Archive for May, 2010

Stewardship in God’s Family – I Corinthians 4

Stewards of the Mysteries of God (4:1)

As you reflect on this verse consider “The Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25:14-30.

A good “steward” is someone who skillfully manages a commodity according to the owner’s intentions.  When you leave your children with a babysitter, that babysitter is a steward of your children.  You may have left instructions about completing homework, forbidden foods, or a bedtime.  If these instructions were followed, then the babysitter was a good steward and faithfully served you.

In I Corinthians 4:1 Paul says that we are to “serve Christ” by being “steward” of the mysteries of God (the Gospel and revelation of Scripture).  God left detailed instructions about how to carry out this stewardship – Matthew 28:18-20 most succinctly.  God also left instructions regarding when the job is completed – Revelation 7:9.  The only question is whether we will be found as faithful servants and good stewards.

Reflection: Do you feel free to disregard this assignment?  If we are honest, we all would have to say that we answered yes.  The question is, “What do we use to deceive ourselves into believing our ‘yes’ answer?”  Fear of rejection.  Pride and autonomy.  A plea of ignorance.  Spiritual ADD and forgetfulness. Believing it is less important than God says.  A lack of concern for those around us.  As you evaluate your answer, imagine it was given to you by the babysitter of your children after the babysitter’s neglect could have been the peril of your children.  How would you respond (both emotionally and in content)?  How do you imagine God responds when we treat the children/people He longs to adopt in that same neglectful manner?

Our Hearts Revealed (4:5)

Have you ever had the fear that other people would be able to hear your thoughts or watch your dreams?  This is the kind of thing that Paul says Christ will do when He returns.  Yet Paul does not say this as a threat to intimidate us away from cognitive sin.  Rather Paul uses this truth to promote patience, grace, and humility in relationships.

Paul says we do not have to guess at the motives of others, because God will make those motives clear.  Often many of our conflicts are like two school children arguing over who has performed better on a test before the teacher has graded the exam.  They each get worked up over what is said, thinking that if they convince the other, then they will have won the argument.  All the time the teacher is grading and their argument is useless (but passionate!).

Reflection: In what circumstances are you most prone to assign motive to the actions or words of another person?  Business, ministry, family, school, peers, authority figures, politics.  When you do this what are you protecting yourself from or what advantage are you trying to gain?  If your objective is good/necessary, is the discussion of motive necessary to accomplish your objective?  Most often when we focus on what are not called to do, we create an unnecessary distraction from the work we are called to do.

Relating as God’s Family

In I Corinthians 4:14-21 Paul uses many family roles and images to discuss the church and instruct the Corinthians.  This is a passage that should be put along side Ephesians 6:1-4.  In Ephesians Paul is trying to talk about family and realized he’s talking about Christ and the church.  Here Paul is trying to talk about church life under Christ and winds up talking about the family.

What are some of the lessons we should glean from this passage?

  • We must not confuse shaming with correcting our children (v. 14).  Statements made to belittle a child are an abuse of parental authority.  Venting our hostility at the expense of our children’s dignity is wrong.
  • The role of instructing our children is uniquely, although not exclusively, given to parents, particularly father (v. 15).  It is not the church’s job to disciple our children.  Parents come to church to be equipped to disciple their children (Eph 4:11-16).
  • Our primary tool of instruction is our example (v. 16).  Patience is only seen in the presence of an irritant. Courage is only seen in the presence of a threat.  In the same way, faith is truly seen in the response we give to the daily challenges of life. That is when we “incarnate” what we have been instructing.
  • Our children should teach their younger siblings (v. 17).  We should put our children in a position to teach what they have learned.  We should look for opportunities to point to their example and use it as a point of instruction, thereby, affirming their growth.
  • We must be consistent (v. 18-20).  If our children do not believe we will follow through on our instruction we will embolden their resistance.  Words alone do not soften the hard hearts we all have, even our sweet little children.
  • Our instruction should accentuate the choices our children make (v. 21).  A big theme of parental instruction is simply “choices matter.”  If we do not highlight this in our interaction with our children, we merely teach them to obey (good but temporary) to not think.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

A Picture of the Ongoing Effects of Sexual Abuse

Do you remember playing with a cube box with different shaped pegs (square, star, crescent) that went in the holes?  Probably not, but you’ve likely seen children play with them.  This is a good picture of childhood development.

Children try to match the peg with the hole.  If they’re wrong we say, “Not quite. Keep trying.”  When they get the right peg with the right hole, but the block is turned the wrong way we say, “Oh, you’re so close. Turn it just a little bit.”  Gradually a child trains their senses (sight, shape recognition, fine motor skills, depth perception) and learns to trust their judgment.

We see from this that a child is dependant upon their parent to teach them what things are – not just shapes but also right/wrong, good/bad, safe/unsafe, acceptable/unacceptable, funny/offensive, and so on.  These lessons are much more significant than colors and shapes.  They have major implications for most every significant area of life – self-perception, emotions, relationships, sense of hope, whether effort will be rewarded, and many more.

Imagine again a child who is playing with her cube.  She manages to get the right shape to the right hole turned in the right way and pushes it through.  Instead of praise, she is scorned.  “What are thinking?  You are such a bad little girl. If you wouldn’t do things like that I wouldn’t have to yell at you like this.  Why do you make me do this?  You bring out the worst in me.  If you tell anyone I treat you this way they will take you away from me and you’ll never see me again.  It will be your fault too, because you did that stupid thing with the blocks to set me off.”

The child just learned a lot.  She learned that blocks are not safe.  She learned that adults and authority figures are not safe. She learned that life is full of set ups and you better be on guard.  She learned you can do things “right” and still catch Hell and it still is your fault.  She learned, “I should protect my family from outsiders even when my family is dangerous.”  She learned that good was bad; right was wrong; unacceptable was acceptable; her feelings are irrelevant; hope is dangerous, and effort gets you in trouble.  Oh yeah, she also learned not to put a square peg in a square hole.

Take all of those distorted lessons and multiply them by intense physical pain, confusing intermingled expressions of affection, possible sexual arousal, and the real need to believe that your parent is a safe person and you have the distorting influence of sexual abuse.  Now with that raw material step into a “normal world” where nobody knows you’re dealing with that and try to learn at school, engage in relationships, make sense of emotions, and pursue your dreams with the life experience of a nine year old.

You may think this sounds too awful and that I should be more “positive.”  Real hope begins in the depth of our suffering.  Hope that does not begin in the depth of our struggle is more platitude than Gospel which began with incarnation – Jesus entering our world in all its brokenness.

My goal in writing these words is not to be dark, but try to get past the defense, “You just don’t understand” when I say, “There is hope.”  And I do believe there is hope.  It is a hard road and one that should not be walked alone.  You were alone in your abuse.  You were alone when fear kept you silent or when your plea for help was not believed.  You were alone in your confusion when you tried to make sense of your life with what you “knew.”

Damage was done in relationship and healing will occur in the context of relationships.  The goal of this seminar is to give voice to your experience, overview what the process of restoration looks like, and point you to valuable resources to help you continue on that journey.

This post is an illustration from the Hope and Restoration After Sexual Abuse seminar.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sexual Abuse” post which address other facets of this subject.

Unity Through Humility – I Corinthians 1

What Do You Seek? (1:22)

It is what we are “seeking” that keeps us from “seeing” Jesus for who He is.  The Jews wanted a powerful Messiah king who would come and throw off their oppression.  The Greeks desired a wise sage-philosopher who would wow them with answers to their questions.  Jesus did amazing things and stumped the intellectual elite of His day, but it was not enough.

Why?  Because humans in the first century were like humans in the twenty first century.  Jesus’ power did not eliminate the problem the Jews were focused on and Jesus’ wisdom did not answer the questions the way the Greeks liked.  So the Jews dismissed a man who calmed storms as weak and the Greeks rejected Wisdom Himself as a fool.

Reflection: What do you want Jesus to be?  What problem do you tend to “grade” God on based upon the progress or outcome?  Until we acknowledge these desires and submit them to God, they will distort our view of God.  Consider the following modern updates to this verse.  The Romantics seek their needs being met.  The Thrill-Seekers demand entertaining worship. The Social Group demands tight knit fellowship.  The Successful seek prosperity.  The Morally Lax demand grace.  Like the Jews and Greeks God is all they want (and more), but we miss the destination because of our love for examining the signs.

 

Marks of Humility

The theme of the first chapter of Corinthians is a call to unity in the church through the humility of its members and simplicity of its teaching (1:17).  This is hard for us.  We think being right is always best, so we quarrel (1:11) and identify with certain teachers (1:12).

Consider the following marks of humility as you seek to promote unity through humility.

  • A full recognition of your constant need for Christ (I Tim 1:15).
  • Able to forgive because you know how you were forgiven (Luke 7:47).
  • Consider others more significant than yourself (Phil 2:3).
  • Recognize your need for fellow believers (Heb 3:12-13).
  • Display your authority in meekness (II Cor 10:1).
  • Motivated by opportunities to serve (Gal 5:13).
  • Able to teach the obstinate patiently (II Tim 2:24).
  • Willing to get close in personal relationships (II Cor 2:4).
  • Accept your fault without blame-shifting to other’s faults (Matt 7:3-5).
  • Use your failures to instruct others (Psalm 51:12-13).
  • Take the initiative to restore broken relationships (Matt 5:23-24).

As you reflect on these traits of humility and brainstorm others, reflect on Proverbs 3:34 which is quoted twice in the New Testament, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

 

Boasting in the Lord (1:31)

Pause and make a list of the things you have vocalized your appreciation for in the last week (foods, household products, sports team, people, or movements).  Think of the different ways that you identify yourself as a “fan” of these things.  How much do you know about these things and how did you learn it?  How do you defend them when a friend enjoys a “rival” thing?

Chances are as you made your list the items on the list did not have much to do with you.  My list consisted of fettuccini alfredo, wheat grass juice, the thing that cleans my shower at a push of the button, Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, several close ministry friends, and Biblical Counseling.  From this you learn I’m hungry, I’m lazy, where I am from, who I like, and what I do.  For the most part this list reveals my needs, weaknesses, and identity more than my pride.

Reflection: When we understand our faith we will “boast in the Lord” in the same way.  We needed a Savior (Jesus Christ).  We have weaknesses to be refined (sanctification).  Our identity is rooted in God (adopted children of God) and His people (the church).  When we see ourselves in this way we will interact with our culture as Paul was instructing the Corinthian Christians to do.  As they interacted with the Jews and Greeks and heard them speak of power and wisdom as the “rival” answers to life, the Christians were to talk about the simple hope they had in Christ.  The offensiveness of this boasting is not “obnoxious fanhood” (sorry Wildcat Nation, but we’re guilty sometimes) but radical implication of simple, humble hope.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

Developing a Family Discipline of Memorizing Scripture

Most Christian parents want their children to grow up knowing and memorizing Scripture.  We believe it is a good thing.  We just tend not to do it.  It falls on the “good intentions” list.  This post cannot give you the will to follow through on good intentions.  Hopefully, what it will do is give you a clear enough plan to motivate you to begin and thorough enough to keep you going.

I would advise that you begin by memorizing three passages as a family: John 3:16, Matthew 22:37-40, and Matthew 28:18-20.  Memorizing them “as a family” means parents too.  I would recommend that parents memorize the passages first, so that you teach and rehearse verses conversationally rather than from a piece of paper.

If you already know the passage, you are modeling how important Bible memorization really is.  It is a contradiction to say “It is important to memorize Scripture” and then not know (or at least participate) in the memorization.

These three verses will provide the major headings for all future Scripture memorization.

1. Who is God? “For God so loved the world”

2. Why did Jesus come? “that he sent His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”

3.  Who Are We?

A. Worshippers “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”

B.  Servants “Love your neighbor as yourself”

C. Evangelists “Go and make disciples of all nations”

D. Disciples “teaching them to observe all I have commanded you”

Once you have memorized these three passages as a family, have a family conversation where you assess your family’s strengths and weaknesses (as individuals and as a group).  Parents should participate in this conversation (not just lead it).  By talking about where we need to grow in the main things God has called us to do, we are modeling humility.

Make a list of growth areas for the family and each member of the family (this is an immensely helpful thing to do if you intend to be a family that grows in Christ-likeness).  Use a concordance, Bible promise book, or The Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling to find passages that address these areas.  When the family memorizes a new verse discuss both the big question this verse addresses and the family/individual growth desired from this passage.

As you learn a new verse review the verses that also answer the same big question or have been memorized to help the same person (if the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” the same verse may apply to areas of character in multiple members of the family”).  Discuss how the verses on the same big question inter-relate, how you have seen growth in that person’s life, or ways members of the family could apply that verse.

It might be helpful to make a chart with the big questions and family member’s names.  In the blank boxes you would list the growth area and relevant Bible passage.

  Father

Mother

Child 1 Child 2 Family as Whole
Who is God? 
Why did Jesus Come?
Who are we? Worshippers
Who are we? Servants
Who are we? Evangelists
Who are we? Disciples

By doing this you are teaching your children to see the “big picture” of Scripture, helping your children see the relevance of Scripture for daily life, and training your children to apply Scripture to the real challenges they face.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Parenting” post which address other facets of this subject.

Year of Jubilee – Leviticus 25

The 50th Year (25:10-13)

One of the questions we should all wrestle with is, “How can I own my things rather than my things owning me?”  In a very material culture this is a constant battle of the heart.  We want to “get ahead” or “be prepared.”  Retirement is looming.  Yet in spite of that we want to enjoy the moment, see our kids grow up, and rest in God.

The Year of Jubilee is one way God helped Israel balance these things.  It was not just that twice in your lifetime you would “get a year off,” but that Jewish commerce and social customs were built around this calendar.  For example, the price of a field was determined by the distance from the Year of Jubilee (25:15).  Combined with the regular Sabbath, this made for a much more balanced life than the average modern American.

Reflection:  How have you begun to be owned by your things?  How does this show up in your work habits?  What would you have to change in your budget and/or social lifestyle in order to rest in the way God prescribes?  How does your attitude toward your things change the way (attitude, ethics, or amount of time) you relate to God and other people?

 

But Fear Your God

Three times in Leviticus 25 the motivation given for avoiding sin is fearing God (v. 17, 36, 43).  In each case the reader is being exhorted to display self-control and sacrifice.  The internal question of the reader would be, “Why shouldn’t I use this situation to my advantage, if I planned or prepared better?”  Each time God’s general response is, “Do not take advantage of your brother, but fear your God.”

Our struggle is that we often forget about God in the “practical” parts of life (i.e., land sales, giving a loan, work environment).  God is not saying, “Shake in your boots because if you do these things wrong I will zap you.”  God is simply saying, “Do not forget that your first duty in all things—no matter how practical or trivial—is to model my character?”

Use the following steps to help you grow in the fear of the Lord.

  • Make a list of the major areas of responsibility in your life.
  • Under each area of responsibility make a list of people you interact with and decisions that are in your jurisdiction.
  • Evaluate how you naturally define success in each area of responsibility.
  • Now go back and think about God’s objectives for each person and area of jurisdiction.
  • Put this list in the place where you regularly have devotions so as you study Scripture and pray you can make notes about what “fearing God” looks like in each area of life.

Hopefully you can see that fearing God, when understood correctly, is more exciting than intimidating.  It brings eternal significance to the moments we often view as trivial.  As we see how to live in the fear of the Lord it can bring our time of daily Bible study and prayer to life.

 

A Bold Promise (25:20-22)

Think about it, if you skip a year’s worth of planting that requires three year’s worth of food and faith.  The old cycle was crop-food-seed.  Now the cycle would have to be crop-food (year 6)-food (year 7)-food (year 8)-seed (year 8)-crop again.  That is a big promise for God to come through on.

More than this, the Year of Jubilee was to be a time of celebration – not fear.  It would be incredibly difficult to celebrate God’s goodness in year seven knowing we had to wait for the harvest of year eight before anything new went in the pantry.

Reflection:  When you read the promises of God do you also consider the faith that is necessary to experience the joy intended in God’s promises?  Do you read that last question with a sense of guilt (“I knew I wasn’t doing it right”), fear (“what if I can’t do my part right”), or enthusiasm (“God allows me to participate and grow in the fulfillment of His promises”)?

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

My Heart for the “Hope & Restoration After Sexual Abuse” Seminar

In our day we have done a much better job of trying to ensure that no one hurts in silence.  There are more programs in many of our churches for those who are facing the aftermath of divorce or who are struggling through an addiction.  More and more seminars are being provided for marital enrichment or emotional struggles like anxiety, depression, grief, anger, bitterness, or guilt.

Yet there are still relatively few resources for those who live with the effects of having been sexually abused.  Most of these people were silenced during and after their abuse (by threats of harm, intense feelings of shame, or the thought that no one would believe them).  They lost their voice.  Unfortunately now, because there is no place for them to speak of their abuse, they still have no voice.  This magnifies their pain and reinforces their fears.

No 3-hour seminar is going to give someone their voice back after years of isolated silence.  Neither will a brief seminar bring healing where significant damage has been done.  But I do hope that this seminar can do two things:

  1. Help people feel less alone with a struggle that is isolating in many ways.  It is natural to feel hopeless when you do not think anyone understands.  Hearing the nature and origin of your struggle put into words that make sense (when it has only been random and/or violent up to this point) is a first step in the direction of hope.
  2. Create a map of a struggle that is complex enough to make you feel crazy.  A map and journey are two different things, but a map sure helps with most journeys.  More than compassion alone, this seminar also hopes to offer direction and resources to assist you on your journey towards hope and restoration.

I hope in our time together we can answer (or at least begin to answer) questions like:

  • How does facing sexual trauma a child affect the process of developing as a person, emotionally, and relationally?
  • How are traumatic memories stored differently from “normal” memories?  How does this affect flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, and other disturbing fear experiences?
  • Why is it so hard to trust again?  Why do I often choose such bad people to trust and go “all in” when I do?
  • Why don’t my emotions work like everyone else’s?  I feel numb at odds times.  Other times emotions come on too intensely.
  • Why do I feel like I am always on guard?  I can’t turn my mind off or quit waiting/looking for something to happen.  Will I ever know what “normal-normal” is?
  • How do I change beliefs that are rooted in fear more than logic?  If they were rooted in logic I could reason with them, but they’re not, so I feel powerless to change them.
  • Why does it alternate between feeling like everything matters and that nothing matters?
  • Why do some people who have been sexually abused take pleasure in hurting themselves (i.e., cutting, or other self-destructive behaviors) or hurting/abusing others?
  • If I know I am safe now, why doesn’t this all just go away?

 

Vulnerability by the Beatitudes

To many vulnerability is a four letter word.  To others it is just a scary word.  For some it is a word without a meaning.  However, being vulnerable is necessary if we are going to love.  Love is not safe, because it requires that we give part of ourselves to another free, fallen human being.

With that being said there is both healthy and unhealthy vulnerability; wise and unwise.  Unfortunately, no where in Scripture do we get a formal definition of vulnerability with a practical application guide.

As close as we get (in my opinion) is the Beatitudes.  In this portion of Scripture Jesus describes key relational characteristics of his followers.  This article serves as an 8 day devotional which takes you through each beatitude (one per day) looking at four key points:

  • A description of the beatitude
  • An examination of the benefits of the beatitude for healthy, wise vulnerability
  • Thoughts on how to implement this beatitude in your life to grow in vulnerability
  • Reflective questions to help you examine where you are currently in relation to this beatitude

 

Looking for a “Return on Investment” for Our Sin

It is always a bit dangerous to imply motive on biblical characters when the text does not do so.  But for this post I am going to live on the wild side.

Have you ever wondered why Pharaoh would have gone after Israel after ten plagues (Exodus 14), the last which cost the first born of every house and animal in Egypt?  The texts says in various places that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened (sometimes it attributes this hardening to God and sometimes to Pharaoh).  But a hard heart is not a unique condition in Scripture.  In many ways it is the common cold of biblical diagnoses.

I would like to offer a possible motive for Pharaoh’s decision.  One that I believe is plausible, but that also might cause modern readers of Exodus to pause and see themselves in Pharaoh.

Motive: I want a return on investment for my sin.

Consider the following modern examples as illustrative of this same motivation.

  • The teenager who has spent six months in a bad relationship, but does not want to break it off because he might learn his lesson and become a good boyfriend or girlfriend for someone else.
  • The adult who feels guilty about their recurring sin (i.e., over spending, pornography, over eating, drinking too much) and thinks, “If I am already in trouble, I might as well enjoy it.”
  • The child who knows they are going to get a spanking or grounded, but figures they might as well enjoy their current behavior while they can.

Now let’s go back to Pharaoh.  He has already lost a year’s harvest, his supremacy in the eyes of the people of Egypt, and his first-born son.  What does he have to show for it?  Nothing.  Pharaoh wagered all of that to keep Israel as slave labor.  Now he “comes to his senses” (again, I am assigning motive to actions) and thinks with a hardened heart, “Am I so foolish as to lose grain, power, my son, and my labor force?  No, I paid dearly to keep them.  They will be mine!”

This is where the instruction comes in for you and me.  Sin never pays.  When we try to get a payoff from our sin, we are thinking with hardened heart logic.  That mindset should send off powerful alarms in our conscience.

Warning: The mental formula “I have experience [negative consequence] so I should [double-or-nothing and/or reckless decision]” is an age-old formula.  It is the logic of addiction and the thrill of a casino.  It drips of death; not because it necessarily immediately destroys life, but because it is the first step into the downward spiral of a hardened heart.

Regardless of whether this was the precise motive of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, use this post as a warning for your own moments of temptation.  Realize that temptation always makes sense to us in the moment, but in retrospect is as foolish and indefensible as Pharaoh’s decision to go after Israel.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Character” post which address other facets of this subject.

Being a Distinct People – Leviticus 18

Neither Coming or Going?

The command of God in Leviticus 18:1-5 had to be very hard to follow.  Essentially God was saying do not be like anyone you have known (those in Egypt) and do not be like anyone you will know (those in Canaan).  Israel was like the young person who has a poor example in both father and mother.  There is no one to imitate.

As image-bearers, it is exceedingly hard to have no one to imitate.  They had rules to follow (v. 4), but no example.  They had a cloud of smoke and pillar of fire, but no mentor’s footsteps to walk in.  There was no Paul to say, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ (I Cor 11:1).”

Reflecting on the context of commands can help us in the process of application.  We might ask, “When does God speak to children who come to faith in godless homes?”  Surprisingly, Leviticus 18 is one place.  One thing you will notice is the degree of detail God goes into regarding the perverse practices Israel was to avoid.  “Was that really necessary?”  When your home is Egypt and Canaan it is.

As you read Leviticus, read the instructions of a Father who has adopted a late teenager who is emerging into independence from a harsh and grotesquely ungodly home.  This Father is lovingly thorough, candid, and clear about the consequences.

Reading Leviticus 18 in this light, what do you learn about parenting?  What do you learn about ministering within populations deeply marred and ingrained with sin?  What do you learn about God’s character?

As you prepare to read Leviticus 19 about God’s holiness, how does the preceding chapter shape your view of God’s holiness?  Consider both that God’s holiness is not unaware of the details of our sin (like Jesus’ touch to the lady with the issue of blood, God’s presence cleanses unholiness), and that God’s holiness stands in bold contrast to our sin.

 

All on the Same List (18:20-23)

Adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and beastiality are all on the same list.  That is important for the modern church to remember.  The modern church is full of adulterers (and not just of the spiritual variety; see James 4), but, at least in conservative circles condemns the other three.  What are we to make of this?

First, we might ask ourselves if we treat homosexuals and adulterers the same.  Undoubtedly there are differences based upon the lifestyle variable more frequently associated with homosexuality, but do we diminish the “lifestyle” that comes with breaking up one (or two) family units, visitation schedules, and financial arrangements simply because “I fell out of love with one person and in love with another person.”  Do we accept explanations for heterosexual sin that we would not accept for homosexual sin?

Second, we might also ask where are the homosexual recovery classes in our churches to coincide with the divorce recovery classes.  Both are needed.  As our culture becomes more “sexually diverse” and more lives are effected by this sexual brokenness the church will need to minister to those who seek help after a homosexual lifestyle.  We must be prepared to give guidance and hope.  If your church is interested in preparing for this type of ministry I would recommend the resources found at www.harvestusa.com “Proclaiming Christ as Lord to a Sexually Broken World.”

 

Vomiting Land (18:25)

As this verse so graphically illustrates, sin is like a stomach virus or spoiled food.  That image should give us pause when we consider sinning.  Willful sin is worse than licking a doorknob during flu season or drinking the milk your toddler let roll under the car seat.

Yet when we sin we fall under the delusion that our sin is safe, sterile, or able to be controlled.  We believe the lie that has been proven false in every life of every person who has ever lived.

Reflection:  What aspect of the “my sin is safe” lie do you tend to believe?  Do you tend to rely on the “I can control it,” “I can hide it,” “I can handle the consequences,” or some other version of the lie?  Once you identify the version you believe, share it with a trusted Christian friend.  Begin to debunk the lie before your moments of temptation.  Don’t wait until the moment of temptation to try to think clearly.  That is like trying to decide how much car you can afford after walking on a car lot and shaking the salesman’s hand.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

The Same Personality But With a Refined Character

Have you ever heard someone defend their sinful actions with the words, “I can’t help it.  That is just the way I am.  God made me this way, so if it bothers you, you’ll have to take it up with Him not me”?  It might be appropriate to ask if you have ever used those words to defend your sinful actions.

How are we to think about statements like that?  God did make us unique.  Any parent of multiple children can tell you that there are parts of the human personality that are present and distinct from the earliest days of life.  I believe we can learn something of this from watching the life of Moses.

In Exodus 3, as God calls Moses to deliver Israel from their Egyptian bondage, we hear the words of one who is fearful and quite possibly socially intimidated (hence the stuttering).  Moses was more than willing to let someone else have the limelight.  Actually, in Exodus 4:13, Moses asked God to send someone else.

We see a very similar Moses in Exodus 32.  This time God is telling Moses that He has had it with Israel.  They have rebelled against him one too many times.  God offers to consume Israel in His hot anger and start over with the family line of Moses (Exodus 32:10).  Once again, Moses is not fond of the limelight.  Again, Moses requests that God not make him the focal point.

We see the same personality in Moses, but there is a definite refinement of Moses’ character.

In Exodus 3 and 4 Moses is motivated by personal fear and insecurity.  That aspect of his character that made him comfortable letting others lead was expressed in doubt of God, condemnation of self, and the pursuit of convenience.

In Exodus 32 the willingness to let others have center stage is motivated by a desire to see God have glory amongst the nations.  The same personality trait was present, but the focal point was God’s glory and not self-preservation.

This brings us back to the opening question.  God does make us with distinct personality traits.  Those traits are often discernable to others and can be relatively consistent throughout a lifetime.  However, sin is not found in a personality trait.  Sin is found in our motivations.  Either we are seeking to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves, or we are seeking to love ourselves first and manipulating others to play along.

We may not be able to change certain personality traits to any strong degree.  But we can change (by God’s grace) what we live for.  Repentance is more than saying we are sorry.  Repentance is seeing what our actions reveal about our heart (conviction) and committing to live for the love of God/others as evidenced by new action.

Go back and read Exodus 3-4 and then 32.  Listen for the aspects of the conversation between God and Moses that are the same.  Get to know Moses as a real person, not a transcendent figure of Scripture.  See how God changed him.  Then go back and read through the entirety of Exodus to get the unabridged version.

Now go back to the last time you heard (or said) the opening sentences of this post.  How does this reflection on the life of Moses allow you to acknowledge the legitimacy of the struggle while holding out hope/responsibility to change by God’s grace and for God’s glory?

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Personality” post which address other facets of this subject.