Faith and Encouragement

Matthew 6:33


November 2016



In a previous post, we tackled the question: “Does everything happen for a reason?”  This is something that is often repeated by Christians and people from other faiths, and even by those who do not consider themselves “religious” at all.

The problem with this kind of saying is that it can leave people with more questions and even anger towards God, who supposedly manages the “big picture” that we can’t see.

In my opinion, the belief that “God is in control” of everything that happens fails to take into account the very obvious reality that God gave FREE WILL to humankind.  He is not an over-controlling parent in the sky, pulling strings and determining the course of human history.

We read in Genesis that our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s rule.  From that point onwards, God stopped being in control of human history, as he let Adam and Eve suffer the consequences of governing themselves.

Although it’s true that “there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1-5) in terms of governments and rulers, we can’t say that God personally chooses or approves of every one of them, as this would go against His nature.   This passage speaks of order over anarchy, because no society can live in peace if people are constantly rising up against the government.  Civil wars are generally the most divisive and heartbreaking, as neighbours, friends and even family members can be found on opposing sides, effectively destroying their own society.  The Rwandan civil war from 1990 – 1994 showed just how easy it is for people to be manipulated and driven to acts of unbelievable cruelty, even towards those they previously considered to be friends.

I have heard it said that “Jesus is a gentleman”. He won’t force his will on you, or enter a human heart uninvited.  In Revelation 3:20 he tells us: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

If we choose to do this, we are inviting Jesus to be Lord in our lives, and giving over our control to him.  From that point onwards, we allow Him to control and direct our lives.  But we still have our free will, and as we often make mistakes and frequently fail to do God’s will, we can’t say that God is “in control” of all our actions.  I have met people who are simply incapable of saying: “I messed up.  I made a mistake”, but instead excuse themselves, saying that it was “all part of God’s plan”.

It’s TRUE that “for those who love God, all things work together for the good…” (Romans 8:28) and we do often see good and beautiful things arising from terrible and tragic circumstances.  But does that mean that God engineered the bad things or caused them, just so that good could come from it?

For instance, let’s say a soldier goes to war, steps on a landmine and loses one of his legs, then is sent home and given a medal of honour.  Does that mean that God caused the explosion which led to the man’s amputation, just so he could win a medal?

God can bring good from evil, but that does not make Him the source of evil.  Let’s not confuse Him with our enemy, the devil, who was a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).  It is in Satan’s best interests for people to believe that “God is in control of everything that happens” and therefore somehow responsible for every evil act that occurs on earth.  He wants to deflect attention from himself, encouraging people to lose faith in God and direct their anger and frustration at Him instead.

However, Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8), which is exactly what God has promised to do.

Sadly, if you go into most Christian churches and say: “God is not in control of everything”, they will look at you in horror and probably refuse to listen to anything else you have to say.   This is one of the reasons why attending a church is so hard for me, as I find it impossible to express my thoughts and opinions freely without feeling judged or misunderstood.

I like to listen to sermons online and I actively seek out the company and fellowship of Christian friends, who accept me for who I am.  Listening to a sermons in this way is great, as you can pause them to reflect or take a break, then perhaps write a blog post afterwards to process all the new ideas  🙂  🙂

Just before writing this, I was listening to a very inspiring sermon from Francis Chan’s church about Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I was moved, uplifted and encouraged by it, although I didn’t agree with everything the preacher said.  But I feel happy, because when I’m listening from home there’s no pressure to lose my individuality, go with the herd or feel judged by others.  Moreover, I know that no pastor or leader is my spiritual guide or “guru”.  I’m following Jesus, the only way to the Father.



Answer these 25 questions to find out if you are in a cult or high control group


1) Do your studies or training in the group seem to be endless?

2) Did you have to give up things that you liked doing in order to be accepted into the group? (e.g. music, places you used to go, clothes, family life, celebrations, etc.)

3) Have you been encouraged to cut off good friendships or close family ties with people from outside of the group?

4.) If you’ve belonged to the group all your life, are there things that you would have liked to have done but you couldn’t, as they were incompatible with the rules of the group?

5.) Does belonging to the group involve dressing in a certain way and using a particular terminology?

6.) Have you noticed a double moral standard in the group, where individuals pretend to be an ideal person in order to be accepted?

7.) Do you have to project or maintain an outward appearance of happiness within the group, although deep down you are sad or dissatisfied?

8) Do you have to make more and more of an effort to continue being an active member of the group or are you requested to give more and more money?

9) Is criticism within the group or listening to critics forbidden and punished harshly?

10) Can you reject any instruction or order from the group, although publicly it is phrased as a “suggestion”?

11)  Can you question any teaching or doctrine of the group, although the criticism may be well founded and expressed respectfully?

12) Are those who reject or criticize the group or its leaders said to be rejecting God himself?

13) Are the leaders enormously relevant to the group members, and does their influence affect every aspect of the group members’ lives?

14) Are the leaders seen to be superior the rest of the members?

15) Do they claim to have divine authority or to have been appointed directly by God?

16) Do the leaders affirm that only they can communicate with God directly and receive his instructions for the group?

17) In the meetings of the group, are certain phrases or concepts reinforced periodically and topics repeated frequently?

18) Do expressions of love/brotherly affection within the group often seem fake, superficial or insincere?

19) Is it forbidden to date or marry someone who does not belong to the group?

20) As well as the communal meetings, is it obligatory to attend large conferences or other special events, and are members constantly kept very busy in activities related with the group?

21) Do you have the feeling that you’re never doing enough to reach the prize or recompense that the group promotes?

22)  Out of loyalty to the group, are there things that you must not say or secrets that you must not reveal?

23) Are the members of the group the only ones who can please God?

24) In general, do the group members feel superior to those who don’t belong to it?

25) Does the group teach that they are the only ones who will be saved, and that God will destroy or punish all those who don’t belong to it?

If the majority of your answers to these questions are “yes” (except 10 and 11) you are definitely involved in a sect/cult.


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