Quote of the Day

“You see, beloved, the Christian life is not one lived for self, but is lived in Christ and for others, most especially within the family. For many this seems too ordinary and mundane, not exciting or fun. But in truth it is the good life, the abundant life, the life that is received from Christ and shared in our vocations with those closest to us. And even though it is invisible to the world, even though it seems as though you could be, or should be something more extraordinary, even though it is difficult and time consuming and seemingly makes little difference, such a life is a great life! Amen!” — Rev. Tony Sikora

(My mother, Freda, and Emmy yesterday.)

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Stop Enabling Bad Churches

Over the years, I’ve noted that not enough has been written on the topic of Bad Church Enablers. Much is available on enablers of dysfunctional and abusive people in family relationships, but not so much has been written about those who enable and support churches that have an established pattern of injuring church members–not the shiny people, but the little people who always end up getting hurt. There is a time to pray and stay. There’s also a time to head for the parking lot one last time and hit the gas without looking back.

If your church’s inner workings have more in common with an organized crime family, with circles of secrecy, political maneuvering as a matter of practice, free speech crackdowns driven by paranoia and so on, it just may be time to find the exit sign. If the ongoing climate at your church is a foretaste of hell with defrauding, injustice,  lying,  backstabbing, betrayal and eternal conflict, what in the world is the point? Do you seriously think God is going to allow any of that into heaven? Seek peace, and if you can’t find that in a Christian church, of all places, than head for the door.

Those who stay and keep these temples of doom afloat are part of the problem. You pave the way for others to be injured by staying and supporting a  church that refuses to address sin in a biblical manner. They never get away with it, and the conflict always follows the corruption. Always. Sin’s cancer grows and metastasizes in these places. It gets in the spiritual lymph system and ultimately kills whatever good there is.

Corrupt churches are the hallmark of our bleak times, and leadership policy and practice not based in the Scriptures quickly creates a spiritual destruction machine that takes in Christ’s sheep at one end and spits out their bleeding remains from the other. That is not too extreme a picture. Bullies, frauds, the entitled, the power hungry and their self-serving followers would soon find themselves with a much reduced ability to harm others if the good people, God’s true people, removed themselves from the seats and drove away once and for all.

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Personal Boundaries and the Limits of Compassion

I came across an article today on personal boundaries. You may not think it is relevant to you.  With the benefit of age, my suggestion is that the subject of boundaries is relevant to all. If you don’t need this article now, at some point in your life, you will.

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The article I am referencing is from a secular website. As a Christian, I want to add something to what the writer has said. Having been born into and raised in a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian (pan-denominational) environment, there was precious little teaching on things like personal boundaries and the limits to compassion. (Those subjects were routinely dismissed as “psychobabble.”) Christianity teaches that, like Christ, we are to pour ourselves out for others. I am not here to contradict that. What I will say is that this teaching, unbalanced with the need for limits in giving, can turn into tragedy and ruin for all involved. It’s that simple.

Some reading this article would say, “How self-centered.  If someone is hurting and causing us misery, well, we’re supposed to suffer for others,” or something like that. Having seen the utter destruction of co-dependency and what it looks like long-term when compassion becomes  enabling ,  I can tell you, with authority, that this is not of God. Why? Because if the results of your compassion efforts are  personal destruction and an inability to live the life God gave you, something is seriously wrong.

Being an empathetic person,  this author’s  words resonated strongly with me. There are some in our lives who do not care in the least that their rotting sin problem is a permanent stench in the lives of those who are trying to show love and compassion. They simply don’t care. We offer ourselves up like some kind of gruesome self-sacrifice when we are not in the least called to do so. But without boundaries, we let it happen and then complain that we have too much stress in our lives. Yes.

We need compassion in our hearts and to be willing to help where we can. I believe that with all my heart.  I have been helped by truly kind people over the years, and for their good sense and sound advice, I am grateful.  That is not the same thing as this good article discusses.

“Imagine you have this house — your dream house. The house and everything in it fills you with joy, and you work diligently to keep it clean and organized. You are comfortable there. One day, your mom/partner/friend is coming for a visit. You see them coming down the road, straining under the weight of a ginormous sack, quadruple their size. You walk out on the porch to meet them. “Come help me with this thing, it’s heavy!” they shout. You suggest they just put it down. They refuse. As they get closer you catch a whiff of what approaches. It smells awful. Putrid. Nauseating. You start to panic. Are they bringing that to your house? They reach the porch with their giant bag of trash and again ask for your assistance in bringing it inside. “Why don’t you leave that outside? It doesn’t need to come in,” you plead. They balk at your insistence. “No, it comes in. I want it with me. I feel better when it’s with me.” You nervously insist. “But I just cleaned, and it seems like it will make a really big mess.” They aren’t having it. “It comes in with me. I need it. It will be fine.” With a sigh of defeat, you open the door and they haul their trash inside…”

Read the article by Shannon Ghallagher.

I’ve learned that drawing  boundaries when there were none is costly.  But the spiritual and emotional cost of not drawing boundaries is far higher.

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I’d Rather Be Small…

I would rather be broken and tender than to hurt other people.

I would rather be a small nobody, in a small house, in a small town with a small voice, than to be big and leave people shattered behind me, and worse,  do it in Jesus’ name.

I would rather have a few small tasks and do them well, than be rated a “high capacity” person (that popular term cracks me up) in some gleaming church building and make the fatal error of building a ministry on the bones of others.

I’d rather be humbled by God than have tens of millions to build big stuff and be a complete creep and a spiritual fraud.

To be really useful to the Lord, the same one who was homeless and who didn’t even have a pillow for his head, you have  to accept “small” and embrace it fully. There is real peace there.

I was driving home from dropping my little girl at school this morning, and I was grateful once again for the  simplicity in my life, for a short list of tasks to do today, and a few modest writing goals to accomplish. I’m at a season where this increasing quietude is welcomed. If I can bring a smile or encourage someone here at the Hope Blog or on Facebook, I’ve had a good day. If my husband and child are cared for, I’ve done my job for Jesus.

There are moments when I forget and kick myself for not accomplishing this or that. Then I think, but that isn’t what God has for me. He had something so very much better, because my Creator understands me better than I do. What a wonderful thing.

All I can hear as I type is the click of my keys and when I stop, I can hear the tick of our cuckoo clock in the dining room. It’s peaceful here. I wish the same for all of you who are in pain or grief today. I wish the peace of God for you. The God who uses broken people just like me and like you. But you have to give the pieces to him.

“…And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” ~  Colossians 3:15

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Spiritual Abuse – The Fallout Can Be Catastrophic *See updated at bottom*

abuseMy friend Karen posted a link to an article that captures the results of spiritual abuse. Hostility and opposition from those who hate Christians is one level of abuse. To have those you trusted with your soul and heart and mind, those who maybe even taught you what you should believe about God, to have them turn on you and discard you is a whole different thing. It makes you unable to believe any spiritual leader who says, “believe this”, or “this is who God is.”

I often see people linking to spiritual leaders on FB who have personally treated others worse than dog dirt. I think to myself, “They don’t know. I know who these people are screeching about worldview, etc. They are thugs. They lie. They destroy others without a conscience. They blame the victims and scapegoat rather than admit their own sin. They don’t care that they have destroyed souls. They just.don’t.care.

The Sola Sisters article accurately nails the fallout from such experiences.

Quotes from survivors of spiritual abuse express more clearly the effect of the experience.

•”I cannot express the deep anger this has left me with.”
•”This place is like a huge machine that sucks people in, chews them up and spits them out again.”
•”My husband finds ‘church’ impossible and has not been a regular attendee since last summer.”
•”This experience can damage the way we see God so that we distrust him as much as we distrust our pastors.”
•”I’m very cynical. But now, you see, I see a different side to people. I don’t trust people, I don’t trust people in authority.”

The long-term effects of spiritual abuse should not be minimized. In our experience the process of an individual coming to terms with what has happened can take years and there does seem to be a process to work through to come to some acceptance. It must be noted that for many individuals this does not happen and they remain angry. Their experiences invariably raise serious questions about God and the church. Many of these individuals will never attend church again.” (From Sola Sisters: Hope For the Spiritually Abused -Read the article here.

*A friend sent me this news story this morning. Dr. Warren Throckmorton has been covering the Mark Driscoll train wreck for a long time. He reports this morning that 21 former Mars Hill Church pastors have filed formal charges against Driscoll that surprised me not at all. The documentation from 21 former pastors pretty much spells it out. How did this kind of man end up in leadership? We spotted this 10 years ago, many of us. It was self-evident that Driscoll had no business in the ministry, period. Now he has left stacks of bodies behind. It took this long? Only in American Evangelicalism. 

Robert Philip on Communion With God

“The highest human honor is access to the king.  Even a single interview with the monarch is highly coveted, and if obtained never forgotten.  How much more should access to the ‘King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible’, be prized and improved. But alas, it is not so in general.  We are naturally averse to ‘draw nigh unto God’.  We invent excuses for the neglect of prayer and are prone to hurry over devotion.  The time which ought to be sacred to God is often sacrificed to the world; but we seldom sacrifice to God any of the time which belongs to the world.  There is nothing that we have more reason to be ashamed of than our low views upon the subject of secret prayer.

In the Old Testament, the high priest had access annually to the mercy-seat in the holy of holies; and when within the veil God communed with him from between the cherubim.  He could say with certainty as he entered with blood and incense, ‘I will hear what God the Lord will speak for He will speak peace to His people’.  Now with such an introduction as the typical blood of the atonement, and such a welcome awaiting him, what should we have thought and said of the high priest if he had neglected to go into the holy of holies, or had not gone to the mercy-seat, or had come out before he heard what God the Lord would speak.  Had any priest been guilty of this neglect, all hearts would have been shocked at his impiety, and all voices united in condemning him.  We should have expected to hear that, like the offerers of ‘strange fire’, he was suddenly consumed by fire.  But is it not more shocking and sinful not to draw nigh unto God now that the eternal throne is the mercy-seat, the blood of the Lamb our introduction and plea?  And access to God on the mercy-seat is now daily.  At all times, in all places, and under all circumstances, we may ‘come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need’. Why, then, is this freedom of access so little prized or improved?  The Ark of the Covenant was, no doubt, splendid, and the golden mercy seat sublime, and the cherubim majestic; but these were only ‘shadows of good things to come’; whereas we have in our closets the ‘good things’ themselves.  There we may behold the brighteness of the Father’s glory in the face of Jesus and see His person and work in all that was shadowed within the veil.  All the real value of the holy of holies and its magnificent mercy-seat was, that there God heard and answered prayer.  The types are now useless and the answer of prayer secured by the intercession of Christ. The closet is preferable to the temple if communion with God be our object.  When we retire to it we meet God only, we speak to God alone.

“Alone with God! How solemn and sublime! Such access to Him has no parallel in heaven itself.  We could not have entered within the veil of the temple, even if we had lived when the temple was in all its glory; but, if we could have entered to pray before the mercy-seat, what would it have been compared with thus meeting in the ‘closet’ with nothing but God, and with God all to ourselves?  Why should we ever be reluctant to pray, or heartless in prayer?  Secret prayer is a private interview with God, as real as that at the bush in Midian, or that on Mount Peniel, vouchsafed to Moses and Jacob.  If therefore we would readily welcome such visits from God as the patriarchs were favored with, what ought we to think of the daily privilege of visiting God in secret, and being noticed, heard and remembered by Him for good?  Truly prayer is access to God.  How willingly and cheerfully ought we to enter our closets, and pray to the Father who seeth  in secret and rewardeth openly!”

–Robert Philip, taken from Communion with God; A Guide to the Devotional Spirit

Published and available through Reformation Heritage Books.

Another Gem from Thomas Watson

“Question: How shall we know that we love the reproofs of the Word? (1) When we desire to sit under a heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon his conscience. (2) When we pray that the Word may meet with our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart, we would have it found out and executed. We do not want sin covered, but cured. We can open our breast to the bullet of the Word and say, ‘Lord, smite this sin.'”

–Thomas Watson