Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mentioning Jesus/Giving the Gospel

Mentioning Jesus at the end of a funeral message is not the same as giving the Gospel at a funeral.  Just so you know.

My husband attended the funeral of one of our members this week.  Even though the person was a member of our church, my husband did not preach the funeral.  We have no idea why he wasn't invited to do just that; it's normally a given with a sitting pastor.  But, another man preached the funeral and my husband attended.  And this other preacher did not give the Gospel message - not even once - during his message.  He mentioned Jesus at the end of his message, but that is not the same as giving the Gospel message.

My husband is troubled.  His burden - as ANY pastor's burden - is to lead his flock in light of the Gospel at all times.  A funeral is always attended by those who do not know the Savior and they need the Gospel. Not only so they can know Him, but the Gospel eases the pain of their hearts at a time of utter human sorrow.  My husband always preaches the Gospel at every funeral, without fail.  He has preached literally to thousands through funerals over his 29 years in the ministry and he has given the Gospel at every single one of the funerals he's preached.

So, the saddest part of the day is not the fact that this family laid their loved one to eternal rest. She's in Glory with her Savior.  The saddest part of the day is that NOT ONE person heard the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at her funeral.  So, so very, very sad.

Where does my theology come into this?  A deeper resolve to do the right thing no matter what.  A deeper respect for my husband for going to show respect for that member, even though it was humiliating to be ignored.  A firmer decision to live out the Gospel even in light of those who ignore it.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Dealing with Abusive People

It seems I have been around abusive people my entire life, starting with my dad and his violent alcoholism.  From my exposure to abusive people, I've made quite a few observations about their communication methods and I believe they are noteworthy in the sense that making note of them might help someone else recognize that they are in an abusive relationship.

By the way, I don't participate in abusive relationships any more.  But, I will say that non-participation can be tricky as abusive people have a strong agenda that depends on their targets' cooperation.  It's tricky in that you can actually be lured into participation without full realization of your participation!  And, thus, an abuser's agenda has momentum to continue.  When it comes right down to it, though, this is actually a powerful realization for a person under the oppressive behavior of an abuser.  When we realize their agenda depends on our cooperation, we have realized the end of their agenda - at least for ourselves.  Just don't cooperate. Hmmm.

No doubt this is easier said than done but the Bible really gives clear examples of this very thing. Throughout the Bible, we see a consistent, effective method for dealing with abusive people.  In the book of John, John, himself, gives us a great example.  What I learned from John is to have my own agenda, my own plan, making the abuser's agenda much harder for him to accomplish.  John had his own agenda and it was clearly in place whenever he had encounters with the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were highly abusive and openly tried to trap John many times.  Their agenda was to expose his "false" teaching.  His agenda was to proclaim Christ. He saw to it that his agenda was not derailed; he kept his focus, always directing the Pharisees back to Christ. He did it without apology. He did it without hesitation. He did it with consistency.  He was focused and his focus was Jesus Christ.  More on this in a minute.

An agenda, or a plan of your own, is a powerful tool when it comes to dealing with abusive people.  When I was little and my dad was on yet another abusive rampage, it was all about him and what he wanted.  If we didn't appear to understand his demands, he got louder. If we resisted in any way, he got violent.  When he wasn't yelling, throwing things or beating us up, he was emotionally and mentally manipulating us. Growing up that way, it really never occurred to me that I could actually have a plan of my own; that I could actually have my own ideas, thoughts, plans, etc. It always had to be about him and we cowered in fear when he didn't get his way.

For the victim of any type of abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, etc., having a plan of their own is not only essential to breaking the abusive pattern for themselves, it's essential for their own well being and sometimes even survival.

This is a starting point.  If you are in any type of abusive relationship or know a loved one who is, help them start with a plan of their own.  It can be as simple as a plan for a given day, a plan for the week, a plan for the year.  Sometimes, the abuse is so intense that a person can only plan for the moment.  That's okay, too.  The greatest starting point for this plan is the Bible.  Jesus Christ knew how to deal with abusive people; He did it all the time.  He dealt with them by telling them the truth, standing His ground with them and He never really answered to them.  This infuriated them, of course. Because Jesus had His own plan, He was not vulnerable to their abuse.  He had His own reason to be in the conversation and that's what He stuck to. He was not all about them!

Read the book of John and see how John dealt with his abusers.  John chapter 1, starting with verse 19 has John's first recorded encounter with abusive men who had their own agenda. John kept his focus, and he kept control of the conversation.  Read through verse 28 and see how he managed all that!  It's quite remarkable and a great example to us all.

Having my own plan has led me to develop personal policies that have shown to be powerful tools as well. There's something decidedly intimidating to an abusive person when their target does not cooperate and instead, cites that it's "against policy."  Now, granted, we might not be in a situation where we can actually say that out loud, but we can certainly remember it for ourselves, remind ourselves mentally, and focus on that. I created my policies through the Scriptures, trying to make sure I was not manipulative myself, but focused on what God would have me do.  God would not have me tolerate abuse, so that policy came easy.

How does my theology play into this?  First of all, I use only Biblical principles in this process. I have learned to not be afraid of my own emotions, but use them as though they are really gifts to help me through a certain situation.  For example, abuse often produces feelings of anger.  Well, there's nothing wrong with being angry; the Bible says "be angry and sin not" (Ephesians 4:6).  Anger is a real emotion and The Lord acknowledges that it exists and never tells us to ignore it.  But, what do I do with that anger?  I use it as a tool. It's a great motivator, keeps adrenaline flowing and helps my momentum.  In anger, I have more courage to resist my abuser and it motivates me to keep my focus on God and what He would have me do.  Anger does not have to be acted out in a negative way.  Anger was motivation for our Savior when He overturned the moneychangers' tables in the temple.  Anger is a great tool.  It's important to control our actions even when our emotions are high and/or negative and using anger as a motivator instead of a destructive force will result in a more positive outcome.  Quite honestly, there are some things that should make us angry!  And there are things that will produce angry feelings.  There's no profit in denying the anger or acting as though it's wrong to feel that way.  What we do with it is what counts.

Secondly, my theology plays into this because I realize that I don't answer to any abuser, I answer to God. This is also a powerful realization for a person being abused, because it frees them from thinking that their abuser has any authority over them.  While there are times when an abuser has authority (as in my case, my abuser in the past was my dad), ultimately it's your life and you will have the ultimate say in what you do with your life. A child does not have as many options (this is topic for another post), but when a child grows up, they DO have options.  And even a child has more options than they might think. I realized early on that my dad could control my actions, but he could never control my thoughts, desires and plans.  I made lots of plans. I wasn't able to carry them out as a child, but I made them anyway.  Those plans led to dreams and those dreams led to motivation and that motivation led to my success in overcoming abuse.  It also led me to create a set of guidelines for overcoming the effects of abuse and all its trappings.  This is all according to the grace and leading of God; I'm not going to ever take credit for what He has done, but I will tell you the steps HE took in my life to free me from the debilitating effects of abuse.  All these steps are a result of His leading, His grace and the power of His Word in my life.

I have a lot more to say about abuse and will continue to post in hopes that I can show how my theology comes into each and every situation I find myself in. Whether it's spiritual abuse from a misguided Christian or emotional abuse from an insecure relative, you can have victory over that abuse, one step at a time.


Monday, May 2, 2011


Justice has been done in the death of Osama Bin Laden, the evil mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on America.  As soon as I saw a headline on the internet, I switched on the news for verification and learned it was true.  I picked up my phone and called my son, Mike.  No answer. I don't leave him voice mails - it's a thing with us - so I waited 15 minutes and tried to call again.  No answer. I sent him a text, the best way to reach him anyway.  I had to talk to Mike!

You see, Mike fought in Iraq - twice.  He was on the front lines in the battle of Fallujah.  He was doing urban combat at age 19 when his peers were headed off to college.  He fought - and he came home - but many of his buddies did not come home. I had to talk to Mike!

After a few more minutes, my phone rang - it was Mike.  "Mom!  Can you believe it?  I sure can!  I knew we'd get him.  We got him. I'm glued to the news."

"Yeah, we got him.  We got him," I replied, a hesitancy in my voice.  "I'm nearly speechless. I don't even know where to begin."

"I know it," he said, "I know it. It's amazing and just perfect.  I never had a doubt. Never a doubt."

And, inwardly, I cried at the tone of his voice.  This "boy" who became a man on a live battlefield in urban combat in a place 8,000 miles from home, had changed forever because of this war.  He was strong before he went, but now he's stronger and has a different focus.  His world is black and white now. There are no gray areas. He's decisive and sure; he's focused and intent.  Right is right and wrong is wrong and he's prepared to live with the consequences of either. He goes in with his eyes wide open, tells you the truth, and does the right thing no matter what.

I am glad that justice has been served in the death of Osama Bin Laden.  I am glad for all the families who lost loved ones on that September day. I'm glad for all the service men and women - and their families - who have served, fought and sacrificed to bring him to justice.  And I am glad for my Mike.

And, deep in my "mother heart" I am acutely aware that I will never, ever get over my son going off to war. I am forever changed.