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Lifeway Christian Stores carrying 'So Called Christian' 

Lifeway Christian Stores carrying So-Called Christian: Healing Spiritual Wounds Left by the Church This is an amazing blessing since we did not even market the book to them. It was presented in the proverbial 'stack of books' that many distributors place in front of book buyers hoping that one or two of them will be chosen. We are thrilled and honored that ours was selected! Praise to God!

To obtain your copy of "So-Called" Christian: Healing Spiritual Wounds Left by the Church CLICK HERE.

Check our Publisher out: http://ambassador-international.com 

 

 


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Entries in Hurt (4)

Sunday
May262013

Freedom’s just another word…

 

I had the opportunity recently to indulge one of my passions, driving a clear mountain road through pristine pines and glistening snow capped peaks in a spunky little turbo-charged hatchback. There’s something about the mix of modern technology and the majesty of creation that electrifies me. But that’s all an aside. My attention was drawn away from the outside surroundings to the interior dialogue flowing from my CD player (yeah, I still have CD’s). I was listening to a fascinating interview with a contemporary Christian author.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” the interviewer quoted from the 60’s Janis Joplin tune. WOW, did that strike me. My first response – am I free? Do I have something to lose?

It might help to give the context. The interview revolved around the theme of transparency in our Christian walk. They were wrestling with the question, “What’s it like to have no secrets, nothing to hide, nothing to protect?” My thoughts went deeper – am I hiding anything, keeping secrets, protecting a favorite indulgence? I turned this over in my heart several times asking the Lord to bring any darkness into the light. Thankfully, I couldn’t discern anything I was consciously trying to hide from God or anyone else.

That hasn’t always been true though. I have bitter memories of lurking in the shadows with hidden demons. I, like the author being interviewed, know the guilt, shame, fear, despair, thrill, arrogance, and bi-polarity of that existence. Like the author, I’ve had my demons exposed, one by one in excruciating detail at the worst possible moments with the maximum of embarrassment…and grace.  Having the bright light of justice and grace uncover my personal failures was painful, not just to me but all those near me. I thought I was navigating life pretty well until God broke in to display my hypocrisies and my bondage. That was prison – what about freedom?

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” rings true to me. I had a lot to lose when in bondage - I’m free now. All my demons are out in the light. They don’t like that. Like water on the Wicked Witch, keeping them in the light shrivels them. So let’s talk about freedom.

Freedom means you’ve already lost everything – your reputation, your position, your family, your spouse, your income, your doctrine, your standards, your pride, your secrets, your indulgences, everything. You are free from calling or claiming anything as yours – it’s all subsumed in Christ. Everything not Christ-like is in the light to be shriveled. If I own nothing, I don’t have to protect anything. I don’t have to hide anything. If we haven’t lost everything we have something that can bind us.

Freedom is elusive. All those things we don’t want to lose keep shouting at us to stay in the dark alleys where our badness can’t be exposed. Our fears of what naked honesty would cost keep us cowering in the gloom. Our Christian community might cast us out. Our spouse might call it quits. Kids might be irretrievable. Job could be lost. Ministry shattered. People devastated. The shame and grief may be overwhelming. All these things are possible. We live in a cursed world. But, what if?

Ask yourself: What if I were to be transparent about my demons AND be accepted by my Christian community? What if I could confess to my wife and be forgiven (even if it means losing her trust and having to rebuild it over time)? What if God would save my children in spite of me? What if I lost my job but gained a crystal clear conscience? What if my church is devastated WITH ME and agrees to walk WITH ME to healing and recovery? What if I lose my reputation and position and GAIN Christ? What if God is still on the Throne of Heaven and knows the brilliance of what I could be if I would only come out of the darkness? What if He would bear His mighty arm, reach down into my pit, and yank me out with only the tatters of my destroyed life to cling to? Could He really make my life worth living if I respond?

That’s for you to discover. The Church is full of people like us. Lurkers in the shadows, players at religion, knowing truth without a clue how to live it, wanting a safe place to fall apart, fearing the consequences of a see-through existence. Tragic thing is that you are probably surrounded by fellow believers that share your reality but are equally fearful of honesty. Sad – but don’t let it stop you.

Take everything you’ve got and lose it. Endure the pain. Freedom is on the other side.

Here’s to all the losers! We count everything dung in order to gain Christ!

Friday
Apr062012

Missing the Message: Living in the “Idiot Light” Zone.

I ran into a friend today at the local coffee connection. She said she ran out of gas this morning on her way to work. After expressing how sorry I felt for her she explained exactly what she meant by running out of gas. What she meant by running out of gas is that the little “low fuel” warning light popped on that morning. Oh! I exclaimed, that’s not running out of gas – that’s normal operating range for me. She went on to explain that she just hates it when the “idiot light” comes on – it makes her feel so stupid. Wow, I said, then I live in the “idiot light” zone. What made the conversation more ironic was that I really had run out of gas – just yesterday!  I was temporarily stranded on the side of a very busy road – waiting for my daughter to rescue me with the spare gas can.

 

That conversation took my brain out of idle and shifted me into another gear. Living in the “idiot light” zone seems a common theme for me. I haven’t traditionally been very good at paying attention to warning lights. I’m a “foot on the gas” at the yellow light kind of guy. Braking is only a last ditch fallback. My mindset is - I can always go another 50 miles with the light on. Maybe you, or your husband, are the same.

God uses “idiot lights” you know. The Bible is replete with cautions to pay heed to the pitfalls of life. A quick reference search for “take heed” in the KJV reveals no less than 65 passages that warn us to pay attention – at least 65 “idiot lights” for us. I’m sure there are many more – we seem to need frequent alerts. 

One of the most poignant of these warnings is found in Galatians 5:15. It reads, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”

At first glance this seems like a very strange analogy –  a reference to some sort of cannibalism – a little freaky to my ears. Paul is setting up a stark contrast with this phrase. Paul utters this immediately after saying, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Vs. 14” Cannibalism Vs. Love is the message. The analogy is shocking but valid. We do have a tendency to cannibalize one another – we do bite and we do devour. Been bitten lately? Have any bite-mark scars from past attacks? Are you a biter?

I’m continually amazed at how much devouring goes on within the Kingdom. If you are reading this blog my guess is that you read others and maybe you keep up with some of the controversies within the Church. If you’ve entered the scary world of the Christian blogosphere then you may well have seen Christian Cannibalism up close. (Not that blogs are the only place this happens!) It’s a frightening and often disgusting experience. Snarky comments, arrogant accusations, fangs out, eyes afire, slavering saints ripping at other saints with the ferocity of a feeding frenzy. Sometimes I think there are believers that lie awake at night lusting for the next fight. They feel no life unless there’s a battle.

Paul was God’s instrument in a similar frenzy. He flicked the “idiot light” on with the intention that it shine brightly in our eyes when we are tempted to exalt correctness over concern for our brothers. The love of truth (or their own idea of truth) had pumped the Galatians into a snarling, thrashing, flesh tearing, and bloody fight. The clear warning is that the fight for truth threatened to consume the Body. We could never rightly accuse Paul of not loving truth so let’s not think that he is asking us to put truth aside for love. The warning light is against destruction – take heed that you don’t destroy your brother with your appetite for your infallible position.  

The stinging brilliance of this warning is that Love doesn’t trump Truth – Love trumps being right! Love is ONE with Truth – they are completely impossible to separate! If we decide to bite and devour for the sake of our prized position – be warned – we might be consumed! We never ignore God’s warnings without consequences. In this case we don’t just run out of gas – we drive straight into the jaws of destruction. We threaten ourselves, and those we are supposed to love, with extermination. It’s serious business to kill the Bride!

If you find yourself in the midst of a fight and the “idiot light” flickers in your soul – take heed. If you can’t slow your own momentum – get help. If the brakes are failing – call a mechanic. If the car is out of gas – find a filling station. If you’ve tried everything you know of and haven’t found peace or resolution – contact us at churchone! We want to help! Don’t hesitate – cautions come before casualties.

Friday
Dec092011

Replace or Repair?

A good friend of mine from a wiser generation once said to me, “Your generation replaces things, my generation fixes them.” He didn’t mean to insult “my generation” or to somehow demean me. He was simply stating his observation. It struck me though and made me feel as though I was smaller or somehow - lacking. I didn’t learn the skills his generation took for granted. I don’t plumb, pound nails, bleed brakes, in fact, I don’t even pump gas anymore (I happily live in one of those states that doesn’t allow mere consumers to tackle such a challenging task). If the modern world of smart phones, iPads, texting, and Twitter came crashing down tomorrow I would have to learn how to do a thousand things I don’t presently know how to do. (Come to think of it – how would I learn them without “googling” them?) 

I thought about this recently while studying the word “reconciliation” in the New Testament. It struck me that this idea of replacing instead of repairing has leaked into our dealings with relationships. Maybe leaked isn’t the right word – perhaps we’ve blown the entire gasket and precious fluid is spewing all over an overheating engine. (It was a head gasket repair my friend and I had been discussing. If you don’t understand the reference then ask a good mechanic from a "previous” generation) The point being, when relationships get tricky I think our culture (yes, our Christian culture as well) readily replaces them rather than repair them. Examples are not hard to find. Divorce rates are the same in the secular and sacred cultures. Church hopping is rampant. Our mobile culture sees families uproot and move often. Literally millions of former church-going folks are now sitting out due to damaged relationships.

Brothers, sisters, is a relationship disposable? Are we living in such a throw away culture that we discard people as quickly as plastic? Do we need a generation to speak to us about repair? Do we need to be reconnected with the teaching of reconciliation? Sadly, yes, and happily, yes! Sad that we have to relearn the art of reconciliation. Happy that Jesus Christ teaches us perfectly and with easy to understand steps. I didn’t say, “Easy to follow instructions.” They are not easy to follow but they are easy to understand.

Look at some of the simple instructions for relationship repair hidden within the reconciling actions of Christ. Jesus reconciled the Father to us and us to the Father and shows us the way to approach those with whom we need to reconcile. To keep it short we’ll just look at Romans 5:5-10.

  1. Start with Love. “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Vs. 5  When we are smack in the middle of conflict this sounds trite doesn’t it! Do you expect me to reverse and dismiss the agony and intensity of hurt this person or group has caused me “just like that”? No, and Yes. No, God doesn’t expect you to dial down true righteous indignation. Yes, God does expect you to follow the example of Christ through the unlimited power of the Spirit. How did He handle the undeserved hate, misuse, and pain of rejection put upon Him by his enemies?
  2. Recognize their Weakness. “while we were still helpless (having no strength)” Vs. 6  The relationship is broken due to someone’s weakness. Someone is unable to muster the might to approach reconciliation. In the case of our need for salvation – it was us. We were once the weak, helpless, unable to seek reconciliation ones. Realizing this, let’s give grace and be patient with the party we are in need of reconciling with.
  3. Wait for the Right Time. “at the right time” Vs. 6 We often press the issue and end up making a bad situation worse. People need time to process difficult issues and navigate hurtful relationships. We (my wife and I) had one experience that took five years to reconcile after repeated attempts – in this case timing was everything. In the believer's case, the Spirit wooed us with perfect timing. He won us with the grace of Christ patiently applied. We owe our brothers the same.
  4. Take the Initiative. “Christ died for the ungodly.” Vs. 6-7  The initiative of God is matchless; perfectly conceived, unselfishly provided, and generously applied. Someone needs to write a book on the initiative of God – what a boundless topic! Jesus commanded initiative in Matthew 5:23-24. He instructed us to cease (one form of) worship, seek reconciliation  (another form of worship), and then return to worship. The act of worship involved in reconciliation with human brothers is actually more important (or at least precedes) our acts of sacrifice to Him. Powerful! By the way, when you take the initiative, be prepared for hell to break loose – the evil one does not like brotherly love. Expect to see anger, resistance, denial, tears, or any other tactic that will make the process more difficult.
  5. Demonstrate Love. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Vs. 8  Show that you meant what you said in Step 1. There’s a lot wrapped up in this word “demonstrate”.  Saying something is so much easier than showing something! Salesmen say a lot of things – good salesmen prove the product. We may have to demonstrate our love for a loooong time before the other party softens enough to be approached. IMPORTANT: Sinners need to see love. Realize that you are approaching a fellow sinner and they don’t believe that you are any different than they. To have a fellow sinner reach out in love is often a scary thing but Spirit energized love will eventually win their heart. They may be an enemy for now but that didn’t stop Jesus from making the sacrifice – did it?
  6. Someone has to Sacrifice. “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Vs. 9-10 Notice I didn’t say, “Someone has to be sacrificed,” Jesus already did that. This step is that someone has to sacrifice something.  It might be pride, position, restitution, revenge, time, money, or any number of things. In the case of our salvation, the Father and the Son were willing to pay the ultimate price to accomplish reconciliation with our black-hearted rebellious selves. God was angry and we were the objects of His wrath. He was also brokenheartedly seeking us in love. Jesus was the lovingly obedient redeemer, reconciler, and mediator of a perfect covenant of reconciliation. In cases of division, strife, disagreement, and hurt among brothers someone is often called upon to follow the example of Christ. Someone has to Sacrifice!

This is a very simple 6 Step Reconciliation Plan. Actual application of these steps can be difficult. We meet resistance because hurt, questioned motives, and self-contented denial may be at play. Note that it’s also a one-sided plan. This is all something we do without expecting any certain response. It’s an invitation. It might be rejected – we need to accept the rejection without offense. Jesus “despised the shame” but continued “for the joy” that was to be.  He was not willing to discard one relationship but rather wished to reconcile all men to Himself. My brothers I hope you will seek reconciliation with every human for the simple joy of what lies ahead when brothers live in harmony! (Psalm 133) Let’s stop replacing relationships and start repairing them.

Thursday
Dec082011

Spiritual Mutilation: When the Church Attacks Her Own.

We hope to find a publisher for a short 10 chapters with the above title. The first draft is finished. Below is a brief description of the contents from the Introduction.

This book is about, "Overcoming and preventing the most common source of pain in many Christian lives. Healing torn relationships and restoring relational connection between brothers. The key to advancing the Gospel in a love starved world. Drawing close to Christ by caring about what He cares about."

"Practically speaking, you’ll learn several things that will help you live a more obedient, harmonious, and loving Christian life. Here are some of the lessons you’ll encounter.

  •   The two life altering things on Jesus’ mind the night before He died on the cross.
  •  The most powerful rebuke to the early Church and how to avoid it for yourself, your church, or your Christian ministry.
  •  THE EVIDENCE the Church presents to the world to prove that God loves them and sent Jesus to die for them.
  •  The wisdom of God about differences in the Body of Christ and how to deal with them.
  •  The healing power of rightly relating to believers with whom we disagree.
  •  The Bible passages that confront spiritual mutilation and give instruction on how to stop it.
  •  The rare occasions when Christians are commanded to avoid or separate from other Christians.
  •  The importance of recognizing “Those who Can and Those who Can’t”.
  •  The Apostolic challenge to the modern Church to address what may be the greatest hindrance to our Gospel witness in the world.
  •  The dividing line between Christian and Non-Christian – what Christians must agree on. Or, What makes us Christian.

And much more that will perhaps revolutionize the way you fellowship with God, love your brother, and witness to your world."

More on this as we progress.