Posted: January 10th, 2013 |
Filed under: life | Tags: aftermath, faith, spiritual abuse |
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When someone’s sin is revealed, people can end up denying everything they know about Jesus with their response. People will often act like there is no God, no mercy, and no hope for the bad guy. They are dehumanized in such a way that they can become a meal for war-blood gluttons. People can rationalize themselves into being spiritual tyrants. They behave as though God is weighed down in royal robes and flanked by fan waving, flute playing angel-fairies completely oblivious to the current circumstances of the wayward people He created. In a world that feels like the concept of God is outdated and theoretical, it doesn’t help when His “special” followers dress up like Roman Soldier relics and hang the sinners upside down.
Much of the ammunition used against the sinners is gathered in those first few days. They’re accused of not being sorry enough. Having no remorse is a bigger sin than the sin itself. Most people will give the sinner about a split ambiguous second to explain himself, then he is abandoned intently and intensely. It’s as though the biggest statement for setting yourselves apart as Bible believing, God fearing Christians is located on a cold shoulder and dripping from a sharp tongue.
When someone is forced to face the reality of their own sin, it’s not unlike finding out that the person closest to them has died. Denial comes first. Not denial like “I didn’t do it” (though they could actually say those words, like the blindsided can say “They’re not dead”, even though they are.) The same way the brain can live separated from the body for about 8 minutes, the conscious awareness of a person can deny their own “death to innocence” for a few days. A head separated from the body can, theoretically, look over at the headless body and still, initially, try to survive. Reality, what we know to be true, what hits our awareness with our acceptance, is only an echo of something no amount of denial can change.
God have mercy on the sinner who has the audacity to cry. They are disrobed of every human quality and spiritually beaten like dogs by people who intend to use the sinner’s failure as a saint’s statement of faith.
‘I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down like an animal. But now, up on your feet—I have a job for you. I’ve handpicked you to be a servant and witness to what’s happened today, and to what I am going to show you. I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.’ -Acts 26:16-18 MSG
It’s true that the way you handle another’s sin is a statement of faith. Maybe it’s time for them to consider their own faith before moving forward with the emotion-engorged reaction. You can either rub their noses in their mistakes, or open their eyes to the gift of Jesus. There is a difference between those who strive and those who have received.
Those who try to maintain their own version of salvation are brutal to those who mess up. The same way the greedy will crush the weak, the spiritually greedy will use the failures of others to diminish the appearance of their own.
Those who have received the gift of salvation want others to have it, too. They knew that they did not pay for their salvation with their decision. They received because their eyes were opened to the truth. The frustration of the farm hands is exasperated when they lead someone to the well and find it to be flanked by self-important tyrants who ration it out to the so-called worthy. They say you must clean up before you can draw from the well. But, the water is the only thing that can cleanse them. It’s meant to be consumed from within, not without.
You don’t sip living water in fancy glasses held in clean hands. You jump in and open your mouth.
“If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.”
“Master! … Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!”-John 13:8-9 MSG
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Posted: December 3rd, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: advice, divisions, faith, grace, judgment, love wins, sin, spiritual abuse |
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“I’m struggling with 1 Corinthians 5. I understand that we are not to judge the world and that we are to lovingly and gently correct sinners. But what about those in the church that are living in sexual sin?”
I get asked this question often. Every time I set out to answer it, I revisit it like it’s new. I know my own bias when it comes to a person focusing on another’s sin and wanting to find a way to fix the problems they see. I know that 1 Corinthians 5 is used by people to tear others down and throw them out. I think that people need to be careful when considering using scripture to rip someone else apart and expel them. There is a huge difference between the way God handles people who need handling and the way another person handles people who need handling. People are driven by pride. God is driven by love.
What is it that is causing you to sit in your pew and consider the sins of those who are around you? Did you not get the recognition that you think you earned? What does it say about you that you are so focused on what others are doing wrong and not on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about you? Were you hurt by disregard and are now trying to point out the faults of others who were not disregarded?
Regarding “those who are living in sexual sin”: How do you know their story? How do you know what the Holy Spirit is working on inside of them? You don’t know where people are coming from. You don’t know the journey they’re on. When you’re prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak love into someone’s life, then you would know what to say. When you’re prompted by pride to address the sin that you are certain is taking place, then you are at odds with the Holy Spirit. You are unsettled and are searching for clarity because you’re in the dark. Pride makes you fight to find footing. It makes you compare yourself with others. When they come up lacking, you want to do something about it. Misery loves company. What company are you seeking?
Take “sexual” out of it. Sin is sin. Take a step back and use the logic you’re working with while you replace their particular sin with one that is less graphic and less personally offensive. If sin is sin, then let their sin be regarded the same as any sin. The same template is used for everyone. Replace their sin with one of which you are guilty. Answer your questions as though they were being asked about your sin. The measure you use for others is the measure that will be used on you.
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with themeasure you use it will be measured to you. -Matthew 7:2 ESV
Now try to find Jesus in your quest for answers. Let your thoughts and actions begin with Jesus and remain with Jesus. When you take your eyes off of Him and let your thoughts and behavior be instigated and justified by another’s sin, you will end up wrong. Let your actions be explained by the finished work of Jesus. If someone were to ask you why you are doing what you’re doing, let your answer be: “Because I believe in the salvation power of Jesus.” That’s what sets you apart from an unbelieving world.
God is big enough to take care of His wayward children. If you can’t see Jesus in someone, then you are blinded by your own pride and personal offense. You should wait until you can see Him in them, then you will know what to say.
In all of this, I’m not saying that they are not wrong. You just have to be aware of your own motivation and protect your heart from the pride that plagues all of us. That’s all I’m saying. Guard your heart and don’t let your critical eyes be justified by someone else’s sin. Stop thinking about their sin. It’s a death trap because the spirit thrives on life and love. You are much more beautiful when your eyes are wide with love and your heart is soft with grace than when your eyes are slits of suspicion and your heart is hard with jealousy. Grace doesn’t give people a license to sin, it keeps you in right relationship with God.
Use this scripture to guide your thought process:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.-Philippians 4:8-9 MSG
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Posted: September 7th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: change, deception, grace, purpose, spiritual abuse |
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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: July 17th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: aftermath, grace, hope, spiritual abuse |
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When a person messes up and does something selfish and stupid, it’s hard for them to accept grace. Most people live as though grace is stored in the petty-cash box and needing it means you are being impulsive or you made some bad choices that put you in a tight spot. It’s not a good thing to have to get into that box. It’s embarrassing.
People divvy it up like a budget and reserve the option to stipend. If you look at grace like it’s inherited money, then you can see a point when someone needs to be cut off or they’ll ruin. You block a trust fund based on the best interest of the money.
Benefactor, who has set themselves up as your trustee? Your inner circle? A distant leader? What does your church say about what you’ve done? Can petty-cash-grace cover it, or has a line been drawn in a meeting with your name at the center? What happens behind closed doors and whose best interest is the focus? Why do they want to keep it so quiet if they’re not doing something that people won’t agree with?
The sinner is forced to disappear and the rest of the people have nothing but questions and gossip to figure out why. No wonder nobody reaches out to the broken, married man isolated in a bachelor’s condo trying to figure out what he has to live for. If his church family knew what had happened and what he was going through, he wouldn’t be alone. I bet he’d have an army escorting him back to his spot of worship. But, the board room secrets and the stone-hearted grace-fund trustee hide the truth by keeping them distracted and hyped enough to not realize they’ve been part of an old-fashioned shunning. Ask them if they want that. The good one’s don’t.
There is a woman who just landed on her knees because she was told that her church felt sorry for her children because she was their sinful mother. The stress of having unconditional love taken from her threatens to kill the child she carries in her womb. The medicine that stops the stress-abortion also sedates her. She’ll make it, but for what purpose? Does her church know that their name is on her sentence?
There is a man who wasn’t allowed to see his daughter after he left because “divorce is too confusing for children”. He sinks inside himself in June and retells the story of her birth every September. Landmarks are full of questions, like heirlooms with missing jewels. It’s been so long, that now it would be confusing for her. Is someone going to help him make sure his daughter knows she’s wanted and loved?
The man sits in his apartment surrounded by guns and whiskey. He had one avenue to God that his damage couldn’t block and it was through his music. His church unplugged his guitar and put the microphone in front of someone else when he came to them for help. They set the rules and changed them so many times that it was clear they never had any intention of getting out of the way between him and God. I guarantee that his church didn’t know that’s why he left. That’s why the entire worship team left.
The heroes are the nobodies, but the nobodies need to know they’re heroes or they’ll never try to scale the walls.
The ocean of guilt and condemnation has a storm twisting above it and it threatens to claim the dry land as ocean floor. You have nowhere to go and not enough fight to save yourself.
Then, finally, comes the voice:
“Even then, as bad as it will be”—God’s Decree!—”it will not be the end of the world for you.” -Jeremiah 5:18 MSG
How is it possible to recover from your own sin when you can’t go back? How is it that good people can say one thing, but God says another? They tell you you’re beyond restoration and God calls you His beloved. They won’t talk to you, but He says He died for you.
“Yes, me, who made the shorelines to contain the ocean waters. I drew a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. Waves roll in but cannot get through; breakers crash but that’s the end of them.” -Jeremiah 5:22 MSG
You’re standing in the sand and the ocean breathes salty. The only line that was drawn in the scripture was drawn with you and Him on one side and the rest of the rock throwing world on the other. And that line cannot be crossed.
It will be bad, but it won’t be the end.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt.-John 8:6 MSG
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Posted: June 7th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: divisions, faith, love wins, spiritual abuse |
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A friend asked me to explain the phrase, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” I think people say that for a few reasons. Sometimes it’s to get religious people off of their back and sometimes they mean that they are believers, but not like what is typically seen.
Saying that someone is a Christian can mean different things to different people. Some are drawn to them, like they’re family. Some want to avoid them, like they’re a former abuser.
The type of Christian you are and how you come across to others depends on your personality. That’s no brain buster, but there is something interesting about the way personalities work: they don’t change. You can’t teach yourself a new personality. Different environments can bring out different behaviors, but as we age, we gravitate to who we really are and that is unavoidable.
I think that sometimes people want God to make them into somebody else because they would feel more worthy of love that way.
The thousands of personality characteristics can be organized into five different categories. Two of them are consistent predictors as to whether or not a person will be a believer, and a third is a consistent predictor of what kind of believer. This is strong evidence that backs up scripture saying God chose us from the beginning (Ephesians 1:4; John 15:16)), but that’s a different subject.
The two personality traits that believers rank high in are agreeableness and conscientiousness. Agreeableness is characterized by empathy, helpfulness, and ability to trust. Conscientiousness people are systematic, self-controlled, and goal oriented. I find it interesting that in decades of studies, the relationship between belief and personality is consistent. Religion does not give people these qualities, it’s these qualities that turn a person toward religion.
In a study done last year by Vassilis Saroglou at the Center for Psychology and Religion, they were looking deeper into the type of believer a person becomes. They took a look at the other three personality categories to see what makes a person ‘spiritual’ and what makes a person ‘religious’. ‘Spiritual’ is less structural (legalistic) than ‘religious’. The study found that those who are higher in ‘openness’ are more spiritual than those who scored lower. The level of a person’s ‘openness’ determines how much they enjoy challenging and complex ideas, and how far they will travel out of their comfort zone.
They set people up in a scenario where they had to catch a train, but were stalled when someone’s suitcase flew open. They were observed for their response. Did they help the other person or just walk by? These people were tested twice. In the one test, they had a social or familial relationship with the other person, in the other test, they didn’t know the person at all. The more legalistic the person was, the less likely they were to help a stranger. The less legalistic they were, the less preference they showed between someone in their inner circle and a stranger.
Outsiders are less likely to receive help or kindness from more conservative believers. Conservative (religious, legalistic) believers show strong preference to people who believe like they do. They are more likely to ignore those who do not.
I suppose this could be a more defined way of understanding what people mean when they say they are spiritual, but not religious.
Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?” Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” -Matthew 9:10-13 MSG
The point is, those who have a hard time being challenged by the depth of the Truth and being outside of their comfort zone are going to have a hard time with Jesus and who Jesus chooses to lift up. It’s not impossible for conservative Christians to love people who aren’t like them, it just completely goes against their personality and requires a lot of self-denial.
UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that some of my phrasing may be confusing and for that, I apologize. Instead of rewriting this, I have posted clarifications in the comments. Feel free to add your thoughts.
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