Monthly Archives: October 2010

Pharisee and tax collector

Pharisee And Tax Collector

Luke 18:9-14

 

Two Kinds Of People

There are two kinds of people in this congregation.

There are dog lovers

And there are cat lovers.

 

Can we just find out which they are.

 

Dogs and cats peculiar animals, there seems to be a different mentality to those two animals.  Me I’m a dog lover more than a cat lover, which is why this next piece probably appeals, this is on the internet, and also I got it from a talk by John Ortberg, for whom I am grateful for so much of what is being said today.

Dogs and Cats

So here’s the dog. Doesn’t that just tell you everything you need to know about the dog right there? And

this is what the dog wrote in his journal:

8:00: Dog food…my favorite thing.

9:30: A car ride…my favorite thing.

9:40: Walk in the park…my favorite thing.

10:30: Got rubbed and petted…my favorite thing.

12:00: Lunch…my favorite thing.

3:00: Wagged my tail…my favorite thing.

5:00: Milk Bones…my favorite thing.

8:00: Wow, watched TV with the people…my favorite thing.

11:00: Sleeping on the bed…my favorite thing.

That’s a dog’s heart.

 

Now, excerpts from a cat’s diary… That will tell you everything you need to know right there.

 

Day 983 of

my captivity…my captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

 

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am.

 

 

Today I was almost

successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormenters by weaving around his feet as he was

walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

 

Two Kinds Of People

Two kinds of people – dog people, cat people

 

Two kinds of people – happy people, resentful people

 

Two kinds of people in this Church – people who come to Church often, people who come seldom

 

Two kinds of people says Jesus, people who are justified before God

People who are not justified before God.

 

And there is a temptation to draw a line,

To make equations between these two types of people.

 

The people who go out justified, made right with God,

Those are clearly the dog people

The people unjustified, people whose relationship with God is distorted, distant

Those are the people who like cats.

 

The people who come to Church often, they are the ones right before God

The people who come to Church seldom, them and God are strangers.

 

Or in a peculiar kind of reverse logic

The people that come to Church often, repressed, hypocritical joyless, not right before God

The people who come to Church seldom, reliant, free of neurosis, able to spot God on a hillside, on a golf course, not needing organised religion, them and God are justified.

 

Or the happy people, the gift people. Right before God

Or the resentful people, the entitlement people, Not right before God.

 

And this story of Jesus, completely messes up that thinking.

Muddies the water, between who comes to this place, and their relationship with God is sorted, justified

And those who are not sorted, unjustified, unright before God.

 

But there is good news for these people,

Those people who are not right before God

This story is actually for them.

 

This is not a story of the people who are right before God

No, we are told right at the start, this is for the people not sorted before God

The messed up people, the proud people,

This story is for them.

 

It might be a story to confirm them in their guilt

Or it might be a hugely provocative story which unmasks the layers of fraud, and artifice within them

This searing, ouch of a story,

Pierces through the front, and allows the real them to be right before God.

 

If you are messed up before God this morning, there is hope

Two Characters,

There are two characters who come into the temple

 

And the first is a Pharisee.

 

Now Pharisees do not have a good press, ever since Jesus really.

But in Jesus day there was a lot to be said for the Pharisees.

 

They were the ones who had fought to preserve the traditions of Moses, ever since their founder, a reformer called Ezra

And against the Babylonians, then against the Greeks, then against the Romans

They had kept the traditions going.

 

They were not crazed by power like their opponents the Sadducees

But the Pharisees, they were popular with the people in the country,

The poor,

And they had a good track record

And Jesus himself was a real close to being a Pharisee himself in his teaching

Far closer than he was to the Sadducees.

 

So the Pharisee comes up to the temple

And he stands apart from everyone else there,

And he prays.

 

“I thank you God,” the word in Greek is Eucharisto,

“I thank you Oh God,

That I am not Greedy, the word here is viciously greedy, a loan shark, a crook, a gangster,

And this is good, and it is good that he gives God the credit

 

And I thank you that I am not dishonest, and he can pride himself on never telling lies,  he is like me, he will go out of his way to be honest

 

And he is not an adulterer, he has behaved himself,

So glad he is not these things.

 

And then he begins to list his accomplishments

 

I fast two times a week – now this is loaded language, people in Israel were only required to fast one day a year, Leviticus 25, the ancient Jewish Torah lays out the arrangements for a special day of atonement, Yom Kippur, the day of wiping away sins, the Hebrew word meant to wipe away, the Greek word related meant the day that God’s anger got turned back, but this guys was putting in serious credit, twice a week

 

That anger is well away

That sin is wiped away, not just wiped but cleansed with Cillet Bang, and then boiled in a steriliser for 25 minutes

Serious cleanliness.

 

I tithe everything – now this too is loaded

 

In those days you gave a tenth of what you got,

You gave it to the temple, to the priests called the Levites.

The idea being that you gave it to God.

But not on everything

There were certain products, wine, grain and oil, where the producer gave away the tithe, so you didn’t have to

There were certain other products where some of the Rabbis said, you don’t have to tithe on this stuff

 

One of the ancient Jewish texts says “you are not required to tithe on other products, like for example celery”

 

Celery, no tithing,

You can imagine the Levites with folk giving them celery, not thanks, no celery

Not even God likes celery.

 

And the idea here is that the Pharisess is pulling his weight, he is doing more than enough.  If everybody did what he did, there would hundreds of priests, hundreds of synagogues, every one of them teaching Torah, teaching the ten commandments, and as a result of that everything would just be better, there would be less theft, lower murder rate, infintessimally small amounts of adultery, no one would tell lies.

 

So all the problems with murder, with adultery, with lying,

Are because there are not enough people like me.

 

Another Man

And there is another man

 

A tax collector.

 

A tax collector was barely allowed in the temple, he would have been by himself, because he was in the outer courts, and not many sinners like him would dare to come to temple

 

And there is a temptation to think, he was just misunderstood

But it’s more than that

He is a collaborator, he has turned his back on his own people to welcome in the pagan Romans,

His crime is treachery

He has overcharged

Poor people remain poor because of the likes of this man exploiting them

He is a loan Shark

He is a collaborator

He is a drug dealer

Dare I say it, he is a paedophile

 

He is not misunderstood

He is a bad bad man

He is lucky to be in the temple

 

And then he prays a prayer

A simple prayer

 

O God, same beginning as the Pharisee

God wipe away the sin of me a sinner

 

And they are thinking is that it

They are thinking you need more than that

You need to produce fruit in keeping with repentance

Some kind of evidence that this is not just words coming from this mans mouth

 

Some serious attempt at religion

At least put some effort into it

“God have mercy on me” actually the word is “God wipe away”, or “God turn away your anger from me”

 

A sinner.

 

And you say, at least he knows he has failed, but that is not enough

It is not enough just to say you are sorry,

We need to know that you mean it

 

A couple of tithes, the odd fast

Something to let us know this is more than just words

 

And then Jesus say,
Truly I tell you, one of these men left the temple justified, right with God

It was the tax collector, not the Pharisee.

 

It was the tax collector.

 

What curious logic,

How odd of God,

 

Is this perversity by God,

Some kind of cruel trick

 

That all the religious have got it wrong

And actually the ones who have got it are the ones who have the courage to go it alone, to reject God, are right with God?

 

Romans 3

It is impossible to read Luke chapter 18 without thinking of some words that were first written about 30 years after Jesus first told his story.

They were written by one of his followers, the apostle Paul

Who was writing to deal with this very same charge

That God was perverse

 

That God was condemning good living Pharisees

Whilst wicked tax collectors were getting away with it.

 

Paul said you have to throw two more things into the equation here:

The first is this,

None of us make it.

 

The pharisee, sure he has his tithing, and he has his fasting

But did you not hear just a hint in his description of the violent, the greedy, the adulterers, just a hint of envy.

 

That you read about Tommy Sheridan, and half of you condemns, and half you thinks “sounds like he’s having a great time”

 

Or you have what I have, Range Rover envy, or envy of people who have money.

 

And there is this need to keep impressing,

When was the day, that he decided one fast a year wasn’t enough

And perhaps he needed two

Then once a month

And that wasn’t enough so once a week

And then twice a week.

 

When was the first day he tithed his oil

Tithed his grain

Tithed his celery

 

That sure, partly in these things was a freedom

as the belief that these things made him better,

And he got twisted in the reason he did them

 

When was the day he first looked down on the tax collector

Or the guy who fasted once a year

Or even the guy who fasted once a week

 

Recently I was at a conference, where to save costs we were asked if we might share twin rooms with another minister,

 

The way it happened the guy I was sharing with could only stay one night

So one morning I was in the room with him

And one morning I was in the room by myself.

 

On one of the mornings  I got up early, I prayed for at least half an hour, and I made copious notes on my Bible reading for the day

 

And on one of the mornings I slept in, had a much shorter time in prayer and Bible reading, and also watched a bit of tele.

 

Which one of these mornings was the morning the other minister was in the room

And which one these was the morning the minister was away.

 

And when I looked through my Bible notes, and noted the minister next to me was reading a novel, by Terry Pratchett, what do think my attitude was.

 

I attend presbytery meetings and Session meetings,

And a frequent thought I have is

“I thank God that I am not as stupid as you”

 

“you are not half as good as you think you are”.

 

So there is pride

There is hypocrisy

There is making a show of your righteousness

There is sharp minded condemnation of those who read Terry Pratchett books in the morning, or who in my mind are not as sharp as me.

 

We all fall short

It is just that some of us are better at hiding it than others

 

That’s the first thing Paul throws in,

We all fall short,

We all got sin on that sin-plate,

We all need some serious wiping.

 

But the second thing is this,

Paul says, there was a man that died, the man that told the first story, Jesus

And he died though he was perfect,

And in him

The wiping away was done, the word is exactly the same word as the tax collector uses,

There was a wiping away,

Or a turning back of the anger of God.

 

It wasn’t the tithing that did the wiping

It wasn’t the grain, the wine or the celery – that did the wiping

It wasn’t the fast last week, – that did the wiping

or the one the week before – the wiping

it was not the avoidance of murder, or greed, or adultery

 

In fact nothing that the Pharisee did, did the wiping

He wiped with his tithing, and then came the pride – more wiping required

He wiped with this fasting, and then came the contempt – more wiping required

 

It was Jesus that did the wiping,

With his own blood, in his death.

 

And the question is, will you let him.

 

Will you just let him

 

When you beat your breast as that tax collector did, you somehow acknowledge the deep pain that is in your heart,

 

Sometimes literal pain in your heart, in your chest

Because in our chest, in our anxieties, or in our clogged arteries, hide our running away from sin,

 

Do you acknowledge,

And then say, O God wipe this away, this sin, from me a sinner,

 

And God does.

 

There are two types of people in this Church, walking away today

 

And there will be some who are right before God, and some who are not.

 

And it won’t be the dog lovers or the cat lovers

It won’t be the ones who have been honest, and the ones who had affairs

It won’t be the ones who have said long prayers, and ones who can only pray a little

It won’t be the ones who have got up early and said prayers, and the ones who have read Terry Pratchett books

It won’t be the ones who are happy, and the ones who are embattled

 

It will be the ones who had the courage, just to admit that they had screwed up

And with brutal honesty said

I can’t do the wiping away here.

God wipe away my sins, from me a sinner.

 

That tax collector, there must be some conviction about God that brings him to that temple, that convinces him that God can do something about his heavy conscience, his corrupt lifestyle, his need, his pride, his bitterness, his resentment.

 

And in his short prayer, his lack of need to keep praying, there must be a sense that God does.

 

And the Good News is that in Jesus Christ, God did, God wiped away the son of the world.

 

And the question I say to you all

Whether you have been coming here for years

Or this is your first time,

Just in the silence, will you, will you, will you  say the very short prayer with me

 

“Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner”

 

AMEN

Righteousness in Romans 3

Righteousness in Romans 3 and Psalm 143 (pages 50-60)

Hays begins his chapter looking at the background argument between the dominant reading of Romans 3 (since Luther) that the righteousness being discussed is an alien righteousness imputed to the believer, and the reading put forward by Kasemann that the righteousness here is a “salvation creating power”.

Hays comes close to agreeing with Kasemann but without resource to the Qumranic sources used by Kasemann.

Hays continues by noting the antitheses in 3:3, 3:4, 3:5 and 3:7. and that each of these represent a synonymous statement about the character of God, and the contrasting nature of humanity.

Hays then summarises the logic of the chapter as something akin to

3:1-8: Has God abandoned his promises to Israel?  Is he inconsistent or just?

3:9-20: All such objections are invalid.  God, not humanity is guilty of injustice.

3:21-26 God has not abandoned his humanity.  He has not revealed his righteousness/justice in a new way, overcoming human unfaithfulness by his own power and proving himself faithful/just.

Psalm 143 invokes a salvation that will be invoked by God’s righteousness, and it is this meaning that is brought into Romans 3.

Hays concludes (page 60)

This the problem in view here is not, as Hans Conzelmann thinks, “the subjective question for salvation” but still as Romans 3:5 the issue of God’s integrity, God’s justice the persistently overcomes human unfaithfulness.

Jonah and the storm

  • Err… David can you help!  Having a mental blank.
  • Also a great telling of the story using

    Jonah – Jo-no, Jo- yes

    Fish – it stinks in here

    Nineveh – Oh no, not them

    Sea – help, I’m drowning

    Mission Impossible – apposite them tune

    Moderatorial Nominations

    Peter White is a hugely respected statesman and consistent evangelical voice.  He has been a big encourager to me also.  It is impossible to think about next year’s moderator without thinking about the report of the Commission looking at the ordination of men and women in same-sex relationships.  Peter has spoken consistently and graciously from an orthodox viewpoint on this issue.  However, regardless of his own views, there will be no doubt that he will be utterly fair.  Evangelicals who have complained about michaevaellian shenanigans at the 2009 Assembly (not this one!) will have no such grumbles should Peter be in the chair.

    David Arnott is the minster I know least about.  He has served as the Assembly’s Arrangements Committee, has spent many hours in the Assembly’s playpen and will know his way round the procedure (like “Who wants to be a millionaire”, I guess it’s much harder to know the right answer when you are up there).  Once again, this will be vital in the toughness of next year’s debate – my guess is that next year the toughest debate will not be the actual motion from the Commission but the question over whether it should go down under the Barrier Act.

    Finally, one of the most high profile ministers we have.  Albert Bogle is an organiser, an innovator, and an entrepreneur, whose services are available through an iPad App, Like Finlay (MacDonald – former Clerk) and Marjory (MacLean – former deputy clerk) Albert has first name recognition in the Church of Scotland.  Having Albert as moderator will help focus the Church on our call to engage with our communities via committed dynamism and thoughtful imagination.

    Community Ministry And Pastoral Care

    Community Ministry and Pastoral Care

    Anne Morisy – Beyond the Good Samaritan

    Morisy makes a number of points about Pastoral Care, and its complementary relationship with Community Ministry.

    Community ministry provides the possibility of “warm encounters” in between the “hot encounters” of baptisms, weddings and funerals; and the “cold encounters” of knocking on people’s doors.

    Community ministry provides a second framework which can challenge structures of injustice which create people’s need for pastoral care.  It compliments of the tendency of faith to only deal with psychological well being, and reduces Christian faith to a personal immorality fetish.

    Community ministry, in its many questions, counters the desire for certainty which overtakes the ability to stay in touch with reality.  It forces us into a difficult place of questions, and yet also of commitment.

    Community Ministry involves:

    • The ability to face rather than avoid reality, often with all its harshness
    • Counteracting any sense of impotence about being able to work for betterment
    • Seeing beyond the familiar patterns and roles which contribute to a “taken for granted” view of reality
    • Envisioning a different future “Could we?” “Would it be possible to?”

    Modern life exhibits what Cox describes as a “Playpen culture” (page 34) in which abrasive aspects of life are “organised”: double glazing keeps out noise and draughts, the security alarm keeps out the burglar, central heating keeps the whole house warm, and the latest “over the counter” medication chases away aches and pains.

    Community ministry rescues pastoral care from its critics.  By themselves, acts of caring transmit the assumption that the best a distressed person can hope for is to acquire the ability to adapt with less distress to circumstances that cannot be changed.  The concern is that unbridled provision of “acts of caring” when applied in isolation from any other strategy lead to an acceptance of unjust situations.

    Oden is very critical of the influence of counselling on modern pastoral care.  It is has created (page 39) “autonomous individualism”, “naturalistic reductionism”, “narcissistic hedonism”. The call to work for the Kingdom of God, to embrace a struggle wider than one’s own is surely on of the distinguishing marks of Christian Counselling.

    Conversion Of The Imagination – Part 2

    Paul and Isaiah (pages 25-33)

    Paul seems to have a special interest in Isaiah, he cites him 31 times out of 89 explicit quotations overall, of these there are 6 quotations around chapters 28-29 and 10 quotations around 49-55.

    Paul finds in Isaiah (page 26) a prefiguring of his own ministry to the Gentiles.  His use of Isaiah is ecclesiocentric rather than Christocentric.  (we find little evidence in the theologians of the early Church that Isaiah  53 played a significant part in their thinking)/

    In studying intertextuality (page 30) we are studying the way that an author creates meaning effects in a text through artful reminiscences of another text well known to the community (page 30)

    The scholar Morna Hooker has shown that first century Jews were not looking for a Messiah to fulfil the Suffering Servant role.

    Hays uses the poem The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, with its intriguing reference to Carthage to think about the way that Augustine’s confessions is being invoked at this point, and this an example of metalepsis.

    Discerning An Echo (page 34- 49)

    We are looking for

    1. Availability – was the source available to Paul and his original readers
    2. Volume – how much is there a verbal repetition of words, and the distinctiveness of the precursor text (e.g. the use of Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema, in 1 Corinthians 8:6), or the way that “I have a dream” cannot be heard with reference to Martin Luther King; and the rhetorical stress placed upon the echo.
    3. Recurrence or clustering – how often does Paul refer to a similar passage. There are 14 quotations from Isaiah 40-55 in the Pauline letters and a further twenty six allusions
    4. Thematic coherence – how much does the line of argument concur in both texts.
    5. Historical plausibility
    6. History of interpretation- Paul’s hint in the direction of the servant calls upon his readers to complete the trope (page 44)
    7. Satisfaction

    Analysis suggests that Paul has pondered Isaiah 40-55 repeatedly.

    Paul’s use of Isaiah is about the Church.

    We should always be thinking about how Old Testament quotations form the thinking of Paul.

    Paul’s thinking was formed deeply by the scripture.

    We should give Paul credit for a sophisticated and nuanced reading of the scripture

    We must ask what sort of readers can read Paul’s texts rightly – looking at Romans 12 as an outline of this.

    “If that is right, Paul’s allusive texts will not yield up their treasures to the merely curious (sobering word for us scholars), they will speak only to those actively engaged in carrying out the ministry of reconciliation by embodying the righteousness of God as a light to the nations” (Page 49)

    Conversion Of The Imagination – Part 1

    Origen said of Paul, that he

    “taught the Church which he had gathered from among the Gentiles about the books of the law.”

    Hays notes five marks of the way that Paul read the scriptures:

    1. Paul’s interpretation of scripture is always a pastoral, community-forming activity.
    2. Paul’s readings of scripture are poetic in character – they are a rich source of metaphor to explore what God is doing in the world.
    3. Paul reads scripture narratively – it is a saga of God’s election, judgement and redemption of a people through time/
    4. Paul reads through the apocalyptic event of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
    5. Paul reads the scriptures trustingly, – they can be trusted of themselves, and point to a God who himself can be trusted.

    1. Conversion Of The Imagination

    Paul brings to the text, the allusion also a world of understanding that belongs to the earlier texts being quoted.

    His use of “God is amongst you” in 1 Corinthians 14:25 (alluding to Isaiah 45:14 and Zechariah) senses that this new Gentile community is the chosen instrument by which non-believing Gentiles come to a realisation of God.

    His use of the word servant in Galatians 1:15-16 evokes the servant of Isaiah 49, and also its apocalyptic resonances; 2 Cor 6:2, with its quotation of Isaiah 48:9, is also full of apolyptic allusion.

    For Hays, Paul was trying to teach the Church to think eschatologically, and also to think in terms of Israel’s scriptures.

    It is telling that Paul can allude to Israel’ scriptures, even when he is writing to a Gentile audience.  There has clearly been much schooling in the scriptures of Israel from Paul to his Gentile congregations.

    The Question Of Meat (1 Corinthians 10; pages 8-12)

    The injunction about eating meat is strongly tied to the incident of Moses in the desert (1 Corinthians 10:1-21; Exodus 32) showing that the congregation were already well familiar with this incident.  Paul is arguing from known story, not narrating it for the first time.

    The extent to which Paul regards these congregations as being part of Israel is shown in 1 Cor 10:1 (our fathers) and 1 Cor 12:12 (you know that when you used to be Gentiles),

    The slogan “all things are possible” seems to have been derived from a Stoic philosophy, bringing with it a sense of arrogance and superiority.

    Finally the link with Israel is shown in the 1 Corinthians 10:6 thing – these things are a “type” for us (not “warning” as many translations would have it).

    Then Paul uses the invocation of Israel to bring God’s final judgement over their present experience (1 Corinthians 3:10-17, 4:1-5) and others.

    Paul here does not invoke a proof text (page 12) but instead invokes a broad narrative and “invites his readers to undertake the metaphorical leap of find their own circumstances figured in the narrative”

    Destroy the wisdom of the wise (1 Corinthians 1; pages 12- 20)

    The backbone of the discussion is a series of six old testament quotations that depict God as one who acts to judge and save his people in ways that defy human imagination (page 13)

    The first quotation (1 Corinthians 1:19) is taken from Isaiah 29:14 and talks about God’s eschatological annihilation of human wisdom, Sophia.

    There is a nice tie in as well with 1 Corinthians 1:26 and Jeremiah 29 which talks about the wise, the strong and the rich, not boasting in these things but in God.

    Clean out the old leaven (1 Corinthians 5; page 21- )

    His directive to the congregation is a quotation from Deuteronomy to prescribe the death penalty for offences that lead the congregation into idolatry or flagrant impurity.  Hays argues for congruence with Deuteronomy 22 and thus his harsh punishment.

    There are also links here with Passover and the need to purify the dough so that the house is spared during the Passover (Exodus 12)

    Paul expects the scripture to fosters the conversion of the imagingation.

    God’s Advocates – Tina Beattie

    From Tina Beattie in God’s Advocates

    Page 200 “We can sin just as easily in the polling booth as in the bedroom”

    On the doctrine of atonement in a feminist perspective page 202

    “We can discover material in these those early sources which challenges some of the later developments that have been detrimental to women.  For example, the understanding of sin, certainly in the early Church, had much to do with the idea of our being vulnerable, in a terrible predicament, and in need of Christ’s rescue. Having fallen into the clutches of death, we were powerless to escape the suffering that ensued.  This offers an understanding of sin that can allow us to criticise some later concepts that have been particularly negative for women, without going so far from the tradition that we begin to use a rhetoric that doesn’t hook into it.”

    When the Christians Worship, Satan Is Overthrown

    This is Douglas Kelly at Rutherford House Gathering in October 2010.

    Douglas Kelly – John

    Read from 2 Chronicles 20:

    Ignatius of Antioch, being taken by armed guard, where he would be executed.  At the different cities where they stopped (from Syria to Rome), and the Church members he would meet in those places.  Some said that he had a martyr complex waiting to get martyred, but he was not lacking in enthusiasm for all that lay ahead

    “When the Christians assemble to worship, Satan is overthrown” Letter to Ephesians from Ignatius.

    He saw with prophetic eagle eye, what was already happening in the Roman Empire – 200 more years before Christianity becomes established.

    The culture was rotting, what we might call modern relativism.  No one knows what’s right, or if you can even know the truth.  There writers for the various movements at that time (Kelly has the quotations).  Rome, was like London or New York, a melting pot of every culture in that part of the world pouring in, every kind of religion pouring in, and people did eclecticism.   Tremendous amount of infanticide, abortion and killing of he elderly at the time.  There was this brilliant empire and yet there was an immense lack of humanity.  The amount of occult of demonism that was widespread in the Mediterranean civilisation at the time that the gospel is beginning to spread.  “Reputation of all heresies” Hyppolytus of Rome.  He shows that some is fake, and parts of it is real.  And the Church was against the demonic which was bringing down the culture.

    A study “Pharmakos” in Revelation and the activity of the devil – it might be a clue that the massive drug culture that is eating up the west, that in scripture that is connected to the activity of satan.  Satan uses the abuse of drugs to destroy the moral, cultural and intellectual fibre of a society.  It is a massive problem in the United States and the United Kingdom.  The use of cocaine in the most prosperous classes is appalling.

    “Do you think that this immense rise in drugs, that is bringing such a crisis to our culture, which the Church rarely talks about, and Satan not be connected to it?”

    2 Chronicles 20 – there have been other times when immense pressure came against the people of God, and God has used an amazingly humble simple weapon to overcome it all – the worship of his people.

    King Jehoshaphat was one of the few really godly kings of Israel, he loved the Lord, and tremendous pressure came out against him.  His previous forefathers had been idolaters, and the Lord was letting pressure come out against him, and the enemies of the Lord’s people that outnumbered them, the descendents of Lot and Esau, relatives of Israel.  Instead of being grateful, when Judah is getting weak they move in and outnumber them.  Even though the country is in bad shape, there is a lot of idolatry, none the less it was a godly leader who did the right thing and miracles occurred, the impossible came to pass.

    Jehoshaphat feared (v3) – anyone is going to have fear.  Unless you are a stone or a nut, you are going to have fear.  But you don’t have to be paralysed by fear, you don’t have to be depressed by fear – 1 John perfect love casts out fear.

    But there is a higher fear, the fear of the Lord is beginning of all wisdom.

    Lord, you are greater than this thing.

    So what he does is sets himself to seek the Lord and proclaim a fast.

    Remember the way that they fasted in Esther, and how Esther was called by the King – Esther never mentions the name of God, but nowhere are the promises of God more evidenced on its pages.

    Fasting – I have felt over the years (including many years in the Parish ministry) when dealing with what I felt were demonic influences, there is a dark kingdom that I think has had unusual amount of power in the last century in Western Countries.  I have found over the years, and times I thought it was coming in my congregation, that fasting is one of the ways that you deal with it.  Jesus says “This one does not come out apart from praying and fasting”.

    Andrew Murray “Fasting is not good work.  When you pray it is like you put one hand on the throne of God.  When you fast it is like you take one hand and leave aside the legitimate comforts of food, and put the other hand on the prayer“ (With Christ in the school of prayer).

    I don’t see how you can do much effective ministry without coming under attack.  And the only way you are going to be able to handle it is a certain amount of fasting.

    Verse 6 – he is taking the promises of other parts of the Old Testament and asking God to fulfil them

    “We get on praying ground and take his promises and say ‘Do as thou hast said’” – C.H. Spurgeon.

    2 Chronicles 7, Deuteronomy 8, Deuteronomy 28.

    Lord you have done this in the past, and we are asking you to make it real in the presence.

    Here is what I beg you to believe in (2 Cor 4 – walk by faith, not by sight) – if you write this off you are going to lose an immense power of God in your ministry.  This happened in the space time world.  He assembled the army to face these enemies but he did a strange thing the morning of the battle.  He brought the white robed choirs out of the temple and put these in the hottest place of the battle – the robed choirs – they didn’t have sticks or swords or spears.  Out they went.  That was the place where the first missiles would be thrown.

    St. Ignatius of Antioch “When the Christians assemble to worship, Satan is overthrown”

    When the choirs began to praise the beauty of holiness, something supernatural happened and the enemy was overthrown, and the enemy began to kill themselves off, and the people of God didn’t have to take part in the battle.

    “When the choirs out of Jerusalem started praising the beauty of holiness, the presence of God started to fall”

    Psalm 22 “Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani” – O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.  When the people start to praise, God comes down, and Satan starts to flee – the dirty malign God hating presence has to flee with his cohorts.

    Richard Stibbs (bruised Reed) “God has two heavens – the heaven of heavens where his throne is, and the praises of his people and he cannot resist coming into them both”

    And when the people of God assemble – we are similar situation in that we face the world of the flesh and the devil, in that we face a decaying culture (hostile, idolatrous, relativistic, resentful of the moral claims of the Lord and the way of atonement through the gospel).  And here we are Sunday by Sunday, praising the name of the Lord, standing engaged against the host of darkness.  If you don’t think the devil is displeased with what you are doing, you keep doing it and you’ll find out.

    You don’t have a Church with one person.  With one person you have a Christian.  You’ve got to have two or three to have a Church.  Where the Christians are assembled, God’s Spirit comes down and he cuts down on what Satan is able to accomplish in the region.

    One of the problems of the ministry that tends to affect us, and we tend to worry about what we cannot change, and we list of all these things, and we almost ease off and do very little (do enough not to be embarrassed, but that’s about that) – God says that what you can do in leading assemblies to worship will turn back Satan.  That’s something that you can do.

    I do as much preparation to preach to thirty, as I do for a conference of 3-4,000.  Because when the Holy Spirit comes down and God is doing his supernatural work, he can every bit as much influence as when there are 1,000s of people.

    One place where there was a lot of occult influence, and two Churches got going, praying worshipping, and the crowd of the Occult and the Satanists were finding their ability to operate, they were loosing their effectiveness.  And several of the Satanic group moved from the territory.

    In some cities the gangs franchise certain areas.  But where Churches start worshipping praying and fasting, and gangs lose their effectiveness and members start having to move somewhere else.

    The true teaching, the worship, the Holy Living, God coming down with his people, it may be 10, it may be 30, it may be a 1,000.  That is more than competent.  Greater is he that is in us, than is in the world

    2 Chronicles 20 – God comes down and everything is different.

    1 Corinthians 14: 25 – Paul is saying that one of the reasons it should be in a known tongue, because of the influence it will have on non-believers.  Look at what is happening with an unbeliever, and the power of God has fallen, and he encounters the power of God which is cutting him to the quick like a sharp two edged sword.

    There is much that we can’t do.  But what we can do is lead people in worship, and it will work when things are pretty far gone.

    Question

    Jehoshaphat – a leader who made a mistake, and then was rebuked, and his renewal came from being rebuked. What can we learn from this?

    God has a way of dealing with sham leaders.  When we are not who we project whom we are, then we will not be effective.  God will deal with us.  We get to paid to study the word of God, and prepare to preach; and when we are doing that it often leads us to repentance.

    If we judge ourselves then God will not judge us.

    Isaiah says that Judging is God’s strange work.  His main work is blessing.

    Jesus paid the price for our sin – if we judge ourselves, then we should not be judged.  A.W. Pink “Pink on the Christian Life ”God’s second best, and then regaining God’s best”.  If we should judge ourselves then we shall not be judged by ourselves, not to pay the price ourselves, but to be real with ourselves.  If we don’t then God will have to bring other ways into our life – other influences, another prophet or Church or family situation to bring us to heal.

    Talks about a difficult Church situation, and they did not know that I had a secret weapon.  It was very difficult for five years, and then the thing broke lose and we were able to deal with it, and we were able to deal with it after that.  I didn’t know that a good number of people were getting converted.  It was a little bit humbling that they were established, and they were in the Church posts, and it was a bit humbling to them to be converted in their 50s.  Most of the time God is doing something, and I don’t believe that you know it.

    You’ve got be careful not too rush in too fast for a thing to happen.  It came through consistent preaching and praying and then God does wonders.  Talked about a situation “Bad temper undoes a lot of good preaching.”  The Lord took care of it some time after that.  I am not saying that don’t ever confront, but only do it when you have to, but make sure that a lot of praying has happened first.  Don’t go to someone in a bad temper.

    What is the front line in terms of praise?  Is it a spiritual front line?  How does it relate to the four walls of the building that we are in.  It doesn’t require some kind of ostentatious, front of street thing.  In the house of God in the region, the devils know what you are doing.  Resist the devil and he will free from you (James) he’s got no choice.

    One illustration of a spiritual fayre, where a Christian woman took a stall and offered to pray for people.  That was by far the longest the queue at the Fayre, and the other people at the Fayre complained that this woman was here.

    The Church has become quite deistic.  We think of ceremony and of ritual.  Because people are much more concerned about the order that communion takes, than what it means.  In contrast, Dr. Kelly talks about a vibrant spiritual world.

    The real issue in worship, is transcendence.  Is that allowed to shine through the worship?  We can’t make that happen, because we are not God. Crucial issue in Church is to be praying for God to come down upon the Sunday worship.  One of the things that we are asking God to do, is to break through the culture of deism.  True religion seems to fanatical for to deal with in that sort of way – this has many links with Freemasonry. Many things are open to adjustment but that is critical.