Found: Independence From Oppression

As America prepares to celebrate Independence Day, we need to remember that the people who gave us this holiday openly (and, thankfully) rebelled against and rejected the serial and unrelenting oppression they were victimized by for decades.

How is it that “the church” so easily forgets that Jesus came to “set the captives [oppressed] free”?

As I’ve mentioned before, God speaks condemningly about oppression and oppressors 84 times! Why, then, do those who claim to speak for Him refuse to follow His mandate to intervene and put a stop to it when it is happening among their own congregations?

Today, in honor of Independence Day and with permission of the author, I am sharing another letter from another adopted-daughter of The Most High who escaped her oppressor in spite of Christ’s Under-Shepherds who failed at their obligations…

Dear Friends:

Over these past years since I learned my marriage was an illusion I have had to heal both from the trauma of the profound betrayal by my ex-husband, and also from kindly-spoken words by many close to me in my church community who took an indifferent stance toward the rightness and the wrongness of what had actually happened. I heard, “We’re not on either side. We’re on the side of the marriage.”  “I’m not taking sides.  I have sin issues too.”  “We’re not taking sides. I will support you and my husband will support your husband.”

Each instance of hearing these words from beloved friends and Christ-followers dealt a blow so harsh to me that I remember every detail about the conversation. There was a victim and a perpetrator in my marriage. A crime was committed and it continued for years. The collateral damage was great. And yet, Christians could respond as though this was simply another case of marriage being difficult and no one really being right or wrong.  I lived the pain of these words of indifference many times over.

My Biblically-oriented church was inept at counseling us. Since I was desperate to save my marriage, and my ex-husband would settle for nothing less than keeping a toehold in his sin patterns, I was the one expected to acquiesce, accept empty words as evidence of repentance and change. This attitude taught by pastors inevitably influences those hearing their teaching. I too used to take a black and white attitude toward divorce and always believed there was something either party could do to save a marriage until I was confronted with my own situation in which I could do nothing outside of enabling sin to save my marriage.

One day I read God’s directive for what the church was to do in this instance. It is one of the clearest directives in the Bible. It’s right there in 1 Corinthians 5:11. “But I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality.”  Read on. This is harsh in order to give the offender every reason to turn away from recurring sin patterns that lead to death. It’s why we would scream harshly at a child who was about to run in front of a moving car. The Lord wants us to take these ongoing sins that seriously.

This journey started five years ago for me. I have learned and grown in the Lord. He has taught me to listen to Him and to take no human’s teaching as accurate without checking it against the whole of His word. There is only one source of truth. I know the myth of God valuing marriage above human beings continues. It is not true. Friends and families and pastors who are misguided and continue to counsel for saving a marriage above all are doing tremendous damage to people who are already victimized. What needs to be done is to follow the Lord’s direction regarding the immoral within the church and to enforce church discipline “for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 5:5).

When I read the following from Gary Thomas my soul was warmed by the truth of it.

http://foreverymom.com/marriage/enough-enough-church-stop-enabling-abusive-men-gary-thomas/

May the Lord bless you in your service to Him.

Sandra

Blessed Independence Day.

Speak out against oppression everywhere, and especially in the church!

Sioli Deo Gloria

 

Love – God’s Way (A St. Valentine’s Day Message)

Love is probably the most sought-after and least understood aspect of the human experience. We long for it, we hunger for it, we actually need it, and yet those things are at the very root of our inability to Love God’s Way.

The most famous passage in all of Scripture regarding love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a: “Love is patient, love is kind, and it is not envious. Love does not brag; it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, and it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Nice thoughts; great words; lovely sentiments. You’ve seen them on greeting cards, plaques on the wall, even hundreds of times on Facebook. What do they mean, and who are they for?

The Greek word for “love” in this passage of Scripture is agapē. It does not refer to brotherly love, familial love, or even romantic love. Agapē is unique and quite distinctive from our usual understanding and use of the word “love.”

Agapē is rooted in the very nature and character of God (1 John 4:8, 16b). Agapē is self-sacrificial (see Philippians 2:5-8). The verb form of this word means to love, highly value, honor, greatly esteem, manifest lavish concern for, be faithful towards, to delight in, and to emphasize the importance and value of another.

AGAPĒ EQUALS GIVE

To love God’s way is to give; there is no “take” in love (although there is a “receive” aspect to it which we will discuss in a moment).

  • John 3:16: “For this is the way God loved [agapaō, the verb form of agapē] the world: He gave [abandoned and delivered up for] His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
  • Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved [agapaō], me and gave Himself for me.”
  • Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love [agapaō] your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”

To “love” someone with any expectation at all of anything coming back in return is NOT love – it is a business deal, not relationship. Quid pro quo (this for that) is not love because it is not sacrificial; it is self-serving and self-seeking. This is not how God has loved us and not how we are to love others.

Jesus emphatically establishes a brand new economy for relationships for all those who are His true disciples (more than just followers). Three times in John 13:34-35, He uses the same words to express His command to them (and to us): “I give you a new commandment – to love one another [agapaō]. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”

As we have discussed in other lessons, repetition in Scripture is a device used to add emphasis to what is being said. Since they did not have exclamation marks, didn’t italicize or use all upper case for words, and didn’t have a way to bold the letters, they used repetition. Repeating something once meant it was highly significant; repeating twice (saying it three times) was like using all upper-case letters AND underlining-italicizing-bolding and adding several exclamation marks!!!

Loving God’s Way cannot be faked, pretended, or counterfeited for long because loving like God loves (even with our human limitations) is about much more than just behavior. To agapaō someone is to have a higher regard for them than you do for yourself (Philippians 2:3-4), to have a passionate desire for God’s best for them, even at great expense or sacrifice to yourself. This is something that happens on a heart level, not just with a bunch of words and some temporary actions.

His Word includes the commands to “love one another, just as I have loved you.” How has He loved us? “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life” (From Romans 5:5-6, 8, 10).

So, when we read that we are to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” (Mark 12:31a) these words take on a significantly powerful meaning. They are commanded by God in the Old Testament and retaught by Jesus in the New.

When we give to another with the expectation of receiving something in return, we have just dehumanized and objectified that individual. They have now gone from being regarded in our hearts as a fellow image-bearer of God to a resource for us to have our needs met by. Again, that is not relationship; that is using.

In a marriage, this can be an especially easy trap to fall in to. Most people get married because of what needs are being met or what emotions they experience being connected to that other person. That is not a Biblical or a Christian model. To “love another” is to passionately desire God’s best for them, not for you.

Another important idea to hold fast to is the idea that the “one another’s” are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to love them first and love them best. It is from a solid “one anothering” love that the Body of Christ is able to love the lost.

One more thing: We are also instructed to love our enemies with the same love we love our fellow believers. This is an even more difficult kind of love. If you read Luke 6:35, you will find that Jesus explains what that love looks like with these instructions: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Matthew has a different quote from Jesus along these same lines (5:43-47): “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they?”

Paul picks up this theme in Romans, Chapter 5 (verses 6, 8, and 10), and gives us the baseline for us to love others – even our enemies:

  • “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Verse 6)
  •  But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Verse 8)
  • For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? (Verse 10)

So, let us not forget that, just as God has loved us in Christ, so we are to love others – also in Christ, just as God has loved us. His love is not conditional, and neither should ours be.

 

Happy St. Valentine’s Day

 

Hyper-Headship and the Scandal of Domestic Abuse in the Church

(Reblogged from The Gospel Coalition Blog)

by Jared C. Wilson

 

(NOTE: This is the kind of thing I have been praying for – no, BEGGING for – to see happen in the church for a VERY long time. His word-picture about the 3 doors parallels what I have often said: “When it comes to abuse, there is no ‘Switzerland’ – you either side with the abuser or the abused; there is no third choice.”)

Jason Meyer, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, gave a powerful and important sermon this past Sunday.

In it, he defined things like “hyper-headship”:

Hyper-headship is a satanic distortion of male leadership, but it can fly under the radar of discernment because it is disguised as strong male leadership. Make no mistake—it is harsh, oppressive, and controlling. In other words, hyper-headship becomes a breeding ground for domestic abuse.

Meyer also addressed the issue of domestic abuse, highlighting three lessons in particular they had learned:

  1. Not all abuse cases are the same, even though they may share certain things in common. If you have seen one abuse case, you have seen one abuse case.
  2. We need to distinguish between two types of marital sinfulness: normative sinfulness and abusive sinfulness.
  3. There are spectrums and varieties of domestic abuse. A good working definition of domestic abuse is “a godless pattern of abusive behavior among spouses involving physical, psychological, and/or emotional means to exert and obtain power and control over a spouse for the achievement of selfish ends” (John Henderson).

Calling it a “draw-a-line-in-the-sand kind of moment” for the church, Meyer read a statement from the elders about domestic abuse:

We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst. This destructive way of relating to a spouse is a satanic distortion of Christ-like male leadership because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his bride. The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused, call abusers to repentance, discipline the unrepentant, and hold up high the stunning picture of how much Christ loves his church.

The statement goes on to give information about whom to contact when abuse is occurring.

Meyer addressed abusers:

If you are an abuser, I call you right now to repent and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The only hope is on the other side of repentance—getting out of denial so you can own your sin. That is the only hope because if you confess it as sin, there is a sacrifice for sin. There is no sacrifice for denial.

He addressed victims:

If you are being abused, the bulletin gives information on next steps. Please let us help. God hates abuse, and so do we. We are committed to help. If you have come to us for help before and have been disappointed, please give us another chance. We believe that the tide of awareness has risen on all three campuses and that positive changes are happening.

And he addressed children:

If you are a child and have seen one of your parents abuse the other, it is not right, and it is not your fault. You are not to blame. We want to get you help as well. You may think telling someone will tear your family apart, but it may be the only thing that can bring your family back together. If you are a child and you are being abused, let us help. Don’t walk this road alone. Tell someone. Please tell the children’s pastor or your youth pastor or a Sunday school worker.

He then closed with an address to men in particular:

Men of Bethlehem, let me address you. I will lay it on the line. At first glance, it looks like there are three possible doors the men of this church can take.

  • Door 1: side with the abusersm
  • Door 2: take no side, or
  • Door 3: side with the abused and stand up to the abusers.

If you are tempted to open Door 2, please know that it is a slide that just takes you to the same place as Door 1. Doing nothing is doing something: it is looking the other way so the abusers can do their thing without worrying who is watching. Saying nothing is saying something—it’s saying, “Go ahead, we don’t care enough to do anything.”

I would strongly encourage you to read the entire sermon, which contains careful definitions of the various kinds of abuse and various principles about abuse. You can listen to the audio here.

For some resources on abuse, see Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s resources:

See also:

Manipulation, Part 1 – Gaslighting

Overheard:

“That’s not what I said and not how I meant what I said!”

This piece on “Gaslighting” is the first in a series about the oppressive manipulations tactics many of the folks I counsel experience on a regular basis.

What we will discuss in this series happens in homes, churches, businesses, friendships – all kinds of environments where hurt people hurt other people.

I pray you will find it useful.

*********

Gaslighting is a sophisticated manipulation tactic employing a specific kind of lying that people with certain character and personality defects use to create doubt in the minds of others.

The goal is togaslight make the target person doubt their own judgment and perceptions, and to create doubt in the minds of others about the believability of the targeted person.

Here’s where the term comes from, how it works, and what to be on the alert for.

In the classic suspense thriller, Gaslight (MGM, 1944), Paula (Ingrid Bergman) marries the villainous Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), not realizing that he is the one who murdered her aunt and is now searching for her missing jewels.

To cover up his treachery, he tries to persuade Paula that she is going mad, so he can search the attic for the jewels without her interference.

He plants missing objects on her person in order to make her believe that she has no recollection of reality.

He tries to isolate her, not allowing her to have visitors or to leave the house.

He tries to make her think she is losing her mind by making subtle changes in her environment, including slowly and steadily dimming the flame on a gas lamp.

If this sounds somehow familiar, you have probably encountered the form of psychological abuse known as “Gaslighting.”

Essentially, it describes methods of manipulation that are designed to make the victim lose their grip on the truth or doubt their perception of reality, in order to gain power and control over them.

Effective gaslighting can be accomplished in several different ways.

Sometimes, a person can assert something with such an apparent intensity of conviction that the other person begins to doubt their own perspective – like someone stealing something that belongs to you and being so unwaveringly insistent that it really belongs to them that you give up.

Other times, vigorous and unwavering denial coupled with a display of righteous indignation can accomplish the same task – like being aggressive toward you and, when you stand up for yourself, vehemently accusing you of being abusive.

Bringing up historical facts that seem largely accurate but contain minute, hard-to-prove distortions and using them to “prove” they are right – like rewording things you or they said so that there are too many little lies to try and fight that you don’t know where to begin.

Gaslighting is particularly effective when coupled with other tactics such as shaming and guilting.

Anything that aids in getting another person to doubt their judgment and back down will work for the gaslighter. One of the scary parts of Gaslighting is that, oftentimes, the gaslighter seems to believe that what they are saying is true.

Gaslighting can be a terrifying experience. It can quickly put you on the defensive, manipulate you in to trying to justify your own actions or behaviors, when what you started out to do was challenge someone else’s wrong behavior.

A gaslighter’s prevarications may be presented so convincingly and with such conviction, that you not only doubt your own memories and sense of judgment, you also start to fear that other’s (who don’t know the truth and don’t see things from your perspective) will become persuaded to believe the gaslighter instead of you.

This leaves you feeling even more trapped, more confused, more powerless, and feeds a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

What To Do

  • ALWAYS keep yourself (and any children) safe FIRST!
  • Avoid arguing the “facts” with the gaslighter – they will not surrender to your view of things unless it serves their purpose (we will discuss this more when we look at “Assenting in Order to Manipulate”).
  • Remember that you are not responsible for the other person’s feelings or behaviors
  • Keep a journal (if you can do so safely) of these kinds of conversations when they occur. You will find the running record a powerful tool in reassuring yourself that you aren’t the crazy one.
  • Consider recording (again, if you can do so SAFELY) some of the interactions.
  • Have safe and perceptive people with whom you can discuss these things. A dialog with a trusted counselor, pastor, family member, or friend so they are aware of what you are dealing with can be very helpful.
  • Do the healthy best-practices you need to do to get out from under this kind of oppressive behavior. Calmly refuse to accept it, and absent yourself from the conversation when it starts.

There will be more coming in the days ahead.

Soli Deo Gloria

Pro-Life Laws Will Make Abortion Possible

The following is being re-blogged, by permission of the original author, because it eloquently articulates my own views. I fully anticipate people on the pro-life side of things being unaccepting of the message, in spite of its truth and import. They will have to sort that out with their Creator.

“Dear Pro-Lifers,
Please seriously and prayerfully consider this message. I am not trying to ruin your party, rain on your parade, or burst your bubble. I am trying to help you. Come, let us reason together.

When hospitals all across America start paying doctors to perform abortions within their walls, it will be the triumphs of pro-life legislation which drove them there.

Let me explain.

Passing laws that temporarily shut down abortion clinics because they are not close enough to hospitals only strengthens the abortion industry and inadvertently acknowledges the practice of child sacrifice as part of our nation’s healthcare system.

Abortion is not health care and we should not be fighting it by passing health-code rules and regulations.

1. Abortion is not any less murderous when it is carried out within 30 miles of a hospital.

2. The abortion industry will meet these regulations.

3. They will clean up their acts and build new killing centers.

4. Some “clinics” will close, but those remaining will pick up the slack.

5. Shutting down clinics doesn’t halt abortion; it just makes people who choose to sacrifice their children drive further.

6. People who choose abortion will only be comforted by the knowledge that the “service” they are seeking is that much safer.

7. They will perform abortions within hospitals if you pass laws against performing them everywhere else.

8. Once child murder services are being performed in hospitals on a widespread basis, the fungibility (sic?) of funds, facilities, and equipment becomes yet another obstacle to abolition, as now the aborticians and their staffs will be further protected by the legitimacy and reputation of the hospital.

Do you not see that the abortion industry only gets stronger as they build bigger and better clinics to meet your pro-life standards? Do you not see that they (like you) just raise money from their so-called defeats? Have you not come to realized that no matter how many clinics you shut down, millions of babies are still being aborted every year? Do you not see that the devil himself would allow you to take a few pieces off the board so long as he constantly has you in check mate?

Pro-choicers have long stated that they believe abortion should be kept “safe, legal, and rare”.

Pro-lifers are positively helping them make it more safe (for the women murdering their babies) and inadvertently keeping it legal because they are focused on making it more rare.

Temporarily shutting down clinics by regulating (and thereby strengthening) the abortion industry might give you

We’ve been regulating abortion for forty plus years and it is time that we focus our attention on REPENTANCE, RENEWAL, and REVIVAL. A revival of true Christianity alone holds the key to abolishing human abortion. Repentance will precede revival and revolution will follow it. Abolition will be the fruit of providential revolution. It will not be the gradual end result of pragmatic incremental regulation.

Repentance and revival alone will enable us to sway the country against the practice of child sacrifice. These regulatory schemes are actually delusive distractions.

The abortion industry itself may fight against these rules and regulations… but in the end, they will play by your rules so long as their bloody practice is not brought under the law against murder.

We are at war with powers and principalities and they are more powerful than you are when you try to fight them within the carnal system they have set up for themselves – abortion as healthcare. If you go to war with these spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places using worldly wisdom (incremental legislation), you will be losing even when you think you are winning.

But when we fight by the spirit of God now dwelling richly within us and bring His Word against the evil of our age, triumph is inevitable. We will conquer abortion by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. We will not conquer it by regulating it.

Thank you for reading this message. I hope and pray that you are able to see it for what it is and assess it with the mind of Christ.

Something to celebrate for a short time, but for those of us who do not want to celebrate “victories” against legalized child sacrifice for the next 40 years, we need to rethink our strategies and focus our work on calling the nation to total and immediate repentance for the national sin of abortion.”
Thanks to T. Russell Hunter for permission to re-blog!

 

Hello, My Name is Church (Re-Blog)

Hello my name is church,

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about me. I have no shortage of critics. Perhaps you have heard that I am…

Boring

Shallow

Cheap

A waste of time

You’ve heard that I am full of

Hypocrites

Clowns

Greedy people

The self- righteous

Maybe you have visited me before and discovered

Horrible music

Passionless singing

Dry preaching

Rude congregants

Maybe you needed me and I was

Too busy

Too “righteous”

Too broke

Too blind

Maybe you joined me and found I was

Distant

Demanding

Dull

Preoccupied

Maybe you tried to serve in me but were caught off guard by

Business meetings

Committees

Teams

Bureaucracy

Maybe you left and were surprised that nobody

Called

Cared

Noticed

Invited you back

Perhaps your experience has driven you to

Speak negatively of me

Swear to never come back to me

Proclaim that no one needs me

Believe you’re better off without me

If this is true, I have something to say to you

I’m sorry

I was wrong

I blew it

I made a huge mistake

But remember, I never said my name was

Perfect

Flawless

Complete

Arrived

My name is church. I welcome the

Hypocrite

Dry

Self-righteous

Shallow

I welcome the

Sincere

Passionate

Forgiving

Selfless

I cannot shut my doors to the people who make you

Angry

Uncomfortable

Impatient

Self-conscious

But I would remind you that we couldn’t always worship in the same room. In the Old Testament there was a division between the

Gentile

Jew

Man

Woman

In order for us to all worship in the same room Christ was

Shamed

Beaten

Killed

Resurrected

Which is far worse than being

Bored

Uncomfortable

Embarrassed

Ignored

So why not come back to church and let all of these messed up people

Challenge you

Sharpen you

Strengthen you

Humble you.

I can’t promise you that the people will be great. This is church. It’s not

Heaven

Paradise

Beulah Land

The Celestial city

Come back.

God wants you here

The body needs you here

The world needs your witness here.

You belong here.

Hello, my name is church

I miss you

I love you

I’m sorry

Can’t wait to see you.

The Unappreciated Pastor

 

Hello my name is church,

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about me. I have no shortage of critics. Perhaps you have heard that I am…

Boring

Shallow

Cheap

A waste of time

 

You’ve heard that I am full of

 

Hypocrites

Clowns

Greedy people

The self- righteous

 

Maybe you have visited me before and discovered

 

Horrible music

Passionless singing

Dry preaching

Rude congregants

 

Maybe you needed me and I was

 

Too busy

Too “righteous”

Too broke

Too blind

 

Maybe you joined me and found I was

 

Distant

Demanding

Dull

Preoccupied

 

Maybe you tried to serve in me but were caught off guard by

 

Business meetings

Committees

Teams

Bureaucracy

 

Maybe you left and were surprised that nobody

 

Called

Cared

Noticed

Invited you back

 

 

Perhaps your experience has driven you to

 

Speak negatively of me

Swear…

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