Posted: September 7th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: change, deception, grace, purpose, spiritual abuse |
18 Comments »
You never really know what’s going on. Like sheep following the sheep in front of them, some have never even met the Shepherd.
“The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.” -Matthew 23:2-3 MSG
When denominations become corporations, leadership becomes a career. So come the politics of spit-and-polish veneer.
I heard a story a few months ago. The president of a denomination has a secret that could destroy his credibility, but only in a world where a person’s credibility is based on his ability to be a perfect example of the rules he sets forth. It wouldn’t have destroyed his credibility with me and probably not with you, either. We would have found hope in the rawness of life, knowing that everybody makes mistakes. He could have entered the world of grace instead of avoiding it by hiding under a blanket of technicalities. Good leadership is honest about their mistakes. Bad leadership makes people think it’s possible to be perfect.
“You can’t be a leader if you’re divorced unless you can prove that you had no fault, but you can never remarry, unless you can prove you were tricked.” Or, there about. All bylaws of loopholes and small print. The smart people can study the contract and find a way out of needing forgiveness. But, in the Kingdom world, they’re only finding a way to not need Jesus.
If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it. -Romans 4:14-15 MSG
As a result of the rules of the corporation denomination, men publicly hang the character of their ex-wives, just so they can keep their jobs. Women tell all of their ex-husband’s secrets and none of their own, just so they can still teach Sunday school.
“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.” -Matthew 23:13-14 MSG
This system has been set up to not ever be able to admit your fault. There is no grace there.
The wife of the denomination president had grounds to divorce him, but didn’t want to hurt his career. She got a legal separation instead. That way he could keep his job and nobody would ever have to know the secrets that could destroy the facade. He was able to later retire with no one the wiser. The inside was broken while the appearance remained in tact.
What about all those under him who feel abnormal and wrecked because they didn’t have the power to hide? What about the women with alter call carpet embedded into their knees? They’re begging God to take away their stains because they’ve been taught that you can’t have stains. What about the men who are no longer allowed to do what they know God has called them to do? They think they have to live out the rest of their lives with the chains of sin still wrapped around them.
I met a preacher who got his papers taken away because he made a mistake. His passion is still preaching. There’s a hollow ache in his disposition. But he’s only allowed to hammer nails.
“Still like Jesus,” I tell him, though I know my kindness can’t reach him.
What about him?
“Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?” -Matthew 23:24 MSG
“Writing a life’s story that’s wrong from start to finish.” It’s wrong from start to finish because you are not the Author. You can write all you want, but He is the One who’s published.
Nitpicked lives are slaves to their sin. Being a slave to sin is more than obeying the impulse. It’s believing it has the power, so much so that you devote yourself to avoidance more than you release yourself to God.
He writes your life story and He’s already said that He made the destroyer. Nothing the destroyer can form will be able to destroy you. No matter how bad your situation looks, it does not have the power to destroy you.
If anyone attacks you, don’t for a moment suppose that I sent them, and if any should attack, nothing will come of it. I create the blacksmith who fires up his forge and makes a weapon designed to kill. I also create the destroyer—but no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged. -Isaiah 54:15-17 MSG
The way into God’s Kingdom is through Jesus and it’s only by grace. Grace is for sinners. It’s not a safety net. It’s a gate.
Be open and honest about your failures. Let God’s grace wash over you. It completely transforms you. It lights you on fire and sends you blazing. That’s where the power comes from. It’s not from you and your ability, it’s from grace. God’s children need to see it. The people need to see that there is hope for them, too.
Nobody goes through life without knowing they’ve been saved from something that had every right to destroy them. Don’t set yourself up as someone who is so far away from that, that it steals the hope of grace from everyone else. Use the moment of someone’s failure to rejoice about the vibrant display of mercy, grace, and restoration that God is about to show. That’s when you can really see Him. It’s the rainbow after the storm. It’s in the eyes of someone who believes with everything in them that God has a plan for this, too.
You never really know what’s going on. Don’t be the sheep who follows the sheep in front of you, but has never met the Shepherd. No matter what people want you to think, everybody has some damage that only Jesus can justify.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”-Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
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Posted: August 10th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: aftermath, change, sin |
8 Comments »
I wrote an article for the “Society for Christian Psychology” newsletter recently and wanted to share it with you.
Here is a side note that will help you understand where I am coming from in this article: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is most commonly brought on by facing your own mortality and by losing your security. You can face your own mortality by witnessing it or by experiencing it yourself. The symptoms include numbness, hyper-vigilance, and flashbacks. The treatment includes therapy to replace damaging thoughts with peace-giving thoughts. A common form of therapy is group therapy where a person can be in a setting with others who have walked similar paths. This helps alleviate the feelings of being the only on who is going through what they have gone through. It’s a safe place to talk about fears, emotions, and learn coping skills.
I hope this article makes you think.
” Any time people come face to face with their own mortality or [lose] certainty, they stand a chance developing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. When I think of a person who is ‘broken’ from their sin, I think of PTSD. However, the symptoms can look like something else entirely. They can look like self-pity, lack of empathy, and [remorselessness] when they are so far in the opposite direction, it’s spiritually killing them and mentally altering them.
I always thought I was a good person. I knew right from wrong and I was good at making the sacrifices it took to choose right. When I had an extramarital affair, all of the good I thought I had bled out of me through the lesion my choices made. I lost myself.
I didn’t have a great marriage, but I had a relatively good life. I was able to give my children something that I didn’t grow up with: a life free of abuse, two parents, and stability. My sin destroyed that, too. I lost what gave me value.
I didn’t have a strong family. I was adopted at 10 and ran away when I was 17. When I became a Christian, my church friends became my family. I relied on their opinion of me. I relied on them for my faith. When I sinned, I lost every single one of them.
I lost my identity, my sense of self-worth, and almost everyone I loved and it was my fault.
Sin sent a shockwave of finality through me. I felt like I was dog-paddling in the middle of an ocean of hopelessness with no land or lifeboat in sight. Denial kept me spinning in circles, wondering if this was all just a really bad dream.
My emotions were elusive. Emotions come with conscious awareness. I was numb and detached until my denial and shock began to be pummeled by flashbacks. I was haunted by my actions, tormented by my cheap justifications, and had no shield from the truth in the accusations. Hell had a rap sheet printed about me and the father of lies was telling the truth.
Sometimes people search for God in the wrong places. They try to fill the ache in their spirit with things and people. They just have to be told that the answer to their heart’s lament is Jesus. However, Christians who sin already know who God is. They already know that Jesus is the answer to the ache. And many of them believe that they can no longer have Him. I was one of those people.
Whatever I had learned about God in my past left me believing that His hands were too short for someone who messed up as bad as I did. I believed that the only One who could save me would not save me. I knew about forgiveness and I abused it. I was no longer worthy of asking. Jesus was not an option for me.
I became hyper vigilant. My affair started through email. I refused to email men. It started with a friendship. I refused to become friends with men. My affair was with a friend’s husband. I refused to make new girl friends.
I have lost most of my memory from the first two or so years after my sin. Some are completely gone and some are hazy when they’re brought up. I do remember being woken up by extreme feelings of guilt. Hopelessness wouldn’t let me sleep. I was paranoid and spent a lot of time wondering when I was going to be arrested, or served some sort of papers that would solidify my condemnation. The official word hadn’t been delivered, but I was already mentally preparing myself for the sentence. Then I would think about what that sentence was. There is no preparing yourself for eternity in hell. Terror would screech through me like a cat on fire.
I clench my jaw when I’m under stress. An orthodontic surgeon was addressing some concerns I had with my jaw recently. I felt something come out of place while eating a cranberry chicken salad wrap on a November afternoon, five months after my affair. Four years later, the doctor was asking me if I had been hit in the head with a baseball bat. My jaw had popped out of the joint, scar tissue had sealed it out, and my bite was misaligned. I’ll need surgery and braces to put it back.
The other day, my family and I were watching a series of old home video we found in the computer. The video was taken a little over two years after my affair. As I watched, I became embarrassed and almost afraid from what I saw. I was the one holding the camera, filming my girls playing. As I followed them through the house, I caught the view of my 20-month-old daughter on the top bunk of her sister’s bunk bed. I acknowledged her, I told her to stop jumping, and I turned the camera back to her sisters. “Oh, my gosh.” I said while watching, “I can’t believe I let her play up there.”
That is not the kind of mother I am. My house was messy. That is not how I keep a house. “I know. “ My husband replied, “It’s hard for me to watch.” My daughter wasn’t safe up there, my house was in disarray, and I was behaving ‘normally’. I could hear myself talk and I sounded upbeat. I don’t remember that day. I don’t remember it, even from watching it. My kids have switched rooms over the years. I don’t remember the bunk beds ever being in that room. It’s eerie, it scares me, and it makes me think.
The treatment that Christians often get from other Christians when they sin the ‘big’ sins is so incredibly damaging that a person needs an extreme intervention to realign their thoughts. Because it is only by grace that a person can be saved, they have come face to face with their mortality when they don’t know the magnitude of God’s grace. When their lives are forever changed by their sin, they have lost their certainty.
I still have flashbacks once in a while. I’ll suddenly be holding my head, shaking it back and forth, saying, “No!” It’s involuntary and takes me a minute to push it out. People can make the mistake of seeing the flashbacks as self-pity. They can see the hyper-vigilance as overboard and fake. People can see the numbness and emotional distance as not being remorseful.
As a result, the very things that are used in therapy for a person suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder are withheld. Instead of people helping them replace the tormenting thoughts with peace producing thoughts, they are highlighting the damage and guilt while reminding them that it’s their fault. Instead of being in a community of people who have been broken by their sin and know what grace is, they are removed from the community and disowned. I know this isn’t the case in every Christian community, but it’s a prevalent issue and it can be done without conscious intent.
People who sin, especially Christians who sin, need to know the truth about Jesus. They need to know that no matter what they’ve done, God loves them and will never leave them. They need to know that it is a gift that cannot be earned or lost. The measurement of grace is eternity, that’s why it’s so hard to understand. Misunderstanding cuts it short for those who need it.
The reminder of hell does not change people. The reminder of Jesus does. Only the truth can set people free and the only Truth is Jesus. Only after they believe in and accept His forgiveness can they authentically ask for forgiveness from the one’s they hurt. Authenticity comes from Godly sorrow, and Godly sorrow comes from His love. People have to be convinced of the story of His love before they can be healed.” - Quoted from the “Society for Christian Psychology” website
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Posted: August 6th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: change, grace, love wins |
7 Comments »
People say that grace makes it okay to sin. It’s ludicrous. The first thing that God does is make it very clear what your sin was because it’s the only way you can receive grace. When a person is fully aware of their sin, the knowledge has a power so destructive that the only answer, the only salvation, is Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t soft on sin. His purpose was to fulfill the law, to fulfill righteousness. The first “red letter” words in the Bible were: “…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15).” If He did not see the importance of His Father’s law, then He would not have come.
In Matthew 5, Jesus went through some commonly known facts about the way people in His day conducted their lives. He said, “You have heard it said…” and went on to talk about murder, lust, divorce, oaths, revenge, and enemies.
He reminded them of sins they were already aware of. If you murder someone, it’s a sin. If you have a sexual relationship with someone you’re not married to, it’s a sin. If you divorce someone, you have to do it on paper. An unofficial divorce is a sin. If you swear to something that is not true, it’s a sin. If you retaliate against someone, you can’t go above and beyond what they did to you or it’s a sin. It was okay to hold a grudge against your enemy, but not your own family.
The people He was speaking to already knew and tried to practice these things. However, He was not just pounding a message home. He took it much further. He was setting the stage for grace. By setting the stage for grace, which penetrates to the depth of the man, he had to make the law penetrate much further than action. He made it all about intent of the heart.
A person can follow all the rules, but still be a snake at heart. Jesus wants the heart.
“You’ve heard it said…., but I say…”
If you’re angry with someone, if you insult someone, if you call someone names, it’s all the same as murder. I’ve done all those things. If you look at someone you’re not married to sexually, it’s the same as committing adultery. I’ve done that. If you divorce someone who didn’t cheat on you, or if you marry someone who is divorced, it’s the same as adultery. I’ve done both of those. If you swear that something is true, even if it is true, then it’s the same as swearing to something untrue. I have done that. If you refuse to give more than someone tries to steal or borrow because they do not return it or they do not deserve it, it’s the same as taking vengeance on them. I do that.
People don’t struggle with all of them, but all people struggle with some of them. There are things we do because it’s human nature, like get angry or protect your stuff from an over-borrower. They’re symptoms of heart conditions. Why are you angry? Why do you care if you never see your favorite shirt again?
There are easy answers to those, but we’re talking about the heart here.
Anger is a secondary symptom of fear. Stinginess is a secondary symptom of pride.
Do you see what Jesus was doing when He preached these things? He’s getting at the heart. He was making room for Himself. His view of sin makes it clear that there is a need for Him because He is the only one who could fulfill the law.
Jesus is not soft on sin. He sees it more gaping than the deep grooves on the tablets and the slick parts on heads of saints. You can’t escape your need for Him. He’ll make sure you know what is in your heart so that you can give that ugliness to Him. Trust Him to be your righteousness when you know you’re a failure.
All the while, there is something you can practice doing:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 7:12
We all need validation. We all need love. Jesus and His grace give you license, not to sin, but to stop worrying about yourself so that you can build someone else up.
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Posted: July 16th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: aftermath, change, divisions, faith, forgive, grace, hope, love wins, sin |
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So many have been hurt by people who call themselves Christians. Whatever the reason, or circumstance, wrong was done to repay wrong done and the cycle goes on and on and on. Slander follows slander. Lies fuel bitter retribution. Don’t you want the cycle to stop?
They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. -Ecclesiastes 8:10
How is it that the prideful and self-righteous can sit through a time of worship and not hear the call to love and forgive and restore? How can they preach the Gospel to some and withhold it from others? You see them unbothered by losing you. You hear of them using you and your failure in messages while not including your salvation. You are always lost to them and that fuels their pride. They get pats on the back for their message at your expense. Where is God, to them, while He is holding you? How can God be with them and you at the same time? That is the type of question that can fuel your pride, too.
It’s a trap.
The slow hand of God to right the wrongs can send you in one of two directions. You know who your God is by where this injustice sends you. Are you patient, putting your trust in God? Do you believe that you’re forgiven and loved in spite of their opinions? Or do you fight to show them their wrongs and refuse to move forward on your own? Are you stuck in the filth they refuse to wash off? When someone gets honor for bearing your sin and you get slandered for being a sinner, does it set your pride on fire?
You have to watch out.
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. -Ecclesiastes 8:11
God was patient with you while you were making your terrible choices. He didn’t give up on you while you turned your back to Him. Jesus didn’t come back while you were in the wrong bed.
Don’t wish that, which you were spared, to be poured over another.
God gave you time to come around. And here you are. God is giving them time to do the same. Have the same patience with them that He had with you. It may take a long time. Much longer than you took, in some cases. Hope for their day like you had yours. Hope and don’t give up. Move forward with your new life and let them go at their own pace. Nothing they say can put a price on your head. You are not the hunted. Your “WANTED” posters are out of date and faded. You have been pardoned. Sentence served by Jesus.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. -2 Peter 3:8-9
Look at your own failure and what it taught you: A lesson in grace you could have learned no other way. Give them the time to learn the same lesson. Pride is a hidden sin that is hard to nail down on their own. They may not see it for a long time. Your sin was easier to see. It was messy and blatant.
It’s easy to see where you are and where others are not, but it wasn’t that long ago that you were where they are. You learned your lesson and learned it hard. Don’t be so quick to forget what it was like to not know how wrong you were.
“Someone will say what is lost can never be saved. Despite all my rage…” -Smashing Pumpkins, “Rat in a Cage”
Let the cycle stop with you. Until then, you’re just a rat in their cage.
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Posted: April 14th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: change, think |
4 Comments »
“What would you do in my situation?”
“I would never be in your situation.”
“Then compassion is impossible. And if that’s impossible, then so is love.”
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. -Matthew 7:2
What’s mine is yours. Make sure you want what you give.
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