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Why are believers known for ‘doom and gloom’…

10/03/2013 Comments off

Last night I had over a non-believer friend and while we were hanging out, we discussed how grieving it is that believer’s for the most part walk around with ‘doom and gloom’ attitudes. 

I mean really?  Why would I want to find out more about that?  Is it because Christianity is a doom and gloom world view?  No, its followers forget the historical narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration (Consummation for my reformed family – wink). 

When Jesus left us in Acts 2, He did not say, “I did my part, now you can clean up the mess…” But I think that is what much Christian ‘application’ teaching has done for us.  The focus on ‘sufferology’ and felt-needs has warped this implication of Redemption-Restoration.  I think in part it I because of what Jerry Bridges said in my devotional today;

The sad fact is that many of us believers tend to live our daily lives with little or no thought of God. We may read our Bibles and pray at the beginning of each day, but then go out into the day’s activities and basically live as though God doesn’t exist. We seldom think of our dependence on God or our responsibility to him. We might go for hours with no thought of God at all. I believe that all our other acceptable sins can ultimately be traced to this root sin of ungodliness. Ungodliness ultimately gives life to our more visible sins. Jerry Bridges-Respectable Sins

So why the doom and gloom?  I think Jerry is very close to the answer to this question.  If my life surrounds checking a box, rather than participating in a contrasting culture, then yes, I am going to have doom and gloom as an attitude (many of them actually have the face that accompanies this as well).

My wife sent me a link recently in which the site was a couple of ladies whom believe they are the Christian Mafia (play on the Amish Mafia) and under the guise of ‘discerning Christian trends’ what I really saw was doom and gloom.  And of course the site was slammed with comments and visitors where folks ‘discerned Christian trends’ through the lens of self-absorption, unforgiveness and bitterness and call it ‘mercy’ or ‘helpful’.  With that particular site I found myself thinking, I wonder if some of the commenters really would have said that if they sat across the person/agency?  We live in a culture that is so quick to hit send and get their ‘hurt’ out there…I have done it… and we feel all justified doing it and think that we are walking in the steps of Luther and the Wittenberg Door (internet), when in actuality we running rampant with our sin, and it is glaringly obvious to others, and later to ourselves after we have had some time to work on the issue.

For more resources on thinking before posting I would encourage you to start with “Justification by Twitter” and “Keeping the Peace – Writing an email that will not stir up conflict”, which provide a couple of checks and balances we all need when we take to the ‘printing press of the internet”.  What we really need to remember is the getting to the heart of our conflicts, before slapping up blogs, websites, and sharing our doom and gloom.

So why all the doom and gloom?  Jerry above says we live compartmentalized lives.  I agree.  In the myriad of discipleship/evangelism that Connie and I do, we find compartmentalization to be a major player in the reason for the doom and gloom, more importantly, we found that gospel fluency is non-existent.  People want to live their lives through their emotions as normative and rationalize/justify them while they boldly sin.  Much performing… Much pretending… Much legalism… Much license… no resting, no Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration story weaving in their or others lives, no seeing their sinfulness in light of God’s Holiness and the Cross stays so very small.  God is not great because we have to be in control.  God is not glorious because we fear others.  God is not good because we look everywhere else.  God is not gracious so we try to prove ourselves to everyone.  No Prophet-No Priest-No King-No Christ Jesus…No hope… No wonder non-believers don’t want to hear what we are offering…sometimes we don’t want to be around it either…

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

I Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, And Life of Following Jesus (It’s Never Been About Leading) by Leonard Sweet

20/01/2012 Comments off

Published by Thomas Nelson

Thank you Booksneeze.com for the opportunity to receive this work and review it

Leonard Sweet does it again, a meditative analysis of the current professionalization of ministry, addressing the leadership-laity divide and reminding us to be thinking Christians rather than ABC (already been chewed by others) Christianity.  The first time I was confronted with this contemplative Christianity was with John Piper’s Brothers We Are Not Professionals.  When I read Piper’s book I was was in my first year at seminary and I changed my major to an Masters of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling and started working on my NANC certification.  Many turning points later, “I Am a Follower” brought the same timely conviction and gospel-centered reminder that I was ready to hear. In short, an attempt at a summary, one could say this work is about the ‘function’ versus ‘form’ of what it means to be a disciple… a Follower versus entrepreneurial leader.  A fresh and engaging paradigm shift away from leadership classes, coaching, seminars, and webinars so saturating the church today.

Some challenging quotes,

The Place:

Somewhere in the back in the past half century, we diagnosed the churches problem as a crisis of leading, not a crisis of following.  It’s as if we read Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship and decided we’d rather talk about something else entirely. 

We have come to believe that we have a leadership crisis while all along we have been a drought of discipleship.  The Jesus paradox is that only Christians lead by following.

That’s our problem.  The church has become just what Eisenhower predicted:  a place where everyone is trying to get everyone else to do what they want don but don’t want to do themselves.

The Truth:

We are commissioned not to begin a new ministry but to carry on Christ’s ministry on earth.

God does not ask if we are able.  God asks if we are available.

Until we die to the idea that we are somehow ‘ahead of’ or ‘above’ the community of faith around us, we will continue to be frustrated in our attempts to have authentic community that combines real relationships with real discipleship.

Titles are dividers

The ideology of leaders as shepherds does not let God be God.  It is based on the notion that Jesus can’t possibly lead by Himself, so someone has to do it for Him.

The Life:

Disciple makers are above all nudgers.  Rather than preach or pressure, they gently nudge those they meet toward a God who is already active in their world and in their lives.  Nudgers are followers making followers.  Nudge disciples make disciples; they are not followers making leaders.

You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

End of Construction.  Thank you for your Patience – on Ruth Bell Graham’s headstone.

The leadership paradigm of sages and gurus is a solipsistic celebration of ‘people with answers’ who easily hide behind a façade of success and a mask of entitlement.  Sages and gurus give advice—or, more commonly, market it.  But they rarely have any intention of sharing a live with those they give advice to.  A followership community, on the other hand, is an authentic fellowship of disciples bound together by the incarnate Spirit of Christ.

Leadership literature says, “Seek balance.” But did Jesus live a balanced life?  Of did Jesus catch people off balance and leave people unbalanced on the path of a harmonious life?

Jesus was less about giving the right answers than He was about getting His disciples to think about the questions—and sometimes wanting them to marinate in the questions without reaching any definitive answers.  He did not negate the Law, be He went beyond the Law.  Jesus taught in parables, metaphors of living that called for followers to make life decisions holistically.

This book was timely and very interesting to me.  It challenged me, inspired me, and enlightened me even as I struggle with my own selfish ambition.  Sweet made me think long and hard about what it means to be a follower versus the selfish need to lead for my glory. The format and outline held my attention, however I wish the footnotes were on the actual page, flipping back and forth for the great references for further study broke up the flow of reading in my opinion.  I thought Leonard did a great job of presenting this material in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  I am also convinced that that the author successfully challenged the moral relativism of our idol factories and successfully conveyed Biblical truth.  I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in remembering first things… the main thing.  Excellent read!

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F40028016-40028020(ESV)

946387: I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus
By Leonard Sweet / Thomas Nelson

"Leadership" has become a runaway obsession for those who are called to equip the body of Christ for service in the Kingdom of God. The concept of "followership" is all but lost in the wake of this leadership fetish, a near hypnotic obsession. Jesus’ clear call, and the pattern of New Testament leadership, are actually found in a pattern of followership. We’ve been told otherwise but when it comes to a movement in our churches, our families, or the workplace, everything rises or falls on followership.

Sweet proposes an intentional shift from leadership cults to followership cultures. He critiques the issue of leadership obsession but focuses on reigniting a passion for the "follow me" theme found throughout the gospels and the entire New Testament. Building on a set of metaphors/images, he stirs the imagination by showing what it means to be a follower of Christ and explains the vital cog that followership and the first follower play in helping others enter into the Kingdom of God.

I Am A Follower moves readers:

  • from leaders that are over to followers that are among
  • from sages and gurus to scouts and guides
  • from Saul’s armor to David’s sling
  • from having the right answers to asking the right questions
  • from architects to gardeners

Real Marriage The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together–Mark & Grace Driscoll, Audiobook review

02/01/2012 2 comments

Thank you to christianaudio.com Reviewer Program for pre-release review of this work.

Depending on what circles your in, Mark Driscoll is sure to create a reaction – despite controversy however, many evangelicals acknowledge respectfully, and affirm Mark’s ministry and call.  With Mark you can be assured of a shock factor, and in our culture today of 140 characters or less, smartphones and anti-intellectualism, people don’t stop long enough to meditate on life and Mark & Grace remind us again, this time in the biblical context of a covenant marriage

What I appreciate about Mark’s ministry is that he/they comes out swinging, and in the ‘Preface’ he does it with “How Not to Read This book” -  addressing the sin we bring to marriage books/materials sometimes. It reminded me of the many times I read something in a marriage book and highlighted it so when I passed it onto Connie she would ‘get’ the gentle nudge of the ‘holy spirit highlighter’ and make a change. With the controversy over this book and series, he also addresses an area I don’t see quoted – “If your reading this book to feed your sexual perversion, then don’t read it” which probably would have knocked out 75% of the reviews I have read. 

This book was timely, interesting, and was very convicting in especially the first six chapters.  Connie and I had some great discussions generated by this material, and after my second listen, I will be passing it along to marriages that I think could benefit as well.  It did challenge, inspire, and enlighten me in ways that I was NOT loving my wife, which is a good reminder as I find the tendency sometimes to have an ‘I already know that…pride’ when coming to discipleship materials.  The Driscoll’s also made me think about the continued importance of having Connie with me in marriage discipleship sessions and giving her more shared teaching moments to assist men to love their wives. 

As always, Mark holds your attention and the information was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner, with real language and speaking about the elephants in the room, something I appreciate about Mark’s ministry and call.  I am also strongly convinced that the Driscoll’s successfully conveyed Biblical truth, however references to the 5 Love Languages and Arteburn’s work were not helpful when there is better biblical material out there to drive home the same points without giving us tasks, check boxes, or psychobabble.  I would recommend this book to others and will, in all forms to serve the audiences that Connie and regularly interact in.

Another fantastic review of this work can be found here, and some further marriage resources can be found at;

  1. Biblical Counselor Newsletter (Marriage & Parenting)
  2. CCEF Resources
  3. Peacemaker Ministries
203833: Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together
By Mark & Grace Driscoll / Thomas Nelson

God has a lot to say on the topic of sex and marriage. He planned both and gave them to us to be enjoyed. In Real Marriage, Mark and Grace Driscoll share biblical truths on issues you may be facing. They discuss how to be your spouse’s best friend, porn addiction, sexual assault, becoming an unselfish lover, and many sex questions you might be embarrassed to ask anyone. Hardcover.

when the bottom drops out… a discerning work on suffering

27/10/2011 2 comments

Thank you to to the christianaudio Reviewers Program for the opportunity to review this audio book.

When the Bottom Drops Out chronicles Pastor Rob Bugh’s journey from loss to restoration and shows readers how to find and hold tightly to Christ through even the most painful episodes of life. Bugh’s story is proof positive that while pain and disappointment are an unavoidable part of life, God is nonetheless faithful, holding us close at all times and in all circumstances.’

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.  Philippians 1:29-30 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F50001029-50001030(ESV)

As a biblical counselor, I encounter suffering in most of the discipleship opportunities that God brings into my life.  Therefore, I am always on the lookout for good resources for disciplee’s and have used Suffering:  Eternity makes a difference, How long O’Lord?  Reflections on Suffering and Eternity, When God Weeps, and When…dies booklets. I have never had a resource however for those of us who encounter suffering regularly and how to console those who are.  Pastor’ Bugh’s book is an excellent resource for this, especially the last three chapters.  My favorites was the chapter on ‘Christian platitudes’ – what NOT to say to someone suffering, and of course the chapter on the scripture references.

This was a quite interesting book and the narrator did not take away from the resource at all.  This audio did challenge, inspire, and enlighten me to be reminded not to give bible verse Band-Aids or to assume that I know the suffering that folks may be going through.  This was a sobering reminder and one that I think many of us need to be reminded of.  The author made me think before I assume anything.  Pastor Bugh did a great job in holding my attention and I was deeply touched by the letter from his deceased wife to him (she passed away after 6-months with cancer) and caused me to to consider how thankful I was for my wife and the giftWhen the Bottom Drops Out and kindness she is to me and how I have not told her that in a while.  The topic of suffering was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  I appreciated the references to the other authors like Piper and Alcorn that the author mentioned as well.  I though the author did a great job in successfully conveying Biblical truth on the topic of suffering.  I would recommend this work first to consolers and then to those that have lost a friend or a spouse.  Thank you for reminding me of this text from the bible:

God of All Comfort

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F47001003-47001011(ESV)

My Gerbil needs a haircut and other excuses we use…

08/05/2011 1 comment

*it seemed like a good time to break this one out again… – originally written 2010

Over the years, I have heard quite a few excuses and more importantly made some myself. 

One of my recent excuses was rationalizing and justifying investing time in folks who really don’t want to be disciples who make disciples.  I have been doing it for years!  One of my best friends, stayed after Missional Community one night and asked if he could make some observations.  Lynn has always been gracious, to the point, gospel-centered, and most importantly spoken the truth in love with humility and trepidation to me.  His topic that night was my prayer request since January 2010 for faithfulness.  Lynn proceeded to ask me questions about the 15+ men in my life that I rearrange my calendar for, jump when called, beg to come to fellowship, beg to read their Bibles, beg to evangelize, beg to disciple, beg for repentance.  My sin here:  wanting them to love Jesus more than they want to themselves.  Many of these guys call, set up appointments etc, with the ‘hook’ of “I want to study the Bible and have accountability, you are the only one who speaks truth in my life…” and on average, 3-weeks or 3 session later, something happens and they cancel and then I start my ‘faithfulness’ of chasing and begging them.

You see, one of things that has always perplexed me with those who say that they are disciples is the lack of perseverance* and integrity when it comes to doing the right thing.  For me, and my ministry to men, I find that Genesis 3 is alive and well.

Let me set the stage to what I am trying to draw attention to.  When I received Christ and God started drawing me to himself, Connie and I were in a fornication relationship.  I was going to church, participating in bible studies, tithing, etc, and I was frustrated in that it seemed that nothing was going right.  I did not understand why suffering was happening and I could not seem to get ahead.  I scheduled time with one of my pastor’s at the time (a young, hair on fire youth pastor), and Connie and I met with him.  By the way, scripture answers the suffering thing:  For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,  Philippians 1:29 (ESV)

In my prideful self-righteousness, I proceeded to give him my list of things I was DOING (for God) and asked him why God was not blessing us.  Another scriptural truth addresses that bad theology:  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

He asked a few pointed questions, and before long, he asked, “Let me ask you a question, are you living with Connie?”  I thought to myself, what does this have to do with anything.  “Yes.” I answered.  “Are you having sex with her?”  he asked.  “Yes, but we are planning to get married, what does that have to do with anything?”  Ben said to me, “You are doing all these things for God and expect blessings, but your disobeying Him regarding marriage, and your sex life.  Another words, He is not really Lord when it comes to your relationship with Connie then?”  I was hot!  How dare this youth dude confront me on my private life and tell me what I should be doing with it!  I told him to show me in the Bible where it said I was wrong (I was so new to the faith then, that I was still in the world and had not even read my Bible one time through yet…which would have stopped that foot-in-mouth statement I am sure).  Ben took me to the Old Testament and showed me in 2 places where Adultery was a sin and breaking the 10 commandments.  I was mad and asked if we could leave as I had some thinking to do.

When Connie and I got home, I tried to recruit her in my slandering of Ben and the truth that had been just shared.  Connie has always allowed me to sin against her and to wash her in the evilness of the world.  More and more as I talked about the audacity of that guy, and how dare he, the more God was working on me.  A couple of hours later, I was convicted deeply by the scriptures and I called Ben back.  “How soon can we get married and be obedient?”  Connie and I were married a week later in a small ceremony (I think there was a total of 5 of us there) and it has forever changed our life.

Here is my point.  Once I was told the truth, saw it in the scriptures for myself, I executed and obeyed despite how I felt about it.  Since that day I have watched and seen hundreds of ‘Christians’ claiming the blood of Christ and when made aware of their sin, not confess it or seek repentance for it.  They have chosen to juggle it with their worldliness and expect the rest of us to condone their ‘depravity’ all the while continuing to consume people’s time with playing the record of how bad their situation is, why is everyone picking on me, they don’t have all the facts, that is only partially true, etc fill in your excuse here…

Since my first step of faith in trusting God’s Word and obeying it, God continues to refine me, He has worked on my anger one year, my lust another, my prayerlessness in another, and my self-righteousness for the last two years.  One of the most important discipleship programs He initiated after the ‘marriage thing’ was learning about brokenness (another year).  I am not advocating perfection here, what I am showing is that a truly regenerate believer will grow in faith, repentance and new obedience as part of the daily Christian life.  It will be a constant and FRUIT of the believers life.  Anything less is lip service.  Notice also that the areas that God has worked in my life have been significant, and encompassed a year of time.  What did I do in that year?  Just pray…? ah no…  When God revealed it, I listened to sermons, read books, studied the scriptures on the topic, took classes, got around others who had victory, ect.  The point I am making is that I did NOT sit back and ‘just’ pray about it when I was convicted, I DID something about it and worked on it.  I was proactive and got serious about working on it.  I do not see that in many believers lives that I am around….

I can hear the objections coming, so here is the answer and you can take up your argument with God and His word; (my emphasis with be with the underlines)

Greeting

1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Make Your Calling and Election Sure

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Christ’s Glory and the Prophetic Word

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1 (ESV)

What is clear from this text is that there is an element of God regenerating us, but also a responsibility on our behalf to walk out salvation with fear and trembling.  To persevere, to have integrity, to do the right thing now that we have been given such a great gift.  Again, not advocating perfection… more or less brokenness and maybe some effort?

Another valuable lesson I learned over the years is that sin seems to have stages and I noticed that it mimics the events in Genesis 3.  For men, the root is avoiding responsibility and for women, the desire to rule over (her husband).

1.  We cover it up (v.7).

2.  We tried to hide it (v.8).

3.  We make excuses (v.10).

4.  We blame God (v. 12).

5.  We blame others (v. 13).

What I have discovered is that usually by the time it gets to #4 & 5, it is very dangerous and the person is very deceived to the point that only something supernatural is going to reveal this to them.  (2 Tim 2:24-26)

Here are some comments that I have heard with folks caught in #4 & 5;

“I know we are still married to other people, but God put us together while we are waiting on our divorce.  If God did not want it to happen, He would not have put XXXXX in my life.”

“God will forgive me for this.”

“He is not a real leader and no one holds him accountable so I must do XXXXXXX just to survive as a family from day-to-day.”

“If he had not said XXXXXXXX then I would have not XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.”

“I don’t agree with his theology, I just don’t think God would demand something like that.”clip_image001

“I know what God’s Word says, BUT….”

“Me and God are good, He understands about this…”

“XXXXX doesn’t have all the facts, that is only partially correct.”

“You never came over to my house because you were too busy.”

“I am not like you… I do things differently than you do.”

“Just because I don’t do it your way doesn’t mean it is not right.”

Probably the most despicable moments are when none of these excuses work, then the default setting is to play the victim, which is usually when a good judgment call was made or the fruit of their bad decisions are clearly evident to all, I have heard things like;

“I have this label therefore I have to take this prescription which is why I do…”

“I never grew up in a normal family so I am a product of the dysfunction, and it is going to take me a long time to learn new patterns and ways of interacting with others.”

“My mom never hugged me enough.”

“Dad never went to my baseball games.”

“My wife doesn’t respect me.”

“My husband doesn’t cherish me.”

“I did not get an opportunity to get an education like you.”

“I am not a reader… me and books are not a good mix.”

“Not all of the items are true, only some of them.” 

“Why must people always make up stuff, they never have all the facts.”

“You are being militant and ungracious… if you changed your tone then I would have…”

clip_image002I had another guy recently when confronted with the fact that he had chosen his sin over God and family, lied and was caught in it, sends me a text that says, “It seems like I have really hurt you… I am sorry.”  I deleted the message, because what he was really saying was that sinning against a Holy God was okay, but repairing the human relationship deserved cursory ‘sorry’ (by the way, I had discipled him many times about apologies, that in the Greek it means  to give a defense… however that confession, agreeing with God that you have fallen short of His standard is something different for the Christian, we don’t get to apologize…  Imagine receiving Christ this way….  “Dear God, I am really sorry about the stuff I have done, and I want the free gift of salvation that your giving okay?   Ah no, we say Lord, forgive me … we take ownership, it is commanded that we do.

When I hear these comments my insides cry out.  These folks really believe they are without hope.  However in most cases, it is not that people are hopeless, they choose to be this way.  The percentage of folks who are hopeless through ignorance is actually very small (See Romans 1).  Most of the folks in my life are hopeless because they choose to be the victim.  So on that note, I finally, after years of addressing these things, Lynn’s reminder, exhortation from another friend, Jim, and conviction, typed up an article that I have given away many times over the years to the excuse makers in my life.  Why?  I think that having in print, out on the web, etc, just maybe, convict us all that what we are really doing with all of our excuses is blaming God for situation, that it is the creature shaking his fist at the creator.  Maybe you have an excuse maker you have been faithful too for years, and finally, this is the something that will bring some closure to the toxic relationship.  Father forgive us, we need the gift of repentance… 

Here is the article;

Man is not a victim (appendix 2 – Exemplary Husband Study Guide by Stuart Scott)

Many see themselves as little more than a victim of their circumstances. The truth is, victim is not a biblical word. Even those who are treated ruthlessly are not referred to as victims. There are several aspects of the word victim that we need to consider when addressing this view. If a person suffers an unprovoked crime or sin at the hands of someone else, the person suffering could be considered a victim in the sense that he is a receiver of unwarranted treatment. Our legal system will certainly designate him the victim of a crime.

But there are wrong ideas usually associated with the word victim. Most often, it carries with it the idea of complete innocence when referring to the one who has suffered the offense. This is rarely the case so far as the events are concerned and never the case so far as the heart is concerned (Psalm 14:2-3). Let me explain by way of an example.

If you are lawfully stopped at a traffic light when a drunk driver rear-ends your car, you are certainly legally innocent in the accident. The drunken person is obviously breaking the law of God and man by driving while intoxicated and by hitting you. If, by the grace of God, you get out of your car and help the drunk person with pure motives until an ambulance comes to examine you both (rather than yelling at him for ruining your bumper), you can still be considered spiritually innocent in this event. However, if you consider yourself to be a better person than the drunk, or look down at his sin in disgust, you are sinning the sin of pride and are, therefore, no longer innocent in the event.

I am not saying that God does not respond compassionately when we are wronged. He does (Hebrews 4:14-16; Isaiah 63:9). And, I am not saying that God will not hold the offender fully responsible. He will (Ezekiel 18:2, 20). What I am saying is that we must remember that God sees any reactionary sin on our part during an incident as grievous as well (Romans 12:14-21). And we must keep an offender’s sin in perspective of our own sin against a Holy God.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Romans 14:10-13 (ESV)

Most people do sin in response to another person’s sin and most people do see their own sin as less offensive than another’s. When we have been wronged it can be very helpful to remember that nothing anyone has done to us is worse than our own sin against a Holy God. Since any good in our lives can only be accredited to God’s work in us (Jeremiah 17:9-10; Matthew 19:17; 1 Corinthians 4:7), and since our sin was so bad that God allowed His only Son to be killed in order to pay for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:3), we know that we are not in and of ourselves any better than anyone else because we sin on a regular basis.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  Romans 3:21-25 (ESV) (emphasis mine)

Secondly, the word victim can imply that a “senseless, never-should-have-happened” event has taken place. The danger here is to forget that loving sovereignty (perfect and purposeful control) of God in one’s life. While some events may indeed be tragic, God knows the end from the beginning and how that event can serve to humble a person (Job 42:1-6), draw a person to Himself (John 6:44), show Himself to be a greater-than-anything God (Jeremiah 32:17; Genesis 50:20) and/or reveal Himself to the sufferer as Refuge, Strength and Helper (Isaiah 57:15).

In short, only God has the ability to work all things together for both our good and His glory in a fallen world, never ignoring one to achieve the other. We must not take the view that something shouldn’t have happened to us. Is God not good? Is God wrong? Is God lacking in power? Obviously none of these are true according to the Bible.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (ESV)

Thirdly, the word victim often gives a person a hopeless outlook. No one who knows God is without hope, the ability to overcome and the resources to live with joy and thankfulness in spite of what has happened. This must sometimes be taken on faith until the truth and principles of God’s Word can be specifically applied to one’s situation and thinking (Genesis 50:20; John 20:24-29; 1 Corinthians 10:12-14; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Unfortunately, some individuals have been taught that they can never lead “normal” lives again. This is tragic because it utterly contradicts Scripture.

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  2 Peter 1:2-4 (ESV) [emphasis mine]

Finally, the word victim usually allows a person to ignore personal responsibility. That brings us back to where we started. To be “a victim of your circumstances” is to declare yourself free from responsibility so far as thoughts, actions, usefulness and life direction are concerned. If we cannot help our responses, we conveniently cannot be held accountable for them. I have heard such statements as, “My sin is actually the result of a ‘sickness’ that I have because of what happened to me,” “I am this way because of my parent’s failures,” “I turned out this way because we were poor and I was exposed to many bad influences; I didn’t have a chance,” or “I have a disease or chemical imbalance; that is why I had to sin.”

This blame-shifting (whether subtle or not) is a grievous thing to my heart. I listen to these people as they seek to excuse themselves for their sin, knowing that at the same time they are removing all hope for themselves. Very often, people have been encouraged in these wrong beliefs by unbiblical counsel (which can even be “Christian” counsel). The truth is, we will be held accountable for our every thought, word, and deed.

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:12 (ESV)

The Bible clearly teaches that we are always responsible for our own sin, no matter what our circumstances are – not for the sin of others, but for our own sin. We cannot say that “so and so” causes us to do what we do. Our own sinful heart simply is given an opportunity to express itself in our difficult situations. We sin in response to these situations because sin is in us and because we choose to sin. Christians have a double responsibility because through salvation and the application of the Word of God, we don’t have to sin.

7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:7-11 (ESV)  [emphasis mine]

Many times the word victim allows a person to think of himself wrongly. When a person adopts the victim mentality, he usually develops self-pitying, self-righteous, or hopeless attitudes. Those who know God and abide in His truth can lead the kind of life that God intended, even if they have been greatly wronged. They simply must learn to apply the word of God to their circumstances.

8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)

So I write all this in hopes of sobering us when it comes to our excuses.  These verses have always scared me and especially when I am avoiding sin in my life, may they do the same for you;

1.  Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.  2 Peter 1:10 (ESV)

2.  Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!  2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)

3.  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 7:21 (ESV)

4.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27 (ESV)

5.  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)

6.  For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.  Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV)

The sad thing is that the excuse-maker in your life will have all the excuses in the world not to read this article too… Why?  Because they are not aware of God holiness in light of their sinfulness and the Cross is small in their life.

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*If you are interested on more topics in the Bible regarding Perseverance than this might give you some items to think about with God’s commands regarding our persevering.  This is not to be confused with Perseverance of the Saints of which I also subscribe.

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