Monthly Archives: December 2014

To Those Who Have Been Hurt !Trigger Warning!

!Trigger Warning!

I recently heard news from a friend that broke my heart.

The details we hear again and again. A child is sexually abused. At some point in her life, she finally tells the truth about what happened to her. She’s torn up. She relives the horror. She gives the details. She is finally believed by someone.

She wonders if the pain will ever go away. Wasn’t it better before? Wasn’t it better when I didn’t have to talk about it? When it was just my secret?

Then comes the trial. She may be an adult now and have to testify against the one who has tried everything he could to destroy her.

And then those who profess the name of Christ step in to “help”.

He’s repentant now. He’s a new man now. You must forgive. He needs our support, not our condemnation. Let it go. Whatever it is, just let it go. It’s the only way to heal.

And so she goes to the judge. He didn’t mean it. He was always so good to me. He’s really changed. He doesn’t deserve this.

And a man who is capable of doing monstrous things to a child is free to continue as he has always done. He’s better now, so he doesn’t have to answer for his crimes.

Dear child of God, hear me closely. They are wrong. They are so very, very wrong.

Pretending that there are no consequences to wickedness can never be the way to healing.

Pretending that the one who has so wickedly used you is “better now” so he shouldn’t have to pay for his crimes can never make your pain go away.

There is only one way to heal from the grievous, hard and terrible wounds that you have: the hard way. Only with the truth – always, steadfastly, painfully. Tell the truth. Acknowledge what has happened. Acknowledge the hurt and the grief and the pain and the anger. Acknowledge and confess that this happened and it HURTS and you didn’t deserve to be treated this way.

Acknowledge that you were a child and should have been protected and honored and nourished.

It won’t go away if you bury it. It won’t be healed if it never sees the light of day.

Certainly pray that God will forgive the one who hurt you.

Certainly let go of bitterness and wrath and anger and malice.

But you can’t do any of those good things by pretending that horrible wickedness wasn’t so horrible after all.

That you somehow deserved it;

That he was misguided, made mistakes, is really a good person who just has some flaws.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

He isn’t a good person with flaws. He is a child of the devil. Perhaps the truth of that will someday set him free – but he won’t ever get there by pretending something that isn’t true.

It wasn’t your fault in any way. Yes, I know that you also are a sinner. But what happened wasn’t your fault.

And you can’t ever let go of your anger and be a peace until you acknowledge the truth.

HE did this. It was wicked and evil, deserving civil punishment AND eternal punishment.

Perhaps God will use civil punishment to wake this man up and drive him to Christ for forgiveness. But that isn’t your job.

Your job is only to tell the truth – tell it to yourself; tell it to God; tell it to the judge; tell it to the jury. It will be the hardest thing that you have ever had to do. But if you think that this is hard, the alternative is so much harder: you can carry it with you your whole life. You can hide it from time to time, but it will always be there. It’s a burden you were never intended to carry.

I am so sorry that you were given this advice. I am so sorry that those who profess to know the love of Christ have conveniently forgotten that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I am so sorry that people who were uncomfortable talking about this forgot that you were the one who had to live through it.

I am so sorry that the church, once again, buried it’s head in the sand and tried to pretend that everyone was just nice, and good and kind and loving.

I am so sorry that we confess total depravity but have no idea what it means, except that it must apply to “other people”, not one of ours, of course.

And I am sorry that you listened to them. This is a hard road and my heart goes out to you. How can you ever “let this go” when it was so monstrous and evil and ugly?

The only way is to acknowledge and confess what it was, like David did:

Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:

 2 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.

 3 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

 4 The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked. (Psa 129:1-4 KJV)

The wicked who afflict the helpless have them tied up with cords that only the Lord can break. And the Lord breaks those cords because He is righteous.

But first we must acknowledge the truth.It happened. It happened many times; It was affliction. It hurt. I was helpless. But they didn’t prevail against me!

It is not an easy road to healing, but it is the only one that there is.There is no easier path. It won’t come by pretending something that isn’t true.

Whatever road God calls you to take, remember that the day will come when all tears will be wiped away. But part of this wiping away of tears is when the wicked are cast into the lake of fire.

Perhaps those who afflicted you will be saved by the blood of Christ. Pray for that. It is truly terrible to fall into the hands of the living God. But they will never come to repentance if they are never called to account for the crimes they have committed.

When Christ comes again, those who were so powerful and so haughty and so rich and untouchable will be crying out to the hills to fall on them, to hide them from the wrath of the lamb.How can a wicked man ever understand the love of the lamb, when he refuses to acknowledge the wrath of the lamb?

How can the church be faithful in its witness of the gospel if it refuses to be faithful to the hard doctrines of hell and wrath and judgment?

What did Jesus come to save us from if even the rapist of a child is just a “nice person who made some mistakes? – or whatever tripe we spin to pretend that sin is something that it isn’t?

Ideas have consequences. We say that Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin, ignoring all of the scripture that teaches that Jesus HATES the wicked. And now we have the results.

Jesus just loves this child rapist to pieces, doesn’t he? Shouldn’t you just let it go, like Jesus did?

And we have no justice, and ultimately, no gospel.

I think it is time we stopped, don’t you?

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In Defense of Barak

Judges is one of those books that you have perhaps read through once or twice in you life.  You are more likely, however, to have heard the stories from Sunday School from long ago.  The stories are so familiar to us that even when we read through them we rarely take the time to think about them.  We just give them a once over and then move to the New Testament.

What do you remember about Barak? If it isn’t ringing any bells, try Deborah and Barak.

Oh, yeah.  He was that guy that was too afraid to go to battle unless Deborah went with him.

Now you may remember the account.  It might be helpful for you to read Judges 4 again.  I can wait.

Israel again did evil in God’s sight, and God sold them into the hands of Jaban and Sisera.  Sisera was an extremely powerful general. We can’t possibly imagine the power of 900 chariots in this day of smart bombs and fighter jets, but in Barak’s time, the army was impossible to defeat, especially since Israel didn’t have any weapons at all (See Deborah’s song in Judges 5:8).

But even greater than that: this oppression was of the Lord. Who can fight against the Lord? Since it was God Himself who sold Israel into bondage, only God could deliver them.

Now Deborah is introduced (4:4).  All we know about her is that she was a “prophetess” who judged Israel.  At this point, most of what you have heard is a defense of God using women to lead men. It was because the men were so weak and cowardly that God cursed them with women leaders.

Perhaps. But that isn’t in the text. I would rather have you read simply what is there.  All that the text tells us is that Deborah was a prophetess and that she judged Israel at the time.

Then Deborah receives word from God to call Barak and send him into battle against Sisera.

Barak responds, “If you go with me, I will go.  If not, I will not go.”

Most of the Sunday School accounts of this end here, with an admonition not to be as cowardly as Barak.  He has gone down in history as the one who was so frightened of battle that he refused to go to battle unless a woman went with him. My study bible has the footnote “a faithless and cowardly response.”

But let’s pause there for a moment and look ahead a few verses:

13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.

14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.

Picture the scene.  Barak has gathered together 10,000 men. Remember that they have no weapons. Sisera sees them at the top of Mt. Tabor and gathers his chariots and armies together at the foot of the mountain.

At the top of the mountain – Barak, Deborah, and 10,000 unarmed farmers.  At the foot of the mountain, 900 iron chariots, a multitude of trained, armed men.

The plan is for Barak and the farmers to charge down the mountain. Let that sink in for a moment.

Now Deborah receives word from God. She says to Barak, “Now. God has given them into your hand.”

And they go!

And they go!

They charge down the mountain, and God gives the entire army into their hands.

As I was reading through this again, it occurred to me that perhaps in our zeal to keep women from getting uppity, we have misread Barak.  The man at the top of Mt. Tabor didn’t seem like a coward to me.  I understand that it is the Lord that gives men and women courage and perhaps the complete change in Barak’s personality was a miraculous intervention of God.  But rather than go that route right away, I looked at the passage again with fresh eyes, and saw something astounding.

Barak was not at all a faithless coward. Rather than a statement of unbelief, his statement – “If you go with me, I will go” – is one of the most astounding professions of faith in scripture and should be an example to us all – which is actually what the writer of Hebrews says of Barak.

This, I understand, will need some explaining.  First, remember who Deborah was.  She was a prophetess.  Barak couldn’t run down to the local Walmart in Bethel and buy a 5.99 bible.  Revelation was not complete at this time.  They had the books of Moses, but those would not have been accessible to the general public. They would have known the 10 commandments, but other than that, where would one go for the word of God?

They could go only one place: Deborah. She WAS the word of God to Israel. She was a prophetess and all Israel knew it and came to her for judgment.  She would not have been a political leader, for Jaban would never have allowed it. Israel’s politics were dominated by Canaanites and their religion was corrupted by idolatry. The word of God to Israel was found in only one place: Deborah.

Barak was not at all expecting Deborah to fight the battle for him, or even with him.  Deborah stayed at the top of Mt. Tabor. Barak went into battle.

But Barak knew something most of us miss. The battle is too great. Our armies are too small. If we will conquer at all, we DARE not take one step without the word of God.

Barak, rather than being a coward, was a man of tremendous faith who refused to take one step against the enemy without God’s word. And God’s word was found in only one place: Deborah.

So Barak would rather be slandered as a weak and cowardly man and take Deborah with him than go in his own strength against an enemy that was too strong for him.

 

I realize that you are probably frantically re-reading this chapter, and have come to verse 9.

9 And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.

        This is immediately read as a rebuke to Barak.  Of course, our natural understanding tells us that Barak would want honor for the victory and it is shameful for God to bring victory through a woman. So we can’t see it any other way than as a rebuke.

        But is that really what she says? Once again, I would encourage you to read it from the perspective of all of scripture.

        God will never give his glory to another. Since the Garden of Eden, we all have been sold into a bondage so deep and so cruel that none of us can ever escape it. And God promised Adam and Eve that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent.

        The fact is – God ALWAYS delivers his people in such a way that the strong, powerful and wise can never, ever take the glory.

        Deborah is actually clarifying the choice for Barak.  “You can go in your own strength, in your own wisdom and seek glory – but without God. Or you can submit to God’s word and expect victory from him alone.”

        “I, the prophetess of God, will certainly go with you. And with me will go the word and blessing of God. But if God fights this battle, you won’t get the glory. God will deliver you at the hand of a woman, so that no one can ever say that Barak’s strength got us the victory.”

        “If, Barak, you want glory, then go get your glory.  I’ll stay here – and the word of God will stay with me. You do the best you can against all of those iron chariots and we’ll see what happens.”

        Do you see the choice that Barak had?  It is the same choice that we all face every day. The enemy is too strong for us. The battle is too fierce.  We can take up our arms and our wisdom and our pride and fight manfully onward – just like the sons of Sceva did (Acts 19:14-16) – and take our chances.

        Or, we can say with Barak – I won’t move a step apart from God’s word and I don’t care what anyone else says about me or who gets the glory.  But as soon as God says “Charge!” I’m charging full-bore right into the battle!

        We spend so much time reading what ISN’T here, that we miss the point of the account entirely.  This passage says nothing whatsoever about women in positions of leadership in the church or elsewhere. If you want to find out about women in positions of authority in the church, look at 1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:11-15.  This passage has nothing to do with that.

        But if you want to know how to do valiant battle against the evil one, who seeks to destroy us daily, you will find no better example than Barak.

        You wouldn’t go into battle without a sword. The only sword that will do any good at all in the battle that we are in is the word of God (Eph. 6:17).  Barak was wise enough to arm himself with the sword.

        Are we?

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The Meaning of Christmas

It’s inevitable this time of year.  People seem obsessed with “putting Christ back into Christmas”.  They seem to mean by this that we should put Nativity scenes up instead of Christmas trees, and that we should rant incessantly about spelling the holiday “Christmas” instead of “xmas”. Soon we will be asked to share memes if we agree that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Even now, perhaps there are some that are concerned that I might be taking too light a view on changing Christmas to “xmas”.  No, I’m not. “X” is simply a Greek chi, and for 2,000 years it has stood for the name “Christ.” Everyone relax.

I agree that at many times the holiday seems overdone, vain and aesthetically offensive. Christians are not immune to this charge.  There are only so many times that you can hear “Jingle Bell Rock” or “Mary did you know?”

On the one hand, people become obsessed with gifts, wrapping presents and staying busy to ‘get into the Christmas spirit”, and the marketplace takes advantage.  On the other hand are those who decry the commercialism of Christmas, and shout to “remember the true meaning of Christmas”.  Movies and stories abound, teaching us that the true meaning of Christmas is family, doing good to others, sharing, and basically remembering that we can make a difference with sacrificial works and putting others, primarily children, first.  

But did God send His Son into the world in the womb of the virgin in order to teach us better ways of being better people?  Did God really become flesh and dwell among us so that we could go to Walmart and buy plastic idols to put on our front lawn, patting ourselves on the back for putting Christ back into Christmas?  Not according to the Bible.

People have tried for thousands of years to “make a difference” and after a few well-meaning spurts of outward displays of charity they  immediately return to their vain, shallow, cruel and abusive lives.  The fact is that we are all so hopeless, powerless, vain, shallow, self-centered and sinful that there was absolutely no hope in humanity whatsoever.  Every single one of us from the fall of man until now is subject to death and misery.  We aren’t smart enough, loving enough, strong enough or good enough to do anything about it.

But our natural religion says that we can fix this mess by greater motivation, or bigger acts of charity.  We can make a difference by doing better things better, by loving more, by “remembering the true meaning of Christmas all year round”, or by electing people smart enough to fix all of our problems.

It never works and never has.  But as a dog returns to his vomit, we return to our folly.  Every year at Christmas we offer our incense to the plastic gods of our self-righteousness, pat ourselves on the back for being basically good people, cry over “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and try to convince ourselves that we really can make a difference if we just try harder.

But what if we really aren’t good enough?  What if there really isn’t anything that we can do to make a difference?  What do we do when something happens in our lives that leaves us devastated, and there isn’t anything that we can or could have done about it?

What sacrifice will you offer to your gods that will take away the pain, misery and emptiness of the vanity of life?

Now we can begin to see the true meaning of Christmas.  The angel told Joseph “You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins”.

It isn’t about the spirit of giving.  It isn’t about the message of Santa inside of each one of us.  It isn’t about our basic goodness and kindness, for we have none.  The fact is this:  We are so hopeless, vile and corrupt that there is no possibility of saving ourselves in any way.  If there is any hope for man, God must save him.  So God became flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary in order to take the curse of death upon himself.  He gives us His righteousness, for we have none of our own.  And He takes our vile rags on Himself, dying under God’s curse, so that we might live.

When He rose from the dead, He showed the world that the curse was finally taken away, and He now reigns until all of His enemies are put under His feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Fellow professing Christians, please quit fretting about “secular humanists” or Hollywood taking Christ out of Christmas.  We have been managing the mangling of the gospel just fine without their help.  When we send the message that it’s about nativity scenes, “xmas”, Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays, giving and works of charity, all we are doing is enforcing man’s natural religion: that we can make a difference by our efforts and good will.

If we could have made a difference in this world, Jesus would not have had to come. The baby in the manger was the eternal, almighty, glorious Son of God, “whose goings forth are of old”. Instead of teaching us the inherent goodness of man, it teaches the opposite. We were so lost and helpless that it came to this. God became flesh and came to save us. He became poor, despised, rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief in our place.  That was what we deserved – the outer darkness of hell. But Jesus took it upon Himself. Every child but one was born to live. Jesus was born to die.

Only when we get that figured out can we eat our bread with joy, drink our wine with a merry heart, live joyfully with our wives, and do what we can to relieve some of the suffering around us.  But this is only possible if we aren’t trying to save the world.  God will not give his glory to another, and there is only One Savior.  We will never save the world.  We will never HELP God save the world.  Only Jesus is strong enough, wise enough, good enough and loving enough.  All we can do is offer our lives to Him with gratitude and awe.  All we can do is wait and see the salvation of the Lord.

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