When Repentance Isn’t

Tim:

The Bible tells us that those who teach are held to a higher standard. It’s not a standard of perfection, but it is one of responsibility. And when those in leadership stumble, the church should help them just as it should help any other member of the body. The responsibility of leadership is not extinguished, though. Stumbling should lead to repentance and sincere efforts to admit wrong and seek forgiveness. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, as my friend Karen points out in this post, and it hurts people.

Originally posted on A Travelogue of the Interior:

High profile Christian leaders are dropping like flies these days. Psalm-51-10-web

First went Bill Gothard, founder and leader of the hugely influential Institute in Basic Life Principles. He was accused by more than 30 women of sexual misconduct. You can read the backstory here if you are interested and you can read Gothard’s quasi-apology here, presented (as difficult as this is for me) without comment.

Next up (or down as the case may be) was Doug Phillips, founder and bombastic leader of Vision Forum, a Christian organization that promoted Christian patriarchy, homeschooling, and Quiverfull beliefs. He confessed to a lengthy and cliché-drenched extramarital affair with the oh-so-young nanny and has since been legally charged by her with grooming a minor for sexual abuse, among many other violations of appropriate pastoral and professional conduct. You can read the story here and his (yep) quasi-apology here.

As these stories were unfolding…

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Whose Fault?

[Today's guest post is from Jeannie Prinsen, a wonderful thinker and writer on faith and family. Head over to her place once you've had a taste of her writing here.]

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The Fault Is Not In Our Stars, But In Ourselves*

The other day I went to take cash out of the bank machine. The prompts the machine gave me looked a little different from the way they usually do, but I wasn’t fazed: it had been a while since I’d taken money out, and they update these things all the time, right?

But then a notice popped up saying, “YOU WILL BE CHARGED A $2.00 PROCESSING FEE PLUS YOUR OWN BANK’S CHARGES.” Did I want to proceed, or cancel?

Two dollars? Transactions were always free before, I thought. So I pressed Cancel, of course: I’m Scottish, married to a Dutchman, and we don’t take $2.00 processing fees lightly. When I got home, I told my husband what had happened, and he checked our bank information online, which reassured us that bank-machine transactions at our bank (and one other, with which it’s affiliated) have no fees. So what was up with that?

I went back later that night to a different machine to see if it would work this time. I opened my wallet to take out my bank card –and realized that the previous time, I’d used the wrong card. Instead of my bank card, I’d tried to use an entirely unrelated credit card, and the machine (rightly) had been prepared to charge me a fee for a cash advance. But it had been nice enough to ask me if I really, truly wanted to go through with it.

So it wasn’t the bank’s or the machine’s fault at all.

It was me.

But Then Again, The Fault May Not Be In Ourselves

It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? We complain that something isn’t working or someone’s made a mistake — and it turns out it’s our fault.

The opposite can be true too, though: we assume it’s us, when it isn’t. I remember once being very frustrated with a new DVD converter I’d bought, thinking I must have messed up the installation process because it wouldn’t work. I finally called the store and was told, “Well, if the light isn’t coming on, there’s something wrong with the unit; just bring it back.” I returned it and got a replacement, which worked perfectly.

It wasn’t me.

And some time ago I did something which resulted in a painful conflict. The devastation I felt – and at times still do – is hard to put into words. I talked to my pastor about it. He asked some helpful questions, raised some issues I hadn’t considered, and then after a long conversation said, “You know, you may need to consider the possibility that you did the right thing.”

Maybe it was me. But maybe it wasn’t.

It’s so difficult to judge wisely in these situations. So often we blame another person, or a faceless corporation, or “The Universe” and then come to realize it was our fault; or we blame ourselves and then realize that responsibility might actually lie elsewhere.

Even more often, I think, we discover that the truth is often a messy combination of the two: it’s not exactly anyone’s fault, but It just is. And perhaps that’s the hardest thing of all to swallow; we’d prefer blame to be divided up neatly so that everyone can take responsibility and fix the part they’re responsible for – or at least do better next time.

As a mom of special needs kids I can relate to that discomfort with the It just is scenario. When something happens that seems to have no explanation, it’s hard to accept that it’s just how things are, with no blame attached.

Jesus’ disciples appeared to feel the same way when they observed a blind man and then asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus’ reply was telling: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-3) The point wasn’t who was responsible, but what the outcome might be. When it comes to situations where there’s no fault involved, we’re challenged to look for a deeper meaning and purpose behind the reality we face.

Taking Responsibility Without Placing Blame

And in situations where there might actually be fault involved, the Bible has some advice as well:

“If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” (Galatians 6:2-5.)

Testing our own actions and recognizing when we are not what we think we are: all that takes humility. It also takes wisdom – and again the Bible gives help in that area, promising that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)

I know I need wisdom to discern what I’m responsible for, what I’m not, and what is just a fact of reality that I can’t change and that has a deeper purpose beyond what I can see. I’m thankful that when we ask, God promises to give us that wisdom, without finding fault.

Without finding fault. Wow. Those three words alone are worth another post …

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*Julius Caesar, Act  I, scene 2.

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A Naughty Quote That Will Help You Know Jesus

Jesus didn’t come to make naughty people nice. Jesus came to make dead people alive.

Jeremy White, Valley Church

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How To Play The Kazoo – a musical blessing

I created this video as a public service to my readers. That’s the kind of guy I am, a giver.

 

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Resurrection Greeting (and a touch of Easter humor)

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:5-8.)

The first Christians: afraid, filled with joy, and running to spread the news! Want to join them?

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And in case you’re feeling pressured to show up at church in your fancy Easter clothes, here’s how we do it. Sunday Clothes 1Two points here: first, I really like making these cards; second, God doesn’t care if you have on suits or shorts!

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Thoughts from the chemo room

Tim:

“It’s like realizing my need for a savior before realizing Christ fills that need perfectly.”

Originally posted on Laura Droege's blog:

Just thought I’d share part of a recent journal entry . . .

I’m in the chemo room, having rust-red iron drip into my veins, feeling woozy from the medicine injected beforehand, and looking around at those having chemo. I try to be furtive about it; it feels intrusive, like I’m gawking at their treatment or touring a third world slum, consoled by the thought that I can escape to my luxurious lifestyle by a bus trip or a plane ride across an ocean.

There’s an elderly woman, sleeping in a chair, her arm bruised at multiple places where the nurses have struggled to insert an IV. Another patient nods at my bag of fluids. “Iron?” When I say yeah, he says he’d had to have an iron infusion too; the chemo has depleted his iron levels.

My mom (who is with me) asks if his course of treatment is…

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It Is Finished – a Good Friday Reflection

A dark deed …

and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. (Acts 2:23.)

… led to calling this day Good Friday …

Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30.)

… when Jesus bowed his head in perfect obedience to the will of the Father …

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21.)

… to give us the guarantee of the Holy Spirit himself …

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 5:5.)

… and bring us to the Father even now, and for eternity:

Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:3-7.)

It is finished.

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He Gave Her the Number to the Rejection Hotline

[From the archives]

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Our son graduated college last May and is spending the year as a youth intern at a church here in town, so he’s living with us rather than trying to make his extremely meager salary cover a rent payment every month.* We’re thrilled because frankly he’s a ton of fun to have around.

The Rejection Hotline

He went to the store last Saturday to pick up a gallon of chocolate milk. As he went through the checkout line the young woman commented at length about the milk, how much she loved chocolate milk, how wonderful chocolate milk was, the joys of chocolate milk. Our son said he went into monosyllabic mode so as not to encourage her into further rhapsody on all things chocolate milk.

I said it may not have been the milk she was really taken with, and suggested half-seriously that perhaps she wanted his phone number. He looked at me with a smirk and said, “Yeah, but I gave her the number to the rejection hotline.”

It turns out there is such a thing. He said there is a website with a list of phone numbers for various area codes so that if someone is bugging you for your number you can hand this one over. If they call it, apparently there’s a message along the lines of “The person who gave you this number didn’t want to hand over their real number. Sorry, but you’ve reached The Rejection Hotline.”**

When Rejection is Part of Redemption

I got to thinking about how God didn’t hand me the number to The Rejection Hotline. But then I wondered if it’s ever OK to reject something and this passage came to mind:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:7-8.)

It is because of God’s acceptance that we are able to walk with God and resist the devil, to reject him. And there’s no need for a Rejection Hotline. We resist and Satan flees.

I saw this rejection and flight scenario work out in my life just yesterday. A blog friend, Ellen Painter Dollar, wrote on a very delicate topic and some comments were less than appreciative. In fact, some went so far as to question her motives for even choosing to write on the subject. She got savaged by one commenter in particular.

As some of you may suspect, I have a protective streak in me; you should have seen it coming out when I read those unfair and at times vicious criticisms. I wanted to blast them! But I didn’t. After all, Ellen’s been blogging a long time and has repeatedly proven that she can handle these types of situations very effectively and irenically. So I resisted the urge.

And then I noticed a curious thing. The urge to blast was no longer there. In its place I found an urge to engage constructively, and I tried to do so. Whether I was successful or not is up to whoever reads the comments, but I know that I was free of the urge to blast some poor person who is probably going through a rough patch and certainly doesn’t need me to make it any worse. It was as if Satan had fled from me at the moment of resisting him. And according to James, he did.

I am so glad that God works in me to give me the ability to do what needs doing.

Sometimes that includes a little rejection.

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Have you seen the devil flee when you’ve resisted him? What does that look like?

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*If you want to read about our daughter, check out yesterday’s post.

**He assured me he didn’t really hand over any number, real or fake. We can all breathe a little easier.

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Leaflets Handed Out In Eastern Ukraine “Order” Jews To Register Or Be Deported – time for Christians to stand up

USA Today just reported that a group claiming to be the new temporary government over a portion of eastern Ukraine is ordering Jews to register with the government or face, property confiscation and deportation. In what sounds a lot like the fascist and communist practices leading up to World War 2, the group is targeting people merely for being Jewish.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

The organization’s leadership admitted that members handed out the leaflets. NPR later reported that the group is now claiming the leaflets are fraudulently claiming to come from them.

No one disputes, however, that the leaflets themselves are real.

Christians everywhere need to stand in opposition. Romans 11 is clear that we are grafted into that portion of the people of God whom he has called Israel, and that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all. Jews and gentiles both are reconciled to God through Jesus, because those whom Jesus has called to himself are no longer divided from one another but are bound together as one people.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-18.)

It is in the Spirit of Christ that we now must stand with the Jews in Ukraine.

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My thanks to Karen Swallow Prior for linking the article on Twitter.

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We Are All Zombies

[Dana Tuttle and I have both written posts for Aimee Byrd's Housewife Theologian, although Dana's have a habit of always being about historical women who have been killed for their faith. Get beheaded and Dana might write about you too. Here she's deviated slightly from her usual fare in order to examine zombies and Christ, a worthy writing foray indeed.]

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This article has been festering in my brain for a while and I am thankful that Tim offered me an opportunity to let it ooze out into the blogosphere. Hold on, as I try to steer this train without wrecking!

Zombies have infiltrated our culture. They are everywhere! From television to video games, they have taken over.

  • On the popular television show “The Walking Dead”, adults can tune in every week to see if their favorite character has been eaten.
  • On the video game “Plants vs. Zombies”, children of all ages can use household plants to throw at zombies.
  • While waiting in the car line at the local elementary school, I notice a zombie sticker family, on the minivan ahead of me. The sticker claims, “We ate your stick family.”
  • Marathon runners can sign up for “The Zombie Run” and race, while being chased by zombies.
  • And my personal favorite…an online quiz to see how long you would last during the zombie apocalypse. Apparently, I would last a year!*

According to pop culture, I will have a chance to test out my survival skills sometime in the near future. I’m thinking my beer brewing skills will come in handy during that time. I can see me now, running through the woods with my steel pot and my cast iron bottle capper. I will have a great bartering skill and I’ll bet that capper can do some damage!

Our culture has made zombies a household name, which is why I am not surprised that my friend, Dustin, has a zombie parody of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, “The Last supper”, in his home. A quick google search shows several pop culture parodies of this famous painting. Star Wars fans, Disney fans, and Michael Jackson fans can all have their favorite pop culture peeps posing in a Last Supper scene. There is a very large selection. If you are a fan of something, there is a parody for you!

The one that my friend owns shows Christ lying across the table, while being gruesomely eaten by his disciples, who happen to be zombies. It is extremely graphic. But when I look at it, I see a reflection of myself, of who we all are and who the disciples were – DEAD!

Some of you may find it offensive. I, on the other hand, found the gospel. I’m sure that was not the message that the artist intended, nonetheless it is there.

What I do find offensive is the way Christ is portrayed in our culture by Christians!

Portraying God Wrongly

We have the attractive white Jesus, located in the Christian book store, as well as the cartoon clip art Jesus, on our children’s coloring pages at church. Christian culture has made Jesus into a handsome guy and we have shrunk the Son of God into a thumb size picture to put on our church advertisements.

We are guilty of drinking out of Christian coffee mugs, with an image of Jesus slapped onto the cup. We hang our velvet poster of Jesus, next to our guest bathroom. (We pray our guests will come to know Jesus, as they make their way down the hall.) And don’t forget to “Honk, if you love Jesus” when we drive by you!

We are the ones who have made our Lord into a marketable product. We have reduced the one who “created all things” into home decorations, symbols on our car bumpers and jewelry around our neck.

Why do we do this? I think we do this because we are afraid to rely on the promise that scripture is powerful enough to change us without a visual image. So we create our own idea of his image and put it on anything and everything. We try to sell Jesus to our neighbor through merchandise, instead of loving our neighbor through ministry.

Why do we try to make any image of him at all? We glorify his physical appearance, yet, scripture says, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him … as one from whom men hide their faces.” (Isaiah 53:2-3) Why do you think God warns us in his commandments not to make an image of him? He knows that any attempt at doing this would cheapen the true beauty of his veiled image. It is veiled for a reason.

As believers, we should not get upset when the unbelieving culture creates their own image of our Lord. They see our tacky merchandise and the images that we have created and they follow suit. If we had refrained from making false images in the first place, we would not be able to even recognize a false image of Christ on anything. It would be foreign to us and therefore, not offensive.

We judge the unbelieving world’s ideas of what he looked like based on our own Christian culture’s “make believe” image of Christ.

We Are All Zombies

With all that said, I will bring us back around to my friend’s zombie parody of the “Last Supper”. I have never been upset that he has it hanging on his wall. I have always thought about my own guilt and how it is a reflection of our true identity as human beings. When I look at it, I see our total depravity.

All of us are fully corrupt, perverse, and sinful throughout our entire being. We are rotten in our body, our mind, and our spirit. We are “dead in our trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1-2) “No one is righteous, no, not one. No one understands; no one seeks after God…no one does good, not even one.” (Romans3:10-12) We are all zombies!

Then lying on the table is Christ, offering himself as the meal. He lays down his life and says,

“I am the bread of life … this is the bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh … unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him … . Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:48-61.)

Thankfully, he doesn’t leave us as zombies. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved.“ (Ephesians 2:4-6)

He makes us alive, when we were dead. He takes out our evil hearts and gives us his spirit as a deposit and a guarantee of this promise. He uses legal terminology to secure the hope of his believers and seals the deal with a covenant meal – his own flesh and blood.

Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

Are you offended?

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*Tim here: I took one of those zombie survival quizzes after reading this. How long would I last? “Until the end! – Congrats! You’re a fighter and clearly know what it takes to survive!” Yay me. You can take it here, but there are a couple zombie photos in there so be warned of slight horror pics.

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