Category Archives: Abuse

A Loathsome Vermin?

Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” taught generations of American church-goers that God views us as disgusting vermin, barely tolerable and loathsome in his eyes, as revolting as a spider on a thread.

I believe that sin is far, far worse than we can even fathom, but it is precisely because of the exaltation of mankind as the image-bearer of God (Psalm 8) that sin arouses such wrath in a holy God.

If we were disgusting vermin, sin would not have aroused God’s pity and compassion. It is precisely because of God’s love for us that he is determined to deliver us from the bondage of sin, so much so that he gave his only begotten son, and delivered him up for us all.

The truth is that our sin nature is not part of God’s original design, but a result of man’s fall. God has provided a redeemer because of his great love wherewith he loved us. Christ came to restore that which was lost. (John 3:16)

If you do not believe in the Lord Jesus, come to him to find your value and worth in him. No one that comes to him will be cast out. He calls you to himself because you are created in his image and sin has defaced that image and made it ugly. Come to him for cleansing and healing and forgiveness. You are a great sinner in need of great grace for the wrath of God is coming. But that is different than saying that you are a disgusting vermin. God desires that you be all that you can be and he calls to you to be free from the bondage of sin through faith in the Son of God.

If you are in Christ, you are also not a disgusting vermin, barely tolerable by God. You are a child of his love, a first-born heir of eternal life in Christ. You are a special treasure, a royal priesthood, his bride, his body and he loves you with an infinite love that surpasses anything we know on this earth.

The goal of the Christian life is not to try to make yourself less loathsome to God. The goal is to rest in his love, believe in his promises, understand his compassion, and grow in his grace.

It is the language of a reviler and an abuser – the language of the devil – that tears down the image of God in a person. The devil reviles. “You are loathsome. You are disgusting. God barely tolerates you, you revolting worm. He can’t wait to throw you into hell.” This motivates no one to good works, to love, to worship. We become what is expected of us. Religion is turned into a crowd of groveling worms trying to outdo each other in false humility.

But this is not the good news. The good news is that no matter how great your sin is, you have a far greater savior, who loves you and gave himself for you. He is restoring his image in you that you might finally be free and clean and stand before him whole and complete. His compassions don’t fail. His mercy is everlasting. His love is infinite.

His love for you calls you out of hiding, and says to you, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Rather than viewing us as loathsome, revolting insects, he is a friend of sinners. This knowledge calls to us, invites us to him and drives us to confession, worship and adoration.

“And this is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Imagine a young woman. She grows up in an abusive environment. Suppose her church was tremendously influenced by Elisabeth Elliot, Joshua Harris, and the purity culture – as an example. So she was taught that purity is the same as holiness, and when you loose your virginity, you spoiled your “rose” so that no man would ever want it.

She has been repeatedly raped and molested for years. Or just once. The dynamic is the same. Her abusers have impressed upon her that she is worthless, ugly, loathsome. That she deserved it.

Her worst fear is that God also finds her to be a loathsome vermin.

She has “lost her virginity” and can never get it back so she makes the connection.

No one will ever want me. I am loathsome. I am a vermin, disgusting to God and man.

She might dare to hope that one day, all of those good things that she hears about will apply to her – but for the most part, love and joy, peace and rest, intimacy and glory – those things are for the others, not for her.

And then she reads “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and discovers that the “greatest theologian in American history” has validated her conclusion. She is indeed loathsome and disgusting, a spider or other loathsome insect dangling over hell.

I wonder how many other suicides took place in New England after that sermon…..

Should not the message of the church be “Jesus, the friend of publicans and sinners” who touches us and says, “I am willing; be clean”.

You are washed, cleansed, purified, whole, complete and loved by your father in heaven for the sake of Christ, if only you accept such benefit with a believing heart.

Come to him and rest. Jesus doesn’t find you disgusting. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He hates sin and desires all men everywhere repent and believe.

But he doesn’t find you disgusting.

He is angry at rebellion and sin. His wrath abides upon the unbeliever so long as they are not converted. But he doesn’t find you disgusting.

He is calling you with open arms, with goodness and mercy and compassion, as a nursing mother has compassion on her child. Come to him. He won’t cast you away.

He will clothe you in his righteousness, he will glorify you with the same glory that he is glorified with himself.

You are not “barely tolerable” in the eyes of God. Rest in his love.

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Filed under Abuse, Faith, Goodness, Gospel

Look at the culture

I worked in the Food and Beverage industry for many  years, so that background has become a part of me.

Suppose a family becomes ill with a foodborne illness. Some of you might remember the e-coli epidemic that spread for a while. When people started dying, the authorities tried to find out why. The honorable restaurant owners looked at their own training and procedures to try to determine what it was that was making the conditions favorable to the growth of this deadly bacteria.

It wasn’t the conditions themselves that caused illness and death. It was the e-coli. But there was something about certain restaurants that caused deadly bacteria to thrive. Are the temperatures too warm or not hot enough? Are there appropriate hand-washing techniques in place? Is the staff thoroughly trained on  food safety issues.

The goal of any successful food and beverage establishment is to create conditions that are hostile to the growth of deadly bacteria.

Many years ago, I noticed trends in conservative churches. There were way, way too many instances of abuse of women, degradation of women, despising of women and even criminal activity against women and deadly or potentially deadly assaults.

This trend was accompanied by a trend of child sexual assault by men in authority – pastors, youth leaders, Sunday School teachers. I know that, for the reasons mentioned further down, many will at this point say, “You are exaggerating! You are attacking Christ’s body!!” So suffice it for now for me to mention Anna Salter’s landmark work on Predators where she thoroughly documents everything that I just said.

One thing that Salter mentions is that predators against children find churches to be the easiest targets. As soon as they get out of prison, they lay out their plans to find a church with children, groom the leadership, and do as they please.

They make the plans. They carry them out. And the results are well documented.

So after seeing these disturbing trends, and being a pastor charged with the care of the sheep that God has placed in my care, I asked myself a very important question. “What is it in our churches that makes the conditions so favorable to predators, abusers, revilers, adulterers, and tyrants?”

At that point, I began to examine the interpretations of scripture that make the hunting grounds so favorable to wolves. And asked, “Is this really what scripture says?”

Does scripture really say that a woman must endure abuse “for a season” until she can get her elders involved?

Does it say that she must get the permission of the elders before she can get a divorce?

Does the scripture say that the steps of Matthew 18 must be followed before a parent is allowed to report a crime against her child to the authorities?

Does the scripture teach that a woman is at least partially to blame for her rape, no matter the circumstances, for “putting herself in that situation”?

Does 1 Corinthians 6 really say that it is sinful to report criminal activity to the police?

Does the scripture actually say that a man has the absolute right to command his wife to any degrading, insufferable thing that crosses his fancy and she must obey (as long as it isn’t ‘sinful’)? Does submission mean that she must scrub the kitchen on her hands and knees wearing only her underwear, using only her toothbrush, if that is what catches the man’s fancy at the moment (I have actually heard this used).

And I started to see that the e-coli of tyranny and abuse is actually finding the perfect environment to flourish in our churches – especially those trained in nouthetic counseling. We should, instead, do everything in our power to make the culture of the church as inhospitable to abusers and predators as we possible can.

The resistance to that idea is immediate, brutal, unrelenting and harsh. I have found that the unrelenting persecution against those who seek to purify the culture of the church is far, far greater than anything I have experienced from “the world”. People despise change, and the really, really despise losing their power over other people.

It is nothing new. There were many attempts to reform the morals of the church in the middle ages, but those few who dared to question the system that allowed immorality to flourish met with a quick, fiery, painful end.

It wasn’t until the Reformation that the problem was revealed. Immorality was not an anomaly to the Roman system. It was bred throughout every part of it. It was woven into the fabric of the system itself, until there was no hope for it at all. Money, power, control and the status quo are the perfect environment for all manner of evil to flourish.

While I was thinking about this, I watched a white police officer dispassionately kneel on the neck of a black man. He did not lose his temper. He was not frightened for his life. He knew that he was being filmed. And he knew that he was killing the man slowly and painfully, in public, and he didn’t care.

And I ask myself, “What is it about the culture of our systems of power that cause this kind of wickedness to flourish?”

“Well, we don’t know the whole story…” as if something can make a slow, public execution morally acceptable.

“It was one wicked man, not the system…” and yet it happens so frequently that he did not feel the need to hide his actions, cover his actions or make excuses. He wasn’t afraid or timid. He coolly, calmly, and without any emotion whatsoever slowly executed a black man because he knew he could and get away with it.

I hope he doesn’t, and I hope that there will be earthly justice done for George Floyd.

But even more than that, I hope that those in law enforcement and in churches and in positions of authority throughout the country ask themselves, “Why did he think that this was acceptable behavior?”

Was it a secret to his locker room buddies that he had within himself the ability to do such a thing?

Or did they hear his racist rants, and say nothing. How many other violent incidents were covered up, buried, exonerated, or just ‘put in his file”.

If we are going to put the power of life and death in the hands of a few men and women, should we not all hold them to the highest standards?

I love the church of Jesus Christ, and I love my profession. For that reason, I do everything I can to purge out the leaven that causes abusers and predators to flourish.

So please do not think that this is an attack against LEOs. It is a plea. If there are good and honorable men and women in this profession, which I wholeheartedly believe, perhaps now is the time to take a long look at the culture that continually allows this sort of thing to take place.

You will not ever be able to root out all evil. But you could at least make the environment intolerable enough so that it doesn’t flourish and never breaks out again into open murder. The way to stop e-coli is to create a hostile environment to it.

The way to stop predators in the church is to create a hostile environment to them. This is called “Church discipline” and is the mark of the true church.

The way to stop murderers, tyrants and racists in law enforcement is to create a hostile working condition to them.

When murder takes place openly, without fear, without passion, in a calm environment, over a period of 8 minutes, something is desperately wrong.

If you stand up in your own departments and your own agencies and say, “Not here. Not today. Not ever again” perhaps you can make a difference. I’ll stand with you. There is always room for more. In the words of Arlo Guthrie, maybe it could be a movement.

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Filed under Abuse, assault, Race

Just a little more…

“I’m supposed to be writing something, but I can’t think of anything to write!”

I complain to my daughter.

“What?” She says.

“What should I write about? I can’t think of anything.”

It’s been a long two weeks. At first I was looking forward to a time of exile. Perhaps I could accomplish something. My life is the endless quest to accomplish, accomplish, accomplish….but it seems as if God always has other plans.

I am doing dishes. The dishwasher is broken, so I do them by hand. And it never fails. I drain the water. And clean the sink. And I find one more. Just one more. Just finish that one, and then you can sit. Then you can write. Then you can read. Then you can learn that sonata you’ve wanted to learn. Just one more.

But after that one, there is just one more….

But life doesn’t give you the instruction manual. I see myself at sixteen. I am full of ambition and hope. I see my High School yearbook, full of promises and dreams. I read the “Stay in touch!” from the people that I haven’t spoken to since they wrote that close to 40 years ago…

My brief foray into video games happened at age 15. It was 1978. Asteroids, or some such. I put my quarter into the machine and waited for the instructions to tell me what to do. And while I waited the machine beeped. And then it said, “Game Over”.

I never played again. I don’t like feeling stupid.

At 20, I’m in college trying to fit in, trying to be someone else. I am trying so hard not to be the guy who can’t even figure out Asteroids. I don’t know how people behave. I am keenly aware that I look at the world differently and I loathe myself. I study what other people do and try to imitate them. I don’t know how to matter to anyone, and in my quest to matter to anyone, I lose the friends who care about me. The game was over before I even started.

But there is always another change. So move. Get another job. Pay some more bills. Try to get to a point where I am not paycheck to paycheck and I might even get a few dollars put aside.

But there are only so many hours in the day, and so many of them are working, working, working. And there are bills. And they pile up. And you have to put food on the table. And there are diapers. I’ll get to writing after just one more. Pay off one more loan. Work one more job.

If I could accomplish something, maybe I could get my father to pay attention and see me. If I could just do more maybe my life would matter. Maybe I could leave a legacy behind…

I think about it from time to time. But there are 12 hour work days. One right after another. Horrible pay. No advance. Year after year. Putting food on the table. Paying bills. Just one more, and then I can start my life’s work, my life goal.

Maybe then I won’t end in a mass grave where no one knows my name…

Do more. Work harder…and finally, you hit middle age and then come the chronic illnesses.

For many, many years now my wife and I have had one life-threatening, rare illness right after another. Some have no cure. Some involve surgeries. Some we just live with. Constant pain. Dislocations. Heart trouble. Ruptured colons. Ehlers Danlos. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Maybe I can get something accomplished when the next round is finished. But there seems to always be just one more…

And then you hit fifty five and the machine starts to beep at you. The day when the neon flashes “Game over” is far closer than it used to be. And I still haven’t written that book. I still haven’t done anything that really matters. I still haven’t finished that Sonata. Wrote that music. Accomplished anything, really. I’ll get to it someday.

And then the exile. Quarantine. Outcast, unclean. Locked away.

I say to myself, “This is my life’s goal! I now have plenty of time and nowhere to go!”

But my wife is so sick she can’t get out of bed. My daughter needs full-time care. The dishes need done. The laundry is piling up. Just one more…

“What do I write about, Maggie?”

“I don’t know anything. I don’t get those words…but look, the tree is starting to get yellow…”

And I look, and sure enough the broom bush is starting to blossom.

And the jasmine is breaking open its perfumed buds into tiny white flowers; and the roses are in bud; and birds are singing.

And I think about it….

I put some tomato plants into the ground, and I think about it.

I trim some bushes and I think about it. I pick some mint and make a mojito and I think about it.

This evening I zoomed with my grandson in Colorado. He laughed at my ostrich puppet and called me “Grandpa”. I thought about that too.

And I thought that maybe I have been looking at this whole thing all wrong.

Maybe I’m not just sitting by the asteroid machine waiting for it to start. Maybe I’ve been knocking them all back one after another my whole life. Or maybe life isn’t a video game without instructions after all and the smartest thing I ever did was just walk away from that stupid game and went outside. I just wish I could have embraced that about myself a lot earlier.

Instead of life being about how much we accomplish, maybe we should just learn how to rest. Maybe that is what it is about. It isn’t about putting away more money in the bank, or leaving a legacy, or making your life matter, or getting a high score – because in the long run, none of those things will make me matter at all.

Maybe it is finally realizing that I DO matter, because Christ died for me and has restored me to his image and not a hair can fall from my head without my heavenly father…

And maybe I’ve been so busy trying to win some imaginary game, hoping that some imaginary person might recognize my worth that I forgot how to just live.

Youthful habits are hard to break, though. But I am going to try.

I’m going to try to just sit and listen to the birds. I’m going to see the jasmine and watch the roses open.

And most of all, I’m going to love my wife, continue to perfect Lebanese Hashweh and maybe just play the piano because I enjoy it, and not because I have anything to prove.

And I pray above all else that my heavenly father will forgive me for all the time I have wasted trying to prove something that didn’t need proving. And instead, I need him to teach me how to just stop and rest and finally know what it means to be accepted in the Beloved – to listen to the music. To quit talking. Quit overthinking everything. And just walk through the woods. Listen to that bullfrog outside. Smell the jasmine. Watch TV with my wife and daughter and praise God that I have them to walk through this valley with.

Sometimes I forget what a tremendous blessing it is to have a wife. And not only that, but a wife with whom I am never alone. 25 years of marriage, and I have not had one day alone, even when she is ill. Not everyone can say that, and that, it seems to me, is far greater than any earthly blessing. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

So I gave my daughter a hug. Now I know what to write. I’ll get to it in a minute. After one more dish….

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Filed under Abuse, Coronavirus, Hope, Trust

Things I’ve been told

They tell me that I scold men too much.

They tell me that they feel sorry for my congregation because I lead them astray by teaching women that they are image-bearers of God with dignity and honor.

They tell me that I rob men of their masculinity by teaching them that imitating Christ means to take the lowest place and become the servant of all, including their wives. Christ did, however, give himself for his bride, the church.

They tell me that I cause divorces and wreck marriages by teaching men how to love their wives instead how to rule over them.

They tell me that I am unbalanced, and am soft on the sin of women because I teach that lust comes from the heart of man, not from the outfit of the woman.

They tell me that I am a feminist because I believe that the Bible teaches that every believing woman is also a prophet, priest and king along with every believing man.

They spit the word “egalitarian” at me like a curse because I believe women have a voice, should be treated as co-heirs of eternal life, and have a right to make decisions and use their gifts for the glory of God, just like every believing man.

And they tell me to stop. They command me to be silent. I make people uncomfortable.

And I worry sometimes.

 

And then I hear of judges who tell rape victims not to report their rape because they will ruin a good man’s life.

And then I hear of husbands punching their wives in the same room that they lead “family worship”.

And then I hear of pastors beating and molesting the children under their care. And I hear of other pastors who knew about it and gave them “a good talking to” but didn’t want to ruin their ministries.

And then I hear of youth pastors raping the children under their care, and calling it “an inappropriate relationship”.

And then I hear of women crying out to their church leaders that their husbands watch porn every night and are asked if they are satisfying them in bed.

And then I hear again of women who are beaten over and over again year after year and when they finally divorce they are excommunicated for being bitter.

And then I hear of wives who cover the altar of the Lord with tears and are told to “submit more”, “suffer a little while like Jesus suffered,” “God hates divorce”.

And then these same wives are shot by the husbands they tried to get protection from.

And then I hear of husbands threatening the wives with weapons, fists, words of hatred, vile contempt and the wives are blamed for not submitting enough, making them mad, provoking them, wanting it…

And then I hear that these are not rare occurrences. These are not unusual. These are the hidden corners, the long dark corridors, the valley of the shadow of death that are walked through by so, so many men, women and children.

I know that salvation is not the same as activism. I am not an abuse advocate. I am a minister of the word, a pastor, a preacher of good tidings of great joy. I will not get sucked into the abyss of darkness and pain nor is it my desire to draw you into it.

But as a minister, I do need to shine a light, expose evil, untwist the scripture that is continually twisted to keep the weak in bondage to the strong.

When the church of Jesus Christ becomes an institution of worldly power and money, the powerful always oppress the weak, crushing them underfoot, and they will use whatever means they can to do it.

And I love the church of Jesus Christ far, far too much to keep silent. For this reason, I will not keep silent about the horrors that so many of our brothers and sisters suffer. Nor will I allow the light of Jesus Christ to grow dim or fade, but will continue to lift the banner, proclaim liberty to the captives, and bind the wounds of the broken-hearted as much as I can.

Even though I know it will infuriate a lot of people who like being in power.

There can only, ever be one head of the church, and he will never give that honor to another.

The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord, to defend,
to guide, sustain, and cherish,
is with her to the end;
tho’ there be those that hate her
and false sons in her pale,
against the foe or traitor
she ever shall prevail. (Samuel John Stone)

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Filed under Abuse, Gospel

Divorce and Tempting God

Today I am preparing for a Bible Study on the sixth commandment. I am looking at our Heidelberg Catechism, question 105:

105. What does God require in the sixth commandment?

That I do not revile, hate, insult or kill my neighbor either in thought, word, or gesture, much less in deed, whether by myself or by another, but lay aside all desire of revenge; moreover, that I do not harm myself, nor willfully run into any danger. Wherefore also to restrain murder the magistrate is armed with the sword.

I am specifically thinking about that phrase, “nor willfully run into any danger.” The footnote refers us to Matthew 4:7. To understand my point here, I would like to look at the whole context, and then see what Jesus is teaching us.

5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:`He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and,`In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again,`You shall not tempt the LORD your God.‘”
(Matt. 4:5-7 NKJ – emphasis mine)

Jesus answers the devil’s temptation by referring to scripture. The devil sought to convince Jesus to throw himself down. “Doesn’t the bible say that God will give his angels charge over you? Doesn’t the bible say that God will not allow any harm to come to you? Prove it. Throw yourself down. Be reckless. Put God to the test.”

And Jesus answered “Thou shalt not put the Lord God to the test.” (This is what “tempt the Lord your God” means).

By willfully putting himself in danger, demanding that God protect him, Jesus would be acting sinfully, just like Israel did in the wilderness.

And yet, this is the counsel that thousands and thousands of pastors and counselors give to women and children living in dangerous conditions.

I heard again today of a woman who has lost her Christian friends and her Church because she fled her abusive husband and filed for divorce. He is in prison for his horrible sins towards her and her children. He threatened her. She believed him. She told her counselor. He told her to return to her husband, that it might be necessary to “suffer a season”. But by her “meek and quiet spirit” she will redeem her husband.

The violence is not under question. So many men are in prison for their violence towards their wives and children, but the wives end up driven from the church anyway. They were commanded to put God to the test and refused to do so, and were punished for it.

When you hear this counsel, have the courage to say what Jesus said, “It is written, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Wisdom dictates that a fool returns to his folly as a dog to his vomit. A violent man remains violent. A promiscuous man remains promiscuous. A murderer remains a murderer.

Can God grant new birth and new life? Of course he can. But thou shalt not put him to the test. Can God use suffering for our good? Of course he can, but thou shalt not put him to the test. Can God protect us from evil men? Of course he can. But thou shalt not put him to the test.

Repentance and faith are free gifts given from God’s mercy alone. They don’t come on demand. You must not willfully put yourself into danger and put God to the test.

When you tell someone to put themselves into danger in order to uphold your idolatry of marriage, you are violating the 6th commandment.

God despises murder of every kind. Your life is valuable to him. He is not cruel and is not capricious. He will not have you killed to uphold another man’s desire to build a kingdom for himself.

If you are in danger, please seek help. If you are in a place where you are commanded to put God to the test, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Such counsel does not come from the Holy One.

Domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-7233

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Filed under Abuse, Divorce, Marriage

Shattering words and crying to God

This morning, I was meditating on Psalm 42.

9 I will say to God my rock, “Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
(Ps. 42:9-10)

These two verses in particular struck me. The first thing is the Psalmists righteous determination to cry out to the Lord.

Those of us who were trained with the books of Jay Adams were taught to always be aware of manipulation and complaining. He warned us that the people we are counseling will often seek to manipulate the conversation with tears and a lot of words.

O how glad I am that God does not treat us that way! How many of you have been told by pastors (or even spouses) to stop crying, quit manipulating, and cease complaining. How many of us were told that our tears were simply trying to change the conversation or that our complaining was unthankful and ungodly!

The woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus robes and was made well. He said, “Who touched me” so that she would talk to him. God delights when we pour out our troubles on him and call upon him in distress.

So much of scripture is filled with God’s delight in the prayers of the saints, and his curse on those who did not call upon him, who refused to seek his aid.

Contrary to the American popular religion, God’s blessing is NOT on the one too proud to seek help. It is not on the one who lifts himself up by the bootstraps, but on the one who has no help, no hope, no strength and knows it.

Take heart! God hears our tears, even when surrounded by mockers and revilers!

The second thing I noticed is that the Psalmist compares the reviling of his enemies to a shattering of his bones. How many times have we heard pastors and elders say, “But it really wasn’t abuse, though. There were no broken bones, no one went to the hospital. He didn’t lay a hand on her.”

We have even been taught that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

Cute – but it isn’t biblical. In fact, the uniform testimony of scripture is that words hurt and destroy far more that any physical violence. We actually heal from physical scars, but scars of ugly words last a lifetime.

Jesus warned that hateful, reviling words cause one to be liable to hell-fire.

And the Psalmist pours out his complaint to God for the reviling and mocking of his enemies. And his prayers are heard.

God sees every sneer, every contemptuous smirk, every wink of the eye. He hears every reviling word, every “Raca” and every “You are so stupid. You are such a fool”.

And when the altar of God is covered with the tears of those with whom you dealt treacherously, God hears and will come in judgment (Malachi 2:13).

So keep speaking, you who are oppressed. Keep weeping, those who have been reviled. And remember that God will wipe away every tear and will come in vengeance. And remember God’s promise.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

So as the Psalm ends, we read this, even in the midst of tears:

Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance, and my God. (Ps. 42:11)

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Filed under Abuse, Prayer

Sex and sandwiches

3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. (Eph 5:3-4)

This horrible meme has been floating around – about how a husband needs sex, sandwiches and submission.

I don’t want to link it because I don’t want to give the godless people who support it any more support, even by a click.

But it got me thinking about this false idea promoted by patriarchialists of every stripe. The idea is this: the cure for fornication is to get married.

The problem is that it is unbiblical. Now I know that many of you are thinking about 1 Corinthians 7:

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (1Co 7:2)

In fact, there are many false teachers that teach that it is the wife’s duty to make herself available at all times in order to keep her husband from committing adultery or watching porn.

I wish I could tell you how many times I have heard of pastors giving that counsel to wives whose husbands would rather use porn. “Well, are you making yourself available to him?”

We have to do better. All of scripture is inspired by God. There are no contradictions. There is only one route to purity, and it isn’t taking your fornicating heart into the marriage bed. “Let the marriage bed be undefiled”, the scripture says (Heb. 13:4).

What does Paul mean? As a Reformed pastor, I hold to historical/grammatical exegesis. In order to understand any portion of scripture, you have to look at it in the historical context to see what it is addressing. Paul is addressing a specific situation, which he summarizes in 1 Corinthians 7:1. There were those who were teaching that marriage was not good, and a man should just avoid it all together.

But then what about those young couples in love? Do you remember those years when the bloom of spring is upon you and young hearts are turning to love? Do you remember not being able to keep your hands off of each other?

And now some false teacher is forbidding you to marry. Paul says, “What do you think you will accomplish?” God created sexuality and called it “very good”. Let them marry. Let them rejoice in the wife of their youth. Let them give thanks to a good God who created them and who rejoices at their union (Song of Songs 5:1).

In a twist of self-contradictory thinking, many patriarchialists also throw so many obstacles in the way of their sons and daughters dating and getting married that fornication increases ten-fold in those kinds of circles…This is exactly what Paul is addressing to the church at Corinth.

 

Paul is most certainly NOT teaching that the cure for a fornicating and adulterous heart is to inflict yourself upon your wife. He is not teaching spousal rape, sexual abuse and domination – no matter what you call it.

Because Paul wasn’t a fool, who said one thing in one place and another thing in another place. The opposite of fornication, according to Ephesians 5, is thanksgiving.

The opposite of fornication is NOT marriage. It is thanksgiving. “But rather, giving of thanks,” God says.

God created men and women and filled the earth with wonderful, beautiful things. He created beautiful things, things with color, shape, form, texture. He gave men and women bodies and made them beautiful. Sin twisted that beauty. Fornication lashes out at beauty, consuming and devouring it for our own twisted lusts. God, who created men and women, created them to be “one flesh”, with sex and touch and sight and smell and taste all rolled into the relationship. Spirit and matter united in a holy bond of love and unity.

And we made it hateful – possession and conquest, lust and demand, devouring and destroying…

The heart of fornication is this: God isn’t good. His gifts aren’t good. I need to reach out and grab the fruit for myself on my own terms. God will not give me every good thing. When you see the heart of the issue, you see that ingratitude and fornication are different sides of the same coin.

Instead of rejoicing at the beauty of the world, the unthankful heart says, “God just created all sorts of beautiful women and then said, “Don’t touch”. But I’ll show HIM!”

It isn’t enough to have EVERY OTHER tree in the garden. I must have them ALL!

THAT is what fornication is, and that is how it has twisted and devoured beauty as God created it. The powerful seduce and devour and consume the weaker like a rich man roasts and eats a lamb (2 Sam. 12:1-4)

And the cure is not to take your twisted, hateful self and inflict it on your spouse. The cure is to take your naked, sinful self to Christ and throw yourself on his mercy. Listen to the accusation of God’s prophet: “THOU are the man!” and then follow David in repentance and faith.

Then you will know what love is. Then you will see what it means that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for her”.

And that is when you are ready to learn how to love a woman (or a man, as the case may be. I do want to be “gender inclusive” in the call of the gospel).

 

In the Heidelberg Catechism, written over 450 years ago, the Reformers understood that. In the exposition of the 7th commandment, they wrote:

108. What does the seventh Commandment teach us?

That all unchastity is accursed of God, and that we should therefore loathe it with our whole heart, and live chastely and modestly, whether in holy wedlock or in single life.

You CAN be unchaste, unholy, ungodly in wedlock. If you treat your wife like an object to be used, a thing to be broken and discarded, if you refuse to learn what makes her rejoice , then you certainly do not have the heart of Jesus Christ.

Before you can even begin to understand the problem with “Sex, sandwiches and submission”, you must first understand that no one who knows Christ can possibly say such a thing. You are in great danger. Flee the wrath to come.

This is not the heart of a thankful man or woman. This is the heart of fornication – I demand to be served. I demand my own way. I demand that this woman take up the cross and follow ME. I demand sex now…

You have no idea what love is. And you also have no idea what sex is. You understand rape and murder, you understand lies and reviling. But you do not know what love is.

Go and learn what love is at the foot of the cross. Until then, please keep your hands to yourself.

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Filed under Abuse, Marriage, Repentance, Sex

A plea for sobriety

This has been a hard week for a lot of folks I know…men and women who have been assaulted, bullied, ridiculed, and mocked know that pain – the pain of being outcast, unclean, unwanted. Ben Sasse summed up the dynamics of sexual assault perfectly this week. But there have been so many that have suffered.

This past week, I have heard from many, many of these people.

They told me that when they heard the president mock Dr. Ford, they didn’t see him. They saw their classmates, their peers, their abusers.

They told me that when they saw the pastors laughing and joking, they didn’t hear those pastors. They heard their rapists laughing at them and mocking them.

When their Christian friends ridiculed the accuser, mocking her as a liar unheard and rashly, they didn’t hear their friends. They heard their teachers and parents refusing to believe them all over again. They heard their pastors mocking victims from the pulpit all over again…

One survivor told me that when she heard the crowds laughing and cheering the president on, it sounded like the Romans at the arena. She wondered about compassion, sobriety, respect, at such a serious subject.

I wondered if so many of my Christian friends realize what they lost this week.

In our partisan rush to support all things conservative, we told the whole world, “Don’t come to us with your sexual assault stories. We don’t want to hear them. We don’t care.”

We really did. We supported the mockers. We ridiculed a woman that we never met, never spoke to, never had any first hand knowledge about, before a hearing even took place.

It didn’t matter what the truth was. We didn’t say, “Let this play out. If he did it, then he is unfit.” No. We said immediately that she was lying, that he couldn’t do such a thing. And if he did, he was only 17.

We mocked her for being ugly in High School, for being at the wrong place, for drinking too much…We posted the ugly, hateful memes, we rebuked our friends, and unfriended anyone who differed with us – all to support someone we never met and don’t know at all, before any hearing happened.

And what did we gain?

But we told every survivor in our community not to come to us for help. That we don’t care. We won’t listen.

I hope it was worth it. We traded the witness of the gospel for a seat on the Supreme Court. That seems like a lose/lose to me, no matter what happens from here.

By the way, I have never met Kavanaugh, nor have I met Ford. I am not the one doing the job interview, and no one listens to my opinion at all. So my concern is not at all who is or is not on the Supreme Court. I have nothing to do with that.

But I am held accountable for my love, my witness, and how clearly I present the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am judged by God for the ninth commandment, bearing false witness. I am judged for my words and my actions. Am I so absolutely sure of the truth of this situation that I can ridicule, mock and slander the other party, no matter which side they are on or which political views they subscribe to?

I am posting this because I love the church of Jesus Christ, I love my Lord, and I love the truth of the gospel.

I am posting this because calling your own people to account is not an act of disloyalty, hatred, or blasphemy. It is an act of love.

If you have not partaken in these sins against our brothers and sisters, then scroll past. I’m not speaking to you.

But for the rest, I can’t remain silent anymore. I will not by my silence be a partaker of these sins.

If you wish to unfriend me, there is nothing in scripture that says we must be friends on social media. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ then you also are my brother, whether we are friends on Facebook or not.

I am posting this for all of those – men and women – who have been abused, bullied, mocked, and ridiculed and still bear the marks. There are those who care, who are concerned, who will listen.

21 Then they said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.” (Gen. 42:21 NKJ)

13 Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted. (Isa. 49:13 NKJ)

5 He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished. (Prov. 17:5 NKJ)

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Filed under Abuse, assault, Words

When you honor your ministry more than you honor God…

12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD (1 Sam. 2:12 NAS)

Eli was the High Priest during the years of the Judges. Samuel was not yet born. The Temple had not yet been built, but the tabernacle that Bezalel built in the wilderness was erected in Shiloh. This was where God met with his people. The sacrifices were offered; families ate the peace offerings together in fellowship with the Lord. The word of the Lord was taught.

But something was rotten.

Eli is an old man, and his sons are preparing to take over the priesthood during his retirement. But they are “worthless men” (lit, sons of Belial). Instead of simply saying that they were worthless, the sacred text tells us exactly what the problem was. It is heartbreaking.

First, they abused the families coming to fellowship with God. The families would bring a peace offering as their feast before the Lord. By the law of Moses, part of that offering was to go to the priests. But the sons of Eli demanded more. They threatened violence on those who sought to correct them.

16 And if the man said to him, “They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,” then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.” (1 Sam. 2:16 NAS)

The second problem was similar to the first. There were women who gathered at the tabernacle who served God is some capacity. They were “warrior women of Shiloh

And the sons of Eli were raping them. The sacred text says, “They lay with them”, but the dynamic between the high priest and the women was such that rape is not too strong a word. What choice would they have had? Would these two wicked men, who threatened to take meat by force just stand back and ask politely when it came to the women there?

So that was the dynamic. These two men, who were in place to serve God in the highest position of honor – representing the mercy and love and justice and covenant faithfulness of God to the people of God – were worthless. They used their position for their own gratification. they enriched themselves and sated their own ruthless lusts with the bodies of God’s people.

They acted as if their ministry was their own personal playground, rather than the representation of Christ in Shiloh.

And God took pleasure in destroying them. That is what the sacred text says (1 Samuel 2:25). And it is a terrifying thought.

Why was Eli condemned? Eli did an investigation. He established the facts. He rebuked his sons. He rebuked his sons strongly.

But the law of Moses said that they were to be removed from office, taken outside the city, and stoned to death. They were to be reported to the proper authorities and were liable to civil penalties for the evil that they inflicted upon Israel. They were to be removed from office.

But Eli concluded his investigation. Rebuked his sons. Sealed the report. And they continued doing what they were doing.

And God told Eli

29 ‘Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?’ (1 Sam. 2:29).

Eli honored his ministry, his family, his tabernacle, more than he honored God. Think of the scandal! How could God’s name survive if it were publicly known what the sons are doing? No. They need to stop. My heart goes out to the victims. But we really have to keep this quiet – for the sake of the ministry.

And so God intervened, and it was hard. Hophni and Phinehas were both killed in battle. Eli hears the news and breaks his neck in a fall. The ark of the Lord is captured by the Philistines. God removed his presence from Israel because of the wickedness of the priests.

There are many similarities. Pastors continue to threaten and abuse. They make themselves fat through fraud, deceit and threats. Many who say, “Enough” are threatened with excommunication or driven out all-together.

Boys and girls continue to be abused by the thousands by leaders in every denomination. And the Elis of the world know about it.

The investigations are done. The leaders are rebuked. The reports are sealed. The abuse continues.

Because far too often we honor the ministry more than we honor God.

And God hates it.

Paul said that if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged (1 Cor. 11:31). If we do not cast out the sons of worthlessness from our midst, God does. And all who were complicit by their silence will also bear their judgment.

There are those whom God delights in destroying. That is a terrifying thought. It is also terrifying to think that far too often the people of God are standing with those whom God would delight in destroying.

Such a thing should not happen in the church.

For all of the families who have been threatened and cast out; for all of the women who have been molested in the “service of the Lord”, know this: God isn’t sealing and ignoring the report. He sees your tears and he hears your cry.

He has not yet acted because he is longsuffering and merciful. But he will act. He will come in judgment.

The Son of David, Jehovah himself, our Lord Jesus – both true and eternal God and the Son of David in one person – is the King we desire. He isn’t fooled. He doesn’t ignore the cries of the needy. He isn’t fooled by false words.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 72, describing his reign.

2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.
4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. (Ps. 72:2-7 KJV)

Even now, although there is much that is not right, we see the Son at work exposing evil, bringing justice. And that work has just begun.

We will continue, as long as we have breath, to expose evil, reflecting God’s justice and righteousness as his image-bearers.

But ultimately, our hope is that the King is coming. He brings justice with his arm. He sees. He knows. He isn’t mocked. He isn’t fooled.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Ps. 2:12 KJV)

He is longsuffering. But the offer of peace does not last forever.

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Brothers and Sisters

Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,
2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
(1 Tim. 5:1-2 NAS)

Aimee Byrd recently wrote an excellent article on the relationships between men and women. She rightly critiques the multiplying of rules that make interacting with the opposite sex so complicated. (I will take a moment here to plug her new book, which I have not yet read. I am greatly looking forward to it. It is called “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”). Aimee has done some excellent work, calling for a renewal of simple friendships between brothers and sisters in Christ. Anyway, her latest post has caused some discussion on the web. Some edifying, some not so much.

So I started thinking, naturally, about 1 Timothy 5:1-2, particularly where Paul commands Timothy to think of younger women as sisters and older women as mothers. This verse has always puzzled me, maybe it is because I never had any sisters. But I also know that there is much abuse that takes place between siblings. What does one tell a woman or a man who was abused by a brother or a sister? Did Paul mean here that we are to treat our sisters in Christ as a good brother would treat his sister?

Perhaps. Of course, a healthy sibling relationship can be a tremendous blessing to all. If it happens that way, then that would be wonderful to emulate in the church.

But when Paul wrote to Timothy, it was not at all a given that brothers and sisters were living together in chastity and purity. Caligula was emperor, and we all know what that did to the reputation of purity among siblings.

I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about Heidelberg Catechism question and answer # 1.

“What is thy only comfort in life and in death? That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ…”

Natalie Hoffman writes,

Her body belongs to Jesus, not her abuser. And by the way, not only does YOUR life and body belong to Jesus, but your spouse’s life and body belong to Jesus as well. So if you’re not treating your spouse’s life and body with loving honor, then you’re missing the point of grace.

And that got me thinking. I think that Paul’s point to Timothy is deeper than simply a reference to a sibling group. The reason that we as believers are one family is that we are all members of Christ, of his flesh and of his bone (Ephesians 5:32).

This union with Christ is so unbreakable and so close that Jesus considers mistreatment of one of his children the same as mistreatment of himself. Consider what he said to Saul of Tarsus:

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (Acts 9:4 KJV)

Likewise, to the sheep and the goats

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt. 25:40 KJV)

Think about what that means. Christ considers what is done to his members as being done to his own person. Why are you persecuting ME, not others, but me? When Paul applies it to Timothy, he means that when he is speaking to a young woman who is a believer, he better remember that she is a sister – a member of Christ, a prophet, priest and king. A firstborn son. A daughter of a king.

And he better remember this. Whatever he says to her, whatever he does to her, whatever he coerces from her, Jesus will consider it as done to his own person on the day of judgment. Because that is precisely what it is. On the other hand, the respect and honor, kindness, gentleness, patience and love we show are considered as shown unto Jesus himself. “Be careful to entertain strangers, for some have entertained angels unawares.”

And even greater, in the body of Christ, you are serving Christ himself with every cup of water given, every meal served, every person clothed.

On the other hand, every harsh word, every act of contempt and hatred, every intimidation and power-play over one of Jesus sheep, He takes it very, very personally.

He does not take kindly to the abuse, ridicule, insults, contempt and hatred of the members of his body – of his flesh and of his blood.

Here is what we all must keep in mind. the young woman in the congregation, the older woman in the congregation, the young man and the old man – they aren’t objects to be used and controlled according to the pleasures and whims of the pastor, but they are dearly loved members of the body of Christ. Whatever is done to them is done to Christ.

Remember that, and you won’t need any “Billy Graham rule”. Love will flow from the heart, if, of course, you belong to Christ.

Take courage, you who have been mistreated and abused and assaulted in the name of Jesus, your Lord is coming again. He grieves with you and he hates what was done to you. He will come with recompense and vengeance.

He truly will. For by faith you are members of his body and are greatly loved by the Creator and Maker of the universe.

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Filed under Abuse, Faith, Union with Christ