Book Review: Jaded by Varina Denman

I’ve had this book sitting on my desk daring me to review it. Yes, I’ve been procrastinating. Not because I didn’t like it–I did–but because I’ve had a hard time figuring out where to get started. Jaded isn’t the kind of book you plow through in an evening and gush about to your friends as “the best book ever!” It’s a book that demands for the reader to take it slowly, think about the message, and savor each bite.

Basics first: Jaded is Ruthie’s story. When Ruthie was seven years old, her daddy left, the church threw her momma out, and her best friend joined the rest of the church in looking the other way. Thirteen years later, Ruthie is okay with God but doesn’t want much to do with his people. They’ve certainly never given her a reason to try. Then Dodd moves to town–a handsome young preacher who doesn’t know her history, doesn’t understand the way the town looks at her, and is determined that the gospel is big enough for everyone. But power brokers in the church oppose Dodd and Ruthie’s relationship as fiercely as her own mother does, and both of them have to make a choice. What do you do when you love God but aren’t sure the church is worth the trouble?

Jaded is a well-written book, but it’s not an easy read. Honestly, I find that refreshing. I love Christian fiction, but a lot of what’s on the market is brain candy. Fun, light, sweet romance mixed with a little spiritual truth all wrapped up in a  happy ending. There’s a place for that, but sometimes you want something savory to go with the sweet. Jaded is that something different. It’s powerfully written. You can taste the west Texas grit in the air and wouldn’t be surprised to discover Ruthie is your checker next time you got to the grocery store. But part of the power of the story is that Jaded demands for you to engage with it and think–not just about the book, but about the uncomfortable truths it demands we face.

The biggest struggle Ruthie has on her journey toward God is her relationship with the church. It’s an ugly thing thing when the church becomes the stumbling stone, but it happens more than we’d like to think. Ruthie’s story makes that personal. One of the things Jaded forces is to confront is that sometimes that judgmental holier-than-thou voice is what the church shows to the world. And yet, sometimes what we judge is what we become. Over the course of the novel, Ruthie has to face up to her own judgments about the church and about others and has to let go of her protective hardness to open herself up to love. Sin, judgment, and forgiveness are powerful themes woven through the book. You may find yourself agreeing with Ruthie that God’s people are a faulty, ugly, sticky mess–but we fit right in.

So who should read Jaded? If you enjoy women’s fiction and like stories with depth and complexity, Jaded is a great choice. It would also be a good book club choice. It’s an award-winning novel, there’s plenty to talk about, and a discussion guide is included. The sequel to Jaded, Justified, came out in June. It’s on my to-read list. I’d recommend putting Jaded on yours.

To learn more about the book and the author, check out Varina Denman’s blog and read her posts on Jaded and Justified.

I received a free copy of this book to review through The Blog Spot. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.



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Confessions of a Control Freak, pt. 1

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I hate cruise control.

Really. I hate it. I absolutely loathe it. I appreciate the theory–cruise down the highway at a nice steady speed without having to fear flashing red lights in your rear-view mirror. It makes perfect sense, but if I’m behind the wheel I want my foot on the gas pedal right where it’s supposed to be. When the cruise is on, I can’t shake the feeling that the car is driving itself. It makes me feel like I’m not in control–and I hate that feeling.

Confession:  I’m a bit of a control freak. I come by it naturally. On the DISC performance inventory, I’m almost equal on C and D personality traits. That would be “conscientious” and “dominance.”  It’s what one DISC specialist cheerfully called “the heart attack profile.” I’m the person with a million ideas who knows how to get them all done perfectly. If you’ve got a project that needs creative solutions with quality results, I’m your girl.

The problem is that my inner drive to see things done right can devolve into micromanaging and nitpicking other people’s work. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Being controlling? Not so much. Having high standards and desiring to see things done well are great qualities, but when we let those desires push us to controlling other people, they tend to push back.

If I’m going to be totally honest, that inner need for control doesn’t always come from a desire to see things done well. Sometimes it stems from darker places. Pride. Fear. A lack of trust in God’s sovereignty. And one huge problem is that if I’m trying to control others, I’m restricting their freedom and power to hear God’s voice and act on it for themselves. If you want people to succeed, you’ve also got to give them the freedom to fail. That can get scary.

So what do you do when your inner control freak rears its head? The thing that helps me most is remembering who’s really in charge. God is sovereign. I’m not.

Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

No matter what happens in my life, God’s love for me will not be shaken. God laid the foundations of the earth and stretched out the heavens with a word. My efforts to control my life are like throwing my arms around a dust pile and trying to keep the wind from blowing it away. I can’t do it. Trying to take control of my world and the people around me to keep bad things from happening is only setting me up for stress and failure. Striving for excellence is great, but it’s no magic talisman against the problems of the world. Accidents happen. Equipment breaks. People forget things, have other priorities or make mistakes. Sometimes I make mistakes. (More often than I’d like to admit). All my efforts can’t stop the world from shaking. But when the ground trembles, God’s love for me still stands firm.

Silencing your inner control freak starts by increasing your confidence in God’s love. God is good. He loves us, and he is in control. We can trust him enough to let go.



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Ananias and Saul: The Story Starts With a Disciple

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There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. How could such a short line be so powerful a pivot point? God was writing a new chapter in the story of salvation, and God does what he always does.

He started with a disciple.

We don’t know much about Ananias. Paul tells us later that Ananais was a pious man, well respected by the Jews (Acts 22:12). But at this first moment when he enters the story at stage left, Acts only gives us the most important part of information about Ananias.

Ananias was a disciple.

Disciple. The word carried weight in the New Testament world–more than the hashtag kind of force we sometimes give it today, like it belongs in a Twitter bio. Ananias: Faithful Jew, Christ-follower, #disciple. Go Damascus! Being a disciple meant something. A disciple was first and foremost a learner, but it was more than that. Disciples weren’t just students who dutifully attended lectures three times a week and scribbled test answers in blue books. Disciples walked in relationship with their master. They learned from him because they were with him. Jesus’ disciples were those who submitted themselves to his Lordship, conformed to Christ’s example, and participated in his kingdom mission.

Ananias was that kind of a disciple.

 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:11-15).

Ananias had a relationship with God that enabled him to not only hear from God but also dialogue about what he heard. Ananias knew God’s request carried risk. Go to Saul–Saul who breathed out threats against the church; Saul who had held coats for those who stoned Stephen to death; Saul who was willing to arrest both men and women who followed the Way–go to that Saul? God doesn’t expect unquestioning obedience; he expects faith that springs from our relationship with him. Ananias had a relationship with God that allowed him to question. He also had a relationship with God that allowed him to trust. And so Ananias did what God had asked him to do.

Ananias was a disciple.

We know the rest of the story. Ananias went to Saul. Ananias prayed for the same man who would gladly have thrown him and his family into prison if God hadn’t intervened. Scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and a man who had fallen to his knees as a persecutor of the church got up as a proclaimer of the gospel. God had turned the page on the a new chapter in salvation history: Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul’s story started with a disciple.

It’s what God always does.  When God gets ready to do a new thing, he looks for one who is willing. One who is listening; someone who is willing to talk, willing to trust, willing to act in faith. God looks for an Abraham, a David, an Esther, a Ruth. God looks for me. He looks for you. He looks for a disciple.

If we want to be used by God, we have to be people God can use. We have to be disciples. We have to cultivate the kind of relationship with God that allows us to hear his voice, question, and trust even when faith gets risky. We do that by building our own histories with God as we pursue him daily, encountering God in his word and seeking to live life in his presence. We become disciples by being with our master. Then, one day, when God picks up the pen and turns the page for a new part of the story, he speaks our names. And we’re ready.

Because when God does a new thing, he starts with a disciple.

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Gay Marriage is Legal. How Should the Church Respond?

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Brothers and sisters in Christ—and I use those words intentionally, because I want to be clear on who this post is for. I know many of you are troubled over the Supreme Court’s establishment of gay marriage. Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are simply grieved. But this is not a new problem for us. In the church we have long struggled with the tension between deeply loving people and the refusal to endorse sin. We’ve dealt with it as divorce rates have skyrocketed. We’ve grappled with it as we’ve watched our youth sign their True-Love-Waits pledges, graduate from high school, and move in with their boyfriends and girlfriends. We’ll continue to wrestle with it now that gay marriage is the law of the land. How should we respond? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a few suggestions:

1. Be at peace. Our God still reigns. We know the end of the story: the Kingdom triumphs. Jesus is Lord—no law, regime, or swing of popular opinion can change that. God’s sovereignty was sure when Daniel walked the streets of Babylon. God reigned when Paul sewed tents and preached the gospel under Rome’s long shadow. God reigned for Corrie ten Boom and William Wilberforce and Jim Elliott and Adoniram Judson and all those who have gone before us in the Lord. Do not worry; neither be afraid. God reigns, and our trust is in him.

2. Speak with compassion. Colossians tells us to let our conversation be seasoned with grace (4:6). Sadly, we as church have too often failed to speak with grace to and about the LGBTQ community. In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Butterfield shares this story about her encounter with a lesbian friend shortly after Rosaria’s own conversion:

I told her that my heart breaks for her isolation and shame and asked her why she didn’t share her struggle with anyone in her church. She said: “Rosaria, if people in my church really believed that gay people could be transformed by Christ, they wouldn’t talk about us or pray about us in the hateful way that they do” (Kindle loc 565).

Ouch. Does our conversation about the gay community reflect our belief in Christ’s sanctifying and transforming power? If the gay community thinks the church hates them, can we be honest enough to admit that at times we have spoken like we do? As we move forward in the coming weeks and months, may we season our speech with grace and reflect God’s heart for all those he loves—including the gay community.

3. Be the body. We are the body of Christ. We are meant to be hospitals for the broken, ministering Christ’s healing to a sin-sick world. We can’t shirk that responsibility when it comes to the gay community. If a man in your church struggles with pornography, he can confess it to his men’s group and find accountability and support. Where does he go if he is attracted to men but wants to be faithful to his wife? Is there a safe space for the teenager who finds himself more turned on by his teammates in the locker room than the nude centerfold they’re passing around? What about the couple who sits in worship holding back tears because their daughter came home from college and told them she thinks she may be a lesbian? Can we be the body of Christ to them?

Let’s also not pretend that celibacy is an easy road. In the past few months I’ve read the stories of several gay and lesbian believers—some with whom I agree with where they’ve landed theologically and some with whom I don’t. There is a common thread of deep loneliness that runs through many of their stories. If we are going to teach—rightly—that the only God-ordained channels for sexual intimacy are celibacy or male/female monogamous marriage, we need to be family for those who have to create their own.

4. Live at peace. Paul was no stranger to a hostile culture. He had seen Jesus crucified. He himself had been beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. He had seen both riots and revivals. Yet he still wrote to believers living in the heart of Rome’s power and exhorted them to respect their government and live at peace with all (Romans 12:18; 13:1). If Paul challenged citizens of imperial Rome in this way, should we do any less? As far as it is in our power, let us be at peace. Don’t pick fights; drop ridiculous rhetoric about secession and impeaching the Supreme Court; don’t give way to fearmongering and alarmism. Serve. Love. Be at peace. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

5. Be true to your convictions. It is possible to faithfully love people and faithfully follow God’s word. That doesn’t mean decisions are always easy. What will you do when a lesbian couple wants to attend your church’s marriage retreat? How will you respond when a gay couple wants to bring their adopted child for baby dedication? When a member of the gay community accepts Christ and comes for baptism? Is it different from how we respond if it’s a college student living with his girlfriend, or a senior adult couple who consider themselves married but haven’t made it official to protect their Social Security benefits? As church, we will need to wrestle with these questions in the days to come. Our actions convey our true beliefs about God and people. We believe that God is holy. We believe that God is love. One side of the path falls off to legalism and judgment; the other to universalism and compromise. We need wisdom to keep our words and deeds true to the gospel, especially as we minister to those struggling with sexual sin.

I want to be true to my faith. I also want to love people. I don’t believe those two goals are incompatible. The cross breaks the power of canceled sin–all sin. Christ redeems. Let’s live and speak like we believe it.


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Review and Giveaway: The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents

Sometimes you just need a reset button.

When your phone or device freezes, you know what to do: reset. Turn it off, wait 30 seconds, and turn it back on. Presto. The app resets, and you have a fresh start.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do that in parenting, too?

Seasons of parenting can make us feel stuck. Maybe you’ve got an active three-year old who seems to have made his goal in life pitting his will against yours. Maybe you’ve got a daughter who rolls her eyes at every word you say. Maybe your kids are struggling with something and your momma heart aches at not being able to fix it for them. Maybe you just want to inject some vigor back into prayers for your family that have started to feel a little stale and routine.

Praise can be our reset button.

God inhabits the praises of his people. I’ve found that praise can be one of the surest ways to change the atmosphere of our home. There are those days when nothing seems like it’s going right–including my attitude. But if I pause to turn on my praise and worship playlist it doesn’t take long before the atmosphere seems to lift. I sing a little, the kids start singing along, and suddenly we remember that we really all do like each other. Praise gets our eyes off our situation and puts them on God. Sometimes that perspective shift is all we need.

That atmosphere-changing quality of praise is what Becky Harling helps us explore in The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents
The 30 Day Praise Challenge is just that: a guided challenge to spend twenty minutes a day for thirty days praising God for the work he is doing in your child’s life. The first fifteen days focus on us as parents, and the second fifteen days focus on our children. Each day’s praise guide includes an invitation to praise, scriptures to meditate on, a list of a few songs to listen to, a guided prayer, and a journaling prompt. An index provides a list of songs to download, or you can access them through the author’s Spotify or YouTube playlists.

In addition to the 30 Day Praise Guide, the last section of the book has suggestions for taking it further. There are some great lists of ways to praise God using his qualities and names. There are also some solid sections on special concerns such as praising God in the midst of grief, praising God when you and your spouse disagree over parenting issues, and lifting up a mantle of praise over children whose parents are in ministry, adopted children, and children of divorce. I’ve really enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it to any parent who wants to find a fresh way of praying for their children.

And guess what? I’ve got a giveaway copy for ya:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a free copy of this book through The Blog Spot. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not guaranteed to give a positive review.

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Reminders of Another World

I am at a Spiritual Formations retreat this week. Today, as we paused to reflect on the Word and contemplated the different ways we hear God’s voice I was reminded of how easy it is to rush through our lives and forget we are citizens of a greater kingdom. I wrote about this a little a while back. Today, I’d like to invite you to remember with me that we belong to another world.

 

There’s something about a mountain that gets your attention.

I lived in Seattle for about three years after graduating from college.  It was a different world for this Texas girl.  There was rain, for one thing.  And trees.  And tulips in the spring.  I could drive down to a beach near my apartment, sit on the beach, and see mountains across Puget Sound.

One of the things I never got used to was seeing Mount Rainer looming over the freeway.  On clear days it felt like you could reach out and touch it.  I’d forget sometimes it was there.  I’d be sitting there, stuck in traffic, drumming on the steering wheel and look up—boom.  It was right there in front of me:  a majestic mountain, reminding me that there was a world outside the boundaries of concrete and steel.

Kingdom living is like that. Click here to read the rest of the post.

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If I Forgive Her, Do I Still Have to Be Her Friend?

friend

“If I forgive her, do I still have to be her friend?”

I’ve heard it asked on multiple occasions from multiple people. Daughters struggling to relate to their moms as adults; women who feel betrayed by a friend; women in ministry struggling with the actions of people in their congregations. Figuring out how we move forward in relationships after conflict can be the hardest part of forgiveness.

There aren’t hard and fast rules for this. Sometimes it’s not safe or healthy for us to continue in relationship with this person. Sometimes we have to readjust our boundaries and allow people less access to our lives and hearts. And honestly, sometimes we need to acknowledge that part of the problem in the relationship is us. There are times I need to be honest enough to admit I have taken offense in a situation that is disproportionate to what really happened. Often, those offenses highlight something in me that I need to deal with before the Lord. It’s only after I’ve done business with the Father in those areas that I can honestly look at the relationship and move forward appropriately.

Here are some principles I find helpful:

    • Forgiveness takes one person. Reconciliation takes two. Forgiveness is a matter of us taking care of our own hearts before God. We can forgive someone who is no longer living. We can forgive someone who is not repentant. We can forgive someone without telling them that we’ve forgiven them. Forgiveness does not require the other person’s participation or repentance. Reconciliation does. While we always desire reconciliation, reconciliation is not always possible.
    •  Love and forgiveness are free. Trust and respect are earned. We can offer love and forgiveness to everyone because of the cross. When we show love and forgiveness, we are reflecting the grace God has shown us. Love and forgiveness are unconditional. Trust and respect are earned. I may forgive the person who embezzled church funds, but I’m not going to make him church treasurer. I can love and forgive the friend who gossiped about me, but it may be a long time before I share a secret with her again. When trust has been broken, it takes time to rebuild that relationship. Redefining boundaries to acknowledge that loss of trust can be necessary and appropriate. 
  • Boundaries are necessary for our emotional and spiritual health. We can offer grace and love to everyone, but not everyone should get access to our inner core. Jesus had many disciples, but there were only twelve he called to be with him. Of those twelve, only three were invited to share intimate moments like the Transfiguration and raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. We can be honest with everyone, but we don’t have to be intimate with everyone. We allow our spouses, children, best friends, casual acquaintances, and strangers different levels of access to our hearts. Sometimes in the aftermath of conflict we need to reassess the level of intimacy we have allowed someone.
  • People and relationships are valuable. People are not disposable. Yes, sometimes we need to redefine or reassess boundaries, but we need to be cautious about cutting people out of our lives. It may be necessary to limit contact with an individual for our own safety and health, but those situations should be rare. If we run at the first sign of conflict, we miss out on the blessings of intimacy earned by weathering storms together. Friendships and family are worth fighting for. We need to remember that sometimes we are the ones in need of grace. How would you want the other person to respond if the situation were reversed?

Botttom line, we need to ask God to show us the next steps. If God throws open the door for reconciliation, rejoice in that. If reconciliation isn’t possible, ask God to show you what appropriate boundaries and responses look like in your situation. You may need to periodically revisit that question. But be open to surprises. God does amazing things when he redeems.



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Forgiveness: Trading Bitterness for Blessing

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Bitterness festers. It’s like that sore tooth you can’t quit poking. You know it’s sore and swollen, but you keep nudging it with your tongue, trying to see if it still hurts. Unforgiveness can be the same way. Unchecked, unforgiveness hardens and grows, sprouting judgment, accusations, and bitterness.

We know this. And yet blessing our enemies still seems like a step too far. Isn’t it enough that we’ve forgiven and trusted God for justice? Do we actually have to pray blessings on them?

We bless our enemies because blessing is the antidote to bitterness. Blessing keeps our souls from going sour; it throws open the windows so the wind of the Spirit can rush in. Blessing is the final step on our road to forgiveness and healing.

Why do we bless our enemies?

1. Because Jesus told us to.

Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). It doesn’t come naturally to us. Like forgiveness, praying for those who persecute us is something we can only do by the Spirit’s power. The world tells us to curse our enemies and repay them blow for blow. Jesus tells us to bless them. Counter-intuitive? Yes. But blessing our enemies is actually a tool in our own healing. It changes us. We cannot pray for someone and maintain bitterness in our hearts toward them. Praying for our enemies opens the door for God to heal our own wounded hearts.

2. Because prayer is powerful.

Prayer makes a difference. Sometimes prayer can feel like a last resort–I can’t do anything else, so I might as well pray. But God tells us that the prayer of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16). Prayer is warfare. Prayer brings the Spirit’s power into our circumstances, manifesting the kingdom among us. We may not always be able to go charging into conflict on our own, but in prayer we can confront the spiritual realities behind our struggles and see transformation.

3. Because blessing overcomes evil with good.

If we return wrong for wrong, all we get is a bigger mess. We don’t overcome evil with evil. We overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). Continuing in attitudes of judgment and accusation toward others does nothing but harden our hearts and keep us trapped in the cycle of resentment. Blessing breaks the cycle and allows God to use us as agents of transformation.

Blessing our enemies is about agreeing with God’s intentions toward them. It’s not about asking God to shower them with rainbow colored unicorns. Instead, we are able to bless those who have hurt us by asking God to show us his heart and purposes for those individuals, then agreeing with those things in prayer. It might look like this:

  • Lord, give him a repentant heart.
  • Help  her speak with kindness.
  • I can only imagine that he’s doing this because he has been deeply hurt. Heal those broken places, Father.
  • Give her the willingness to change.
  • Be merciful toward her, Father.
  • Lord, don’t let him hurt anyone else.
  • Make his heart tender toward you, Jesus. Sensitize his spirit to hear your voice.
  • Help her see and speak truth, Lord.
  • May he fulfill the destiny you created him for.
  • Jesus, overwhelm her with your love.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask God what he wants you to pray for this person. There may be a thought that comes to mind or a verse of Scripture may jump out to you during your devotions. Simply pray what God shows you. And remember that forgiveness is a layered process. You may not be there yet. Sometimes being willing to be willing is the best place to start. But there are always blessings in obedience. When we pray blessings on our enemies, it opens the door for God to bless us.

This post is the last of a five post series on forgiveness:

5 Steps to Forgiveness

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.

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Forgiveness: Giving Up Revenge

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“He hit me!”

“She hit me first!!!”

No one has to teach us to get revenge. It’s born into us. We instinctively know that debts require payment. It’s justice. Yet our sin nature twists that desire so we look for payback instead of reparation. It’s not just that we want them to pay–we want to make them pay.

We want to punish them.

We want to hit back.

Forgiveness requires us to lay aside our right to revenge.

Two things are important to understand:

  1. Laying aside revenge does not mean we stop seeking justice. Forgiveness does not remove consequences. It does not mean that we don’t report a crime, decline to press charges, or refuse to testify in court. When a person’s actions have harmed us, themselves, or someone else, it is right for us to take the steps necessary so that their actions can be addressed by the appropriate authority. The difference is that we take action to protect others and do what is right–not because we want to do them wrong.
  2. Laying aside revenge also does not mean putting ourselves in vulnerable positions. Nothing in Scripture requires us to expose ourselves to harm. Laying aside revenge means trusting God to bring justice. It does not mean subjecting yourself to continued abuse.

Giving up our right to revenge means that we accept the sufficiency of the cross. Jesus death on the cross paid the price for all sin–my sin, your sin, and the sins people commit against us. Forgiveness means that we stop demanding repayment. Jesus’ payment is enough.

Relinquishing revenge also means recognizing that justice is God’s job, not our own. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Again, this doesn’t mean we don’t cooperate with the appropriate authority as needed to resolve the situation. Law enforcement, church discipline, and logical consequences are all tools God uses to bring about justice. Giving up revenge means that we trust God to be the just judge he has declared himself to be. We don’t personally have to extract our pound of flesh from people. God has declared that justice is his job. We can trust him to do it.

 

Giving up our right to revenge means that we stop looking for payback or ways to get even. That might mean:

  • We stop fantasizing about giving someone the church-lady smackdown
  • Refraining from gossip
  • Not giving people the silent treatment or the cold shoulder
  • Not attempting to get back at them or looking for ways to get even
  • Recognizing our passive-aggressive behaviors for what they are and openly working through conflict
  • Being honest with the appropriate people–not trashing them to your whole circle of acquaintances

As we look to God for our healing we also trust him to bring justice. We may have to cooperate in that process, but we recognize that justice is God’s job–not ours. Forgiveness means admitting that revenge is not ours to take.

This post has been part four of a five-part series on forgiveness.

  1. Acknowledge the pain.
  2. Invite Jesus in to heal.
  3. Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
  4. Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
  5. Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.

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Six Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Child Protection Policy

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With summer almost upon us, churches are gearing up for VBS, youth camp, and summer children’s activities. Before you stock up on marshmallows for chubby bunny, change the oil in the church van, and assemble that grass hut out of cardboard boxes and paper bags, there’s something else you need to think about.

Are your church’s child protection policies in place?

This is not fun stuff to talk about. But it is necessary, especially in light of recent events. Many of you who follow this blog are ministry wives or are in church leadership. If your church already has child protection policies in place, great. Follow them. If you don’t, establishing a robust child protection policy needs to be a priority. I know it’s not fun. No one wants to ask Mrs. Cindy Lou Who who has served in the nursery for 70 years to all of a sudden do a background check. But we must. Child protection policies keep your church, your workers, and your children safe.

Here are 6 reasons your church needs a child protection policy.

  1. Because Satan is evil.

    Satan’s goal is always our destruction, and children are not exempt. If he has the opportunity to attack a child through molestation or abuse, Satan sees it as fair game. And if he gets a chance to make that abuse happen on the church’s watch, it’s just bonus points. Hitting a family, a child, and a church all in one stroke? That’s a good day for the devil, and we need to be on our guard to make sure it doesn’t happen.

  2. Because abuse can happen anywhere.

    I know we all think it won’t happen at our church. We know everyone. We’ve got good people. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen here. Those are dangerous thoughts. Abuse is not restricted to certain zip codes. Abuse can happen anywhere a predator has access to vulnerable children–including your church. We cannot be so naive as to think it can’t happen to us. See point number 1.

  3.  Because abusers don’t look like the boogeyman.

    I don’t want to pile on the Duggars. I can only imagine the agony of recognizing that one of your children has molested another, though it is concerning that the abuse was not properly reported at the time it took place. Josh Duggar says this inescusable behavior is behind him. For his sake and the sake of his family I hope it is so. Josh recieved counseling. I hope his victims also received the counseling and support they needed to heal.

    The Duggar story reminds us that abusers don’t look like the boogeyman. A typical abuser is not the creepy guy down the street or a trench-coat wearing stranger. Abusers can look like a family member. They can look like coaches, camp counselors, or Sunday School teachers. Abusers are able to gain trust. That’s what gives them the opportunity to perpetuate their abuse. We have to let go of this idea that we’ll know them when we see them. We don’t.

  4. Because child protection policies protect your workers.

    Every report of abuse must be taken seriously. Let me say that again. Every report of abuse must be taken seriously. If we suspect or are informed about abuse, we are legally and ethically obligated to report it. And yet, we know that sometimes people lie. Sometimes people lie because they know churches have liability insurance and they’re hoping for a settlement. Sometimes people lie because they’re mad and want to get at you. Sometimes they lie because they’re covering up their own actions. Shaken baby syndrome? Let’s blame the nursery worker. Good child protection policies such as having two adults in the room at all times protect your workers from false accusations.

  5. Because child protection policies protect your church.

    Child protection policies protect your church in several ways. Robust child protection polices prevent opportunities for abuse to take place and make your church a less attractive target for an abuser. Your liability insurance company may require your church to adopt a child protection policy to ensure coverage. Also, even if your church has liability insurance your church can still be vulnerable if you do not have a child protection policy in place. Our church was advised that if we did not have a child protection policy our trustees could be sued individually if abuse took place. Adopting and following a good child protection policy can reduce your church’s risk of liability.

  6. Because child protection policies protect children.

    Jesus has entrusted our church’s children into our care. Church should be a safe place for our children. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure that our children are protected when they walk through our doors. A good child protection policy creates an environment where our children are safe but abusers are not. By eliminating opportunities for abuse and putting abusers at risk of discovery, we can make our churches an unwelcome place for those who would harm our children.

    Having a good child protection policy in place is a matter of due diligence. At the minimum, a child protection policy should include background checks for all workers, a two adult policy, and abuse prevention training for preschool, children’s and youth workers. Training should include types of abuse, signs of abuse, appropriate touch, and how to report abuse. Your denomination or state convention can guide you in finding appropriate resources.

What policies does your church have to protect children? What resources would you suggest?



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