Monthly Archives: December 2015

Band-Aids Won’t Fix You

 

bandaid heartI was recently washing a knife in the sink when I nicked a finger. It wasn’t much of a cut, but bleeding and food prep don’t go together. At least that’s what the experts publicly say on the Food Network. So I washed the blood off and applied a band-aid. Problem solved.

A day later I noticed that the band-aid was getting worn and was losing its adhesive capability. When I removed it I observed something else; my finger was red, irritated and slightly infected.

The band-aid had served the purpose for which it was created. It had stopped the flow of blood and momentarily protected the wound.

But band-aids don’t heal, they just temporarily patch, and when they are relied on for more than what they are meant for, they can actually cause greater long-term injury and hurt.

When it comes to relational, spiritual and emotional wounds, many people only temporarily address the injury with an insufficient patch-job; a life band-aid. Sure the bleeding gets stopped and further mess is limited or prevented, providing some hope or short-term fix, but some of the cuts that are caused by life with imperfect people require more than a superficial fix. Some require surgery and rehabilitation.

Who’s got time for that? And who wants to admit that their life-wound(s) requires the help of others? Who wants to admit that their life has deep-seated issues that were caused years and years ago, and the reason they still haunt and hound is because they have never been properly diagnosed and treated?

It’s a whole lot easier to cover the wound, force a happy face and get on with life. After all, everybody hurts sometimes, and who wants to be a burden?

But here’s the truth that personal and pastoral experience has taught me: if the wound is not properly treated, it will eventually cause more personal pain and pain for others. It is inevitable. If a wound is left to fester, it’s going to get bigger and it may become lethal. It’s going to spread through you, and it may even end up spreading to others. Wounds almost never just go away and miraculously vanish.

So what can be done? Life-wounds aren’t as easy as treating a nick or a scrape with some hydrogen peroxide, neosporin and a band-aid.

First, there must be self-awareness and honesty about your wound. Are you continually being hurt or hurting others? Do you continually experience pain from a particular act or hurt others repeatedly? Even if you have admitted an issue, have you really dealt with it in a life-changing way? It’s amazing how insane we can be. We do and experience the same things over and over, and wish upon a Disney-like-star that life will change, only to be strangely surprised when we don’t live happily-ever-after. If you won’t admit you have a problem and that you are a part of it, nothing will change. Pretending like nothing will be your undoing. That may be a hard pill to swallow, but being willing to admit the reality of the situation is the beginning of getting healthy.

Second, there must be a willingness to seek out qualified help that really gets at the source of the wound. It takes time, money, discomfort and vulnerability to get life-changing treatment from someone who really knows how to help. But think about this: if you could help yourself and do it by yourself, why are you still wounded and wounding? The truth of the matter is that the really deep and nagging wounds of life are the result of many years lived, and what might have started out as a nick, is now an entrenched and deeply rooted issue. So its going to take more than one apology, confession or visit to a professional. It’s going to take a lot of humility and ongoing accountability with people who can be trusted with sensitive and personal information. It’s going to take people who will persevere with you when you revert to old hurts, habits and hang-ups. It’s going to take someone who will love you; doing what is best for you. For example, a good place to start might be a recovery program like Celebrate Recovery (CR). CR is a Christ-centered recovery program that is hosted by many churches. You can Google it for a city near you. If you are looking for one in the Stillwater area, our church hosts a CR Ministry and they would love to help you.

Finally, we must dress the wound(s) with lasting forgiveness. We must be forgiven by God. We must be clothed in the righteousness of Christ by grace through faith in Christ alone. This is really the most important part. The pain you have been caused, and the pain you have caused others, will always be with you on this side of heaven. There is no Men in Black neuralyzer  for the traumatized, but there is forgiveness that frees us from condemnation before God (Romans 8:1). We must be set free from captivity to our sin against God and others. We must be set free from ourselves. When we admit we have sinned and rebelled against God’s perfect way (1 Peter 2:25) and we trust in Christ (Romans 10:10-13) who took our place by dying for our sins (2 Cor. 5:21), we will be made new (2 Cor. 5:17) and we will be acquitted of all our sin. This is amazing grace and and it is life-changingly sweet. If we truly encounter saving grace, it transforms us and we will long to live in it and extend it to others – even those who have hurt us. By the way, if we won’t offer it to others, perhaps we haven’t received it (Matthew 6:14-15). We may have regret for past experiences and offenses, but we will live with hope that one day Jesus will make all things new (Revelation 21:1-7). If we don’t receive forgiveness in Christ, we may experience behavior modification and find some short-term solace for our soul, but we will never be able to get over the past and our injuries. Christ is no band-aid. He is a life-giving surgeon and you need His wound-repairing grace. Everything else is just a short-term patch-job of a life, and that is no life to live.

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Sin Has Not Changed God’s Design For Gender

Did sin cause God to abandon His original design for relationships between male and female?

In Genesis 2:15-18, God gives bachelor Adam a work (job), His word, a warning and a woman. Man is created first and he is given responsibility and then finally a complementing companion who is female. She is equal in dignity (1:27) but distinct in function. This woman was meant to come alongside the man and work with him to honor God and fill the earth with image-bearers. And it was perfect and harmonious for an unspecified amount of time according to God’s design.

But paradise and unobstructed communion with God did not last because the woman and the man chose the way of the serpent instead of God’s way. The believed the lie that they could be their own God and provide a greater goodness than the LORD God could give.

And this came about not only because they chose not to believe God’s word, but also because they did not adhere to God’s design. The man was passive when God’s word was questioned and twisted, despite having received God’s word before the woman was created. The woman took on the role of leader, and the rest is sinful history.

So again I ask: Did sin cause God to abandon His original design for relationships between male and female? Or does God expect us to honor His perfect design? I believe the answer is one-hundred percent, yes. Yes, God expects us to trust and obey the original design of equality (Gen. 1:26-28) with role distinction (2:15-18).

Here are two reasons I hold this position:

First, after the fall and God’s judgment on sin, the Spirit-inspired text continues to affirm roles and gender distinction. Genesis 3:20-21 says:

Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

The fact that Adam named his wife indicates that he is lovingly exercising authority over her as the head of the family. Also Eve’s role as a child-bearer is upheld. The judgment on her sin (3:16) does not nullify the blessing of Genesis 1:28. Additionally, the marriage of 2:23-24 is not annulled or separated. Sin doesn’t undo God’s design, it just makes it very difficult to for us to abide according to God’s gracious plan.

Second, when the Bible addresses gender and roles, it grounds that teaching in the creation and fall accounts. For instance, in Ephesians 5:21-33 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15, when Paul discusses gender roles and marriage, he references Genesis 1-3. He goes back to the beginning. Peter also affirms roles in 1 Peter 3, and when Jesus talks about Marriage (Matthew 19 and Mark 10), he references Genesis 1 and 2 as the basis for His teaching.

Which means, if we are going to honor God’s design – that which is for our greatest and lasting joy – we must understand the intended message of the narrative in Genesis 1-3. Also keep in mind that the very gospel itself is grounded in this account (Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15). So Genesis 1-3 is critically important to our understanding of the whole Bible.

Check yourself. If you have trusted Christ with your salvation, then won’t you trust the LORD God with your gender?

If in fact the original creation was the perfect and holy work of the LORD God, crafted with infinite and intricate detail, then is there any possibility that the fine-tuned design and order is irrelevant today? What does it say about you if you don’t like the design? What does it say about your trust in God’s word and His goodness? You will either embrace the goodness of the design, or you will reject it and the Bible. The organization of the text that speaks of the design of God for our lives is no accident. It is a fine-tuned message about the way God meant us to live according to our gender. Ultimately, we trust God’s word and goodness, or we don’t. You can’t have it both ways. There’s only one perfect way and that is God’s way, and God’s way should be your way.

Sin didn’t change God’s perfect, beginning plan, it just changed our nature. That’s the real problem and our submission to God through Christ is the only solution.

 

Nike and 1 John 5:4-5

(Preface: More than attempt to write a coherent blog, this is really just note teaking from a recent study through the book of John for further reference.)

In 1 John 5:1-5, John declares that the way we experience success or victory in this world is by trusting Jesus and obeying God’s commands. After all, do you really trust Christ if you reject the commands of the Father who sent Him to die for your sins? It would seem odd, and even contradictory, to trust the provision of Jesus’ death, but to reject the goodness of God’s word. Victory in this life, and forevermore, is granted through faith in the propitiation of Christ, and ongoing success is trusting God through obedience. Obedience is success.

So just do it!

Speaking of Nike, in vv. 4 and 5, the Greek word from which we get Nike, is used four times. John writes, “Because whatever has been born of God conquers (present act. indicative of Nike) the world. This is the victory (Nike – noun) that has conquered (1 aor. act. participle of Nike) the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers (pr. act. participle from Nike) the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” So there is a present and ongoing sense in which we are conquering through Christ. A past sense in which we have conquered. Finally, we are continuously victors in Christ.

But what is meant by “our faith” at the end of verse four? Is it our subjective believing faith? Or does it mean that “our faith” is objective faith? Meaning we have conquered by the gospel that is the faith? And does it make any difference that John uses “our”? Interestingly, in verse five, John concludes that the one who conquers is the one who believes that Jesus is the son of God. This is the only time John uses the noun form of “pistis” in this letter. The rest of the time he uses the verb form which is usually translated “believing”.

 

 

 

The Most Destructive Small Group Ever

Thousands of years ago on this very planet, there was a small group, and as it turns out, this friendly little get together turned out to be the most destructive small groups in the history of the world.

Who was in this group? There was one man, one woman and one serpent.

I am sure they didn’t mean any harm, but the questions were flowing that day. They were innocent quesgossip churchtions. It was just a conversation of inquiring minds, wanting to address a few concerns and clarify some things.

Here is a small sampling of of some the questions that were uttered that day: “Is that really what was said?””Are you sure that is really what will happen if this is done?”

Of course, the facts about who had said what were a little murky, but after all, it was just a sincere conversation between neighbors. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, after Genesis 3:1-7, what went wrong was all hell broke loose, to quote a summary statement by my friend Ryan A. Smith.

Not much has changed. How many church small groups have started with an innocent conversation to clarify concerns about what somebody allegedly said or didn’t say? How many informal meetings have led to all hell breaking loose in a church because there was a snake who was stirring things up under the cover of seeking understanding, or some other passive-aggressive tactic?

Author, Jared C. Wilson, with help from an insightful blog (How to Rescue Your Church in Three Weeks) by Pastor Ray Ortland, tweeted out at least three ways divisive people subtly raise hell in churches by leveraging influence in smaller spheres of influence. He tweets: “You are being a sinfully divisive person if one or more of these apply to you…”

  1. You spend more time talking *about* people than talking *to* them.
  2. You spend a lot of time trying to gather support for your position against people from other people.
  3. Your small group, friendship circle, or other church-related get-togethers amount to little more than grumbling sessions.

I personally have not seen this blatantly happening in the church I pastor, and I hope I never do. But I have heard about this sort of thing happening and it is confusing and destructive. It turns trusting people against each other and it creates angry mobs. After all, just as it was for the most destructive small group in the history of planet earth, it’s hard to know what the truth is when the people you are talking about are not a part of the conversation. If only Adam would have declared the truth that God had entrusted to him. If only Eve would have asked God. If only…

Some people don’t really want their concerns addressed, because if they did they would go to the person they are concerned about. Some people don’t want answers, they just want their way, and the best way to get their way is to cause trouble by asking questions that cause small group conversations. It seems innocent, but it is devastatingly deadly.

Let’s speak truthfully about God and each other, and when we don’t know if we have all the facts, let’s get the whole truth from one another. If we do this, we will glorify God together and love each other, instead of the opposite.