I went to the jail yesterday with another brother to be with one of the churches we helped establish there.
When we arrived, that other brother, John, felt the Lord’s prompting to ask if anyone was struggling with anything and wanted some one-on-one help. A young man raised his hand and I met with him alone while John remained with the larger group of about twenty inmates.
As we talked, that young man was able to openly confess and release to the Lord years of hurts and regrets that he had suffered. The pain he carried from the wrongs he experienced as a boy contributed to addictions and emotional enslavement, which had been destroying his life. As he began to expose and gave them to the Lord, Jesus met him in a very personal way.
Then, without prompting, he started talking about all the stupid sins he had committed in reaction to the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of others. He began crying and asked how he could be free from the guilt and weight of his own wrongs.
I find that’s often the case: When we forgive others for their wrongs, we often clearly see for the first time the significance of our own sins and then are brought to a place of genuine conviction.
It’s time to speak plainly and listen to each other, even if we don’t like what the other side has to say.
Until White America understands the pent-up frustration of Black America over the suspicion, marginalization and humiliation they are forced to endure from predominately White power structures…
Until Black America understands the pent-up frustration of While America over the crime, entitlement and social disarray they are forced to subsidize in predominately Black neighborhoods…
Neither side will learn the lessons of Ferguson.
Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I have always felt, is our nation’s most significant holiday.
It is the least commercial and the most focused on acknowledging God’s providence over our land by calling on His name as sovereign Lord and expressing gratitude to Him.
Don’t lose heart. God desires to bless not just individuals who love Him, but whole nations. He holds the destiny of nations in His hands and is bigger than any headlines or trends.
Today I was with a group of men in the jail. One of them was very troubled because his son was getting into all kinds of trouble. He couldn’t understand why, because (he claimed) he loved his son and was always telling him he loved him.
I felt something stir in my spirit, looked him straight in the eye, and said that was a lie. He didn’t love his son, he loved his drugs more – and thus had not cared enough to be part of his son’s life as his son was growing up. This deeply wounded his son, who felt unloved and worthless because of it – and was now acting out.
Is it any wonder that a generation raised to believe it’s all about them has a hard time grasping that it’s all about God?
They are easy prey for those peddling God’s amazing grace, love and acceptance, while rejecting repentance, truth and change.
The greatest deceptions, however, involve half truths.
Unfortunately, there’s just too much of this going around these days, and it’s terminal when it comes to healthy believers, healthy ekklesia and healthy nations.
Grace is the means – God extends undeserved mercy, forgiveness and truth.
Repentance is the result – I accept, submit and change.
In the New Testament, repentance means to change the way that we think and act. Without the Lord, this would be impossible. However, when we bring, and then surrender, our thoughts, beliefs and actions to the Lord, He replaces them with peace, truth and hope. True repentance brings transformation.
I love to work in my garden. Have you ever dug a large hole in hard clay to plant a bush? I think repentance requires many of the same steps.
When I dig the hole, I expend a tremendous amount of energy. Being willing to openly expose my sins and faults to the Lord also requires much effort.
Sometimes my feet hurt from stomping down on the shovel as I try to break through the hard soil. Likewise, there have been times when my body, soul and spirit ache as I struggle and my heart can feel like heavy, solid clay.
It’s great to write books and blogs promoting the role of women in the church, finding “ekklesia”, and all sorts of other local church issues.
But the rubber meets the road when it comes to those with a history of using the church to sexually prey upon and exploit others.
It is hypocrisy to then defend and promote them, to discount the properly issued warnings of their own local church (see 1 Tim. 5:19-21), to ignore the evidence you personally have seen, and to stand quiet as they continue a campaign of cover up through threats and intimidation against anyone who dares bear witness against them.
When it really matters, do you put your values – and the things you write – over personal friendships and your network of mutual promotion?
It’s time to walk in integrity once again…
God wants leaders who’s public persona, words and values match their private lives.
Facebook seems to be a hot bed for the new distorted view of “grace”.
The other day someone posted that through grace, God finds our sin acceptable. He thus no longer “deals” with sin in our lives – and we are free of sin – because it no long exists.
According to their “logic”, sin ceases to an issue in our lives because it ceases to be considered sin by God.
That neat theological sleight of hand was followed by lots of “likes” and “amens”.
To deny the reality of sin and its bondage – and to say God doesn’t deal with sin in our lives or that we are free of sin – is an abuse of grace.
Unrepentant evil will never fess up to its own culpability, and always play the victim.
Several ministries are offering a free class in Pastoral Counseling on Wednesday evenings in Prince William County, Virginia, beginning April 17, 2013, from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.
The class is open to all members of the Body of Christ from local churches (not just “pastors”!), and likely will run about twelve weeks.
To give some idea of the type of counseling we will be teaching others to do, I’ve reprinted below a blog about one session I had with a deeply troubled man last year.
Sorry, Frank Viola, but when your “revelation” of Jesus looks a lot like your own sensibilities, I’m not impressed.
And when “deeper life” merely reinforces your own postmodern proclivities, I’m likewise not impressed.
Nor do I find a persistent failure to be a functional part of any healthy, local fellowship – despite all your books and blogs on organic church – to be a virtue.
Really, didn’t you get the memo? Postmodernism and existential angst just ain’t that compelling or counter-cultural anymore.
For most Christians, the greatest struggle is not resisting sin but in being willing to let go of our hurts. More than sin, we allow our hurts to define us, and find it difficult to leave the familiarity of our pain for the unfamiliarity of a truly new life in Christ. Even among Christians, few risk the grace of confession, forgiveness and repentance to become whole and complete in Him.
Really, it’s not that difficult…
Here’s a story of one man’s journey: Getting to Simple.
Confronting the Error of Hyper-Grace, by Michael Brown:
“The biblical message of grace is wonderful, glorious and life-transforming. We can’t live without it for one second of our lives. But there is a message being preached today in the name of a new grace reformation, mixing powerful truth with dangerous error. I call it hyper-grace…”
Hyper grace teachers deny the need for confession and forgiveness in the life of a believer. What they fail to understand, though, is that confession and forgiveness for a believer are NOT about obtaining justification, but about obtaining wholeness.
Real people want real answers and real freedom from real issues – not just the tidy platitudes of half truths.
Maybe that’s what has shaped my strong reaction to hyper grace, which is really half grace: It cannot offer real freedom from real issues because it seeks the grace of God’s affirming love and presence, but not the grace of His transforming truth and rule.
Our nation’s continuing moral and economic decline, and the growing malaise of our increasingly dysfunctional churches, has caused a renewed focus on intercessory prayer.
But intercession without transformational repentance – which Biblically involves changing the way we act by changing the way we think – is seldom effective.
While desperately seeking to touch the heart of God through intercession, few seem willing to do the concurrent hard work of understanding the mind of God. The challenges facing our nation, and our churches, require both.
This is a fifty-five minute teaching I shared with about thirty men, based on hundreds of pastoral counseling sessions where God showed up and brought freedom and healing from deep hurts – including abuse, abandonment and so much more.
My blog is a feeble attempt to upload a lifetime of service to the King of Kings. I believe this audio teaching, however, captures better than anything I’ve written some of the most significant things I’ve learned as I’ve walked with folks to those ugly places of bondage and hurt in their lives. When we get there, and they exposed their hurts and lies to the Lord, He brings His loving, healing truth.
In this talk, I also share some of my own very personal story about my own places of hurt, which I had to expose to Lord so He could then bring wholeness to me.
You may think you know me from my writings, but this captures my heart in ways that a written blog never can.
If this resonates with you, I also recommend my related blog, God Shows Up.
The more I minister to folks, the more I realize how simple it is.
And the more I realize how hard it is to get to simple.