Monthly Archives: April 2021

Why so quick to take the blame?

This morning, an excellent blog showed up in my feed. I would suggest you read it here.

I would like to stress – as strongly as possible – that my comments have nothing whatsoever to do with Anna Duggar. I don’t know enough about her to judge anything one way or another.

(Well, I can judge one thing. Josh Duggar is a creeper, has always been a creeper and the fault that he is a creeper is his own. But the patriarchy/quiverfull /purity environment that cultivated him allowed him to thrive for decades. There are scores more of them in that environment.)

But I know nothing about Anna.

But the blog I linked above got me thinking.

Why did the woman mentioned in the blog (NOT Anna Duggar) disregard her church, her friends, her pastor, her therapist and everyone she knew and wait for “special revelation” from God? She waited until she got an answer she liked better. Why was the “answer” she received better than the godly counsel of her pastor?

So that got me thinking – why would a woman choose to take the blame for her husband’s sins upon herself as a viable alternative?

Why would she rather ask his forgiveness for her manufactured sins than deal with his very real sins?

And as my mind is mulling through this question, I remembered an anecdote from a missionary years and years ago. He labored for decades with little result, and he said, “If I preached that they had to crawl across broken glass to achieve forgiveness, my church would have been full.”

The free grace of God is terrifying for people. They would rather manufacture guilt than be free from it. If we have to crawl across broken glass to be saved, then ultimately the power is ours. But if the gospel is true, then our only hope is the free mercy of Christ, which is not in my control whatsoever.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

A few years back, my large intestine ruptured with no warning. I did not have diverticulitis.  I do not have any genetic weaknesses there. I did not have a poor diet.

In fact, there was no cause for it at all. My surgeon said, “Sometimes it happens.”

I got to tell you, that is terrifying. The fact that an intestine can spontaneously rupture was far scarier than even cancer or diverticulitis. If I could have prevented it by changing my diet, or by doing preventative care correctly, or anything else, that would put the power of health in my hands – which is far more comforting to the natural me.

Because the alternative is trusting in the sovereignty of God, which is scary to fallen man.

I think it is why there are so many people quick to give medical advice. Life and death MUST ULTIMATELY BE IN OUR OWN HANDS, because the alternative is unthinkable.

It comes down to the goodness of God. Is God truly good?

What happens when your life falls apart?

What happens when your husband is arrested for child pornography?

What happens when your colon ruptures?

What happens when your child rebels?

What happens when you have to call the police on your own child? Your own father?

What happens when your spouse commits adultery?

And in all of those situations, it is more comforting for us to take the blame ourselves, whether it is valid or not. For if we take the blame ourselves, then we can live in a fantasy world where WE control the outcome and WE protect ourselves and WE are captains of our destiny.

At least, if we go down, we can say that we did it our way. If we say it is our fault, then we have some control.

But if death happens, if illness happens, if sins are committed, if crimes are committed – and we have nothing whatsoever to do with it; if there was no choice whatsoever that would have changed the outcome; if there were no action at all that we could have taken to prevent it…

Then we have no alternative but to throw ourselves on the mercy of God, glorify him even in pain, trust his goodness and his sovereignty, and say,

“The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

It is terrifying to live that kind of life, but it is the only reality that there is.

There is a curse on this world that we can’t do anything about. But God can.

So we can wait for him, stand for the truth, exalt those things that are beautiful, and put no trust in the flesh.

And help one another. It is terrifying to admit that your spouse is a covenant breaker. Your whole world turns upside down. But often that is the reality.

Help one another with their burdens. Reality is difficult. But the solution is not to create a fantasy world. It is to face reality squarely and walk right through it.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”

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Filed under Gospel, Patriarchy

Whispers

There is much that we could get worked up about.

It doesn’t take special insight to know that this world is twisted, broken, oftentimes ugly.

But briefly there are glimpses of justice. Not much, but enough to remind us of perfect justice to come.

Briefly, there are glimpses of beauty. Never enough to quench our thirst, but enough to remind us of beauty beyond our imagining.

Briefly, you might glimpse like a shifting shadow out of the corner of the eye – an echo of Eden. A reminder that God has not cast us off.

An ethereal tune that you can’t quite catch, but it causes deep sighs of longing.

A touch of a lover that reminds you that you are desired

A shimmer of a cool breeze with the hint of jasmine that reminds you of spring

The hint of another country never traveled

The whisper of citrus and plum and berry on the nose of the wine…

The grandkids are laughing.

When you look at the glimpses from one angle, you might be tempted to think that they are God, rather than gifts of his bounty.

You miss the good because you are always searching for the better.

But from another angle, you might miss those glimpses because you are too angry that the world isn’t what it is supposed to be.

So the jasmine goes by unnoticed.

The music goes unheard because you don’t like her politics.

The wine isn’t French or Napa so you miss its bouquet…

You’re too afraid of lust to notice that her hair is shimmering in the sunlight.

You’re too afraid of catching sin to smile and be kind.

You miss the joy of the kids because you demanded idols to justify your wisdom and strength, and instead you got kids with their own minds who mystify you.

Don’t miss the joy. Don’t miss the beauty.

It isn’t God. But it is from God.

It points to God.

Jesus will come again and when the marriage supper of the lamb is served it will be perfect.

Justice will be perfect. Beauty will be perfect. Contentment will be perfect.

Fellowship will be perfect.

So smile. Listen to that beautiful music. Sit and smell the jasmine. It fades quickly.

The whispers go away quickly. We fade and die. But He remembers our frailty…

So teach us to number our days.

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Filed under Encouragement, Goodness, Light

“Give me a drink”–a study in shame

If you haven’t lately, I would suggest that you read John 4 before reading this.

I’ve been thinking about this woman lately. I’ve preached on this before, but this is an account that floats around the mind and hits you in the heart.

The traditional interpretation is that Jesus sits at the well, confronts the woman with her fornicating ways, she tries to change the subject and then he talks about worship.

With that interpretation, it is rather difficult to get from point A to point B. How does living water fit in with her 5 husbands, her living situation and worship in spirit and in truth?

And this got me thinking about their first exchange together, which sets the scenario for the entire discussion.

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
(John. 4:7-9)

A hot, dusty afternoon. Jesus is tired. He is sitting by the well. It is clear that he is Jewish and that he is a rabbi.

A woman comes alone to draw water. She is tired. She is an outcast in her own community. She knows what it is to be unwelcome, unwanted, unloved. And then she sees Jesus.

You can just see the roll of her eyes. “Great. A Jew. All I need today.”

She knew that in a Jew’s eyes, she had three strikes against her. First, she was a Samaritan. An unclean race, mixed-blood, idolatrous worship – most Jews would go all the way around Samaria rather than risk being defiled by contact with all of the unclean people there.

Second strike against her, she was a woman. A Rabbi would pray, “I thank God that I am not a Gentile, not a woman, and not a slave.”

And third strike, she was a sinner. Everyone knew it. She was living with a guy without marrying him. She had been divorced 5 times. She was probably used as an example to scare children into proper behavior.

And then she sees Jesus. “Ugh. I am so not in the mood for this today!”

And he astounds her with a few simple words. “Give me a drink”.

She is stunned. Even touching this woman would make him “unclean” according to Jewish thought. Even the dust on the ground is unclean. And he wants to drink out of MY vessel?

When you see the scenario for what it is, you realize that something far deeper is going on.

This story is about shame. Shame is universal. We all dread and fear being cast out, being despised. No one dreams of being stupid and unwanted and on the outside looking in.

I am one who knows that feeling. As a child, the congregation would gather in circles after the service to talk (watch how people do that. It is fascinating). I would try to join a circle, and my brothers would move in front of me slowly to make it clear that I wasn’t welcome there.

I know that feeling. It is called “Shame”.

You don’t belong. Get out. You aren’t one of us. You are filthy. Defiled. Unclean. Dirty. Just go away.

And people deal with it in all kinds of ways. We shame others, thinking it will take away our shame. We lash out in anger, or we boast arrogantly, or we exaggerate our successes, depending on them to give us that elusive feeling that maybe our lives aren’t useless and wasted, that maybe we are accepted and loved…

But our shame has a reason. We were cast out of Eden. We used to be in God’s presence – welcomed and loved. But then we fell. We turned our backs on God, and learned that we were naked. And then we knew what shame was. We tried to sew fig leaves together. We hid from God and from each other.

Shame makes us lonely, for we hide our true selves, terrified that someone will find us out. And at the same time, we long to be known. Longing for intimacy and terrified of it at the same time.

It is a horrible way to live.

And it is exactly what Jesus came into the world to free us from.

“Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus, greater far than all my sin and shame…”

This woman knew what shame was. She had been rejected five times, and now is trying to belong by simply living with a man who doesn’t respect her enough to marry her.

She is cast out in her own village. And she is a Samaritan woman. She knows what it is to be rejected, despised, thrown out like garbage.

And now, something astounding. “Give me a drink.”

He then talks about living water, and the thirst for belonging and purpose, the cleansing of the Holy Spirit…

But something else needs to happen. “Call your husband and come here.”

She says, “I have no husband.”

And he says, “I know. You have had five husbands. I know who you are, I know what you have done. I know what has been done to you. I know your shame. I know your fear. I know you. And I want to be with me. I want your service. I want to drink from your bucket. I want you to come with me into my father’s house.”

She isn’t changing the subject. She knows that this conversation is about cleanliness. She is unclean, meaning that she is not fit to enter into God’s sanctuary. But this man is talking about drinking from her vessel. Is she clean, or isn’t she?

“Our fathers taught us to worship on this mountain. But you say Jerusalem. Who is right?”

And he answers her. Worship isn’t about performing the ritual right in the hopes that God will be coerced into doing what you want. Both temples are going away. (But, as it turns out, the Jews were right about Jerusalem). But now, the reality has come.

Jesus is here. He is sent by the Father to seek and save that which was lost. He was sent to gather the sheep together into one fold. He came into the world to save his own.

And he had a woman that he loved in a little village in Samaria. The whole world might think she was nothing, but the Father was seeking her.

And Jesus found her and brought her to himself, taking her shame and giving her glory.

“The father is seeking such to worship him.”

There is much more to say here. There is a lot about thirst, about water, about cleansing, about the Holy Spirit, about the Father.

There is a lot about worship, about Spirit and truth. There is a lot about how Christ makes us acceptable.

But the whole passage is about shame and belonging. Jesus came to bring us to Himself. He desires us to be with him where he is. He seeks and saves his people because he wants to.

He took this woman, cast out as a sinner, unclean, unwelcome, alone – and gave her purpose, gave her meaning, gave her glory. In other words, he gave her himself.

Glory, you see, is the opposite of shame. And glory is belonging to Christ. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Earthly glory fades away and is replaced with shame. In the end, those who seek glory on this earth hear the voice of Jesus saying, “Depart from me, I never knew you…” the ultimate shame.

In the world, you might be like this woman. Outcast, lonely, shamed, unwanted. Insignificant in this world. But take heart. This world is not the last word. We have laid in heaven for us a crown of glory that can never be taken away. Significance, beauty, cleanliness, the proper clothing (!), and we are accepted in the beloved.

Because Jesus took our shame upon himself, and was raised from the dead. Crowned with glory and honor, for us – just as it was for this woman.

He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Wherefore hath God highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name.

He is our glory, our crown, our purpose. When we know him and he knows us, we belong. Even though belonging to Christ means that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth, often times outcast and scattered, yet he gathers us together.

The father is seeking us.

How astounding is that??

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Filed under Gospel, shame

If she is telling the truth…

Another one.

A rich, powerful, mover and shaker.

A young girl. Lots of them, it turns out.

Each one of them is an image-bearer of God, used to satiate the lusts of another rich wolf.

Not only does she have to bear the scars of unspeakable trauma, she now has to hear the attacks and slanders on her name.

(Have you heard the one about the 9 year old girl that was “overly sexualized” and “seduced” her rapist? Yeah. That was what he said. And they believed him.)

The powerful man – whether minister, representative, president, judge, father, husband – MUST be innocent. If powerful men are this wicked, what hope do any of us have? She, therefore, must be lying.

Why are we so quick to condemn the innocent and acquit the guilty? Why is our gut reaction always, “She’s lying”

“Why didn’t she tell someone?”

Why did she wait?

What was she wearing?

What was she drinking?

Because if she is telling the truth, we live in a different world than the one we want to live in.

If she is telling the truth, then God was right when he said, “Their mouth is an open sepulcher, there is none righteous. No, not one…” and that is hard to swallow.

If she is telling the truth, then the world is ugly and dangerous. But we want it to be safe, at least for people like us.

If she is telling the truth, then “weep and howl, you rich men, for the miseries that shall come upon you” and the judgment of God is terrifying.

But if she is lying, we can go back to the conferences. If she is lying, we can vote for the guy again. He’s so good for our side. We can go on like we always do.

If she is lying, we can shake our heads sorrowfully and go back to the football game.

If she is lying, then our people are still OK and as long as we stay away from those others, we can be safe and happy and blissfully unaware of her hurt and pain and trauma. Our boat stays secure.

As long as she plays the part right. Submit. Keep quiet. Don’t rock the boat. And everything stays the same.

But God sees it. He warns us. It is very, very easy to believe the rich and powerful and influential. We want our heroes sparkling clean, so it is easy to believe that she is lying.

When one is without power, there is no gain in believing her. And if you do believe her, your world will turn upside down.

People will ask, “What happened to you?”

What happened was that I believed her. And my world turned upside down.

I believed her, and I was right. He did it. And the world is upside down. The only hope is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We need a resurrection, because death and destruction and hatred and ugliness is very, very real.

God sees it all. And he warns us about believing those from whom we can gain, and dismissing those who cannot profit us.

22 “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.

23 “If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry;

24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

(Exod. 22:22-24)

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Filed under Abuse, Grief