply our current expressions of church because he doesn’t want more of them. He’s smart that way. Unhealthy things tend to become infertile and lose their ability to reproduce.

We must see these two factors change. The good news is that they will both change with only one solution: become a healthy threat to the darkness and God will want to multiply the church. That is something the enemy will attack. After years of traveling all over this nation and Europe I am delighted to say that we are finally on the verge of seeing these things happen.

The church is becoming healthier and more indigenous. I am seeing ordinary people empowered to carry the work of God’s kingdom out of the meeting place and into the market place where it is a threat to our common enemy. I believe multiplication and persecution are not far away.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

I have just discovered this network aimed at supporting and promoting the blogs of individual spiritual abuse survivors. I love that they "are working together toward a shared goal of increasing awareness of this issue of spiritual abuse – the control, the confusion, the devastation, our struggles, our triumphs, our survival and recovery." This stuff really needs to be out there!

You can find out more about Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network here.

This link will take you to the current list of blogs on the Network.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Words of Wisdom

Just recently, God revealed to me my next step forward in the journey beyond religion. It scared me because it meant stepping out from behind the protective barrier I had erected as a defence against the abuse I had suffered. I shared my understanding with a couple of close friends, people I trust to speak honestly and lovingly, and in both cases, I was left with a little gem of wisdom to treasure.

My first friend gave me permission to take my time and to remember that this was just another part of the journey I was on. I didn’t need to stress, somehow thinking I needed to arrive there yesterday! I forget that sometimes and think that I have to achieve things overnight, but that is not true. God is not compelled by time and is more interested in the depth of our growth than the speed. He wants lasting transformation. He was into sustainability long before it became trendy!

The advice given by my second friend was the suggestion that I relax and let God do the work, coupled with a caution against expecting things to look the same as they did before. Again, I really needed to hear this. When God asks us to do something, he’s not asking us to do it in our own strength. All he wants is our willingness, our co-operation. He’s more than capable of doing the rest (as he’s proved to me once again during this past week).

It was also a timely warning not to confuse past experience with what God is doing now. It can be so easy to look back to what was, and mistake that for the goal. But there is no going back and God doesn’t call us to live in the past. So I’m letting go expectations and trusting that he will show me the way to live with (and in) him now.

I wanted to write about this for two reasons. Firstly because I think these words of wisdom are worth sharing, that they have application well beyond my own circumstances. They are truths which stand as reminder to all of us that there is no need to rush and panic, no need to strive. God is full of endless creativity and he has no need to repeat the past. He calls us into renewal all the time.

Secondly, I am profoundly grateful for the blessing of having friends who are willing to walk in meaningful relationship with me. I treasure their words of love and wisdom. I was reminded I can’t do it alone and I don’t believe that any of us are meant to. We are created to do life with others, to know and be known, to walk in relational intimacy. If I were to offer my own ‘wisdom’ to you as you read, it would be to make room in your life for relationship. The investment is more than worth it.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Where Does Your Faith Lie?

Sometimes the seemingly simplest of questions can change your world!

I recommend this post from Rethinking Faith and Church: Where Does Your Faith Lie?

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Where There's a Shadow, There's a Light

This week has been hard. I’ve had to wrestle with ghosts I thought were decently buried. Talk about the living dead! There were times when the struggle with my thoughts was so hard, it felt like zombies lurching around trying to eat my brain. But they have been exorcised again!

And even though this week was hard, there were also good things to be discovered in it.

1. It re-confirmed my heart in writing this blog: to counter the lies that abuse sears into your soul and to speak hope and life in their place.

When you have left (or been driven out of) an abusive church, you find yourself on the outside - no longer welcome. No-one understands because no-one wants to believe your story is true. You are unacceptable proof of the bankruptcy of their system, an undesirable reminder of its failure. You are an offence and so you become the object of repeated rejection.

But I am shouting from the rooftops that this is not the truth.

You are NOT the problem. You are NOT a troublemaker. You are NOT insane.

If someone chooses to bully you, that is not your fault. There is no excuse or justification for abuse. None.

And I want you to know that in the very depths of your being!
2. It reminded me that there are some brilliant people in my life who I love dearly and who genuinely love me. They are people who are willing to embrace relationship beyond the superficial - even when it gets messy or painful. They don’t just give up or walk away when it’s not easy or comfortable. They are brave enough to be real, to challenge, to disagree, to accept, to change, to engage regardless.

There are people in my life who approach relationship as a two-way adventure - who happily give and willingly receive. They demonstrate mutuality in their friendship so I can know the joy of being blessed as well as the pleasure of being a blessing.
3. It reaffirmed that it's ok to be who I am - that being myself is totally legitimate. I am valid and I am engaging in the here-and-now in the way that is best for me. I'm not perfect - I have strengths and weaknesses - but it's ok to be me.
4. It reassured I am not stuck in one place, nor have I been forgotten or abandoned by God. He is still gently and patiently leading me forward. There is a hope and a future. And even though the next step in my journey feels scary right now, I don’t face it alone. He will give me the courage to keep going.

Monday, 10 March 2014

It's Good to Laugh!

I took a highly scientific on-line quiz this morning and look what I got:

Explains a lot, really! J

Sunday, 9 March 2014


I feel angry tonight...

angry that I got screwed over by the church I’d poured my heart and soul into. Angry that the people who did this to me remain in power. Angry that people can say they follow Christ yet have no conscience about maiming their sister. Angry that the people I tried to serve so faithfully just didn’t want to know. Angry that I’ve lost friends, family, my place within community. Angry that I’m the one who was judged and found wanting because I didn’t just pretend things were ok. Angry that I can’t go back to the way I was...

and fearful that if I say these things - if I admit them in such a public way- I'm condemned again. Because you're not supposed to feel angry if you're a Christian. You're supposed to be 'nice', you're supposed to 'just forgive', you're supposed to 'move on'...

and then I write it all down and all I'm left with is an empty sadness...

and I know that tomorrow I'll feel differently. Tomorrow I'll feel the warmth of Father's love for me. Tomorrow I'll thank God that I'm free of the pretence, the facade. Tomorrow I'll see it from His perspective again. Tomorrow I'll find the joy again...

but tonight, I'm not ok… 

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Ordinary Christianity

In Australia, there is a name that has become synonymous with church success. It conjures up pictures of huge crowds, famous speakers and rock-concert worship bands. It evokes the ideal of big, bold and exciting. I have no wish to disparage this name, but it does concern me when it is implied, as it often is, that this is what we should all be striving for.

Have we become so intoxicated with the culture of celebrity and fame that we’ve molded even our church experience to reflect our infatuation? Does the worship always have to be awesome; the preaching inspiring; the service uplifting? Do we need the excitement of the mega-gathering to ensure the presence of God?

Is this the yardstick we use to measure the power and effectiveness of our faith experience, the success of our religious fervour?

What happens when the hype fades? When there’s no charismatic leader to whip up the crowd, no companions to get high with, no pounding beat to disguise the lonely trembling of our own heart. How do we respond when life is just ordinary… mundane… boring even?


We watch movies to see exciting people living exciting lives. In the world of film, even eating breakfast or attending a meeting can be something extraordinary. That’s what we watch for, that’s what we expect. We want to escape the mundanity of our own lives and be transported for an hour or two into another, more exciting realm. After all, who would pay to see ordinary, everyday people living out their ordinary, everyday lives?

Just Another Boring Day at the Office?
But has the Christian culture drunk too deeply from this intoxicating brew of excitement?

We are urged to do big things for God - to do great things for God. Is it just possible that the biggest, greatest thing many of us can actually do for God is to simply live our ordinary lives with love?

Will we love and befriend our husband, even if he’s not Chris Hemsworth!? Will we nurture and protect our children in a society which devalues parenting? Will we recognise the intrinsic worth of others, when they can't see it for themselves. Will we enter the lives of the hurting, the damaged, the 'unimportant' even when we know there will be no audience to witness our kindness, no crowd to applaud it?

Let's be wary of chasing celebrity and excitement, and learn instead the significance and worth of living our ordinary lives with love and bravery and holiness. Let's do this 'great thing' for Him.