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Spiritual Abuse Titles Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person's spiritual empowerment.

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Old 02-26-2011, 10:14 PM   #1
NeitherFirstnorLast
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Default Identifying Spiritual Authority

Good evening Saints,

I have always enjoyed encounters with fellow believers wherever I find them, and one group with whom I've had some exchange on line is a group from the Brethren assemblies. I was on their site today, and saw that they had recently posted a question on Spiritual Authority.

In some recent exchanges on this forum, the issue of spiritual authority has been brought up, and I think these Brothers and Sisters have provided some keen insight into the questions they put forth; and I'd like to post some excerpts here from their Forum (www.simplegathering.com)

1) What is ‘authority’ in terms of our service to Christ / of our communities?
Authority is exercised against the spiritual enemies of the Lord and His flock in prayer – Eph. 6:12 & 18.

...there is a significant difference between "spiritual authority" among believers, and authority within a general community. Part of the difference relates to the kind of leadership that Christ demonstrated and indicated he wanted to see in the church - a leadership in which humble example (washing other people's dirty and weary feet) is central. This is not what is considered good leadership in many ordinary societies. Part of the difference also relates therefore to the role of power. The one thing that has done more damage to my spiritual life and growth has been being regularly caught in the cross-fire of power-struggles in local churches. This has totally destroyed my respect for those involved with the result that I refuse to accept their authority in spiritual or non-spiritual matters.


2) How does one acquire it?
God’s Grace is the basis (of authority) ... Our knowledge of our own weakness and inability, basically humility provides a conduit. “God resists the proud and exalts the humble”. What spiritual authority could anyone carry if being resisted by the Lord? Another quote comes to mind from the end of one of the Lord’s parables I believe – “Having done everything, say I am an unprofitable servant.”
Faith is essential to activate the authority Christ has invested in His people – Having a sense of our own inability – we must then move into faith in the ability of the Lord. A friend I traveled with saw some wonderful things happen in his ministry – he was a very simple man – one of his sayings was “It’s not your ability, it’s your availability;” the thing about my friend Jim was that he really did believe it and simply trusted the Lord to work through him. There was never a meeting with Jim without tangible blessing.

...By preaching the gospel to every creature, as He told us to.

3) How do we recognize it?
There is a Pastor in the church I sometimes attend. But he, in my mind and in relation to me, is not a pastor. I remember being in a church that had no Pastor. But there were several pastors and we as young people knew who they were, because we experienced their genuine care and concern for us. There were also teachers whom we recognized because even those who were not orators "spoke with authority." Their teaching hit home, had real resonance and impact.

So maybe authority is something you recognize but have difficulty defining, and especially defining "how to get it."


(You see it where you find Disciples are being made and baptized and added

4) How can a Christian worker, church or movement lose it?
The authority available to us is not for use in relation to one another – not for pushing the ‘sheep’ around as a egotistical superiors. The shepherd Ps. 23 carried a rod and a staff and David speaks of how the Lord uses such to comfort us. The staff was used to rescue silly wandering sheep – thank God he has one where would we be otherwise. The rod was used to beat off the wild beast.

....Definitely blatant hypocrisy will destroy a person's authority. But not being hypocritical will not guarantee authority, even if it may bring respect.

When a Christian gets into a position of authority over other Christians then they get involved, as Mona says, in power struggles instead of "washing the disciples feet" and "washing the feet of those who are not yet disciples," it is catastrophic to the church. I saw this in my formative years and I saw first-hand the damage it has done.

People got into authority in our meeting who did not have that intrinsic quality of spiritual authority and their lack of spirituality caused chaos in the assembly. They had business acumen, but not spiritual authority. Spiritual authority is hard to describe. Either a person has it or they do not. They can become an overseer without spiritual authority because they have been elevated to that position by like-minded non-spiritual people. It is devastating to the church but it happens.


...(It is lost) By becoming insular, and competitive and grasping for "position" rather than making disciples.

5) What fruit / results might we expect to see where spiritual authority is present?

Spiritual authority, to me, does not mean that you are BOSS and everybody must do what they are told. Spiritual authority comes from my close relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, then I can be an encouragement to others to "walk by His side in the way, What he says we will do, where He sends we will go, Never fear only trust and obey." Spiritual authority does not mean that I should get as many people to obey me as I can and then I become BOSS. It means that I am to do what our Lord Jesus tells me to do and "encourage" others to follow him and do what he is asking in their lives.

...If we LIVE under the All-Authority of the Risen Lord, we will make disciples.

...the most effective churches I’ve known seem to be ones that include variety in both the leadership and the church as a whole, but only when that variety is used in a constructive way to respect the views of others and learn from one another. There is always a danger of creating cliques of like-minded individuals with whom we feel more comfortable. We should obey those who are our spiritual leaders (Heb 13:17), but that should not be a blind obedience. We should always check things out to see if they are true as the Bereans did and we also need exercise spiritual discernment and wisdom for ourselves. Spiritual authority can be lost through, among others, sinful lifestyle and abusing one’s authority.

Saints, these are samples of some of the answers offered on their forum. Can we offer as much wisdom in our responses to these questions?


In Christ,

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Old 03-01-2011, 05:47 PM   #2
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Speaking of Spiritual Authority....

I believe I upset a brother today. He texted me this morning, as he usually does... but this time I think what he sent came from him, and not from the ministry. What he sent me was this:

"1 Corinthians 14:31 'you can all prophesy' this is one of the clearest verses in the Bible. We may all have different gifts, but we can ALL prophesy. Our progress is slow b/c we do not speak."

I responded to this with:

"Ah, but 1 Corinthians 14:29 says "And as to prophets", indicating this portion is specifically directed to prophets - not to all men.
1 Cor 12:28 "And God has placed some in the Church; first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then works of power, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues." If all were prophets, then each would not be named here - and it would be no spiritual gift to prophesy, but merely a function of our own nature."

This brother remained silent to this the rest of the day, but just now has texted me more.

"Numbers 11:29 read that foot note."
"Also remember 1 Cor 14:24. This is speaking about the church meetings. The note on that is also good."
"1 Cor 14:1-5 Prophesying is not just for prophets it is the function of all the saints. This builds up the body."
"Remember to prophesy is to speak for God and speak forth God."

This brother was born and raised in an LRC home, so anything that challenges Lee's ministry is, I believe, terrifying to him. Lee embodies Spiritual Authority, in his eyes - and hence his desire that I read footnotes for elucidation (when the Scriptures themselves disagree with Lee's interpretation, go back to more of Lee's interpretations for enlightenment!)

I'm going to read what he's referenced, and give him a thoughtful and prayerful response. Do any of you have any suggestions? How have you dealt with dear ones like this?

In Him,

NFNL.
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Old 03-01-2011, 06:31 PM   #3
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Speaking of Spiritual Authority....
1 Cor 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

Now is there a verse that says every member needs to "speak". I doubt it, imagine the condemnation if someone had throat cancer or some other problem. What i do think is very clear is that throughout the week every one of us should have experiences of Christ that we would want to share with the Body of Christ. Generally it would be very convenient to share this by speaking, but I suppose you could write a poem, or have a video, or some other way of sharing.

As to the word prophecy, I have always understood this to be similar to a spokesman. Just as the President has a cabinet member whose job is to talk to the Press (most of the time) so the Lord has "prophets" that speak to the nations. In the sense that our speaking as Christians represents the Lord, we all are to some extent "prophets", but that doesn't mean that there are not gifted members whose gift is the gift of prophecy. For example, there are gifted members who are evangelists. Billy Graham is a good example, but does that mean that only those who are gifted evangelists preach the gospel? Aren't all Christians responsible to preach the gospel?
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Old 03-01-2011, 08:05 PM   #4
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Default Re: Identifying Spiritual Authority

NFNL, hope all is well with you and yours. I have kept you and your son in my thoughts and prayers, and I trust so many of us out here have as well.

I think your response to your friend was spot on.

No, prophesying is actually a gift, along with teaching, evangelizing and others. Not all have such gifts, much less the right to "exercise" them in a church gathering.

This all relates somewhat to Witness Lee's teaching regarding "the release of the spirit" (originated by Nee but Lee took to a whole different level). Lee taught that the release of the spirit (a dubious, man-made concept at best) had to be an outward, verbal manifestation such as "calling on the Lord" or "prayreading". He never provided any scriptural proof of this because there is none.

So really you need not do much more then point your friend to the Word of God, or in this case the lack of scriptural evidence for such a teaching or practice.
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Old 03-02-2011, 07:54 AM   #5
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1 Corinthians 14:26-33: What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two — or at the most three — should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace — as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

So how do we read the above? Do we accept Lee's version of "you can all prophesy" or do we confine ourselves to the context? "Two or three prophets should speak." They should not step on each other. And there should be a clear stop by one before another speaks. But these all can speak. But the "these all" is the two or three, not the whole assembly.

And our spirit is subject to us, not the other way around. If we feel so compelled that we explode, and just can't stop, then there is a problem.

I do not disdain what we might call a "testimony meeting" where the floor is open to virtually all for a short time each. But that is not what Paul is discussing in this passage.
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Old 03-02-2011, 08:43 AM   #6
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Now, back on topic.

I'm not sure that there is such an important need to identify spiritual authority in the way that it has been labeled by Nee and Lee. And even if we back down from that, are we too focused on creating a layer of separation from God when we discuss it in this manner? There is a practical element to elders, deacons, teachers, etc. But when we start to label it as "spiritual authority" are we adding terminology that leads us away from our responsibility? Are we ignoring our charge? Are we trying to second-guess others? (Not suggesting that we take just anything. We surely should be concerned when we see "teachers" who don't stack-up.)

Just a question.
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Old 03-02-2011, 09:21 PM   #7
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1 Cor 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
Amen, yes - when we get together, even as we do here on this forum, let us each have a revelation, an interpretation - let us be built up together for edification one of another.... but this isn't prophesying; it's just sharing. Prophesying is a very definite Spiritual Gift which we do not all receive:

1 Corinthians 12:29-30 "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of Healing, do all speak with tongues, do all interpret?" .... the answer of course is, no. They're not.

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As to the word prophecy, I have always understood this to be similar to a spokesman. Just as the President has a cabinet member whose job is to talk to the Press (most of the time) so the Lord has "prophets" that speak to the nations. In the sense that our speaking as Christians represents the Lord, we all are to some extent "prophets"
...Prophecy does not neccessarily mean that we foretell future events - although that is one definition... but to prophesy does mean to speak by the inspiration of God, as lead by the revelation from the Holy Spirit... and that's not the way it's being applied by LSM, with weekly regurgitation from the HWMR and the usual discussion about how it's touched you this week.
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Old 03-02-2011, 09:36 PM   #8
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NFNL, hope all is well with you and yours. I have kept you and your son in my thoughts and prayers, and I trust so many of us out here have as well.

I think your response to your friend was spot on.

No, prophesying is actually a gift, along with teaching, evangelizing and others. Not all have such gifts, much less the right to "exercise" them in a church gathering.

This all relates somewhat to Witness Lee's teaching regarding "the release of the spirit" (originated by Nee but Lee took to a whole different level). Lee taught that the release of the spirit (a dubious, man-made concept at best) had to be an outward, verbal manifestation such as "calling on the Lord" or "prayreading". He never provided any scriptural proof of this because there is none.

So really you need not do much more then point your friend to the Word of God, or in this case the lack of scriptural evidence for such a teaching or practice.
Thank you brother, for your thoughts and prayers... and your sharing.

I want to confess that sometimes, I get very very... I don't know if angry is the word, or frustrated, or disgusted, or what it is - with what I see as idolatry in the Local Church. I don't like that negative feeling, and I need to beg forgiveness for it and drop it. I just feel, I don't know - why are so many taken in by it? These are genuine Believers, aren't they? Do they not see the incongruity between what the Word clearly defines as a proper Christian (meek, humble, loving), and what the man who ran the show became?

Sheep don't eat sheep, they're herbivores. When you see a "sheep" attacking and devouring another sheep, you know it isn't a sheep at all - it's a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Lord forgive me. Soften my heart to express Your love, Lord.

Amen
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Old 03-02-2011, 10:02 PM   #9
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Now, back on topic.

I'm not sure that there is such an important need to identify spiritual authority in the way that it has been labeled by Nee and Lee. And even if we back down from that, are we too focused on creating a layer of separation from God when we discuss it in this manner? There is a practical element to elders, deacons, teachers, etc. But when we start to label it as "spiritual authority" are we adding terminology that leads us away from our responsibility? Are we ignoring our charge? Are we trying to second-guess others? (Not suggesting that we take just anything. We surely should be concerned when we see "teachers" who don't stack-up.)

Just a question.
Good evening brother,

I think we do need to define spiritual authority - but I didn't post this question in order to wrestle everyone here into an agreement on who has it and who doesn't; but rather to remind us all that we do need to exercise discernment for ourselves in order that we "Be not carried away by divers and strange teachings: for it is good that the heart be established by grace;" Hebrews 13:9a

How do we exercise discernment? I think a good place to start is exactly where the Bereans started - by searching the Scriptures daily to see whether these things are so.

LSM doesn't teach people to get in the Word - not exactly - they ask us to read the "Interpreted Word" - get into the footnotes; and that is unhealthy; because it comes with a premise: The premise is that the footnotes are as inerrant as God's Word itself... which of course means the author of those footnotes was infallible. We need to read the Pure Unadulterated Word of God... and to be certain we interpret rightly.

Read passages in context, don't read part of a verse and then run off to apply what you've read... read the Chapter the verse is in, and if you think the Lord has clearly identified a principle, search for confirmation. I think Dr. Charles Stanley once said that you should never identify a Biblical principle with a single quote - try to find three, two in the New Testament and at least one in the Old Testament.... I think that's a healthy practice....

...Not that I'm always faithful to follow this practice, but I am learning, growing, and by the Grace of God, will learn to be more faithful...
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Old 03-03-2011, 06:27 AM   #10
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And it is in what I now consider the better way to do these kind of inquiries that I asked the question. (Not commenting on how you posed the question, but on what is for me an improvement in how I participate.)

I know that there is spiritual authority. But I honestly think that for most people, focusing on it creates in them the mentality of positions that is more of a "it's not my job" view than the recognition of the benefit to them and everyone else that the "positions" provide in their service. Now it would be just as easy to say that anything that is a service to us comes from a position of spiritual authority and that would excessively oversimplify the analysis.

And I would agree that where there is the sense that something is happening where the goal does not seem to be the "improvement" of the assembly or the direction is questionable when compared to what we understand to be the core of "healthy teachings," then we should speak up, although "speak up" may not mean to talk out loud to the assembly in general, at least at first. I would always suggest restraint in the forum in which we speak because we could discover that we have begun negative talk that is worse for the group than what we perceived to be error.

But that does not mean remain silent.

At times I wonder how much of the "deal with the bad stuff" teachings, even of Paul, were intended for the consumption of the general population of the assembly. At least part of it was written in a private letter rather than in general letters to the local Christians. But not all. Still, if we accept that an elder is charged with the oversight of the flock, it would seem that none of us who do not hold the position, practically or functionally, are the ones to which concerns about spiritual authority, or spiritual error, should be addressed. I'm not saying that we abdicate any responsibility to them. But I suspect that there is a problem with spiritual authority if we bypass it.

In any case, I would assume that my part should be, at most, as a part of a kind of Acts 15 consideration rather than a personal determiner of things. I believe that my input is important, but not determinative.

And not everything deserves an Acts 15 kind of inquiry.

I did note in the segments you posted from the Brethren site that the questions and the answers seemed very different. The questions seemed to be concerned with getting definitions right while the answers were more about "soft" considerations in actual practice. For me, I would lean more to the "soft" side when considering "spiritual authority" in broad terms. At least one of the answers seemed concerned with the present condition of the person on whom some sort of spiritual authority was presumed to rest.

When it comes to viewing individuals, we should always remember that no man or woman is perfect. On any given day, at any given time, in any given set of circumstances, anyone is capable of acting outside of the grace given. And in certain terms, that could have ramifications concerning "authority." But we have all been given the charge, and therefore authority, to preach the gospel at some level. Just because I did not have my normal "quiet time" this morning does not relieve me of my charge to preach. (Don't over analyze the particulars. It is an example.) But I may not have authority at all in other ways.

But it would seem that considerations from the standpoint of "spiritual authority" is to redefine the issue at hand into something other than the real issue. The issue with teaching wrong things isn't spiritual authority. It's the clarity that the teachings are wrong. If we are considering whether person X should be doing thing D rather than Person Y the real issue might be whether we are just asserting our opinion as authority. If we question the authority of a teacher because we think that one thing they recently said was not in line with our personal thoughts, is that a matter of authority?

I wonder if maybe the truth about authority is that we are all authorized to do the things that are according to our gifts for the benefit of the body and that most of us do not have the gift of discerning whether another's gift is being used efficiently, properly, and/or at all. In other words, the most important thing about spiritual authority is that I take what is given to me (i.e., God has authorized me concerning) and use it. And realize that all gifts are not my gifts. And others' gifts are not my gifts. And that my gifts are not others' gifts.

And is trying to understand spiritual authority more about trying to second-guess everyone else. And is asserting spiritual authority proof of a lack of it because it has become a sort of "lording over."
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Old 03-03-2011, 10:03 AM   #11
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When it comes to viewing individuals, we should always remember that no man or woman is perfect. On any given day, at any given time, in any given set of circumstances, anyone is capable of acting outside of the grace given. And in certain terms, that could have ramifications concerning "authority." But we have all been given the charge, and therefore authority, to preach the gospel at some level. Just because I did not have my normal "quiet time" this morning does not relieve me of my charge to preach....

....I wonder if maybe the truth about authority is that we are all authorized to do the things that are according to our gifts for the benefit of the body and that most of us do not have the gift of discerning whether another's gift is being used efficiently, properly, and/or at all. In other words, the most important thing about spiritual authority is that I take what is given to me (i.e., God has authorized me concerning) and use it. And realize that all gifts are not my gifts. And others' gifts are not my gifts. And that my gifts are not others' gifts.
Amen! Brother, I don't think I can add to that!

As for whether or not understanding spiritual authority is about trying to second guess everyone else... I don't think so, although perhaps it depends upon the reason for which the person asks the question. It came to mind for me to post this topic because one of the persons on this site was claiming spiritual authority for themselves - and they wrote: "the Word defines me as one with authority". In a sense, the Word does - but in what sense does It?
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Old 03-03-2011, 10:31 AM   #12
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Amen! Brother, I don't think I can add to that!

As for whether or not understanding spiritual authority is about trying to second guess everyone else... I don't think so, although perhaps it depends upon the reason for which the person asks the question. It came to mind for me to post this topic because one of the persons on this site was claiming spiritual authority for themselves - and they wrote: "the Word defines me as one with authority". In a sense, the Word does - but in what sense does It?
I understand the context. And I fear that there is a willful desire to not even consider that it might not be correct. I note that with respect to any direct challenges over the time to the ones (there are actually two) who take that position, there is nothing in response that would suggest that they even considered them, but rather threw an alternate challenge back. I have only continued to comment periodically for the express purpose of being sure that anyone lurking, especially only occasionally, does not get the impression that these ramblings are accepted as reasonable or true.

We can be fairly sure that there is no scripture that grants the authority that they have taken for themselves. And I note that they seem to take it primarily from Revelation, the one place that mentions something about not adding to the revelation. (I'm not sure that was intended to mean that there can actually not be more scripture, but it is a popular way to use it.)

But I like to come back to the observation that if God really is who he says he is, and he has told us some of it in the scripture that we have, anything that we think beyond that, whether from a "personal word from God," or from what anyone writes or says (whether as a suggestion, or as these guys do, claiming to be adding to scripture) needs to be consistent with what we already know from the scripture we already have. I really don't need to decide whether there is some special definition of spiritual authority that someone can lay claim to. I just need to look at their fruit, and in this case, read what they claim God says. Since it disagrees with what I already know about God from scripture and from the healthy teaching that I have received over many years, I have cause to reject their teaching, and to refuse them the right to be a teacher.

Now within the assembly I am part of, it is not my role to refuse them to teach. But I can reject their words anyway. And still get along with the rest of the assembly. (Not saying these guys have ever been to Irving, TX, or that anyone in my assembly has ever heard a word they say.)
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Old 03-03-2011, 10:40 AM   #13
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I think that a different way to say what I just said is that I believe that there is spiritual authority. But I think that dealing with it is more about seeing what is not rather than defining what is.

Like defining what will be the acceptable teaching. We might be able to lay some general framework for proper teaching, but it either has to be very broad, or we risk excluding much sound teaching due to our own limitations. But when something is said that seems problematic, we should be willing to at least ask the question. A little like Kirk did in that Star Trek movie when he asked why god needed a starship. The first response of many was to say "you don't question God." But you should question the "god" that needs a starship.

In this case, question the man who claims that he has authority to write new scripture. Not because he claims authority as much as the fact that he writes "scripture" that redefines God and truth. I could ignore someone who claimed to write scripture if they at least wrote true things. But there are a lot of people out there looking for a guru. Another Lee.
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Old 03-04-2011, 09:50 AM   #14
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I think that a different way to say what I just said is that I believe that there is spiritual authority. But I think that dealing with it is more about seeing what is not rather than defining what is.

Like defining what will be the acceptable teaching. We might be able to lay some general framework for proper teaching, but it either has to be very broad, or we risk excluding much sound teaching due to our own limitations. But when something is said that seems problematic, we should be willing to at least ask the question. A little like Kirk did in that Star Trek movie when he asked why god needed a starship. The first response of many was to say "you don't question God." But you should question the "god" that needs a starship.

In this case, question the man who claims that he has authority to write new scripture. Not because he claims authority as much as the fact that he writes "scripture" that redefines God and truth. I could ignore someone who claimed to write scripture if they at least wrote true things. But there are a lot of people out there looking for a guru. Another Lee.
To find spiritual authority is a matter of brokenness in the heart of the seeker. We live in a world that is overruled by Satan. The whole world lies in the evil one. Nevertheless, all authority comes from the Lord. Even Satans authority is deligated by the Lord. The Lords way is to take His people in hand and bless them and then break them. In His breaking we can see authority in all men. We seek out authority in men and use it as covering to advance. And when obedience under that covering is mature the covering also becomes a ransom for advance. Since all men have authority we only need to seek it out. Even a forty year old man can find authority in a five year old and be covered in it. How? By name. The names the Lord has called on men are all points of Authority. If a five year old is introduced to you as David, or as any name, you find authority there by honoring according to the meaning of the name. When we are bowed under the points of authority found in men, then the men get dealt with as to how they wear and use their authority. O the Wisdom of the Name!

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