The popular accusation of neglecting to meet together

A few months ago, a pastor called me and found out that I had left my former church. The first thing he told me was that a believer cannot survive on their own and if I don’t join another church, I will be destroyed by the devil. This is the exact sort of intimidation and spiritual abuse that caused me to leave my former church and that I will not tolerate from church leaders. Not to mention that Jesus, Elijah, Jonah, Joseph, Moses, and John the Baptist are a few concrete Biblical examples that prove that a believer will definitely have periods of solitude and will survive just fine with God on their side. The lie that tells people they will be destroyed without a church membership is an intimidating tactic to fill church buildings and actually ends up driving people away from them.

For this pastor to tell me this right up front, without asking me about why I left my former church, means that he assumed I was being a “rebellious” believer who was forsaking the gathering of the saints. This is based on Hebrews 10:25 which says “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Funny how many church leaders use this verse to accuse those who do not attend church regularly enough and to make them out to be evil sinners. However, these same church leaders never ask themselves why a believer would even neglect to meet together with their congregation in the first place. Maybe it’s because their leadership is spiritually abusive, financially abusive, manipulative, never wrong, and accusatory. Maybe the individual saint who neglects to meet with such abusive people is actually in the right and the leadership is in the wrong.

By leaving my former church, I wasn’t neglecting to meet together with other believers. Instead, I was choosing who I actually want to meet together with – a leadership and believers who are not spiritually abusive and who are encouraging. That’s the difference.

The Bible actually tells us to neglect meeting together with certain people.

1.  ‘Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”’ Matthew 16:6 (Be on guard and stay away from the deception and corruption of religious leaders)

2. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11

3. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,” Titus 3:10 (A leader can stir up division by spiritually abusing believers which leads to a church split. A leader can also stir up division by causing a hurtful divide of wounds between them and the global community of the Church).

4. “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3:5 (Because of his/her position of church authority, the abusive leader has an appearance of holiness, but they deny the power of God to work in and through them)

5. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them” Ephesians 5:6-7 (An abusive, manipulative leader is a deceiver and can speak many empty words to manipulate and control)

6. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. ” Romans 16:17 (A spiritually abusive leader creates obstacles in a believer’s life and also creates obstacles that keeps that believer from sound doctrine)

It looks like the Bible itself tells us to make it a habit to neglect to meet together with church leadership that is abusive and that creates a church culture of abuse. Neglecting to meet together with people such as these is never wrong and no one has the right to twist Hebrews 10:25 from Scripture to tell you otherwise.

Paul, Women, and the Ephesian Church

Here’s an excellent resource to better understand what Paul really meant regarding women in Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 2:8-15. It’s a must-read article in order to understand the unique challenges that the church in Ephesus faced. These challenges prompted Paul to write specific instructions in order to resolve the problems in the Ephesian church at the time.

Paul, Women, and The Ephesian Church – PDF File

“Women can have a good life and hope for eternal salvation without getting involved in power struggles. They can reach the same spiritual heights as men without renouncing their womanhood. What sounds so negative in the ears of many now would have sounded positive in the ears of those who heard the message in a different world from ours.” A. Van der Jagt

“It is clear that he was addressing a current concern that Timothy and the Christians in Ephesus would have readily understood. Furthermore, to take as eternally normative the limited prohibition of women’s
teaching (v. 12) when in other passages Paul clearly approves female participation in teaching, praying, and prophesying — does violence to the hermeneutical principle of the unity of Scripture.”

The modern day ministry title of apostle

The following notes have been adapted from an audio clip by Graham Cooke. They are a perfect and truthful response to the modern day apostolic movement. Nowadays, church leaders are quick to upgrade their titles to “apostles” because it’s trendy, higher up there, and it sounds more powerful.

If you are writing “apostle” on your business card, you have not been humbled and brought to a place of servanthood, stewardship, and slavery. You are trusting in self-promotion to advance yourself. You have not let God fully develop you. In Ephesians 4:11, “Apostle”, “Prophet”, “Evangelist”, “Pastor”, “Teacher” are not titles, they are job descriptions. You cannot put them before your name. That is not what they are there for. The real ministry titles are those of servant, steward, and slave.

In the Bible, preceding the part where Paul calls himself an apostle, he says:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” Romans 1:1

Apostle was his job description, but servant was his real spiritual designation and title.

Even Jesus called himself a servant and a slave.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Jesus said there were 3 things not to let anyone call you by: Rabbi, Father, or Teacher.

“[the scribes and pharisees love] greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:7-11

In Acts 16:17, the slave girl with a spirit of divination follows after Paul and Silas and she calls them servants and not apostles.

“She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

Notice that she did not say they were apostles of the most High God. She called them servants because that is their real title in the spiritual realm. Why is it that the demonic realm can understand something that the Church is slow to understand?

We must die to titles. Nowadays, there are more false apostles than real ones right now. They are not all false in the sense of being demonic, but they are ignorant of what real humble biblical ministry really is about.

We don’t need a title because we serve an audience of one and what God thinks about us is the most important thing in the world.

Blessings and character

God releases his blessing upon us according to the amount of character that we have allowed Him to develop in us.

God does not measure time. It’s now about how long you wait for something, but about how much you allow God into your life and allow Him to transform you in order to prepare you to receive that something. God measures our growth, not time. If God wants to take 5 years to develop me in an area but I resist him and complain, and run away for all that time, then my lack of growth can extend my development process in that area.

He’s not slow, He’s just patient

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…”‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We don’t know how to count time and sloweness as we should. The Lord often seems too slow because we’re often impatient, and He’s just really good at being patient. If we don’t have something we think we need right now, maybe it’s because we don’t really need it right now, and not having it immediately is allowing God to give us something infintely more valuable than the “it” – things like a more rooted faith, more patience, or more joy that doesn’t depend on “it” but on Him. These are the sort of lessons that are learned while we count slowness. Even if I don’t have what everybody else has by my age, I have a learning experience and a God experience that is more precious than that temporary and finite thing everyone else has by now.

I’m going to finish writing this and still go and count slowness, that’s how we are and it’s ok, we’re learning.

The mountain of God

By Francis Frangipane from his book titled “The Shelter of the Most High”

Israel had many sacred places — the tabernacle in the wilderness, the temple in Jerusalem, and various altars men erected to God — but Horeb was unique. Its name meant “desolation.” It was on Mt Horeb that God revealed Himself to Moses and it was to Horeb that Elijah fled when all he knew to do had failed.

Horeb was “the mountain of God.”
As a geographic and historic place, Horeb was weighty with spiritual significance. Yet the reality symbolized by Horeb — that God chose a desolate place and then drew desolate men there to meet with Him — is a truth that resonates yet today. Horeb’s message is this: the Lord does not turn away from our desolation; He comes to redeem it. 

At Horeb God refines us. Our lives simplify and focus on those few things which are most important. Beloved, you know you are at Horeb when God cuts you back to the root source of your spiritual life, and you are inwardly repelled by the superficial distractions of modern Christianity. You become desperate for more of God.

You will not become a better person at Horeb. For Horeb is not about the perfection of self; it’s about the abandonment of self. It is about the discovery that in us — in our successes and our failures — there dwells “no good thing.” We do not have to perform but conform to the surrendered life of Christ. 

Not everyone who walks with God goes through a Horeb experience. Some knew desolation prior to their salvation and now know only thanksgiving to God. Some may have actually been through Horeb but not identified it as such. 

At Horeb the morphine of religion wears off, and we can once again feel our pain. Reality manifests. We see ourselves in the light of God, and as we do, we fall upon Christ the cornerstone (Luke 20:18). Though “broken to pieces,” we are finally fit to be used by God.

For those who are even now at Horeb, I urge you to let your soul open and your pain rise to God. He knows. He sees. He feels your bewilderment and regret. Whatever He says, do it. When you leave Horeb, He will have brought you to a level you previously thought unattainable.

Recall the infusion of life that Moses and Elijah, the men of Horeb, each experienced beyond their season of desolation. Both experienced a type of the resurrection that is to come (Jude; 1 King 20). And in a mystery beyond our comprehension, it was these two Horebites who appeared in splendorous glory and spoke with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-3).

Horeb, once the place of desolation, is redeemed and revealed as a gateway to God. It is here, in brokenness and fearless honesty, where God brings wholeness of soul.

Horeb is the mountain of God. And once here, we are just steps away from the shelter of the Most High.
O living God, I bow before You. I confess my abject need of You. My guard is down, my actor is dead, and with him I fear my dreams are also gone. Yet you give dreams even to old men. You are the Resurrection. I cast myself upon You, O great God of my salvation. Draw me into Your holy shelter, and renew me.

The first call

Our first call is not to places – be they chapels or church buildings or cult gatherings. Or first call is not even to church leaders or pastors or preachers. Our first call is to Jesus, to love and obey Him and to spend time at his feet. It is the only thing that Jesus said is necessary to Martha. Going to church is not necessary. Having a church is not necessary. Having a pastor/leader is not necessary. Jesus is the only necessity. You can have Him anytime and anywhere and He will prove Himself enough for you.

You are worried and troubled about so many things…about finding a church and going to a church and finding a church leader and having a worship band play music to open the service and having a pulpit from which a highly educated preacher will preach to you, but none of this and none of religion is necessary, only I Am.

Why are there so many interpretations of the Bible?

If the Bible is the one book given to us by God, then why does it create so many denominations and opposing viewpoints? Here are 3 reasons why.

1. Education

Peter warned us that ignorant people would twist and distort the Scriptures in 2 Peter 3:16. To not distort Scripture’s meaning, we can’t be ignorant. We avoid being ignorant by careful study and research of the Scriptures, as well as careful study of the historical backdrop in which they were written.

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul tells Timothy “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”

It takes being a workman to properly understand the Scriptures. We need to work in order to correctly learn and handle the word of God.

2. Illumination

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

Without God’s spirit, we can’t understand the deeper truths of Scripture. The Bible isn’t just a book, but an account of the very author who speaks to us through it. We need God’s spirit to connects us to his very heart in order to understand his written words.

Prayer and a relationship with God are essential in understanding what God is truly saying in His word. In Hebrews 4:12, the Bible is described as a living word, and we must be spiritually alive with God to connect with it.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬

Too many approach the Bible simply on a human basis, and they read it relying only on their own understanding, past instructions, and their current perceptions. A Biblical degree does not guarantee that we will truly understand what God is really saying in his word. If that was the case, Jesus would have summoned 12 scholars as his disciples. Instead, he summoned 12 simple men, most of which were fishermen. Correctly interpretating the Bible doesn’t only depend on education, it also depends on having the right attitude of humility toward God.

Relying upon myself and my degrees alone won’t get me any closer to what God truly means to say in the Bible, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

3. Humility

We often let culture and the world make up our mind regarding certain issues. Then, when confronted with the Bible, we look for ways to use Scripture to support the viewpoints we have already decided upon, whether they are correct or not.
Those who get the most out of the Bible are those who approach it with a willingness to let it redefine their made-up minds because they acknowledge that they could be wrong.

Pride shuts the door to God’s perspective in the Bible and holds fast to what we call “our” perspective, causing us to think that our perspective is always right.