[anzac] ESCAPE FROM LEGALISM

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From: "ANZAC Prophetic List" <prophetic@...>
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 13:21:00 -0500
From:           "David J Hawke" <hawkenet@...>
Date sent:      	Sun, 21 Mar 2004 11:17:22 +1100


"Escape from LEGALISM"
-by David Hawke.

I came from a Pentecostal church which others have
described as a cult. I am not sure if the description is
accurate. What I do know is that a lot of precious people
got caught up in legalism, domination, manipulation and
control. It was an evolutionary process. It all started
somewhere. It worries me today to see so much of the
same and its not all embryonic. Much of it has progressed
well past that. We need to learn about church life without
a trace of legalism, domination, manipulation and control.
It is possible. It is the only proper choice.

The 18th of September 1990 started early for me. Something
big had happened at church and it was playing on my mind.
My Uncle, who I had become very close to since my dad
passed away, had been disciplined and stood down as an
elder. This was serious. I knew what the problem was. He
had been over zealous in trying to get an old friend of his to
pray or prophesy in a prayer meeting. Normally this would
have passed without comment but something was
happening which I could not quite put a hand on. Our old
Pastor was in his 90th year and in the process of handing
over the reigns. There was a power vacuum. People who
had not shown any leadership or even been involved in
ministry to any great extent started to jostle for positions
of power. In the place of my uncle one of the pastor's
sons was appointed as an elder. One of the issues that
put him there was his handling of my uncles over-
zealousness. I had grown up with no malice in my heart.
I loved both of these men. I was perplexed.

Come to think of it, life had been perplexing for me for
most of my 36 years up until that time and I had learned
not to rationalise but to submit. My answer to perplexity
was to pray and that was what took me out to a quiet
spot north of Auckland on that beautiful spring day in
1990. I specifically wanted to pray for the new man who
was replacing my uncle. It was my way of subduing my
doubts and truly getting behind him.

I had enjoyed recent discussions with the new man. It had
been exciting when he started sharing his vision for new
initiatives for evangelism. In fact he told me that the elders
were considering asking me to take on a new role in the
church, that of full time evangelist. I had had various part
time ministry roles in the church and lived for the day to be
asked to join the team full time. He had my attention.

In the weeks leading up to this I had been meditating much
on grace and freedom. This new man also seemed to
espouse a freedom, which was totally foreign to the way
we both had been brought up. I even caught a glimpse of a
‘good God’. This was an angle that caught me by surprise.
The God I grew up with was a serious God, a Holy God,
and a fearsome God. A God that was full of grace was
sure an exciting thought. Up until that time my whole life
was full of rules and much time was spent by elders and
those in leadership splitting hairs on what people wore,
what they spent their time on and for that matter just
about everything they did, said, or thought.

Change was in the wind. I could sense it. I couldn’t help
trying to verbalise it every time I met someone from church.
Not many appreciated what I had to say. There was one
young man I worked with who shared the same anticipation.
Our time together was amazing. We were like two prisoners
who had been brought up in a dungeon never knowing what
sunlight was like and then both of us had caught a fleeting
glimpse. In my heart I knew change was in the air. I did not
know where it would lead to and at that time I did not know
what needed to be changed. It was a case of my spirit
being excited but my understanding being unfruitful. That
too was about to change.

I pulled off the highway just south of a town called
Warkworth into a reserve that ran along the coast. New
Zealand is stunningly beautiful and this place was no
exception. I started to walk and pray. My mind was quickly
drawn to the changes the new man had been talking about.
I was excited. I started to pray about the future. My heart
was full of optimism and hope. I was full of a new joy.
Something was changing and I had a hunch it was the
direction and vision of the leadership at the church. We
had prayed for revival and talked about it for years. I
sensed it was about to break.

I was shocked to hear a voice. The reserve had been
quiet and deserted I thought. So emphatic and definite
was the voice I nearly turned around. It came from
somewhere deep within me. It flooded my mind, my soul,
my spirit, and the whole environment. It was authoritative.
In an instant my understanding regarding the effects and
mechanisms of domination, manipulation, control, and
legalism in my life, was enlightened. I had never once in
my life allowed myself to harbour questions regarding my
leadership. I had hundreds of opportunities to do so but
always submitted my thinking and erased the doubts. I
was brainwashed; brain dead.

But here, in an instant, as if I had just read and understood
the whole of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, I could see that
I was in a bondage of thinking, a dead end theology. I saw
that I was both a subject of the bondage and a perpetrator
of it. Vast areas of darkness in my life were flooded with
light. I will never be able to explain those few moments
there on the waterfront south of Warkworth. If I had known
then the price I would have to pay for that revelation I might
not have been so elated.

The Bible says that His sheep hear His voice. I believe I
heard it that day. Along with the revelation regarding the
bondage God gave me specific instructions to grow a
beard [-which was against church regulations] and went
on to tell me about an event that would take place at
church, which would have an impact on my life. That
event was the leadership’s response to me doing what
He had just instructed me to do. He told me that when
that event occurred I was ‘to get out of there’. I knew
something had happened to me. A new understanding
filled me. I found a strength inside me I had never
experienced before. While it sounds very religious I was
aware of a new mantle on my life.

Never, in 36 years, had I ever thought of leaving my church.
I had never questioned the legalism, the ruthlessness,
and the cruelty. My own life had been so scrutinised and
played about with that every year I descended into a more
restrictive lifestyle. My early experiences of not being
allowed to play cricket, fly aeroplanes, join the navy, or go
on school trips were only an introduction to a lifestyle
which later would affect every part of my life. I was to find
that the price of being a ‘real’ Christian meant I would not
have fellowship with my own brother, I would see my own
mother tormented and excommunicated, and I would be
pushed to the very borders of despair. Now here I stood
and with a clarity and calmness I had never experienced
I could see. There was no darkness.

The warmth of that light in my soul was a pleasant
sensation. The peace was overwhelming. I knew I was
free. That evening I called my wife and told her what had
happened. She was worried. Anyone who spoke like I was
speaking was excommunicated and that meant total
separation from all church friends and family. My wife’s
Mother and some of her brothers and sisters were involved
with the church. She loved them dearly and the thought of
being cut off from them weighed heavily on her mind. That
aspect was not such a problem for me. My mother had
been excommunicated some two years prior and my
brother left the church when he was just 16 years old. We
had been forbidden to have any fellowship with him since
that sad day, some 13 years prior.

I arrived home on Friday afternoon. My beard was no more
than rough stubble but there it was for all to see. I was
ready for the onslaught. I had five scriptures about beards.
Now I just had to wait for things to unfold. It did not take
long. On the way home I ran into my cousin's husband.
He was our aging pastor’s aide de camp. We were not
able to say much but I saw his expression when he laid
eyes on my beard. I was not at home more than a few
moments when the phone rang. “Umm David, you’re not
going to keep that beard are you?” “You have a meeting
to take on Sunday and it would have to be gone by then.”
It was my cousin’s husband. I told him that I was going
to keep the beard and said there was nothing wrong with
it. In fact I said I had a scriptural basis for not being
concerned about it. He was very nice in his approach to
me and asked if I would mind if he reported it to the elders.
I smiled on the inside. I was ready for this. “No, go right
ahead, that’ll be fine” I replied.

Saturday morning began with someone knocking on our
front door. I opened it to find the new elder, the one I had
been praying for and in whom I had such high hopes, in a
very serious mood, wanting to speak to me. It is hard to
imagine now but when he left I went back inside to
discover he had been there railing on me for three hours.
He rebuked, argued, accused me of disloyalty, said I
was deceived and rebellious, and in the manner of the
leadership over the years tried to subdue me. This was
exactly what the Lord had warned me of and I went back
inside and said to my wife, “That’s it, we’re out of here”.

So began a painful journey out of legalism and control.
It was all the more painful to me because unlike others
I genuinely trusted and loved everyone at my old church.
They were the only friends I had and I trusted them with my life.

Saturday morning was my first experience of standing up
against control. It felt good. The old pastor had another
son who was one of the assistant pastors. I remember
him telling me once about horses they call ‘bolters’. He
said a bolter is a horse that is headstrong and wants its
own way. Once they bolt and taste freedom they can no
longer be trusted and have to be put down. From then on
they want to feel the wind in their mane. He warned me
never to once even think about not being submissive to
the leaders.

As normal, with any confrontation or rebellion, the events
of Saturday morning were reported rapidly back to our
old senior pastor, William E Wilson. For 36 years he had
been my hero. During the early 1920’s he had ministered
with Smith Wigglesworth and other early Pentecostal
pioneers. W E Wilson went on to plant the very first
Pentecostal church in New Zealand.

Anyway the news of my behaviour and beard made its
way up to the manse. I don’t remember specifically
saying that I was going to leave the church in my
Saturday morning confrontation with the new elder but he
must have seen I was determined to stay with my new
found liberty. At that stage I thought I had cashed in my
blue chips and was on my way to who knew where. I was
not aware of anything going on behind the scenes. I was
focused on where my decisions were taking me. I felt
excited. It was an adrenalin rush. At that time I admit
I was pretty naïve. I was enjoying a spiritual exhilaration
that I had never experienced before, and it was carrying me along.

I was also mildly excited and somewhat curious that God
could speak to me so clearly, especially about events in
the future. I had not had that experience before. The things
He had shared with me had occurred exactly as He had
described. I mistakenly thought that being so forewarned
and forearmed would make everything go easily. All I had
to do was stay with what He told me. What could be more simple?

When the telephone rang I was surprised to hear the new
elder again so soon. After Saturday morning I thought he
had fired all his bullets and written me off. I took the call
with some apprehension, only to find that now he was the
perfect gentleman. At that time the leadership often used
the ‘tough cop - soft cop’ approach. Looking back I can
see how it operated however at that time the swing of the
psychological and emotional pendulum did not seem to
be unusual to me. After being under it for 36 years it
represented normal behaviour. I saw all aspects of
leadership behaviour as one continuum. I learned that no
matter how anyone spoke to me, in gentle fatherly loving
terms, or brutal derogatory terms, my job in it all was to
stay sweet, think no evil, say no evil, and hear no evil.
As a matter of fact the old pastor asked us all to hang up
a picture of the three monkeys in our homes reminding
us of that triple maxim. I lived the first 36 years of my life
strictly controlling what I saw, heard and spoke. It is
amazing how loudly the truth can shout at us and yet we
are still able to put our hands over our ears so it is blocked out.

The message the new elder had for me really put the cat
among my pigeons. It was a message from the old pastor.
The message was that I was right and the old pastor was
vindicating me. This fact did not elicit an apology from the
new elder. You might find that hard to understand. In most
normal circumstances that would have been the first thing
that happened. These were not normal circumstances.

Any retreat from a position an elder had taken was a sign
of weakness and intolerable. Elders were never wrong. I
remember once being rebuked severely by one of the
assistant pastors over this type of thing. I had been giving
a testimony. The point of the testimony was how I had
overcome doubts and wrong thinking when I heard one
elder say something exactly opposite to another. I
thought it was a miracle and a good example for others
to follow that I could pass such a test. It was meant to be
encouragement for others to do the same when they had
an experience of elders contradicting each other. Well,
this pastor took me aside and really gave me a dressing
down. “Elders never contradict each other!” he told me.

The new elder who less than 24 hours previous had called
me every sinful thing you could imagine was now talking
to me as if nothing had taken place. I was so used to this
I never recognised how badly that sort of thing ‘messes’ with your mind.

So the beard could stay. Now beards, moustaches, and
sideboards were not kosher. They had been forbidden for
years. The only two people in the church that ever had a
moustache were the old pastor and, believe it or not, my
dad. Right there you might ask, “how come the pastor
could have a moustache and no one else?” In those days
my response to questions like that would be “Hey, put
that thought out of your mind and touch not the Lord's
anointed.” It became such a way of life that eventually
things as contradictory as that never even triggered a
question. The question generator just got switched off.
And right there is one of the red flags we should all be
aware of. Any time any of us feel pressure not to
question something in church life we ought to be very
aware of what is happening. If we yield our right to
question we have just crossed a line. Questioning is safe.

In my encounter with God earlier that week the Lord had
given me instructions to ‘get out of there’ when the
leadership reacted to my beard. That was the last
instructions He gave me and in view of the fact He gave
me no updated instructions I should have simply left. But
I didn’t. The vindication from my old pastor influenced me
greatly. I really thought things must have changed. One
of the things the Lord had shared with me on the beach
near Warkworth was that nothing had changed. I really
wanted to believe things had. I stayed. That decision was
a bad one. It was disobedience on my part and eventually
nearly cost me my life. I was not to know it but as the
next twelve months unfolded I would lose much financially,
mentally, spiritually, and socially. I should have just got
out of there and done as I was told.

The light that had flooded my mind now became a problem.
Everything I saw and heard in my old church looked bad.
I could see that legalism was rife, and manipulation,
domination and control flooded every aspect of church life.
There might have been some new faces in leadership but
they were just different jockeys on the same old horse.
I genuinely thought everyone could see things as clearly
as I did. It never seemed to occur to me that less than a
week prior I never saw anything but good. Had it not
been for a divine intervention in my life I would still be
promoting the very things I now could see were so wrong.
God is not into strife. He wanted me out of there for many
reasons, not the least of which was simply to avoid
conflict and strife.

The year that followed was one of the worst in my life. I
was torn between the fear of being trapped under control
and the fear of being a rebel. There was not one peaceful
day that passed. I was caught up in a tornado of conflict.
Things went from bad to worse. God had not wanted me
to go through all of that. He wanted me to get out of there
and find some place where I could experience healing
from many years of abuse. That would come but not as
fast as it could have.
****************************