Posts Tagged ‘exclusive brethren’

Man Looks on the Outward Appearance… but God Looks on the Heart

July 12, 2014

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One Sunday afternoon recently we were visiting an elderly relative who resides close to the headquarters of the Palmarian Church in north Dublin. Just as we had parked the car I noticed a gathering of people outside this house church – a gathering which consisted of very well dressed ladies in long skirts and just a few men who were also very formally dressed. We had arrived there earlier than expected and so must have stumbled upon the congregation of this sect while they were still talking after their morning worship.

Before going in to see our relative, I took the opportunity to walk slowly towards the people who were still standing there, intending to strike up a conversation. However, I was unsuccessful in this and had the distinct impression that this was not the first time that they had been approached, although at other times it most likely would have been by journalists.

I have noted this dress code phenomenon with other cults such as Cooneyites, Exclusive Brethren and a cult which only exists in one part of the world – the Cooperites who live in Gloriavale which is based at Haupiri on the west coast of the south island in New Zealand. The latter was founded in 1969 by their very controversial leader, Neville Cooper, an Australian-born evangelist.

All of these cults have some definite things in common – there are many rules governing their respective rigid dress codes; they believe that the only way to heaven is by belonging to their organisation and most are governed by a central figurehead on this earth or men’s ideas – not by the Lord.

While I believe that we should do all to the glory of God (and this includes the way we dress) change begins in the heart and works outwards. If our hearts are not right with the Lord, all the dressing in a certain way in the world will make no difference to the ‘inner man.’

“The Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1Samuel 16v7)

Jesus said: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7v20)

Minutes later two of the well-dressed young ladies walked past the gateway of our elderly relative’s residence and both of them made it clear by their actions that they were not at all happy with my trying to speak to them earlier.

My heart goes out to the young people who belong to this sect. The Lord loves them, died for them and desires that they come to knowledge of His truth – the truth that says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2v8&9)

When our hearts are right with the Lord, we will inevitably have within these hearts of ours His great love for our fellowmen and women, even those who do not worship with us. Only in hearts which truly belong to Him can the fruits of the spirit be manifested.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5v22)

A Major Mark of a Cult – Lack of Love

April 23, 2014

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I have been told that the above is the current headquarters of the Palmarian Church in Dublin, just one of numerous cults which are active in Ireland today. There are now many thousands of harmful systems of belief scattered throughout our world – and I do believe that these numbers may well be growing by the day!

As well as being dangerous from an eternal perspective, these are harmful in the sense that they have far-reaching consequences, leading to break-ups within families. There are also hurtful attitudes towards those individuals who feel that, although they have been brought up with certain beliefs or to worship in a certain way, they don’t feel the inclination to follow in their parents’ footsteps.

Someone who is truly born again of the Spirit of God will love their children unconditionally, in the realisation that to try to force someone to believe something in the spiritual realm, is about as crazy an exercise as trying to force a bird to sing, or a flower to open.

Surely we should pray for our children and always be there for them until our dying day?

I met a girl once who had been ‘disfellowshipped’ by a Jehovah Witness community which had previously been a big part of her life. At a time when she had had a cancer diagnosis and a broken marriage simultaneously, she really did need someone to care for her and pray for her but she was totally abandoned by those she trusted because she did not adhere to some of their rules.

Other groups of which I have recently been reading as well as ‘the Palmarians,’ are the Cooneyites/2×2’s, the Church of Scientology, the Exclusive Brethren and the Mormons. To leave is to be, at best, ostracized but for some who turn their backs on the religion which they have been born into can horrifyingly mean certain death. This is a reality in many countries where Islam is in control.

Jesus said: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13v35)

This love for one another, when it is born of God, transcends culture, dominations and even doctrinal differences.

Personally speaking, I experience that affinity and warmth with those who have shared my basic experience of coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.

There is a bond between those who truly know the Lord, regardless of which church they attend – or there should be. Sadly, I have met people who would say they are Christians and yet these same people refuse to speak to someone who has stopped attending their ‘fellowship,’ for whatever reason.

And of course, the true Christian will show his or her love and concern for every soul they come in contact with – whatever their affiliation (or lack of) in the spiritual realm.

Study the reaction of the members of any dubious religious organization… how do they behave towards someone who no longer worships with them or leaves them completely?

I have attended a church and known individuals to have left – but I still love and pray (not in a patronizing way) for those people today and if I happen to meet them walking in the street, we can have a warm conversation.

They may have been quite right to move on or perhaps it was the wrong move to make – but I am not their judge.

Perhaps some of the saddest stories I have read recently relate to those who have lost families and loved ones as a result of leaving a cult; the heartache that this causes does not bear thinking about.

Surely only those who have come to trust and lean on the Lord Jesus Christ can know of the following experience… “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3v17-19)

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1Cor. 13v13)

 

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On Young People, Their Future – and Some Thoughts on the Exclusive Brethren

November 27, 2012

After attending the graduation ceremonies of two of my daughters in Dublin in recent weeks, I have been thinking about how difficult it is for young people to make a living in this current era of unemployment and widespread cutbacks. Most parents are apprehensive when their children set out to go to university – but then so thankful when they complete their degrees, accomplishing that goal they had set for themselves three or four years earlier. The Christian parent will pray for their son or daughter, in the knowledge that there is a much more important goal… they pray that their children will ultimately own the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.

Of course we have concerns during the years they attend university. We wonder about the company they keep and the influences that permeate their lives from all quarters – but we cannot keep young people locked away forever from the outside world, whatever our strongly held principles.

If we truly know the Lord, we pray – and we continue to pray in faith for our children until the Lord takes us Home.

With this in mind I have been thinking in recent days about a religious sect known as ‘the Exclusive Brethren’ and just how difficult it must be for young people who are born into one of these homes where legalism seems to be the order of the day.

Exclusive Brethren young people are not permitted to have a third level education and many of them invariably end up working for a company or business which is run by their parents’ church colleagues. The Exclusive Brethren broke away from the ‘Plymouth Brethren,’ the latter having had its beginnings in Dublin in 1830, but formed its first congregation in Plymouth in 1831. John Nelson Darby, one of the original prominent preachers, separated from the Plymouth Brethren to form the Exclusive Brethren which is today governed by the Australian Bruce Hales who is known as ‘the elect vessel.’

Some previous ‘elect vessels’ have been very controversial indeed, but what is most serious is the cult-like influence that they have over their members who amongst other prohibitions, are not allowed to eat or drink with those who are not of their persuasion. They must live in detached houses and pets are also prohibited. If young people decide that they do not want to be Exclusive Brethren, they are ostracised by their loved ones within the church. Today the Exclusive Brethren have spread throughout the world and have a presence in most European countries, while church buildings are built in such a way as to deter visitors. How far removed this is from the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Master Soul winner, who ate with publicans and sinners!

One afternoon I was walking down the street in a local town, when I spotted two young ladies in headscarves. I had often seen other ladies dressed similarly and was curious to know what religious denomination they belonged to. (At that point I knew nothing about them.) I somehow got talking to one of the girls, although her friend was a little reluctant to talk to me at all and kept her distance. Obviously married quite young, they were pushing young children in buggies. As I listened to the girl who spoke to me about their beliefs, I also told her of my own personal experience of coming to know the Lord as Saviour. However, when I asked her of her personal experience, I learned that she had none at all. “I believe what I believe because this is what my parents brought me up to believe,” she told me. I came away from that brief conversation with a terrible feeling of sadness. This young girl had told me of all the ‘don’ts’ in her life but she evidently had no living personal relationship with the Lord Jesus as Saviour. She dressed modestly, lived without all the modern trappings of this life and perhaps even prayed and read the scriptures – but she appeared to have no joy and no knowledge of sins forgiven, no life of faith – but one of works alone.

As I looked at my photographs of the young graduates of Trinity College, Dublin just recently, I thought of Edward Cronin, a young medical student in that same college over 180 years ago and how he was the one to start meeting with others for the ‘breaking of bread’ in a private house, because he was refused communion unless he joined one of the dissenting churches. John Nelson Darby then entered the equation but he was to draw others away with him, over a disagreement about prophetic interpretation. From 1848 the Brethren became two distinct groups; the open Brethren held to the principles upon which they were founded but the Exclusive Brethren became increasingly cult-like, with one central figure dictating how member families were to lead their lives.

There have been many schisms throughout all factions of the Brethren movement, but today I pray for members of the Exclusive brethren and I especially think of the young people who are brought up within the system. Yes, and I pray too for my own children whom I love dearly – and for all children and young people, whether they have had the opportunity to go to college or not, in the knowledge that “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.” (Psalm 127v1)