Monday, September 29, 2008

"We Are Going After The Lost"

"If you call me and I come to Oregon, we are going after the lost."

Wake up!
-- Pastor-elect for Salem First Baptist Church

How can I bear this happiness? The LORD has answered your prayers, and, mine. This man sees the lost of this world, like I do! Here is a paraphrase of the things Pastor Mark said, along with my responses interjected to each thought.

He said that we can't just keep doing church for our own pleasure. It isn't enough to have expository preaching in the pulpit; if that's all we have our doors will still close. We need to get to know the culture and speak the language of the lost around us. Praise God! This church could be on its last generation, unless we're willing to be a little uncomfortable and change our priorities. What does it take to make a church grow, you ask? Babies. Babies. They're not all that great. You have to change diapers, you have to watch tv shows that they want to watch.... When you got married you once had a lot of freedom to do the kinds of things you like to do. But once you committed yourself to the responsibility of being a parent, you gave up a lot of freedom so that you could do things with the children. It's the same with the church.

The kinds of people coming to faith in Christ, today, are not the same kinds of people that came to Christ a generation ago. The people of today receiving salvation, are broken. Broken, like you don't want to know all the things they've been through in their life. We expect that when they accept Christ their lifestyle will shortly turn around, but that's just not practical many times. They might go on having multiple abortions, or sleeping with every guy that comes their way.

Praise God for this message!! Thank you!!

Discipleship today is labor-intensive. These new Christians need help all the time. Expect to get a phone call at 3 AM, or four calls in one day as they face their temptations and need encouragement to not stray. How can we expect them to be put together? She can't act like a mature woman because she has no idea what that looks like. Men have no idea what it means to be a father. They will slowly learn it by prayer and patience and faith in God.

Wake up! Wake up! God has been listening and He is ready to bless you and I. He was listening all along, wasn't He?

The pastor-elect said the culture of today is marked by some clear trends:

1 -- they resent and are suspicious of authority

2 -- they don't believe in absolute truth

So just using scripture is not going to win them.

Praise God for this message!

On average it takes about six months of someone coming to church, hearing about Jesus and experiencing love in relationships, before they will --believe-- and receive the gospel. In fact there is a church in Ogden, Utah where the LDS people are coming. For them, give it an additional two months - eight months on average - of them attending. NOT being called out. Not being noticed, or preached to. Just being there and experiencing it, is how they will be prepared to put their faith in Jesus.

Praise God! Wake up, wake up, God is coming near to the broken hearted, the downtrodden, the forsaken. I love you LORD, for doing this in my sight, in the days of MY life!!

He said it isn't enough to win people by having a friendly church. Friendly churches? They're a dime-a-dozen. What the world is hungry for, is a true friend. There is a difference between being friends and being friendly; a world of difference.

What do you do to save the prostitutes in the inner city? You go out there and you go get 'em. You don't need a build a program; you, go!

Yes, Oh, LORD! Send me, with your grace! I believe in You in this way.

Recalibrating Myself

What have I been trying to say, I don't know?!? but this person, he just said it for me. He is my advocate. I went up and I told him; I said to him, "You? You are my advocate. You said everything that is important to me. Thank you."

All the people in my world? Family. Neighbors. Other religions. Even "carnal" evangelicals. This is what I've been trying to say all along. Free grace theology read Galatians and Romans to me in the way I needed verification. The gospel should be presented as a true gift of God through faith alone.  That was the biggest thing, till now - this is bigger. Why?

Because I think I would rather live my life without being understood or alone according to truth, before, before I would let my church be comfortable turning away from the people I long to see know Christ. I would rather forsake the satisfaction of enjoying my own kind, from even affiliating myself as evangelical, before I would promote another moment of pain and disillusion for those kinds of people who only need a little more effort than what we think they're worth. Too those in the church have frequently dismissed that suggestion for being radical. We, evangelical Christianity and I, we were at odds with each other.

I don't want to choose, God, I always have thought to myself. If I have to choose between those whom You love and the ones who I feel comfortable around, I'll spend the rest of my days with the lost, no regrets.

Doctrine such as the gospel affects who? Mostly it affects me. But everyday I face a world that needs Christ. This is why I felt so little familiarity with evangelical Christianity for this long. Because my friends, my family, my neighbors were alienated by this old (scripture only/first) method of discipleship. And I didn't even have the words to say this, until this week.

Now I know. I will stand up, ready to serve, and bear the infallible scriptures with pride, but now with sanctioned temperance.  It is finally best to share the gospel while expending equal effort toward love and presence.  The Spirit wants to engage hearts, whole persons, whole lives.

LORD, you have found me and knitted me back into the fold!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

That Greatest Priority

Whether or not those who stand in opposition to our truth will ever change a hair of their beliefs, is irrelevant. Whether or not they will change a jot of their personal practices, matters none. The command to love remains, in my mind. Whether or not we will ever stand in mutual fellowship because of commands for separation, matters none as well. We still must, even at a great distance, be actively and intentionally practicing love for all.

(But, if you ask me, I'd say that obeying this command is the most powerful worker of change, but you can disagree and that's okay with me).

Over at JP's blog I have been having a conversation with Jonathan (JP) and Tim Nichols about the free grace rift. I invite you to read along. Here is the post I made today, which I really want to broadcast in a bigger way:

Hi Tim,

I too apologize for taking a long time to reply. This issue is weighing heavily on me in the last couple days. Things are getting worse; not better. Most of this has to do with perceptions of how to reach solutions.

I was thinking today, about the command to love. Isn't love more important and more powerful than doctrine? We are to contend for the faith. But if we're not loving it counts nought.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 cor 13:2

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 john 4:12

I read 1 cor 13 and this is what I see:

- Love never fails
- Knowledge is in part
- Knowledge will pass away
- three remain: faith hope and love
- but the greatest is love

I read 1 john 4 and I notice:

- Love is discussed in a context of testing the spirits and messages of falsehood and error from truth and godliness
- Anyone who lives in love is abiding with God
- We are commanded to love
- Whoever lives in love, lives in God
- God lives in whoever lives in love

What do you think?

To me, we may all be honestly loving one another in terms of how we feel and what we are attempting.

But on the other hand, I know it is true that love can be mistranslated. Have you ever heard of the five love languages? In the same way when I send a message of love it may fail to be "heard" or "received" toward its recipient. So in my mind it begs the question: Isn't the success of us loving as God commanded, dependent upon whether or not it has been received?

So we need to get really close to, and listen to, the person whom we desire to love in Christ. And listen for how they receive love.

What do you think of this?


Friday, September 26, 2008

The Fundamentalism Project

"The Fundamentalism Project" was a research project done in the early 90s, analyzing movements considered "fundamentalist." Its goal was to draw out generalities that describe the phenomenon, why it begins, how it ends, and so forth. They compared fundamentalisms in all forms of politics, ethics, religion, etc., in society; it was also cross-cultural with no historical connectedness so that the observed similarities could not possibly have germinated one another.

(Somewhere in the five volume work,) author and professor Martin Marty published this list on the qualities of fundamentalism:

1. religious idealism is basis for personal and communal identity;
2. fundamentalists understand truth to be revealed and unified;
3. it is intentionally scandalous (outsiders cannot understand it and will always be outsiders);
4. fundamentalists envision themselves as part of a cosmic struggle;
5. they seize on historical moments and reinterpret them in light of this cosmic struggle;
6. they demonize their opposition and are reactionary;
7. fundamentalists are selective in what parts of their tradition and heritage they stress;
8. they are led by males;
9. they envy modernist cultural hegemony and try to overturn the distribution of power.

Most evangelicals no doubt read this and see themselves represented by it. It therefore is very interesting when, at least for me I can turn around and notice that those who hold to Duluthian doctrines, are just as sufficiently described above. Only, in this perspective I am an outsider, looking in. We all have these qualities depending on perspective. This list therefore cannot be used for pointing fingers or finding wrong-doing. It's just so that we can understand our brothers in what they're saying and what they're doing.

You may also enjoy reading this article, a report by Marty recounting the process of selection of the fundamentalist movements to study. Out of this material I have made five general summaries (in bold) applicable at this time to free grace issues:

Fundamentalism is born when conservatism is newly faced with a modernizing influence:

It was hypothesized that for a conservatism or traditionalism to become fundamentalist, it leaders must perceive a threat that they tend to call modern (or some cognate term). They may refer to putative embodiments of modernity or modernism, such as “the West,” “the imperialist,” and “the secular humanist,” or to more abstract phenomena, such as “pluralism,” “relativism,” and “moral erosion.”

Fundamentalism has less to do with defending traditions as most people casually assume:

Although modernists had evidently earlier regarded fundamentalisms as belonging to culturally fossilized strata of humanity, those movements have turned out to be very much alive everywhere. They are innovative, adaptive, and at home with technology. Many fundamentalisms may look like “old-time religions” and may convince themselves that they are traditionalist, yet most are eclectic and selective as to what they would retrieve or repristinate from the presumed past and old texts.

Fundamentalism is more than being only conservative:

In the American Protestant case, the word was invented—and chosen over conservatism, traditionalism, and the like—to be precisely and pointedly a sign of differentiation and verbal aggression. As some sociologists point out, leaders of movements at certain stages want their groups to be stigmatized. Stigmatization is part of the group bonding experience.

It maximizes risk in extending trust and hope (and therefore experiences the most disappointment), when extending it with the outsiders who are the most like themselves:

In both cases, however, fundamentalisms are Manichaean in the sense that they sharply differentiate between the realm of their god and their satan, between the elect people and the outsiders, between “us” and “them,” allowing for no middle ground. Because of this characteristic, fundamentalisms may and often do resist some features of political life, including compromise. In fact, fundamentalists tend to be more disdainful and wary of the moderates within their own religious complexes than they are of liberals or representatives of other faiths, who are unmistakably “other.”

Their aspiration is to be the dominant cultural influence in their realm of relevancy:

It helps explain why fundamentalisms are so concerned with such apparently trivial symbolic issues as prayer in public schools and the display of religious symbols on public property. Such matters have little to do with profound faith or moral development; instead, they indicate fundamentalists’ perceptions of who is staking claim to a culture that “they” have temporarily taken from “us.”

I suppose I'm already in trouble, I think (if this material has any truth), according to this next statement (below). I am not smart enough, after only a few days of thinking and reading, to apply and prepare by changing my offense. Marty describes the willingness-factor of fundamentalists to make themselves available for the study:

It occurred to some of us that the project’s offense, in the eyes of some critics, lay not so much in our use of the term fundamentalism as it did in our comparison of various movements. In fact, the one feature that kept otherwise sympathetic fundamentalist scholars from participating in the study—which many of them said they regarded to be fair-minded and full of positive intent—was the fact that their movements would rather not be compared with any others.

{1} Too Bad We're So Relevant (Marty’s Stated Meeting Report to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995, at the conclusion of the 6-year Fundamentalism Project)

More reading material by Marty

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An apt quote

What could I ever give in return that would equal the gift the LDS people have given me? The gift of the second chance. These people have lived under the fire of "theological legalism" all their life. That makes them an expert panel. I would be a no-good evangelical today if they had not put up with me and taught me about the resounding gong residing in my own mouth.

This guy is not going to be happy for me making such a fuss, but I don't care what he thinks (see how well they've taught me? ;0)

Barry had an excellent quote on his blog the other day. I wanted to share it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Relationships that build victims {1}

Focus on Performance

The dynamic: How people act is more important than who they are or what is happening to them on the inside. Love and acceptance are earned by doing certain things. Living up to the standard is what earns acceptance, the result of which is acceptance of behaviors, not people.


The dynamic: Relationships and behaviors are manipulated by very powerful, unspoken rules. These rules are seldom, if ever, said out loud. In fact, when spoken out loud many of them sound ridiculous. No one says out loud, 'What people think about us is more important than what is really happening.' The 'can't talk' rule keeps people quiet by labeling them as the problem if they notice and confront a problem.

Coding is an example of verbal manipulation. When we 'code,' we say something in a crooked manner. Messages are sent through a verbal code that others are supposed to decode. People also code non-verbally with body language - by giving dirty looks, becoming loud or quiet, or leaving the room in a sullen or disconnect attitude.

Triangling is another way to act manipulative in relationships. This simply means to send a message to someone through another person instead of delivering it directly.

Unbalanced Interrelatedness

The dynamic: Members of shame-based systems are either under-involved or over-involved with each other. Another word for under-involvement is neglect. There is no relationship structure in which to learn about behaviors and consequences. Another word for over-involvement is enmeshment. This is when there are no clear boundaries between people. Two lies govern: First, it is your responsibility to make sure everyone else is happy and well and you have the ability to achieve this. Second, everyone else is responsible to make sure you are happy and well and they are capable of doing so. Consequently, everyone is responsible for everyone else, while ironically no one is responsible for himself or herself.

{1} "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing & Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church," by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen. Bethany House Publishers, 1991; pp. 56-57, 58-59

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Offense of the Cross

What should a man do, if, the one for whom he has a critical message, turns aside to his own opinion?

The assumption sometimes is made that if they do not listen, they must therefore be seeking to disobey God in their heart.

Paul had authority to speak for God. He said, "...when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works effectively in you who believe." 1 thess 2:13. Since then there has not been an equal authority for truth than those words of Paul (and the other apostles). The only way to put our message on par with Paul's is to only quote scripture and not interpret it.... There have been many teachers of the word, but they should not desire it so easily. What if there has been error? And we all know that all of us have said or taught error to those we speak with, at one time or another.

So, how can we tell a true message from a false one?

I don't think it's supposed to be easy. At least not when we use more than just scripture, but also our own words. I think it has to be up to each of us to hear the right in each other when in fact they do have something right.

Then, how we preach should be biblical as well:

"Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. ...that we might not be a burden to any of you...." 1 thess 2:6-9

Just because someone lacks gentleness when sharing their message does not automatically make it false, nor do messages that are gracious and patient mean they are true, conversely, either. But, it is a sobering thought, to remember Paul's instructions here that those who impart a message of truth, should do so with obvious affection and no burden to the listener....

And with all this improvement, the listener still might reject the message. Does this mean they are out of fellowship with God?

Could be. I know that Abraham was 75 when he first obeyed the Lord's voice, and 85 when he was deceived into bearing a child with a maid instead of his wife. Another thirteen years later God said, "You will have a son with your wife Sarah," and Abraham's reply was essentially "What about Ishmael? Isn't he good enough?" Some time later, Sarah heard the promise of God that she would have a son, and laughed, then denied laughing. What a big mess of deception, disobedience, and disbelief... at least in part. But did God abandon the work? God still called him "friend," and Abraham, though having many hiccups, walked with God by faith.

If you or I were looking at Abraham at any one year in his life, like we do our brothers and sisters in Christ, would we have seen all that God was working in him? Probably not. God does not look at the outward things like men do. He looks into the heart.

What if our brother in Christ is experiencing a hiccup? A laugh? A time to wonder "is this good enough?" They hear the Word now, but they can't really process it in a way where we will see the outward change, till much farther along.

In the meantime, should we second-guess their own profession that they're still walking by faith with Christ?

I've seen sensitivity on the part of all, even the beginnings of change according to pleas for righteousness. Even when there has been no movement, on some issues, they have at least clearly listened and considered; twice, three times, seven times....

The offense of the cross is this: there is no quick and easy fix. Obedience may be slow in coming. But, it just does not count if not borne out of faith. That is the Way of Christianity. Jesus fulfilled the law, and we grow in righteousness by faith in that alone.

We certainly do not want to put so much pressure on our brother that they feel obligation to obey us instead of God.

Obligation makes superficial obedience, which, when removed later on, proves general lawlessness.

Meanwhile we are disciples of a God who justifies ungodly people because there is active faith in Christ and what He accomplished at the cross.

We can't expect to have Paul's authority; that was a special, one time thing for those who were actually taught by Jesus Himself. But, God uses us and uses His Word. Should we use Satan-esque language for their disobedience to our message? Paul might have properly deserved the privilege to say such things. I'm not so certain it's right for us. Certainly, where there is error, it is the work of the enemy, but what believer hasn't learned to love studying scripture to put down that very threat? Errors are the work of Satan, to be sure; but perhaps not in the way we think; perhaps not all of the error belongs to the listener, alone.

I just assume that before I'd ever use the finality and negativity of damnation that comes by error, and the predictions of deprivation wrought from making mistakes, I ought to first use that language over myself. The wrong thoughts and deeds I have done. Have I ever erred? Have I ever made a wrong choice? What is the spiritual substance of my errors? Are mine not also the achievement of Satan? Of course they are. Am I as alarmist and public about my former mistakes (or, the mistakes I make today which I will see in twenty years)?

"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, who passes judgment on someone else, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." rom 2:1

We all make mistakes but we are also all a work in progress. There are a few people amongst the believers who seek to cavort in a false form of godliness. Those people are the kind who do not honor the Word, take no correction from it, and give no defense for their actions. I'd like to say who I have in mind when I think of such men; if you read this, you're not that kind of guy. Special reservation for these are made for so much more than being stubborn or emotional in seasons.

The offense of the cross is this: we will not all be in conformity, outwardly. We are made blameless by walking with God, alone.

Paul says in Galatians 5:10-16

"I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."

The world hates this message. It is offensive to the human way of being, to say that our righteousness in God should stand on something greater than our knowledge. It is offensive to the human way of being, to suggest that it's okay to not be obedient in all works, today, by claiming we have faith alone. It is offensive to the human way of being, to think that God might handle someone else's life a little differently than what we think we know is right. We all want power. A true leader will point others not to conformity, but to the authority of the Spirit in faith.

Our confidence was never in our own righteousness, our own understanding, anyway. There is nothing to fear when faith leads the way. It will deliver in due time.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rwanda update (3)

Praise God for a great encouragement! This IS AMAZING.

At the Rwanda 2008 Mission Blog, this is my favorite moment. Pastor Greg enters one of the largest prisons in the world, full of murderers from the 1994 genocide:

Nobody said a word to us as we entered an amazing and antiquated site housing over 6,000 prisoners. You could hear hundreds of voices singing praises to God all over the prison grounds (even outside the wall) when we arrived. I knew I was in for something special. I would say 1500 prisoners were packed in the area celebrating worship like most American Christians have never experienced.

God's ways are beyond understanding!

He adds in email his own prayer requests:

pray for personal time and for rest, and to have power to preach two services (1500 people each) this Sunday. Limited time has made my study prep nearly impossible, so pray I preach with power, and clarity just what God wants. I'm comforted to realize its the message, not the messenger that is important. I plan to preach I Cor 15....

Unspoken Rules {1}

In abusive spiritual systems, people's lives are controlled from the outside in by rules, spoken and unspoken. Because [the rules] are not said out loud, you don't find out that they're there until you break them.

For instance, no one at a church gathering would ever say out loud, 'You know we must never disagree with the pastor on his sermons - and if you do you will never be trusted and never be allowed to minister in any capacity in this church.' In this case, the unspoken rule is: Do not disagree with the church authorities - especially the pastor - or your loyalty will be suspect. Rules like this remain unspoken because examining them in the light of mature dialogue would instantly reveal how illogical, unhealthy and anti-Christian they are. So silence becomes the fortress wall of protection, shielding the pastor's power from scrutiny or challenge.

If you did disagree openly or publicly, you would break the silence - and you would quite likely be punished. You will suffer one of two consequences: either neglect (being ignored, overlooked, shunned) or aggressive legalism (questioned, openly censured, asked to leave - in extreme cases cursed).

Ephesians 4:25 says:

"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another."

The 'Can't Talk' Rule

If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem. In some way you must be silenced or eliminated.

Those who speak up are most often told, "You were angry - you didn't confront the matter in a 'loving' way. So it proves you weren't handling the matter in a mature, Christian manner." Or, they say "The problem is not that your boundaries were crossed and violated, the problem is that you talked."

The real problem, however, is that if a Christian who feels violated stops talking, then the perpetrator will never be held accountable for his behavior.

In abusive spiritual systems, there exists a "pretend peace" -- what the prophet Jeremiah decried, saying, "The prophets say 'peace, peace,' when there is none." If what unites us is our pretending to agree, then we have nothing more than pretend peace and unity, with undercurrents of tension and backbiting.

Leaders are more accountable because of their position of authority - not less accountable. Why? Because if you are a leader people are following you, behaving the way you do. You are spiritually producing after your own kind. What are you reproducing?

{1} "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing & Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church," by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen. Bethany House Publishers, 1991; pp. 67-69

Friday, September 19, 2008

Spiritual Abuse is Not New {1}

Is there such a thing as spiritual abuse?
Are we making a big deal out of nothing?

It is far-reaching and it can be as wounding as other forms of abuse. If you're a counselor, you may balk at that, and we don't mean to minimize sexual, physical or emotional abuse, which certainly leave people with serious wounds. Spiritual abuse, however, puts people at odds with their best Friend. It causes some people to question, doubt, and even run the other direction from their Source. They see their strongest Advocate as their biggest accuser, their Ally as their enemy.

But on what authority do we base our claim that spiritual abuse does exist? As we reexamined the Bible we suddenly saw a "picture" of two opposing spiritual systems: one that is under the reign of God, intended to bring life and freedom to the people; one a false spiritual system that is under the rule of men, attempting to drive people so that they perform in religious or "pseudo-spiritual" ways, oblivious to the fact that this drains life and steals power.

Jeremiah 5:26 "...for wicked men are found among my people... they set a trap, they catch men." Here is God's lament over the situation: "An appaling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority" (vv. 30-31).

Notice that the abuse is happening from a place of religious authority. Spiritual abuse can only come from a place of power. It is possible to be abused by someone who doesn't have any true spiritual authority. In Jeremiah 6, we see spiritual neglect:

"For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, every one is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. And they have healed the brokenness of my people superficially, by saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace"(vv. 13-14).

How sad! The religious leaders are so self-consumed that they don't have time or energy to minister to people's needs. The people of God are left to make do with the religious leftovers. Today, we might parallel Jeremiah's dilemma by examining our own spiritual setting in which the people of God are so often counseled to ignore their real needs and are offered placebos in the form of easy answers, "try hard" sermons, and the latest "get rich" formulas. As in all unhealthy relationships, in a spiritually abusive system the most important thing is how things look. So the ugly and messy relational process of meeting people's real needs gets sacrificed for a better-looking but false peace.

Many times, "You just need to tell your problem to the Lord," actually means, "Just don't tell it to me," or "Quit saying it out loud."

It takes only a superficial reading of the New Testament to see that Jesus was not at odds with "sinners" -- the prostitutes, lepers and the demonized -- but with the religious system of his day. In Matthew 23, referring to the religious leaders, Jesus says,

"They tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger" (vs 4).

"Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my load is light" (vv. 28-30).

The word "weary" refers to those in the act of working themselves to the point of exhaustion. It is important to see, that despite their ceaseless efforts, the weariness only grows. Trying hard only makes things worse.

There is the neglect of real needs in favor of the "needs" of authority; then legalism replaces rest in God with demands for spiritual performance.

True prophets stand in front of a narrow gate, the one that says "Come to me, all who labor...". You can only fit through this gate if you drop all of your "works" baggage and come through alone. One the other side you find heavenly rest. If you try and go through with your perfect attendance pins and Bible quiz trophies, or any of your own righteousness, you simply won't fit. Jesus is the narrow gate. Religion always teaches that you can get to God by doing something. Your good standing with God depends on what you do. Do the law, perform religion, do it right, look good, try hard. They look like sheep, and they appear to be the safest, most righteous, but they lead people down the wrong path. Jesus plus anything is not Jesus!

"There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her. Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain" (ezekiel 22:25,27).

It was part of Jesus' mission to expose an abusive system. It's important to remember four things about his confrontations. First, His confrontations landed on those who saw themselves as God's official spokespersons--the most religious, the best performers. Second, Jesus broke the religious rules by confronting those in authority out loud. Third, He was treated as the problem because He said there was a problem. And forth, crowds of broken people rushed to Him because His message offered hope and rest.

Paul's Battle

[Paul had preached the good news in Galatia. Afterward,] he learned that a group of people had followed behind him and spread a teaching that demanded the people be circumcised as an added proof of their spirituality.

"For those who are circumcised do not even keep the law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh" (galatians 3:13).

You see, living with Jesus as your only source of life and acceptance is a confrontation to those who seek God's approval on the basis of their own religious behavior.

This, then, will explain the pressure you feel to perform religious behaviors in spiritually abusive contexts. If you [obey their message],

1] it will make them look good
2] their self-righteousness will escape the scrutiny of the cross of Christ as the only means to God's favor
3] it will allow them to examine you instead of themselves
4] they will be able to boast in or gain a sense of validation from your religious performance

And it's all cloaked in the language of being holy and helping others to live holy lives.

"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-7).

In other words, those who are "disturbing" you are urging you to commit treason. Paul took it very seriously when someone replaced the spiritual life of grace and rest with a life of imposed works.

In 1 Timothy 6:5 he warns that these erring teachers "suppose that godliness is a means of gain." They act godly not because they are godly, but to gain something. Have you ever met a contented legalist, a truly restful religious "performer"? No such person.

In Titus 1:9-10 Paul says:

"An overseer must hold fast to the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families."

Leaders are given to the church to protect the flock from legalists who push religious performance as the means to right standing or favor with God. Paul tells us that these rebellious men must be silenced.

Noticing a problem does not make you the problem. Remember, Paul urged the Ephesians to "be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock." (acts 20:28)

We believe that all of us, as Christians, need to be on guard - not only against specific leaders and systems that throw their spiritual weight around, but against the subtle use of "formulas" and doctrines that are so often used to press good people of the faith into conformity with a religious system instead of conformity to Christ.

{1} "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing & Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church," by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen. Bethany House Publishers, 1991; pp. 29-32, 35-39

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dancing for the LORD?

Okay. I wanna have a little fun.

Why is there no dancing at church? It must be because of women and propriety, I assume, I haven't asked. That would make sense. I haven't looked at the scriptures yet, but I'm sure it's everywhere that those who worship God, oftentimes dance.

Try and imagine if there was the freedom to dance in public worship. I often times think of how God has put eternity in our hearts. He put something magnificent into each one of us. That amazing love and partnership and experience of Him can be expressed most amazingly through movement. I'd like to ask: do you think biblical dance was rehearsed, or unscripted?

My husband passed this video on to me. In it I saw an amazing collection of Michael Jackson, old-style jazz, Vanilla Ice and salsa. Lots of ingenuity. Interesting.

Now I attend a Baptist church, and dancing is not allowed. I attended an Assembly of God church once. They danced. Though, their dancing was more joining hands in a circle and jumping up and down. I wonder what would others think if people did solos?

How about spontaneous solos? I have no idea if this is okay. I just see this gal dancing for the LORD (if she were a Christian, that is). Not a lot of structure, but she communicates well what it is she feels in her soul.

What do you think?

Is dancing too naughty for church?

Is This Abuse?

Is "recognizing spiritual abuse" part of the training for pastorship while at seminary? Have you ever heard of the term "spiritual abuse?" I don't know. I don't know what the awareness is, out there.

I thought this material is timely. The theme of the upcoming free grace conference is "Building a Grace-Driven Church." Meanwhile even I am engaged in building a friendship with a fellow blogger who, like me, is going to great effort, with considerable achievement I might add, to be brought fuller awareness of unhealthy relationships in the body of Christ. What's more, calvinist evangelical Christianity has made many disciples less secure and more fearful. Their traditional philosophy on intra-church relationships, is our inheritance. It will be the status-quo till the day we look intentionally and purposefully into the face of our own conduct amongst other Christians. Grace ought to set us free from fear and insecurity. Doctrinally--we get it. I want to take it into the practical realm. I hope that this book, like a counselor in the faith, might bring structure and peace to our relationships, beginning with myself. I have failed to obey healthy relational boundaries, from time to time. As I realize my wrongs, I will confess and ask to be forgiven.

What you read below is taken from the book "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse," by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen {1}. In a few days' time I hope to be able to share the essence of this book's most helpful punchlines. But for now, let me attempt to immerse the reader in this topic:

(portions taken from) CHAPTER ONE -- "Help Me..."

Jeri sat in the office of a Christian counselor, explaining that she felt desperate, and felt like she was going crazy. "Either that," she said dryly, "or I'm on the verge of a major breakthrough in my spiritual growth."

"Those are two big opposites," the counselor noted. "How did you come to that conclusion?"

"Well," she began, choking up, "I went to my pastor a few months ago because I was feeling depressed a lot. He pegged the root problem right away, but I can't seem to do anything about it."

"Root problem..." the counselor repeated. "What was that?"

Jeri looked down at her shoe tops. "I guess I would have to say the problem is, well, me. My pastor says I'm in rebellion against God."

What unfolded was an unfortunate, and all too common, case history: Jeri's church teaches that Scripture is God's Word, the standard by which we must live. But they use it as a measure by which we gain acceptance with God rather than as a guide for living. Therefore, when she asked her pastor for help with her depression, she was given a "prescription" of praise Scriptures to memorize and repeat over and over. This, she was told, would get her mind off herself and onto God. The depression would lift when she got over her sinful self-centeredness.

Jeri had tried what the pastor suggested, but her depression didn't lift, and this raised some questions. She noted that there was a history of depression among the women in her family, and that she was presently experiencing some physical problems. Moreover, she confided to her pastor that she was struggling in her relationship with her husband, because he shrugged off responsibilities with their two teenagers who were beginning to get into trouble.

"How did he respond when you said his suggestion didn't help?"

"That's when he dropped the bomb on me," Jeri said.

The counselor did not fail to notice her choice of metaphor--the devastation Jeri was trying to portray--and asked, "What sort of 'bomb'?"

The pastor had told her, "The fact that you won't accept my counsel without raising all these objections and other possibilities was the major indication to me, Jeri, that your root problem is spiritual, not physical or emotional. When you talked about arguing with your husband, rather than submitting to him and trusting God, that confirmed it." He concluded that the other problems--emotional depression, physical illness, a troubled marriage and teenagers in turmoil--were the result of her inability to submit fully to God and His Word.

Jeri had tried to object. "I told him I felt condemned. That I felt I needed some other kind of help."

"What happened?" the counselor prompted.

"That made it worse. My pastor just smiled and said I wasn't willing to accept his counsel--so that proved he was right. That's when he used the 'R' word on me. He said, 'Jeri, you need to repent of your rebellion against God. Then all these minor problems will be taken care of.'"

. . .

Jeri never noticed that she was not receiving help, which is what she was hoping for. Instead, her spiritual position before God was being questioned and, it would appear, judged.

At the bottom of this sad, painful encounter lies perhaps the subtlest dynamic: Jeri questioned an authority who considered himself above questioning, perhaps even above error.

. . .

In a word, Jeri was manipulated. ...Jeri asked an honest question and he "pulled rank." ... What does this attitude reveal? It reveals that the pastor was, at least in this encounter, not functioning in a caring position for Jeri's benefit, though she needed him. On the contrary, it appears she was supposed to affirm and bolster him by agreeing, regardless of how she felt and whether or not his assessment of her was accurate. Upholding his position of authority was what mattered most.

What is Spiritual Abuse?

Spiritual abuse can occur when a leader uses his or her spiritual position to control or dominate another person. It often involves overriding the feelings and opinions of another, without regard to what will result in the other person's state of living, emotions or spiritual well-being.

Spiritual abuse can also occur when spirituality is used to make others live up to a "spiritual standard." This promotes external "spiritual performance," also without regard to an individual's actual well-being, or is used as a means of "proving" a person's spirituality.

...Spiritual abuse can be heaped upon leaders as well as followers. [The phenomenon leaves individuals of any position] bearing a weight of guilt, judgment or condemnation, and confusion about their worth and standing as a Christian.

Is "Abuse" Too Strong a Word?

It's possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, disagrees, or doesn't "behave" spiritually the way you want them to. There are spiritual systems in which what people think, how they feel and what they need or want does not matter. People's needs go unmet. In these systems, the members are there to meet the needs of the leaders: needs for power, importance, intimacy, value--really, self-related needs. These leaders attempt to find fulfillment through the religious performance of the very people whom they are there to serve and build. This is an inversion in the body of Christ. It is spiritual abuse.

This is Not a Witch-Hunt

[This phenomenon] is not confined to cults but actually happening (sad to say) in the body of Christ. It's also important for you to understand this: Any one of us can forget about the empowering grace by which we're to live the Christian life, and to act or speak in a way that spiritually abuses others. ...We are not suggesting that anyone start a "witch hunt" to seek and destroy abusers.

-- It is not abusive for a spiritual leader to make final decisions using her best judgment, ...choosing to go against your opinion.

-- It is not abusive when a Christian confronts another Christian because of sin, wrongdoing or even honest mistakes that must be corrected. The objective, of course, is not to shame or discredit, but to heal, save and restore.

-- It is not abusive when a person in ministry or leadership is asked to step down because of emotional, physical, mental or spiritual problems. The goal, however, must be on helping the individual to receive help, so as to eventually return to their office or position if that is the best action.

-- It is not spiritually abusive or inappropriate to disagree, whether on doctrines or other issues, even in public. Keep in mind, though, that it is always crucial to maintain respect and never to belittle or attack.

-- It is not abusive to hold to certain standards of group conduct. It becomes abusive when others are spiritually degraded or shamed because they do not maintain the same convictions.

-- A strong leader is not automatically abusive because he or she is strong and decisive.

-- A person can be both a victim and a perpetrator at the same time.

{1} "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing & Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church," by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen. Bethany House Publishers, 1991; pp. 17-22, 24

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Sad But Firm Introduction

Tomorrow I plan to begin delving into the nature of what has been tagged "spiritual abuse."

I have re-written and re-written these following paragraphs. It has been difficult to make typical opening remarks. Any essay in its introduction makes known the purpose for writing. But how can I be clear, without also giving away hard, cold facts? If I use a name, or cite specific events, the liberty of any and all to find themselves in the 'spiritual abuse' material, as moved, provoked, etc., is stolen. In fact, I become nearer to the very thing I claim to oppose-the abuser-when I do not allow God's Spirit to convict in the void created by non-condescension.

So, while It is regrettably tempting to point fingers, I just hope that God will change me. I still go toward accusations, in my heart all the time. But what am I saving these perpetrators to, assuming I did have a helpful effect? -- A code of ethics? A new philosophy on how to do apologetics? I like that. But no. That's not good enough. In fact, compared to the greater achievement of letting them have the grace to walk and talk to God without my soundbytes, all I can say is this: "What profit a man if he gains the whole world but along the way loses his very soul?" If I want those who oppress to extend grace instead, they must first dwell right here and now within grace. That grace will never practically arrive in their life if they are not saturated in it by me and others too. Grace is always more efficient at creating true lovingkindness, than a list of rules or code of behaviors could ever be. Our Heavenly Father disciplines true sons. So how can silence ever feel like a mistake?

I only want to find myself in this material. Where I've been injured, where I've caused pain. That should be plenty to fill the mental plate....

Silence and grace isn't a mistake... unless the problem is not yet addressed. Let me identify it now, once and hopefully nevermore. This topic is pertinent because some have oppressed many in the free grace community, whom I can generally categorize as "the heretic labelers." I have said three times behind closed doors that the heretic labelers are not unlike in kind of an abusive husband. They are ultimatum-wielding and performance-demanding, while the bulk of free grace is like the wife, cowering and speechless, in shock.
I want to ask: "Is this abuse?" Perhaps I am grossly mistaken, and if that's true then I am glad! Through the years of my own life I've been drawn beyond my preference into four cults to date (and one more volitionally), so, when I experienced poor relationships firsthand here in free grace I was in real time also ultra-aware of the larger picture. Having been around the block, what I perceive as the familiar pattern of abuse is just not sucking me in like it used to. They may quickly disparage the woman-messenger who stands up for herself. But I don't care. You all know my passion is to illuminate freedom in Christ to the non-mainstream christian sects. Being cued in on abuse, therefore, how could I hold myself back from saying something?

There are two secular models to cure the abusive. Some people say... that it can work to cure the abuse by giving in to every one of their demands and expectations and attempt to be flawless. I suppose that some might come to a point where they see how far off-base their gratifications can take a relationship, and then repent? But I've never thought that model really works. Rather I think the opposite model works, and it has achieved a lot of wellness in some former experiences. This is the one where the abused individual mimics the behavior of the abuser. Threats, demands, self-gratification, explosive anger, authoritarian attitude in all things, and unexpected exposure to the watching world.

But Christ keeps bidding me to think anew about a Godly method to both cure with deadpan truth, and yet save to faith and grace. I don't think I really need to go all that far. The fact that I just don't take it sitting down, is probably enough. The fact that I'm just not afraid, is plenty. I'll leave out the temper and mimicking and the exposure. I want the reconciliation of my brother, and to go back to being happily feminine (silent and sacrificing, if you read my blog I love this character) and teachable in this community. My usefulness is wearing down, being limited to a small variety of topics, this perhaps being a last unveiling.

I don't get it. If the free grace community puts up with the personality of one person, as the general m. o. of an abuser, then why can't there be equality with a little larger reservation at the table for one more personality, being the general m. o. of a survivor? You call that "unprofessional." And you're right. I keep trying to remember the LORD, and his personality. I wanna get there, but not without my brother.

The most important thing I can say is this: I believe that the perpetrators of abuse have undiscovered of yet been the victim of spiritual authority's neglect or abuse perhaps many, many times. I also am convinced that they have no awareness or otherwise no tools by which to grow and be better. I have no idea if I'm right. My heart bleeds. I too, as you can see in my narrative thus far, know how to be abusive. I've done it too many times to want to remember though generally not with intention to hurt, and therein lies my greatest hope that others don't mean ill either. I've made a couple serious lapses into unhealthiness while interacting in free grace. One time almost cost me a friendship.

Looking forward to building brotherly bonds in righteous relationships....

"Let's be clear again: Not all Christian leaders are abusive, nor are all spiritual systems abusive. It's also possible that healthy leaders and spiritual systems can sometimes, unintentionally, treat people in hurtful ways. There is no such thing as a perfect family or church where people don't ever get hurt. But the difference between an abusive and a non-abusive system is that while hurtful behaviors might happen in both, it is not permissible to talk about problems, hurts and abuses in the abusive system. Hence, there is no healing and restoration after the wound has occurred, and the victim is made to feel at fault for questioning or pointing out the problem." {1}

{1} "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing & Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church," by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen. Bethany House Publishers, 1991; pg. 32

Rwanda update (2)

According to the chart, right now the team is finished flying through Rome, having had a layover and now on a flight to Addis Ababa, where the Ethiopian Airlines will be providing accommodations for a full-night's rest. They will be orientating with ERM staff tomorrow morning at 7 AM our time (Pacific time), (at 4 PM Rwandan time) after getting a chance to get moved in and cleaned up.

They will share dinner, go to bed, and then rise up on Thursday (9 PM Wed. night) to begin 6 different ministries simultaneously on that day:

Prison ministry
Pastoral training
Women's leadership conference

Rwanda 2008 Mission Blog

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rwanda update (1)

More info on Rwanda--

At this time the team is enjoying a home cooked meal from one of Emmanuel's friends in Washington, D.C. It is a pleasant 75 degrees. All is well....

Vicki Barram shared a bit yesterday morning with me about the schedule and her involvement with the twenty-five women that have been selected for the micro-business program. These women were selected because they are seen as leaders in their communities. Vicki says they will be attempting to teach them inductive bible study through the gospel of John. But they have no idea how well it will go over. She says that the expectations may not be realistic. She does not know how capable the women are of reading. Also in their culture apparently it is not normal for women to think of asking questions -- imagine doing a bible study where they may just nod along!

Although they were assembly of God in background, they have adopted a legalism of dress and non-adornment for the women. Therefore the women on this mission should not hand out makeup as gifts -- it's seen instead as prostitution. Vicki wants prayer for when she shares her testimony on Thursday morning. She is not sure if all the women are indeed saved by faith through Christ. She has been diligent to use scriptures with universal understanding, like "the bread" of life, and scriptures on light and dark in contrast.

Pastor Greg asks for prayer that he get rest on the plane trips and also that he would be able to sense the cultural gap so that he does not offend the pastors he'll be teaching.

They are keeping a blog at this site (which will be difficult to update):

Rwanda 2008 Mission Blog

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Sep 15, 2008 - Oct 4, 2008
Standing: Evelyn Ables, Bill Ables, Emmanuel Sitaki, Greg English,
Dan Person, Josh Patterson
Seated: Krysti Emerson, Vicki Barram, Marilyn Vancil, Arlene Tatum,
Jeannie Flesch, Debbie Dougall (not pictured: Debra Hudson)

This is a timely mission so exciting for so many reasons!

Pastor Emmanuel Sitaki, a seminary student at the Grace Seminary of the Northwest, has blessed our church with sharing his vision for helping the Rwandanese. He is a survivor of the infamous 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He writes of that time in his and his country's life:

Thirty-five of my close relatives were killed during the genocide, but through a miracle God protected my mother and I. I was attending school in the Congo and returned to Rwanda in April 1996 to find only my mother and 9 orphans left alive. I found out that during the genocide my relatives had been buried alive in a mass grave, I had to make the arrangements to have them reburied officially. But God has given me a forgiving heart; I have forgiven those who killed my relatives, as I am an evangelist preaching the good news of salvation and repentance.

"In 1996 Sitaki began to rescue family members that were abandoned after the killings. From that humble beginning, the vision for Evangelical Revival Ministries has grown with an international community of partners joining the team in Rwanda in supporting orphans and widows, spreading the gospel through evangelism and church leadership training, micro finance programs, and the long term goal of a 'Hope for The City' center in Kigali." {1}

During time spent in interchange I most notably see he is burdened for putting together grieving mothers and orphaned children. Isn't this amazing?

On Sept. 15, 2008 Pastor Greg English and the team of congregants from Salem Evangelical Church and Salem First Baptist Church are joining with Pastor Sitaki in a short-term mission to Rwanda. In the two and a half weeks they will be very busy, with teaching women how to sew in order to begin a micro-business, a prison fellowship ministry, a women's leadership and women's equipping seminars, a pastors' conference, two Good News Clubs, and widow and orphan care. {2}

Pastor English reports of SFB's raising support on Sept. 2:

PRAISE! All 25 women got sponsored for the sewing team.
PRAISE! Not one of the auction items remained unsold.
PRAISE! Five orphans got sponsored through ERM.
PRAISE! Emmanuel was warmly received by our church family and had a wonderful opportunity to speak in both services.
PRAISE! An army of 75 persons have volunteered to pray for us 24 hours a day for three straight weeks!
PRAISE! The Lord blessed the team with $4,483.95 in offerings. More is anticipated to stream in over the next week.

At this writing, I am pleased to inform you Team Rwanda's ground mission expense is fully funded, and we are able to accomplish all that we have trusted God for by His bountiful supply. A couple of our team members are lacking full support, but very close to reaching their goal as well. I have complete confidence in our Lord that He will supply exceedingly abundantly beyond what we can ask or think!

For Rwanda-

"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27)

The women of this mission trip will largely be involved giving away the 25 sewing machines donated, and training the women who receive them. The goal is for these Rwandan women to create their own business so they might support themselves.

Meanwhile, Pastor English will be teaching, and Pastor Sitaki translating, the fundamentals of hermeneutics and of the faith to 150 Rwandan pastors. They had an overwhelming interest from evangelical churches for this training; some 300 wanted to come, but, the costs involved in transportation has lowered the number to 150 who can attend. The country is largely Roman Catholic in heritage. The Assemblies of God denomination has done much in this country to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, but, those with the gift to preach have had no training. According to some discussions with Pastor English, during their church services, the pastors open up any passage of scripture and just read it to the people. They do not have any study aids, not even a concordance in their translations. Pastor English is anticipating a hunger so deep on the part of these men that they just won't let him go, they just want him to keep teaching. It will be difficult when this mission inevitably comes to an end.

Pastor English will be teaching eight hours through the work-week, and giving invitations to faith on the weekends both before and after. He asks for prayer that he won't lose his voice. Moreover, there has been no structure established for children's evangelism in Rwanda. There will also be training in this for Rwandanese from around the country.

It is exciting to think of the good news of God's freely given grace being received in this land. It brings to recollection the report that came after Dr. Bing and Dr. Taliaferro presented this same message out of Romans to some 600 pastors in India. When they finished, the whole room rose and applauded. "We have never heard this before," was the response, with much gratitude and excitement.

Could this mission be "another India"? The team departs on Monday. Please keep Rwanda in your prayers in the next three weeks....

Updates will be coming at this location: Rwanda 2008 Mission Blog

{1} Evangelical Revival Ministries, accessed Sept. 13, 2008
{2} Salem First Baptist Church short term missions, accessed Sept. 13, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back to Birthright

A response to the post titled "My Walk," at Good Morning, Jesus Christ!

Today I stumbled across a great audio post by a guy named Robb. I loved the contemplation he made over missing the reason for theology. He admits that spiritual disciplines can be transformed by the enemy in to temptation to stay away from God. He says, in my ears, that there is a way to be a pharisee about not becoming like a pharisee.

Last week I retuned to Birthright. I was gone after a whole summer off. I needed the time off because my children, ages 7, almost 5, and 1+1/2, are too much to keep in order while talking to the ladies that come in for pregnancy tests. Now that is school has started up again, I get to go back with just my baby boy. I hope I can keep him cute, and quiet! :)

Birthright was started in Toronto, Canada in 1968-the first pregnancy support service in history. The woman who founded it, Louise Summerhill, shares how it was brought into being in "The Story of Birthright." She was the mother of six children, and the effort to organize such a service was ironically "an unwanted burden" in her life.

The story begins with that famous line:

The essence of the Birthright service is love.

At the Birthright conferences I have attended, they always make it clear that we are Birthright everywhere we go, and I believe that. Summerhill goes on:

We should not underestimate the power of love. We do not need professional training in order to listen, to understand, to love. The fact is that the caseworker who is guided by knowledge more than love, will experience only failure in her human relationship. True compassion recognizes no boundaries nor lays down any conditions.

We, in Birthright, rely on intuition, common sense, and a loving receptive attitude, free of all judgment.

Judgment vanishes with love. We do not meddle in morality, and knowing this, girls come to us without fear of being made to feel more guilty than they already do. And who, amongst us, can say they are guilty. We are all alike, forgiven sinners.

Because we do not know them, the girls give us their confidence, and we in turn, listen without prejudice. Then, as they unburden themselves of their deep distress and feelings of guilt, they become healed by our virtue of non-judgment. Every time we experience this we are overwhelmed to see it, once again, as a sign of God's grace.

"God is love and he who abides in love abides in God" (st. John's Letter 4:12).

When we discover a living truth we find it most difficult to put into words, and I am afraid of shifting the accent from the realm of the heart to the realm of the mind.

Love means to care and serve and be responsible for other people, so that, as soon as we see another in distress, we immediately respond. All of us are frail and inadequate and sinful and only in discovering these things about ourselves, can we truly grow up. How I wish I could convey to you the great value of love and non-judgment in this work, but I know, that it will only be when you experience this miracle yourselves that you will fully understand it.

Here, she discusses the role judgment takes in the transformation of a woman's mind from choosing abortion, to choosing life:

In rare cases only, as with this girl, some can be helped if their mistakes are pointed out and if judgment of them is formulated, provided it is done with a helpful, non-critical approach. Severity is sometimes the measure of love. Like surgery, it may be the only way to heal. Yet, even as I say this, I cannot but denounce the crushing effect of judgment. Some people die under the surgeon's knife. Girls must be welcomed with no sign of criticism, as persons of worth and dignity. Criticism blocks the way to grace and our voice drowns out the voice of God which can only be heard in silence. If girls seeking abortions are to recognize their wrong-doing, it will be in the quiet of recollection, or in the kind atmosphere of a talk with someone who will not criticize, but will love.

God's judgment is always quite different from ours. That is the reason Our Lord said, "Judge not." Let us notice that He did not say, "Judge not wrongly." We are to be free of all judgment. Judgment is destructive.

I myself, wilt under judgment, and am so vulnerable that I am liable to be paralyzed for days by the destructive elements of judgment.

Information is intellectual, but communion is spiritual, and although we need information to achieve communion, it is only through communion that we understand people, not as cases, but as persons. When we have established a communion of love with a person, only then are we, each, able to show ourselves, as we are, without acting a part.

The girl who sobs out her disappointments, her failures, her faults, may be nearer to the Kingdom of God than I who listen to her, and I come nearer to God and to her, insofar as I recognize that I am guilty, and powerless, and solitary.

I once heard a zealous Christian say that she would do nothing to help these girls because they "deserved what was coming to them." This is not an uncommon viewpoint. Recently, a worker left our employ because she could not condone our attitude of total acceptance of sinners. They say an unwanted pregnancy is not our responsibility. People who think like this, and profess to be Christians, would do well to re-examine their thinking. This attitude is, in reality, a product of a moralistic deformation of the Christian message. One time, a friend, a good Christian, discussed that she thought unmarried girls are being encouraged in their "wrongdoing" by our helping them.

"How is it possible," she said, "that you can condone actions contrary to the laws of God?"

I answered, "How much wrongdoing can you or I say is involved? Also, are we to help only sinless people? We are all forgiven sinners. If we are to start eliminating sinners, then I must start with myself." Did not David say, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep..." (Psalm 119, 176).

I esteem this woman who is sincere and far from pharisaical. However, moralism is more apt to creep into the thinking of Christians who are most careful of their own moral conduct. At one time, it was common to explain illegitimacy on the basis of congenital weakness of character, mental deficiency and immorality. Today, we are examining individual emotional and environmental factors which can contribute to pregnancy in the unmarried teenager and older girl. Moralism must give way to understanding and help."

In the same way, I think about the person who is different than me, and I must believe that there are, as of yet, undiscovered reasons why they do and think as they are, without assuming a flaw in character or intentions. At least, no flaw more than I have already seen in myself.

Capacity or Pregnancy?

Four years ago I was in the third of a four-semester-sequence of anatomy & physiology. It was the pre-nursing program and I was having a blast, getting the highest score on exams half the time. Sometimes I spoiled the grading curve for everyone else, and it didn't make me popular.

We were doing a lab one day, and I'll never forget it. We were supposed to use this device to measure our partner's lung capacity. You breathe into it and it would give a reading. The instructor told us before we began that men are structured having a higher capacity than women. Afterward the class compared results. You'd be surprised to learn as I was, that I had the largest lung capacity of the whole class of men and women... and that I was seven months pregnant with a child at the time.

I always think about that lab as a metaphor for what I am like. I know how to nail others against the wall. I can take scripture, critical thinking, and the skills God gave me for advocacy and go to town on something or someone. It's like an extension of my person, easy, almost unconsciously put into action. God gave me the capacity.

But that's boring. It's been done. I've done it, others can do it well too. It's not interesting anymore to me. I want to work on the thing that challenges me to restrain that capacity. I'm thinking now of how I employ God's Spirit in me and broadcasted to those I touch.

I want to practice pregnancy....

"...bearing with one another...."

-- ἀνέχω, "forbear," to sustain; endure

The one I bear, who is attached like the child within, is not me. Their concerns are not mine, their problems not my fault or my responsibility. I don't have to do this. I shouldn't have to be minimized by the shortcomings of others.


But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father's nakedness.

He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.

I'm interested to bear with others. Even encroaching upon my own capacity.

God, open my eyes that I might restrain myself.

scriptures: col 3:13 gen 9:23 prov 17:9 prov 10:12

What I'd Rather Write

I always regret truth the next morning....

I just don't want to be known for exposures of others. That's not where my heart is anymore. I have some piercing, even painful observations to put forth for consideration. But it's just this thing about grace which forces me out of that comfy spot on the sidelines. I joined the team and then sat on the benches, retired from performing any service except scrutiny. It's where I get to critique others but otherwise never take a chance on changing anything important.

Or, I could get out there but hang out with those like me....

I'd love to be writing more posts on how I read the scriptures which teach me my beliefs, like for instance the story of the woman who bled for twenty years. I want to write about her and her life in scripture, with all the background of the OT law and how it made her feel, and then one day, she saw Jesus and believed.... I will call this post's title "The Doctrine of the Hem." Oh, I want to dig in, to the stuff that fulfills me as I already am persuaded (now that I know I'm not crazy or an outcast).

There is a third option. To look at the entire playing field and see God really do something "as His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts greater than my thoughts"....

The desire vying in me is to write about grace, and the incarnation. Two-thousand years ago there was One who was theologically correct, that spent His life to dwell among those who were wrong. This Emmanuel is powerful and even just writing it makes me hope that He might fulfill His ways of salvation.

So, posts of scrutiny have become largely boring, for me. I use them as part of the restitution process, but, my heart isn't in it as much as it would have before. I'm looking for a reason to not use them. I'm looking as devotedly as I can.

It just feels like a mistake, to spread the "truth" side of the "truth and grace" mix. But... is it?

Monday, September 08, 2008

the HERETIC in all of us

A response to Jeremy Myers' "The Heretic in Me"

Yesterday, at church, my sunday school teacher (who I now know is free grace in theology) taught in concert with "The Finality of the Cross," by Bob George. What did Jesus actually accomplish by dying there in our place, and fulfilling the law?

And so, to date, I can count only three times in my entire Christian experience, where I have heard someone confirm what I believe Paul teaches on the subject of law vs. grace.

The first? Warren W. Wiersbe's "Be Right", study text on the book of Romans. (I read it years after establishing my own doctrine on the scriptures and after much effort to find anyone who would teach this.) The second? In the "Romans and Galatians" class taught at the Grace Seminary of the Northwest, which was founded by Dr. Radmacher, a leading proponent of free grace theology.

I asked Pastor Greg, WHY? Why, whenever I talk about this with other Christians, do I get silence? He said, it's not easily grasped until after a good deal of study, and, if people haven't been shown this, and don't own it, it doesn't stick. That's why there is such a fight to keep standing firm. This is such a foundational topic, it's on the most basic principles of what happened at the cross on our behalf. Consequently it's worth fighting for. As Dr. Radmacher says, we keep going back to Galatians 1:8; if there be any other gospel, "anathema."

This is what the "free grace movement" is all about. We are all about preserving the purpose and clarity of "the finality of the cross." It's come at a great price, and will continue to be so -- many of us have come into this movement after much rejection, perhaps even after being thrown out, by common evangelical doctrine. Many will still come to us in the years ahead, for that same reason.

And now... that we're established as a legitimate school of thought, now?!? we need to make sure everyone tows the line in their interpretation of the Word? Like, somehow, now that "we're GES," ... "our answer is fully complete." May it never be! Whether you're GES, or FGA, or if you make no distinction, do you really think we might lose out because someone asks a question?

Wow! That's not the inheritance I want. I want to be free to read it as God will reveal. Don't you too?

I see what even the GES has done to Jeremy Myers at a time when he wants to know more. You can read his slow descent into reprimand, in his post and the subsequent comments. I linked to it, underlying the title above, and again here. I do not want to start criticism of the leadership provided there. How could one such as me comprehend the trials and obligations of those at the helm? I try and understand it as much as I can; perhaps his firing was appropriate. I weigh it out, contemplating that a man is in a paid position to represent and promote one teaching; therefore, it would be unfair letting him also exert freedom in the public realm in potentially abandoning it for another teaching. I conclude that Myers' responsibility to the GES was unique. He nevertheless ought to and clearly does, privately, hold himself open and willing toward God's Word like the rest of us. If he finds himself changing his mind in any portion that compromises his ability to represent a theology, then he might let himself out of obligation to go on representing that theology. If Myers could not foresee the implications of it all, there is no blame I find in him. I most innocently would have done the same myself. So it remains -- I am confident that the GES, or any other organization in free grace, does not mean to damper investigation into the Word!

Why then are we losing a grip on our freedom? One word alone: HERETIC. That one disclosure spoiled the whole atmosphere of exploring the Word of God. Claim back your conscience before your God. It is rightfully yours and wrongfully monopolized by the majority or the minority! This should be a familiar thing, being called "heretic," by now. I am sure this is not the end. There is a kind of "heresy" I should wear with boldness, amongst fellow Christians. There is no such thing as an "unfair need" in my relationship with God, so why should my questions be off-limits in His Word?

(I concede, deception is an everyday accomplishment of Satan, and moving outside of orthodoxy is something in which to care in the highest priority. For that reason alone, those brothers who warn of "heresy" are precious, more; essential, for success! But, how to handle the issue of heresy in a social context is the topic of an upcoming article.)

At Lou's blog in his latest post, he says that the Word of God is not open to "selective interpretation." Then, he goes about re-explaining his stance as if it is the only one. He is correct, in a sense.... Nobody ought to pick and choose interpretations like women dig through their closet for the most complimenting shoes. But something was neglected: I would add that the Word of God is also not open for "private interpretation."

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. ... Or did the Word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 cor 14:36-37)

Is doctrine delineated by only one man, or only one faction?

Whose right is it to determine doctrine?

It belongs to the head of the church, Jesus Christ. Where is Jesus Christ, for us, today? We have the mind of Christ. (1 cor 2:16) But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (john 16:13) Truth is accessible not only for those with seminary degrees. Rather truth is dispensed to all because of faith, for there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (gal 3:28). For each one of us, if one will seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (deut 4:29) The one thing that keeps any of us from finding truth, is faith and devotion to God, for if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (james 1:5)

God gives steadfast doctrine to any who pray and dig into the Word.

If you want to know what the bible says, I am convinced there are two ways to form a conviction. One: commentaries. Two: avoiding them. It's impossible to have it both ways. Exegesis means "to draw the meaning out of" a given text. How can anyone draw a meaning "out," if they first attend to drawing any one's meaning upon it?

Commentaries are the stuff which we have the great privilege of revising, as free grace people.

Dr. Stephen Lewis taught a free grace seminary class titled 'The Evolution of Theology.' When he took us through the history of the church from the apostles, to today, he said that Luther read the Word of God and realized a lot of the errors in Catholicism. Maybe he corrected 80%, of the error? Dr. Radmacher and he both spoke for a few moments at the great work at exegesis being done in free grace, now that they have established good principles of hermeneutics. There are people all throughout free grace who are working, text by text, to pull out the messages contained therein. It's going to take a long time till the work is done. People have already brought great benefit to us, such as Zane Hodges' study of the epistle of James, where he clearly distinguishes that dead faith is not nonexistant faith. This tool is already being put to use to end doubt over eternal security in evangelical Christianity.

If you've "selected" (so to speak) an interpretation, do you inwardly permit comfort from numbers and titles? In the least it must be a temptation, to not be made more confident by their affirming opinions. If you've got an interpretational camp you belong to, let me ask: do you know what they read (commentaries possibly)? Do you know where they get their confidence? (Ever heard of circular logic -- well, now I suggest circular confidence.)

The great thing about relying only upon the Word for assurance is this: if we are wrong, it will shortly be clear when we speak with brothers who disagree. The true test of your interpretation, and whether it is biblically sound, is to take it to His body, who has the same Mind, in particular those who disagree with you, and ask for their corrections. Then God gets the glory, because we know we owe our lives to Him and He receives how much we love Him for everything that He is, and how much we love our brother and honor the church, which is His bride.

The free grace movement has a great heritage. It all began because we read the Word for ourselves. As Luther once did. This is no time to surrender that which has made us fit for His use in the world.

I will be entering in another article soon at the Unashamed of Grace blog as a guest, if Antonio is still willing when it is ready. It is meant to address and identify the problem-areas in free grace intra-relationships, to aid in some restoration. It will be difficult and I am humbled almost to the point of silence, but, it needs to be set out there. Relationships must be lent critical and encouraging support to be delivered as upright and honorable. Please pray for grace in the message, because no one should be to blame for this rift, besides our Enemy.

God bless you.

Associated links to this post:

The recent dialogue between Lou and Rose

Some recent posts on heresy;Lou's, JP's, Lou's, the watching disbelieving world's

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Grace and Truth Both

I wish I could say this is mine. But it was the message from a Lordship-believing pastor at my church. (God uses this guy all the time to teach me so much about the Word of God, though we do disagree on soteriology, and even sanctification (therefore).)

Remember when there was the woman caught in the act of adultery in john 8? The pharisees thought they had asked an impossible question of Jesus. It was "tempting" to Him, so He stooped down, as if He hadn't heard their question, and began to write in the sand. Then He finally stood up and gave that famous line, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Again, He bent down, and continued to draw.

Jesus took something very clear-cut -- the law that she deserved death -- and diffused its finality with mercy. He refused to humiliate the woman by deflecting the attention off of her. He used her sin to speak to the sin of everyone who was present and pressing Him.

Was Jesus soft on sin? A pushover? Some Christians today are indeed so. They struggle to call sin, sin. But Jesus did not wink at sin, did not let that which is bad be called good. He called it like it is, and spoke nonthreateningly to her, impacting her deeply by means of His mercy and advocacy. We have no record, but, it probably worked to redeem her life.

He was a perfect example of grace balanced by truth. What are we?

All Grace - (No Truth) - Licentiousness, license to sin, all things are permissible.

All Truth - (No Grace) - Who would be ever drawn into a culture of no grace? Here lies hypocrisy & close-mindedness.

If you are not yet balanced, for which are you prone: compassion over honesty, or, honesty over compassion?

No tact?

Always keeping the peace?

Jesus didn't sacrifice either one.

I think now, improving upon the message given by our pastor tonight. Jesus' famous answer "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," was covered before and after by His descent to the ground to make drawings. Perhaps the first drawing was the calibration of the law, and the second was the calibration of kindness?

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