Monthly Archives: July 2018

Bad Listeners

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” (James 1:19)

Yesterday I was watching old reruns of Monk. I don’t know if you remember the show about the OCD detective. Tony Shalhoub is brilliant, but that really isn’t what this post is about.

Anyway, one scene in the show was the detective interviewing a witness in her home. While she was trying to tell him what she saw and what she experienced, he was extremely distracted. The items on her coffee table were out of place and disorderly. Monk, suffering from OCD, couldn’t hear a word she said until he rearranged all of her knick-knacks.

I’ve been thinking about that. Why are pastors such horrible listeners? Yes, I am talking about you – particularly Reformed pastors. This is a critique of my own tribe. I also have struggled with being a good listener, so these things are coming from my experience.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they weren’t listening to anything you were saying? You can see the exact moment they shut down. They have already figured out what they were going to say, and anything else you might say is not relevant. I think it is a problem for pastors. We are really bad at listening.

Why are we such bad listeners?

I have a few suggestions:

  1. We are OCD with theological error. We completely miss someone’s trauma, but woe to the uninformed that uses the word “potluck” (you mean “pot providence”) or “My father was a good man” (THERE IS NONE GOOD; NO NOT ONE!) Just like Mr. Monk, if all of the theological ducks aren’t neatly lined up to our liking, we shut down. Seriously, when was the last time you allowed a theological mistake to just pass you by. Even the attempt to “let it go” causes our muscles to twitch, our words to stammer, our eyes to water…
  2. We forget to remember that Jesus was moved with compassion for the multitudes – like sheep without a shepherd. Are you compassionate enough to actually let someone tell you their story – even if it makes you uncomfortable, even if you don’t know what to say, even if it takes several hours? Jesus was moved with compassion. So should we be.
  3. Most of us heard Jay Adams tell us that after 6 or 8 sessions you have a discipline problem. We feel this urge to rush through, tell people what they need to do and move on. Depressed? Get over it. Still depressed? Church discipline! Angry at your rapist? Quit being bitter. Get over it. Move on with your life. We are convinced that we HAVE to give the solution, give the cure, tell them what to do to make this uncomfortable feeling stop. But only a fool answers a matter before he hears it. Listen first. Then speak. It’s what the Bible commands.

I was at a church years and years ago. There was a young man visiting. After the service, I was talking to a couple of the elders and this young man came up to us and asked “Is there a grocery store around here? I need some food”. The elders looked stunned, and then said,

“We don’t shop on the Sabbath Day.”

Really.

This is what I mean. Where is the compassion? Where is the discernment?

Be compassionate. Be educated. Be like Christ. Listen.

The hardest thing for a pastor to learn is this: You don’t have to talk all the time. You don’t have to have answers all the time. You don’t have to fill the air around you with a miasma of ignorant pious slogans. You don’t have to correct everyone that is wrong.

But you do have to listen. And you do have to be compassionate.

Let’s practice:

“Potluck, potluck, potluck, potluck.

“He’s a good man. He’s a good man. He’s a good man.

“God loves everybody. God loves everybody. God loves everybody…..

“Last Sunday I went to a restaurant…”

 

Let it go. There is a time and place for correcting theology, but remember that we would be in a far better place to do that if we first learned how to listen.

(By the way, Jay Adams was wrong here. Most people haven’t even gotten to the real issue until the 6th  session. They start out by seeing if you are trustworthy and willing to listen. If you shut them down the first session, they won’t come to you with the real issue. I believe that this is a major reason why nouthetic counseling has been so disastrous with trauma and assault.)

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The Purpose of Life

This is my first blog post in a while. I am recovering from surgery. But there are a few things on my mind.

In the past few days, Christianity has been equated to virginal, tattoo-free and debt free women pursuing godly men…

ugh.

There has been a lot said, but here are a few thoughts of mine in no particular order:

  • The purpose of life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. This means women as well. Your purpose is not to please or to “get a man” but to serve the Lord Jesus, whether single, married or divorced.
  • If you are a single young woman (or man, for that matter) do not make it your goal to attract a member of the opposite sex. Make it your goal to be a faithful servant of Jesus. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Everything else flows from there. Let love be without hypocrisy.
  • If you are a man or a woman, your only comfort in life and in death is that you belong to your savior, Jesus Christ, who holds you in his hands and will never let you go. Your comfort will be found only there, whether it is God’s will that you marry or that you remain single.
  • There is a profound and crucial difference between “virginity” and “purity”. They are not the same. We are to flee sexual immorality, but your purity has nothing to do with your “virginity”. A woman who has gotten married is no longer a virgin, but she is still pure in Christ. A woman who is raped or molested has not lost her purity, and anyone who says otherwise is a fool and we should have nothing to do with them.
  • Virginity is a statement of physicality, a scientific fact as to the sexual history of a man or woman. It has nothing to do with purity. Purity is also called “holiness” in the scripture, and is found only in Christ. If you are in Christ, the perfect Lamb of God who was without blemish or spot, then you are pure. If you are not, you are polluted in sin and alienated from the promise, whether you are a virgin or not. We should never, ever confuse virginity and purity.
  • Romans 13:8 has nothing to do with taking out a student loan, or a car loan, or any other kind of loan. The point Paul is making is not an economic one, it is one of love. A loving person is a person who pays all of their obligations, especially obligations of honor, love and taxes (in the context). You can pay off your loan, but you will never be free of the obligation to love. That’s the point. Not whether you should carry student loan debt. Sheesh.
  • If you do take out a loan, pay it off according to the terms. That’s another application of Romans 13:8, but it is not the primary point.
  • What glorifies God above all else is when we all, men and women and children, use our gifts to the best of our ability for the advantage and welfare of our neighbors, wherever we may be. Since men and women have different gifts, they way that they serve will look differently. This is honoring to God, as 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us.
  • Being made in the image of God means to reflect God’s attributes to a watching world.
  • There is a cycle of bondage taught to us in the book of Galatians. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap the corruption of the flesh. To apply this today, if we think that remaining a virgin, not getting a tattoo and not going to college will make us pure, we are sowing to the flesh. If this is what purity involves, then Christ is not necessary. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption. It is not surprising, then, that these teachers who teach these types of things are also filled with immorality of every kind, cruelty, abuse, pornography, incest, pedophilia. Paul said that this is exactly what the flesh produces. We should not be shocked when another exposure takes place. When we see churches sowing to the flesh, by teaching holiness by works, we should expect immorality of every kind.
  • So look at this cycle: a man preaches that women must never get tattoos, never go to college, never wear a skirt above the knee or expose her collarbone or she will not be pure and won’t get a man. Then, because he is an abuser and knows nothing of Christ, he molests her. And then he tells her that she isn’t pure because she is no longer a virgin.
  • Does this sound like Christianity to you? It is a horrible caricature, a twisted imitation, and a cruel and heartless lie of the devil. Cast them out, and be holy in Christ.
  • Whatever we do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God, and quit seeking to please the abusers of this world, the evil Pharisees who seek to keep us in bondage. Cast them out.
  • Our trust is in Christ alone. Trusting in “purity systems” of any kind are a denial of the gospel, and ministers of death. Only the gospel will give us the life that we seek.

Thanks for putting up with my scattered thoughts. I hope you find them edifying.

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The Humility of Caleb

My Only Comfort

“But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. (Num 14:24 NKJ)

I’ve been thinking about Caleb lately. Caleb was a slave in Egypt and saw the plagues that God brought on them. He cheered when the Red Sea covered Pharaoh. He sang Miriam’s song of Redemption. He watched his nation under the watchful hand of God travel through the wilderness. How he longed to receive his inheritance!

When the congregation came to the border, ready to invade and take their inheritance, they rebelled. They were afraid of the giants in the land.

And Caleb’s hopes fell. His desire and expectation crushed. And then God spoke to Moses. “Caleb will enter. He was faithful.”

But he had to wait for 40 years. And the worst thing about…

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