Never Say Never To God

15 10 2018

Don and Samantha were new acquaintances.  My wife and I were reaching out and getting to know them a bit better when Samantha blurted out her list.  “We will NEVER get married; we will NEVER have children and we will certainly NEVER become Christians, not in this lifetime!” Don agreed.

 

I think God loves those kinds of “never” challenges.  I happen to believe He responds with one big, “Really?”

 

No longer remembering the time frame, I now look back with amazement.  Both Don and Samantha bowed their knees to Jesus.  Following that step they felt God’s conviction to marry; to make it “…official before God. ” Then, even with a vasectomy on Don’s part, two beautiful children followed, a boy and a girl.

 

What big, huge, NEVER problem can you lay out before God today?  He just might take you up on it.

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Have You Been Noticed Lately?

8 10 2018

My grandson often asks me, “Papaw, did you see me _________?” You can fill in the blank with almost anything he does or desires to be noticed doing.  It can be really small, but he still wants to be observed.  He longs for that voice of approval and praise.  It’s a child thing, right?

 

Actually it’s a people thing.  Do you desire your spouse to notice you?  How about your boss?  Do you like it when your teacher notices your extra effort or when your neighbor compliments you on your landscaping?

 

Here is the troubling thing in longing to be noticed.  If it’s simply all about me, then I can’t be noticed enough. If being noticed connects to my personal need for security or affirmation, I can’t get enough attention.  In my desire to build some level of esteem, my need becomes insatiable.  My being noticed tank will never be full.

 

But, did you know that God notices you?  Why wouldn’t He, He created you.  He longed for your time to be born.  He has always had a plan and a desire for your life.  He has never given up on you and He is continually watching you, noticing you and delighting in you.  All other approval can become lost and we can become deeply discouraged in our self-effort to be noticed, but He waits to show you His love and His approval.

 

No spouse, no child and no parent can satisfy your longing to be noticed. However, God knew you before you were found in your mother’s womb.  He has always taken notice of you.  (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:4)





He Holds All Things Together

1 10 2018

Have you ever felt as though you were unraveling?

 

After years of working as a social worker and then a family and marriage counselor, I often used some key scriptures for encouragement and healing. One of those scriptures I have continually appreciated its meaning and life application is found in Colossians chapter one.

 

Verse seventeen states, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  Don’t you just love how our Savior can hold us together?  Going further in verses 21-22 we find some even deeper truth, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

 

This seems almost unimaginable.  As an alienated one acting in wrong thinking and wrong behavior I have been reconciled.  Not only reconciled (meaning bringing into agreement, harmony and restoration), I am presented in three totally amazing and incomprehensible ways: holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  Can we fathom that we are, “Holy in His sight; without blemish and free from accusation?”

 

We look into the mirror and see all the blemishes, often an unholy vessel, but that is not what Jesus sees.  He sees you as holy and without blemish.  What an amazing and glorious truth to tell the one struggling with who they are and their true value.

 

You do not need to listen to the evil one’s accusations today; you are free from all accusations.  That inner voice that condemns is not from God – it’s not His word to you.  As we walk in the freedom of these truth-filled scriptures we will be held together.





A Life of Integrity or A Life of Regret?

24 09 2018

Life can be full of regrets, but integrity and high moral character will never leave one feeling remorseful.  This blog is not for those who walk in disappointment, but rather those who are doing their best to avoid moral failure and the loss of integrity.

 

Job’s wife once said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”  But the Bible says that even after all of Job’s loss he did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.  What amazing character this man walked in.  If you’re like me, you are tempted but if you long to be more like Jesus, you realize perfection will never be reached.  However, lifelong integrity can be your testimony and that testimony begins today.

 

If you walk in integrity and avoid moral failure you will be:

 

  • Maintaining a personal testimony and walk before God
  • Maintaining an uninhibited marriage of oneness (spiritually, sexually, emotionally)
  • Not having to work at winning a spouses trust back
  • Maintaining family by not embarrassing them and not losing their respect and trust
  • Not having to walk away from a job or ministry position
  • Not having to relocate
  • Not having to face newspaper articles, publicly printed communication and social media about personal failure
  • Not having to face rumors, gossip and lies
  • Not having to face untold and far-reaching negative consequences either based on truth and fact or hearsay and lies
  • Not having to face the law or possible law suits
  • Not losing or forfeiting many friendships and local church relationships
  • Living without wounds and scars
  • Not feeling as though everyone is watching
  • Not suffering from overwhelming thoughts of failure
  • Not continually reliving the past and coming up with regret and loss
  • Living without continual condemnation and guilt or false guilt
  • Able to sleep at night
  • Waking up in the morning and looking forward to a new day
  • Not having to be concerned about who one may face in the day
  • Not suffering the loss of vision
  • Not having to go through biblical discipline and a restoration process
  • Able to look at one’s family and all others in the eye
  • Able to look at oneself in the mirror without feeling like a failure
  • Having a clear conscience; walking through life without a cloud over oneself
  • Not losing one’s peace and joy
  • Not suffering the loss and grief of broken relationship with God

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”  (Proverbs 10:9)





When Your Spouse Says “NO!”

17 09 2018

I had researched it thoroughly.  I did my homework.  We acquired the financing.  We prayed together about it.  It all checked out except for one minor detail…she said, “No.” SHE, my wife, was saying no to some vacant ground WE were interested in purchasing. Ok, so it’s a no, but why? Why after this being the third property we researched and visited was it yet another no?

That conversation went something like this.

Are you just trying to frustrate me with your ongoing no’s?

“No.”

You do realize I’ve done my homework and research and this will work don’t you?

“Yes.”

Then what’s the deal?

“It doesn’t feel right.”

Doesn’t “feel right?” Are you kidding me?

“No, it’s just not the one.”

But, based on what facts or information or insight?

“Oh, nothing like that; I just know.”

 

My amazing wife, like a lot of women, reminds me of my computer screen. The information is there, but it never reveals the path of how it gets there. To me, this was not a “feeling” decision; no emotion was necessary.  But that wasn’t true for her. So many of her responses are about how she feels about the matter.

Further, I know my wife hears God and that is certainly not to be disregarded.

Truthfully, today, I have come to trust that feeling, that intuitive quality. I look forward to her way of processing because God gave her to me and I need what she has to offer to the decision. It doesn’t always make sense, but then it doesn’t always need to. A greater need is for the two of us to be in agreement, to hear God together and to move forward in unity about a purchase or any decision for that matter.

It eventually worked out, but the weird thing was she finally said yes to something that I thought impossible. Regardless, we were in agreement and in the end, (while I am not confessing any greater knowledge here) she was right.  Did I just write that?





The Redemption and Reentry of a Predator

10 09 2018

I had this question posed from last week’s blog, Signs of a Predator in Your Church, (and I’ll paraphrase here), “What about the reentry of a ‘predator’ to the church after experiencing redemption?”  It was a great question and calls for a follow-up answer because a major role of pastors/leadership in the local church is to protect its members.

Redemption means to be bought, paid for by another.  To redeem is to atone for a fault or mistake.  When one is redeemed by the cross they are repurchased, made right through Christ.  However, that redemption does not remove the consequences of one’s sin.  If someone is guilty of murder, goes to jail and then experiences true redemption, they will still be incarcerated and rightfully so. Salvation does not stop the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Keep in mind all of us needed redemption; none of us is or was without sin.

With that, what would be our response to this repentant one?  It is said that it takes a lifetime to create a sexual predator. What that means is they perhaps have a history of being abused and abusing.  There is most certainly a not so good background preceding the life of a predator.  And there are a lot of factors to consider, but through the love of Christ we are welcoming to the saint and the sinner.  We do not judge their heart, but hope for the ongoing completing work of salvation to wholly change a life.  First Corinthians six is very clear and concise when it says, “And that is what some of you were (the sexually immoral).  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  It does not get any clearer than that.

Please remember not all abuse is the same, however.  Some is accomplished without ever touching the victim through exhibitionism or voyeurism. There are presently over 550,000 registered sex offenders in the Unites States.

Does this mean as the church we have an open arms policy and immediate access to our teens and children’s ministries?  Does this mean we pose no boundaries or period of caution for the one that struggled with this sin?  It clearly does not.  So, here are some suggestions when dealing with this person and their reentry into the local church. (Note: By the way, there are 600,000 persons who leave prison every year.  A reentry program for your church is something to consider.)

A few considerations

  1. You are not looking to enable an abuser in any way or further traumatize a victim. So we err on the side of caution and not on the side of mercy.
  2. At the risk of sounding harsh, if you are dealing with a registered sex offender, then in all humility and an attitude of, “If not for the grace of God there go I,” the congregation needs to be aware and the former offender should give permission to make this known. It does not need to be a public announcement, but every family should receive an email or some form of communication.  In this effort, you are protecting the whole and not just the one or two.
  3. Often the one who has been incarcerated enters a “reentry program” before reentry into society at large. Create a reentry program with clear boundaries, e.g., counseling, close accountability, Internet watch programs, close supervision in church activities and certainly no access to minors (which means no activities, no transportation and no children’s church functions unless it involves their biological children). Create boundaries in the spirit of love and not in a spirit of retribution.  (Suggestion: Designate a reentry person and assign them to this member.)
  4. Be clear on these person’s probation boundaries/terms. If this individual was arrested for their crimes and convicted, they will have probation/parole guidelines to follow and will most assuredly be on Megan’s List.  They will have a public record of criminal convictions.  Obtain this record and be informed.  Discuss their attendance to your church with their parole officer to be sure it falls within allowable guidelines.  (It’s not a bad idea to receive written permission from the PO that this person can attend your church.)
  5. This person normally spent years learning how to “groom” and “grooming” victims in that it became a lifestyle of action and thought. Time to heal, time to rebuild foundations and time to learn another way of thinking and acting is crucial.  Be aware of the propensity of the offender to be a reoffender.
  6. Be assured of ongoing counseling and one-on-one accountability in this person’s life. Depending on the level of their crime, it is not too far-reaching to have their designate reentry person with them at all times when on your church property.
  7. A violation of these guidelines will result in immediate action taken to remove this person from the fellowship.
  8. Know your states laws when it comes to sex offenders. For example, in Iowa it is illegal for a convicted sex offender to be on any school premises or public libraries.

Clinical psychologist, Anna Salter, wrote a helpful book titled, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders.  In that book she said, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people cannot reliably tell who is lying.  Many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Rachel Denhollander, the attorney who summoned her personal faith in her trial of her abuser, Larry Nassar said, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.”

Jesus set a man free from his bondage and then that same man begged Jesus to get into the boat with Him and His disciples. Our Lord’s response to him was, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…” (Mark 5: 19). Jesus might have been creating a boundary for further healing for this man as he left his sin-filled life and reentered his community.





Signs of a Predator in Your Church

4 09 2018

In light of recent news articles about sexual abuse coming out of Pennsylvania, I thought it appropriate to consider this subject in brief.

I sat in my counseling office with a counselee and her mentor (on more than one occasion) who was telling me about her years of growing up in a conservative church environment and how she was repeatedly sexually molested.  Some of the stories made my stomach ache and with others I found myself getting angry: angry at parents who didn’t believe their son or daughter, angry at youth leaders who did not address the danger, angry at church pastors and leaders that kept secrets and provided cover-up and, of course, angry at abusers.

Sex offenders will take years to infiltrate a place to carry out their sociopathic behavior.  They will slowly and methodically work on building relationships so they are trusted and believed.  Sex offenders’ scope out their victims, finding the one(s) whom they believe they can dominate.  They feel entitled to do what they do because they see their victims as persons who desire to be dominated, need to be dominated.  They take their time to target persons who need them for some reason, making them even more vulnerable.

Here are some signs to look for:

  1. They do not make themselves stand out or act creepy. They work hard at looking and exhibiting “normal.”  They work a normal job and live in a normal neighborhood.
  2. They are giving extra, special, generous and consistent attention to a victim they have targeted. They are charmers and gift givers.
  3. They will create an environment of need. They desire the victim to need them for some specific reasons.  This gives them power and control to manipulate.
  4. They play on emotions and will sulk, become “depressed,” express words of rejection, play the victim and could even threaten self harm all in an effort to take advantage of their victim and receive their pity.
  5. They lie a lot.They lie about where they have been, what they have been doing, what they’re thinking and almost everything else in an attempt to give their victims what they think they desire to hear or need.
  6. They will be steadily pushing boundaries. There will be suggestions of behavior that crosses boundaries that will lead to unwanted actions.
  7. They will disempower their victim by expressing love in an attempt to isolate and move away from other trusted relationships.
  8. Eventually, as the victim becomes more uncomfortable, the predator becomes more aggressive and even violent because they are feeling desperate.

We don’t spot them because they blend in and we’re not naturally looking for a predator.  In fact, most of us can’t even relate to such evil.  With the signs above you can watch out for your children within your extended family, your neighborhood, your child’s school, sports activities and yes, your local church.

 

Psalm 55: 21 says, “His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.”








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