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…

View original post 251 more words

Reblog – True Biblical Conversion

True Biblical Conversion

Re-blogged by permission from http://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/02/24/true-biblical-conversion/

There are some vital biblical truths which are so utterly essential and important, that there is no problem in repeating them over and over again. Even though I have written on this topic often, and shared these passages often, I can never stop sharing them.

Indeed, it is incumbent upon me to do so. In Ezekiel 3 and 33 the watchman is commissioned to share biblical truth, and warn the wayward, and if he does not, then their blood will be upon his hands (see Ez. 3:16-21 and 33:1-17). Let me quote just one verse here:

“When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[ their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Ez. 3:18).

And this is not just some Old Testament stuff which is not relevant to us today. Not only was Ezekiel under solemn obligation here, but so too are all God’s people. We all have a watchman role in this respect. We all have an obligation to warn sinners – and those who think they are believers but may well not be – about their fate if they do not come to true biblical conversion.

Jesus made this perfectly clear when he said one of the most frightening and sobering things found anywhere in the entire Bible. I refer to his words as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23. They are horrible words, but utterly necessary words:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

I speak to this text in much more detail here: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/03/19/the-most-frightening-words-in-scripture/

And another warning I have been sharing often comes from American pastor Mark Dever. He recently told an audience of 8000 pastors at a conference this: “My fellow pastors, could it be that many of our hearers each week aren’t saved, even many of our members?”

The is a very alarming reality. And it is not just pastors and church leaders who need to address this fact. As I already said, we all have an obligation to make sure that we ourselves are truly converted, and then make sure our colleagues in Christ are as well.

How can we perform such an evaluation on ourselves and others? The most obvious way to do this is to dig out our New Testament,s blow off the dust, get on our faces before God, and reread carefully and prayerfully the four Gospels. And no matter if you have read them hundreds of times before: ask God to speak to you plainly as if you are reading them for the very first time.

This should be your first port of call. But there are other helps available. There are godly preachers who have spoken much to this issue. Plenty of them can be mentioned here. Let me refer you to just one. American pastor Paul Washer is doing as good a job here as anyone in enunciating and explicating the true gospel message, and what true conversion is all about.

In fact, he has a series of books out called “Recovering the Gospel”. Let me refer to his 2013 volume,The Gospel Call and True Conversion. There are plenty of spiritual nuggets here worth quoting, so let me allow Washer to speak for himself. He says this in the series preface:

“One of the greatest crimes committed by this present Christian generation is its neglect of the gospel, and it is from this neglect that all our other maladies spring forth. The lost world is not so much gospel hardened as it is gospel ignorant because many of those who proclaim the gospel are also ignorant of its most basic truths. The essential themes that make up the core of the gospel – the justice of God, the radical depravity of man, the blood atonement, the nature of true conversion, and the biblical basis of assurance – are absent from too many pulpits. Churches reduce the gospel message to a few creedal statements, teach that conversion is a mere human decision, and pronounce assurance of salvation over anyone who prays the sinner’s prayer.”

He says the results of such “gospel reductionism has been far-reaching”: it “hardens the hearts of the unconverted”; it “deforms the church from a spiritual body of unregenerated believers into a gathering of carnal men who profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him”; it “reduces evangelism and missions to little more than a humanistic endeavor driven by clever marketing strategies based upon a careful study of the latest trends in culture”; and it “brings reproach to the name of God”.

He examines in detail a number of issues such as biblical repentance, biblical faith, the new heart, and the new covenant. He then rightly says this:

“The conversion of a person is possibly the most magnificent demonstration of the power of God in the universe. Although it necessitates a decision on the part of the individual, it is primarily a work of God from beginning to end. At conversion, God regenerates and transforms a person’s heart so that he becomes a new creation. This is not mere poetry, exaggerated metaphor, or hyperbole; it is to be taken literally. Through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, a person is given a new nature with new and righteous affections that can no longer tolerate estrangement from God, friendship with the world, or the practice of sin.

“Although he may stray, he cannot stray for long, but is compelled by many forces within and without to return to God. His new nature will be sickened by sin and will cause him to loathe it even while the forbidden meat is still between his teeth. The Spirit who indwells him will convict him of his sin and renew his hope of finding pardon and restoration in the mercies of his God. The Son will seek him out and draw him with great reminders of Calvary’s love. The Father will employ every means of providence and stretch forth His hand in loving discipline.

“He will turn him from the path of destruction, teach him to fear the Lord, and make him a partaker of the very holiness of God. For this reason, the genuine Christian will not turn away or shrink back to destruction. He will persevere unto the end, not only in faith but also in sanctification leading to a personal righteousness. The God who began a good work in hi will perfect it until the day of Christ.”

He also examines the signs or fruit of genuine conversion. Consider the believer’s relationship to the world for example: “One of the first noticeable results of true conversion is biblical separation from the world – a gradual divorce or withdrawn from all that is displeasing to God and in opposition to His will. Such a separation is not an end in itself, but rather the first and essential step to a greater end: a drawing nigh unto God, and the giving of ourselves to His purposes and will.”

He concludes by saying this: “Much of what is practiced within the evangelical community in the West regarding evangelism, conversion, and the assurance of salvation is a denial of everything that the Scriptures teach about the new covenant, the new birth, and the very nature of God and salvation.”

I have only skimmed the surface here of so many vital and neglected biblical truths found in this book. I urge you to get a copy yourself of this 188-page volume and read it carefully and repeatedly. Along with rereading the Gospels, this is one of the better things you can do concerning the most important matter every single one of us must deal with.

Soli Deo Gloria

To Be Such a Man

To Be Such a Man

This story was shared with me by a pastor several years ago and I wanted to share it with you all this evening. One of the elders in his church told him this story and said that it had changed his whole outlook on being a believer ad on his response to people that God brings across his path. Here is what he said:

“I sat, with two friends, looking out of the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town-square. The food and the company were both especially good that day.

As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying a well-worn sign that read, ‘I will work for food.’ My heart sank.

I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and cynicism.

The stranger continued through the square and out of sight and we continued with our meal. The image of the stranger lingered in my mind and I wasn’t as attentive to the conversation or the food as I had been.

We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was a bit fearful, though, because I knew that seeing him again would call some kind of response on my part. I drove through town but saw nothing of him.

I made a couple of stops, made some purchases at a store and then got back in my car and headed for my office.Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: ‘Don’t go back to the office until you’ve driven at least once more around the square…Don’t go back to the office until you’ve driven at least once more around the square.’

After a little hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the third corner of the square, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the store-front church, going through his sack.

I stopped and looked; I felt compelled to do two things: I felt compelled to speak to him, yet I also felt compelled just to drive on to my office. The empty parking space on the corner by where the man stood seemed to be a sign from God – like an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town’s newest visitor.

‘Looking for the pastor?’ I asked.

‘Not really,’ he replied, ‘just resting.’

‘Have you eaten today?’

‘Oh, I ate something early this morning, thank you.’

‘Would you like to have lunch with me?’

‘Do you have some work I could do for you?’

‘No work,’ I replied. ‘I have a small one-man office on the outskirts of town, but I would like to take you to lunch.’

‘Sure,’ he replied with a smile.

As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions. ‘Where you headed?’

‘St. Louis .’

‘Where you from?’

‘Oh, all over; mostly Florida.’

‘How long you been walking?’

‘Fourteen years,’ came the reply.

I was stunned and I knew I had met someone unusual. He was gentle and well spoken – not at all what a “professional” homeless person seemed like they would be to me.

We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered somewhat beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, ‘Jesus Is The Never Ending Story.’

Daniel – the name of my new friend – began to unfold his story. He had seen some very rough times early in his life. He’d made some wrong and bad choices and had reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier while backpacking across the country, trying to make some sense out of his life, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona, Florida. He had tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought.

He was hired to help for the day, but the tent would not be housing a concert that evening. It would be housing revival services that evening and over the next several days. Daniel stuck around. And it was during those services that he heard some things he had never heard before, felt some things he had never felt before and thought some things that he had never thought before. He began to see his life a whole lot more clearly. On the third night of the revival, he gave his life over to God.

‘Nothing’s been the same since,’ he said, ‘I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did – some 14 years now.’

‘Ever think of stopping?’ I asked.

‘Oh, once in a while, when things seem to get the best of me   But, God has given me this calling. I give out Bibles and talk to people about Jesus Christ. That’s what’s in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out whenever and to whomever His Spirit leads me to.’

I sat there amazed at what I was hearing. My homeless friend was not really homeless. He was on a mission and he lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: ‘What is it like?’

‘What?’

‘To walk into a town carrying all your belongings on your back and to show your sign?’

‘Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a rude gesture that certainly didn’t make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people’s concepts of Him and of other folks like me.’

My perceptions were changing, too. We finished our dessert and he gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused. He turned to me and said, ‘Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in.’

I felt as if we were standing on holy ground. ‘Could you use another Bible?’ I asked.

He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well, was not too heavy and was easy for people to understand. It was also his personal favorite. ‘I’ve read through it 14 times,’ he said.

‘I’m not sure we’ve got one of those, but let’s stop by our church and see.’  I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful.

‘Where are you headed from here?’ I asked.

‘Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon,’ he said, pulling out a folded and well-worn flyer from his hip pocket.

‘Are you hoping to hire on there for awhile?’

‘No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that’s where I’m going next.’

He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated with the peace from His relationship with Christ and with the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town-square where we’d met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and he unloaded his things.

‘Would you sign my autograph book?’ he asked. ‘I like to keep messages from folks I meet.’

I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you a future and a hope.’

‘Thanks, man,’ he said. ‘I know we just met and we’re really just strangers, but I love you.’

‘I know,’ I said, ‘I love you, too.’

‘The Lord is good!’

‘Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?’ I asked.

‘A long time,’ he replied.

And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed. He put his things on his back, smiled his winning smile and said, ‘See you in the New Jerusalem!’

‘I’ll be there!’ was my reply.

And so he set out on his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said, ‘When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?’

‘You can count on it!’ I shouted back. ‘God bless you!’

‘God bless you, man!’ And that was the last I ever saw of him.

Late that evening as I left my office, the wind was blowing strong. The cold front had settled hard over our town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them… a pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the brake handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend, wondering if his hands would stay warm that night without them.

Then I remembered his words:  ‘If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?’

Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry. ‘See you in the New Jerusalem,’ he had said. Yes, Daniel, I know I will…”

 

If this story touched you, perhaps you would share with us how it has done so?

‘I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.’

Prayer is one of the best gifts we receive. There is no cost but a lot of rewards. Let’s continue to pray for one another as often as we think of one another. Pray that the Lord God will bless and keep us in the center of His will that day. We never know when that small prayer could make all the difference in the world for someone.

‘Father, I ask you to bless my friends, relatives and loved ones, and even those with whom I am at odds right now. Bless them right this very moment. Show them a new revelation of Your love and Your power. I pray that the Holy Spirit would minister to their spirit even as I pray this prayer. Where there is pain, bring them Your comfort and give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self-doubt, release a renewed confidence in and through Your grace. Where there is sin, bring repentance and cleansing though Jesus’ precious blood. In His mighty name I pray. Amen.’

Soli Deo Gloria

Merry Christmas

Absence of Honor

Overheard:

“Even when I really, really wasn’t happy with my mother, I could never imagine ever speaking to her that way.”

When did it become not just “okay” but normal and acceptable for children to dishonor their parents?

I’m not talking about a simple LACK of honor . . . I am talking about the active DISHONORING of their parents by children – especially grown children – that has become so commonplace it is now normal.

I have been witnessing this phenomenon of the rampant disregard for and dishonoring of parents in our society for several years now and it was brought home this week while my wife and I were vacationing.

The above “Overheard” statement was made by the lady whose home we stayed in for most of our trip. She is a gentle, soft-spoken woman who has two grown children.

She lost her husband a couple of years ago and has been managing and growing the family business since that time. She has also been nurturing her daughter through her divorce from a man who was abusive.

As I was sitting at the breakfast bar listening to mothers talk about how their daughters have been relating to them in recent days, I could see how big a deal was to them. And how heartbreaking.

Both of them are very confused. And heartbroken. And they are not the only ones these days.

Many parents of grown children have the same heartbroken disbelief over how the children the love can be so quickly and easily dishonoring.

They simply cannot understand what it was they had done that could have caused their daughters to speak to them harshly, to be short and curt to them, to disregard their feelings as if they are a nuisance, and to rise up in angry belligerence when they disagree with them.

These two ladies were talking about how they – two women I respect and admire – were feeling as a result of how they were left feeling by recent interactions with their daughters – young women I also respect and admire.

And it got me thinking about how far we have come from God’s original, exquisite design.

The Bible admonishes children to do two things: first, when they are young, to obey their parents; second, when they are older, to honor their parents.

Both of these are given as commands, not suggestions, and in both instances it is to the children’s advantage that they do so.

It’s pretty easy to figure out what it means for child obey their parents. But, what does it mean for child to honor their parents?

Do you know what honor is, what the word means?

The Hebrew word underlying “honor” in the 5th Commandment proposes a heaviness, a weightiness, a relentlessness, and a richness, all in a long-lasting, continuing sense.

It implies a lifelong responsibility, thus it is used in the sense of honoring, glorifying, imposing, or being weighty.

In English, honor means “to give high regard, respect, and esteem to; give special recognition to; to bring or give respect or credit to; an outward token, sign or act that manifests high regard for.”

Two English words – respect and reverence — help bring into focus the implications of this commandment.

Respect means “to have deferential regard for; to treat with propriety and consideration; to regard as inviolable.” Reverence means “to show deferential respect.”

Honor has a far wider application than obey. Honor is expressed in courtesy, kindness, respectfulness, thoughtfulness, mercy, and generous, affectionate deeds.

Just as surely as God requires parents to care for, love, nourish, defend, support, and tenderly provide for their children their first moments of infancy, so children in their strength should reflect this back to their parents, even in their perceived “weakness.”

God has not provided a disqualifier for this command, the loopholes, no escape clauses. He does not say, “Children, honor your parents as long as they are worthy of honor.”

When a grown child speaks rudely, harshly, angrily, disrespectfully to their parents – no matter what justification they may believe they have – they are in fact dishonoring their parents.

And it’s not so much about the deeds were the words, but about the heart behind them. In God’s economy, dishonoring one’s parents is dishonoring God.

And, on top of that, it breaks the heart of the parent being treated so – especially a mom.

Mom’s are, for the most part, loving, caring, nurturing, self-sacrificial, lovingly devoted to, easily made proud of, and very often heard bragging about their children.

And even if the child is engaged in embarrassing, shameful behaviors, you won’t hear it from mom.

How is it, then, that a grown child could have such blatant disregard for heart and feelings of the one person in their life who has invested more in them than any 10 others?

And heaven forbid anyone were to come against that child — who do you think would be the first to come to that him and him child’s defense? Would it not be Mom?

To hear a grown child say that they are entitled to respect “too”, while it is true to a certain degree, they are not rise up against their parents and demand it from their parents.

To do so would require them to be dishonoring – and that is absolutely not okay with God.

Bottom line: Children — grown children — honor your parents in the Lord. This is your duty, your sacred obligation, and it is honoring and pleasing to God.

You may just find life turning out richer, better, and longer than even you feel entitled to.

Oh — and if you’ve been dishonoring and disrespectful to your parents — get on the phone and apologize. You never know when you will have waited too long and it will be too late.

Soli Deo Gloria

“How do I respond when a loved one says ‘I’m gay’?” – by Charlene Hios

Overheard:

“I’m gay.”

(This is reblogged from Messenger Insight)

How do I respond when a loved one says ‘I’m gay’?

by  Charlene E. Hios, Executive Director, Bridging The Gaps Ministries

In today’s age of gay rights, in a culture that is affirming of homosexuality, many of us may know someone who self-identifies as gay or lesbian. This person may be a neighbor, a co-worker or friend. The “new normal” has us living in a world in which homosexuality may hit close to home.

Many Christians now must ask, “How do I respond when a loved one says ‘I’m gay’?” How you respond when they disclose that they believe they are gay or lesbian makes a world of difference in your relationship with them going forward. This is especially true if they are your child.

First, remember this is not about you. It is about that person. The desire for your loved one is that they be reconciled to God from this sin. You can, and must, extend God’s love while holding to a position that homosexuality is sin. (It certainly is not the only sexual sin identified in the Bible, but it is indeed one of them.) They can be reconciled with God from this sin and others.

Whether the disclosure comes from a family member or friend, their admission of homosexuality hits you hard, especially as a Christian. Your initial reaction is likely to be one of shock, disbelief, anger, hurt and guilt. You have started the grieving process. No, your loved one has not died; yet, with the news of their homosexual identity, but you have experienced loss.

Immediately, you start thinking of the dreams you had for your child. You may even start thinking about what others will think. You will wonder if you will even be able to face your friends, your family and everyone at church. Then your anger toward your child or your loved one will surface. How can they do this to you? All of these thoughts have gone through your mind in a matter of moments. Your loved one is standing right there before you waiting for you to respond.

Turn away from your anger or you will push them away. Turn your love for them towards them. They need you to show them that you love them. Embrace them! Say to them that you recognize that this was not an easy thing for them to do. Share with them that you know it took a lot of courage and that you are thankful that they told you. You are not endorsing their homosexuality but you are affirming their courage, their love for you and your love for them.

Although it is hard to hear someone say “I’m gay,” recognize that it is better than hiding it in the darkness. Praise God that they have brought their homosexuality into the light. Your loved one may sound euphoric or say they are more joyful than ever. Understand that the reason for this joy is that they have brought this deep dark sinful secret out into the open. They may not see it this way, but it is something you can take comfort in. Let it give you hope.

One of the most important responses is to listen to your loved one. What was their thinking process on this matter? Ask them when did they first “feel” different. Keep away from the word “why.” Continue to listen to their answers. Do not get defensive. You are fact-finding. This is about you learning their experience. This is not about you telling them yours. You want to understand their process of rationalization. Do not say, “Why didn’t you tell us?” Ask, “What kept you from telling us?” There is a lot you will learn by asking these questions and others.

Never bring up the matter of homosexuality, allow them to bring it up, and they will. They may give you books to read that express their thoughts on homosexuality. Read them. This allows more needed discussion.

Do not argue, but always bring the discussion to God’s Word, especially Gen. 2:4-25 that reflects God’s intended design. Step back and let the Holy Spirit move. As your loved one shares their journey, you should not affirm their conclusion; however, you can confirm the journey. Tread lightly and be gentle. Intercede before God for them. Your loved one wants you in their journey; otherwise, they would not have told you about it. Ultimately your desire is for them (and yourself) to be restored into the image of Christ. This involves a true, lifelong transformation from sin to Christ-likeness. Even in this most difficult of circumstances, God is faithful to extend His grace through forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration.

NoteCharlene Hios is the founder and director of Bridging The Gaps Ministries in San Francisco, Calif. She is a graduate of Golden Gate Seminary (GGBTS), and is studying for her Doctor of Ministry. A former lesbian who was washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11), Hios travels around the country speaking to churches sharing her testimony and speaking to how churches can minister compassionate truth telling and grace to a world impacted and affected by homosexuality.

Abuse Has No Switzerland

Overheard:

“There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse.”

The following is another excerpt from the book I am writing about my experiences being a Biblical counselor to abuse survivors:

Abuse Has No Switzerland

As I have mentioned many, many times in the past, “There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse!” Intentionally or unintentionally, we automatically side with either the victim or the offender. There is no neutral territory, no middle ground.

Abuse does not and cannot happen in a vacuum: it happens in relationships; it happens in families; ; it happens in churches; it happens in communities.

Evil people don’t look evil – they look just like everyone else. So, becoming aware of and sensitive to the warning signs of abuse and abusers is necessary if we are going to answer God’s call to rescue those caught in abuse.

Failing that, by default we provide aid and comfort to those who abuse because, wittingly or unwittingly, we ensure an environment where the abuser feels safe to carry out their evil against their victim(s).

There is a sense of desperation and hopelessness for many survivors that flows from the reality that most people around them do not recognize the signs and symptoms that indicate abuse is happening.

Ironically, despite such a large cross-section of the populace who have experienced or witnessed abuse, there is a veil of ignorance overshadowing the realm of abuse and oppression. It prevents these co-survivors from being aware that it is happening in the lives of others around them.

There are two main reasons for this that I have seen: First there is the self-denial and minimization that survivors engage in when considering their experiences. The abuse/oppression has been miscategorized as something else, or it has been minimized and declassified in their mind as abuse.

The second main reason co-survivors are unaware that abuse is happening in the lives of others is our human tendency to project our standards of behavior on to other people: “I can’t image (or, I would never think of) treating someone that way, so I can’t image someone actually being that evil to someone else.”

The result is that we call authoritarianism “a firm hand”, we call physical beatings “discipline”, we call verbal/emotional abuse “she was just angry and didn’t really mean anything by it”, and we call the isolating of victims “protecting them from the world”.

There are innumerable other ways we fall into this trap of corporate denial, but you get the idea.

The question is, then: How do we stop providing aid and comfort to this enemy?

First, we have to understand that it is never okay with God for one person to misuse or abuse another person!

Second, we have to commit to becoming better educated about the warning signs of potential abusers and the signs of ongoing abuse. Our hope is that this book will be a useful tool to help with that.

I cannot tell you how heartbreaking and traumatizing it is for someone who is experiencing abuse to have what is happening to them be ignored, overlooked, or – worse yet – discounted, minimized, denied.

Jennifer’s story is another example of how this happens in the church. Jennifer is a pastor’s wife. She grew up in an abusive and neglectful home. Her family of origin had stringent rules of behavior that allowed no margin for error. Violation of those rules met with such severe punishment that she still has scars on her back and on the backs of her upper thighs.

The punishment for violating the rules never took place in front of others – it was always reserved for when the family had withdrawn to the confines of the four walls of their home. So deceptive were the parents about the abuse the children were subjected to that they intentionally presented a false front to everyone around them.

In fact, the parents presented a calm and understanding face to the world at large when one of the children spilled something or allowed their voice to get too loud or used the wrong utensil to eat with. But this was only a front.

Jennifer describes one incident in particular when the family was at a church barbeque and picnic. She had been carrying a paper plate loaded with food toward the family table. Two other children who were running and playing collided with her and the plate of food got mashed food-side first into her little white dress.

She was horrified! Jennifer remembered her mother specifically telling her before they left the house not to get that dress dirty!

Terror-stricken and hyper-anxious about the severe beating she knew was coming, Jennifer wet herself. The shame she felt was overwhelming and she ran and hid inside the church – but not before she saw the dark look pass across her mother’s face.

The anxiety this little nine year-old girl experienced at that moment resided in the pit of her stomach clear up until she sat in my office at age 48.

The pastor’s wife found Jennifer cowering in one of the Sunday School rooms, having seen what had happened and having watched Jennifer run into the church. She felt bad for the little girl and her heart went out to her.

Sadly, however, this kindhearted, well-intentioned woman of God was convinced in her own mind that Jennifer’s reaction was due to embarrassment – not terror.

The pastor’s wife sat on the floor next to Jennifer, pulled the curled up, whimpering little girl on to her lap and began to gently rock her, gently trying to console her. She used reassuring words, declaring to Jennifer that everything was going to be all right, that there was nothing to be ashamed about, and nothing to worry about.

Jennifer wanted it to be so –so much so that she started to almost believe this kind and loving lady. When she weakly said, “My Momma’s gonna punish me real good,” the well-intentioned but uninformed woman failed to hear the firm resolve in the little girl’s tone.

Had she been better trained, her ear would have picked up the sureness with which that statement had been made and, perhaps, she would have pursued a line of questioning that would have cracked open the veil of deceit that concealed the long-term violence Jennifer and her siblings had been subjected to.

That was not the case, however, and the pastor’s wife eventually calmed the terrified little girl enough to coax her in to returning to the picnic area and rejoining the festivities. Jennifer’s mother gave no indication at all that she was in the least bit upset about the mess on Jennifer’s dress or that her daughter had shamed herself and her family by losing control of her bladder.

On the contrary: “Momma” was all smiles and laughter as if nothing had gone wrong at all.

Jennifer started to have hope, started to believe that the pastor’s wife had told her the truth and that this time, there would be no beating for breaking Momma’s rules.

She relaxed and started to run and play with the other children, even making light-hearted conversation with her mother a couple of times, gaining confidence in her hope because her mother was responding in-kind.

When the party broke up and the families gathered their things, Jennifer furtively cast glances at Momma, assessing her mood, searching for some sign that the feeling in the pit of her stomach could go away and never return.

The children laughed and compared stories about their adventures at the picnic, and the atmosphere in on the ride home was relaxed and easy — like a real family.

There was absolutely no sign that Momma was angry. In fact, Jennifer started to feel like maybe she had been forgiven! The stain on her dress was a reminder to her that Momma could not have forgotten the accident.

But, maybe Momma realized it wasn’t her fault. Maybe

The car was unloaded, their things were put away, and the children all headed upstairs to bathe and get ready for bed. The tight knot in Jennifer’s stomach began to release its grip.

She started to actually feel happy for the first time in — oh, she didn’t know how long!

“Jennifer?” she heard Momma say. “Get yourself up to my room.”

All of the anxiety-filled terror came rushing back with a vengeance, overtaking her little mind and heart so powerfully that she almost fainted. That meant the beating she had been falsely led to believe would not be forthcoming was about to be unleashed on her frail little body.

Of all the terror-filled moments of her life, she couldn’t remember one that was so intense.

She couldn’t feel her legs move as she climbed the long stairway to the second floor and moved to the large room her parents shared at the end of the hallway.

The only thought that kept racing through her mind was, “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod…” She couldn’t breathe through the fear.

To this day, the details of the beating she received that night are but few bright flashes of memory buried under an overriding sense of searing pain.

The violence and brutality that took place that night was a repeat of hundreds of other such incidents that would also be replayed hundreds upon hundreds of times more in the years to come, but with one marked difference – it seared her soul a little more with each stroke of the belt.

When the belt broke and the beating still continued, her mother continuing to wield the remaining piece at least to the point where Jennifer passed out, part of her mind mercifully escaped the scene, not recording the remained of the night in a part of her memory where she could recall it from.

School was out, so no one had reason to take notice that Jennifer was not around for over a week following the picnic. Her parents told the people at church that Jennifer was home “with a touch of a bug”, which was why she wasn’t with the family the following Sunday.

The other children did not let on that Jennifer had been laying on her stomach with cold compresses on her back and bottom since her last “discipline” session. No one was any the wiser.

Oh, and the pastor’s wife? She took them at their word — she had no reason not to, right?

She had no reason to believe that Jennifer’s statement, “My Momma’s gonna punish me real good,” was anything more than an frightened child’s overstatement.

She had no reason to think anything of the fact that none of the children in the family ever did anything that hinted of rebelliousness or mischievousness – they were just remarkably well behaved children.

The pastor’s wife had no reason to think there was anything untoward about a family with four school-age children where the girls were always pristinely dressed,  the boys were never scuffed or dirty, and the children were always, always, always obedient, compliant, and submissive in their demeanor to everyone. They never squabble or even tussled.

Good-hearted, well-intentioned people in the church who “Give folks the benefit of the doubt”,”Let’s not assume the worst about people”, “People are basically good”…these are nice ideas, but not founded in reality and not Biblically based.

Human beings are selfish and fallen, not “basically good”. Humans beings are scoundrels at heart and rebellious toward righteousness and justice.

God specifically warns us in His judgment oracle in Genesis 3 that men and women will tend toward selfish domination and overbearing approach to relationships – and we see it played out in the very next chapter when one brother beats to death (dare we say “physically abuses”?) the other.

We need to be better students of human nature – we need to study human nature from God’s perspective, not secularized psychology and sociology.

We, the Church, need to listen more attentively and be more prayerful about what we see and hear from those around us.

And we need to be more cognizant of the fact that, under the right set of circumstances, every one of us has the propensity to selfishly abuse others.

Only then can we stop believing that “it doesn’t happen here with our people.”

Only then can we stop pretending abuse isn’t happening.

And it is only then that we will start standing with and for the abused instead of with and for the abusers.

“SHE SURVIVED” it all.

It’s never “too much” to speak the truth about the vile wickedness of abuse and the damage it does to those who endure it. Awareness and honest conversation are necessary and needed if we are to stop this perniciousness.

Barbara C Rowe Author

bigstock-Battered-woman-lies-lifelessly-27172106

I have not addressed this issue in a long time, but felt compelled to share with you food for thought.

There is a woman who doesn’t really know what functional really is, pertaining to marriage.   A woman who has not really had a home to compare anything to, so she accepts whatever life throws her way…Complacent.  Abuse becomes part of her daily life, not believing it gets any better, or that she deserves any better.

One day she is going on with her daily routine of being a housewife and her husband, who is usually drinking….Snaps.  There is no apparent reason for it, but it just happens. Police come and he spends the night in jail, only to come home apologizing for what he had done, or pretends nothing ever happened the night before. The day after, varies, depending on his mood.

Finally one day she has enough and has the…

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