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    How to Survive in the Pharisee Church is in three parts. The first part is a humorous look at some of my
    own catastrophic failures (and occasional successes) in getting to know the God of the  Bible. In the
    second part I've talked about my even more catastrophic failures to integrate myself into being a
    functioning member of the church community. In the third part I look in a more general way at the whole
    issue of pharisaism in the church - what it is, what bible says about in, how it works, and how to combat
    its influence in our own lives.

    So laugh with me, cry with me, share my joys and sorrows on the greatest pilgrimage of all. You can
    start with this extract, from Chapter 25, 'Listening to Donkeys'. It's called THE BALAAM PRINCIPLE
.....

    Read another chapter?

    We have a contract with God, each of us. It's
    been spelt out for us clearly and
    unequivocally. We need to know what that
    contract says. Our obligations. God's
    obligations. What it gives us and what it
    doesn't give us. It's key!
    Chapter 18 spells it out. It's called Our
    Contract with God.

    Follow this link to find out >>>.
    Scenes From the Book

    And if you are reading the book, and you're
    interested in see some of the people and
    places mentioned, to give it a bit of extra life,
    just click here on "Scenes from the book" for a
    very incomplete collection of photographs to
    complement the text.
.
                          The Balaam Principle

    Extract from How to Survive in the Pharisee Church by Norman Walford

    They have left the straight road and have gone astray,
    following the road of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of doing wrong,
    but was rebuked for his own transgression;
    a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

    There are few stories in the Old Testament quite as charming as that of Balaam
    and his donkey.  In the story, God places an invisible angel with drawn sword across
    Balaam’s path to prevent the prophet and his donkey from making a journey that
    God has forbidden. Three times the donkey refuses to cross the angel, and in so
    doing, three times saves the unwitting prophet from certain death. Finally, God
    opens the mouth of the donkey to speak in human language. Balaam’s eyes are
    opened to see the angel and the nature of the imminent danger, and Balaam is
    forced to bow to God’s rebuke from the mouth of his own animal.

    There’s a serious lesson for us in this story, which is that God can speak through
    anyone. Balaam was a spiritual leader of high repute. He had a high opinion of
    himself and of his own spiritual gifts, and as a prophet he naturally expected to be
    God’s spokesman to others. God decided differently.

    In terms of absolute spiritual gifting and depth of knowledge, Balaam was clearly
    way ahead of the donkey. But God, who is no respecter of persons, was not
    impressed by Balaam’s office and didn't see him as deserving of special treatment.
    To bring him down to earth and deflate his foolish pride, God looked around for the
    most menial, insignificant messenger he could find, and he chose the donkey.

    God is not limited to using those with greater knowledge, experience, and status to
    teach those with less. He can, and often does, reverse the roles.

    For those who identify with the self-styled spiritual leader Balaam, the message is:
    Listen to everyone, no matter how menial or inexperienced they may seem to you.
    You never know who might be the next donkey in your life, sent by God as a bearer
    of wisdom to keep you on track.
    For those who identify more with the donkey, the message is: You may lack
    experience, wisdom, or natural talent, but it doesn’t matter. God can still use you as
    his chosen instrument to speak his word to those older and more experienced. Be
    ready for it, and don’t be surprised or resist it if it happens. It may even involve
    wisdom beyond your natural capabilities. Balaam knew a lot more about angels than
    the donkey, who probably knew nothing at all; but that didn’t stop God from
    providing the donkey with a single, blinding flash of supernatural wisdom to set his
    master straight.

    We may feel, like the donkey, that we are condemned to be instruments in the
    execution of other people’s plans and agendas forever. This is not at all what God
    wants for us. If that’s how we see it, we need a thorough reordering of our own self-
    image as well as of our God-image. This can take time and patience. As we navigate
    this process, it can be useful to remind ourselves occasionally of the story of Balaam.

    There’s a final lesson, or warning, here. When we critically appraise the leaders
    in our churches, we need to ask ourselves the question, “Where do they stand on the
    Balaam scale?” A true spiritual leader will always have an eye open for the donkey
    in his life. He won’t limit God, and he will always keep himself open to hear the
    opinions of those younger and less experienced than himself. He should be happy to
    have God rebuke or correct him through such a one.

    Many leaders will not pass this test. These are men in whom the character of God is
    improperly formed. Their sensibility of their own status makes them incapable of
    seeing a donkey as anything other than a convenient means of transport. We need to
    be wary of such men. It doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily in the wrong place or
    position—God has room for imperfect men at every level. It does, however, mean
    that many of their responses will be determined by fleshly rather than spiritual
    considerations, and so we need to treat them with caution.

    Hierarchy is deeply ingrained in the church, and we will probably be taught that God
    wants it that way. We may be told that it’s wrong to question, to express opinions, or
    to follow God’s leading in our lives without approval from above. It’s lucky that
    Balaam’s donkey didn’t think that way and didn’t feel the need to ask Balaam’s
    permission before opening his mouth—otherwise history might have turned out
    differently.

    The story of Balaam and his donkey is a warning against excessive pride and
    willfulness, and a warning against excessive or inappropriate humility. We should
    never put a limit on what God can do through us—to do so is to insult him. I may
    have a low opinion of myself, but I can hardly go any lower than Balaam’s donkey,
    and I should never use my own human limitations as an excuse for limiting what God
    can do through me.
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    Following the bankruptcy of my first
    publisher, "How to Survive in the Pharisee
    Church" is no longer being sold online in its
    printed form (though I have copies and am
    happy to send you one if you contact  me
    privately).
    In the meantime, while I am negotiating with
    another publisher to re-release the printed
    book, I am happy to offer it as a free PDF
    download. This is derived from the
    publisher's final proof, and is identical in
    every way apart from not having a cover.
    This offer may be temporary, so better to
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    On the same basis I am now able to offer the
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    know how long this offer will last, so best take
    it now if you are interested.
    This will work on Kindle and (I think) on all
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