downloadOctober has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the week of the 20th to 24th is designated as “Action Week.”  So since it is October 22, I am taking action.

I am sometimes asked some hard questions like, “How do I know if I am in abusive relationship?”  or “My friends are concerned that I am being abused by my husband, but if he doesn’t hit me is it really abuse?”

Other times I get really difficult and painful emails that ask things like, “I have to get out, but God hates divorce. What can I do?” or “Am I sinning by leaving my abusive husband?”

I am the first to admit that I am not the right person to come to if you are the victim of abuse, but I will do my best to point you to the right people, and I will give you an ear to hear, and a shoulder to cry on.  And as you read this, please remember that I am not a pastor, a counsellour, or a subject matter expert, I am just one Christian Dad who cares about the victims of abuse.  I am writing a term paper on domestic violence, and have included some of my research as well.

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I guess we should start at the beginning by defining what it is, because domestic violence is so much more than just physically assaulting someone.

So what is Domestic Violence? 

Justin Holcomb, at Reformation 21, states that,
“Domestic violence” is used as an overarching term to encompass a large number of behaviors–physical, verbal, and psychological–that violate the well-being of an individual and his or her ability to act.  
Historically, “domestic violence” was mostly associated with physical violence. “Domestic violence” today, however, has a much broader legal definition, which includes sexual, psychological, verbal, and economic abuse.
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling, or abusive behavior that is used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound an intimate partner. 
As such, domestic violence can take many forms, including willful intimidation, physical assault, sexual assault, battery, stalking, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, economic control, psychological abuse, spiritual abuse, isolation, any other abusive behavior, and/or threats of such. Of course, threats of abuse can be as frightening as the abuse itself, particularly, when the victim knows the perpetrator may carry out the threats.

Domestic violence includes the establishment of abusive control and power over another person through fear, isolation, and/or intimidation. Abusive behavior often is thought of as direct “hands-on” infliction of pain but also includes implied threat or actual physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, including withholding finances and medical equipment. (Holcomb)

Domestic abuse is the focus of this article, but please note that abuse can happen almost anywhere.  For instance, I have had abusive bosses and friends.  We sometimes just think of them as jerks, or overbearing poopy faces who just don’t know how to be nice, but they may actually be abusers. We do well to recognize the cycle of abuse:
im_cycle
This diagram illustrates the six phases in the typical cycle of abuse, which can be scaled back to three phases, as not all 6 are always present: Tension, Crisis and Calm. Justin Holcomb writes,
First, there is the tension phase. During the tension phase, the victim often feels like they are walking on eggshells. This stage may last for weeks or even months. It is a high-stress time when communication breaks down, and the victim senses a growing danger. Many times, the victim’s family denies, minimizes, and/or blames external factors for the growing instability in the relationship.
 
The second phase, which Walker calls the crisis phase, is easily recognizable. During this stage the abuser often “snaps”. This kind of crisis can last anywhere from two hours to 24 hours, or even span over several days. At this point the abuser becomes explosive, unpredictable, and often times violent. The victims are blamed for bringing this on themselves, and in order to survive they often accommodate the demands of the abuser. It is also true that victims may escape during the crisis phase, yet often return sometime during the next phase.
 
The third phase is called the calm phase. This stage is the “calm” that follows the outburst of stage two. Here, the abuser may be extremely remorseful, seek forgiveness, and promise to change. He may display kind and loving behavior as indicators that he has turned a new leaf. In response to such “repentance”, the victim’s family and children may serve as caretakers in order to keep the peace.
 
But it is a cycle, and therefore the victim eventually finds herself on the tension-crisis-calm rollercoaster all over again. In time the abuser begins to fantasize about abusing the victim again. In his mind he obsesses, thinking about what she’s done to wrong him and how he’ll make her pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality. Once the abuser decides to act, he will set the victim up and put his plan in motion. When she fails in some action, behavior, or response (as she is bound to, since it’s a trap), he convinces himself that he is perfectly justified in punishing her.  (Holcomb)

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So what about the abuser?

If they are anything, abusers are master manipulators (Johnson). They can twist things to suit their purposes, and they appear very convincing to the casual onlooker, those who are outside of the situation…and he may even appear convincing to those more intimately involved… at first.   When confronted with a sin they often will appear to be repentant or remorseful, however abusers are masters at minimizing their actions and are experts at subtly deflecting blame off of themselves and on to their victims or others around them (Johnson).  Justin Holcomb states:

Abusers are exceptionally good at deceptively wielding control. They possess a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over their victim. They may employ domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, and denial.

 The abuser recasts reality to make the victim think they did something to spur him on, that the victim was too passive or too demanding, or that they are somehow, in some way, to blame for the abuse they are experiencing. As a result of such crafty manipulation, some abuse victims may be so confused by the dynamics of their relationship–and understandably so–that they need to hear stories and common experiences from others in order to make sense of their own. Some find it helpful to identify domestic abuse by understanding the common profiles of abusers and recognizing their partner among them.
 
Victims often need help in “breaking the spell” of the repeated and perpetual manipulation imposed on them by their abusers. Here is a question that helps in clarifying things: Does your partner do something deliberately and repeatedly that puts you down or thwarts your plans? If the person who is supposed to be providing love, support, and guidance is keeping you in a situation where you are constantly made to feel inferior, you aren’t in a healthy relationship. (Holcomb)

Even when the victim escapes, often the abuser will persist in the cycle of abuse, desperately looking for ways to regain control. The abuser will fantasize about ways to “get back” at the victim, broadening the scope to include loved ones of the victim or anyone who may be associated.  When we look at the mind of an abuser, according to Clinical therapist, John Taylor, ” Most are seen as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” because of the stark contrast in their public and private selves. When we look into the mind and behaviors, the DSM-IV gives us some diagnostic criteria/diagnosis for this population.

Diagnosis of Abusers/Batterers

  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder, (deceitfulness, repeatedly lying, use of aliases or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.)
  2. Borderline Personality Disorder (a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships by alternating between extreme idealizations and devaluation.)
  3. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.)

When we look at the profile/characteristics of batterers/abusers we can clearly see how this diagnosis will be found in this population. It’s important to be careful with this diagnosis because many batterers will look to use as an excuse for their behavior. (Taylor)”

According to one study, “Families that experience domestic violence are often socially isolated and have little to no contact with others outside the family or home. The family members tend to keep to themselves and have few or no friends or relatives with whom they regularly interact. Social isolation prevents victims from seeking help and allows the abuser to exert more control and establish rules for the relationship. Abuse continues and worsens because the violence occurs in private with few consequences for the abuser (Hamberger et al).”  If you are concerned about domestic violence look for disengagement from loved ones, from the Church, and isolation in general.  One the easiest ways for an abuser to assert his dominance and control his victim is to isolate them (Jecker). Moving away from loved ones, skipping church, switching churches, avoiding family functions, and so on are all indicators of possible domestic violence.

Domestic Abuse in the Church

Unfortunately, of all the times I have been contacted about domestic violence, it has always been the wife of a man who claims to be a believer. Yes, abuse happens in the church, whether you want to believe it or not. And the really sad thing is that the church as a whole has a woeful track record of helping victims of domestic abuse.  Often we simply dismiss it as an overly sensitive wife, or we think that the wife must have done something to set him off. Or we just give thoughtless pat answers, and we prescribe Ephesians 5 and say, “You should submit…”  I address the kind of abuse that stems from a misuse of Ephesians 5 in the article Is Your Wife Your Doormat Or Your Beloved?. If you dispense  such advice to an abused woman, be careful, you may be well meaning, but you may also be unintentionally aiding an abuser in destroying her.

Some would argue that the wife should endure the abuse for a time as per Matthew 5:39.  It is true, that as Christians we are called to endure suffering for Christ’s sake. But who determines how long the victim should endure?  Is 5 years long enough?  10 years?  15? Consider how long most couples are together before abuse is revealed…at what point would you say that her season of enduring is of a sufficient length? Do you want her to begin a new season of enduring after the abuse is revealed? I should hope not. And should she endure at all if it is physical or sexual abuse? Those are criminal offences. While turning the other cheek is a Biblical response, this is not the only path open to Christians who are abused. john piper states that “the Bible also warrants fleeing. John Bunyan wrestled with these two strands in the Bible of how to deal with persecution:

He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11­–12; Jeremiah stood, 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood,John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Acts 20:22–23. . . .Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word, Matt. 10:23. (Seasonable Counsels, or Advice to Sufferers, in the Works of John Bunyan, volume 2, page 726) (Piper).”

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As the Church, we are the Body of Christ. So we should be not only be aware of the problem of domestic violence, we should care so deeply about those members of our Body who have been, or who are being hurt, by an abuser, that we actually feel their pain. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12, that we are all members of one Body and if one member hurts, we all hurt. The church should be a welcoming place of help and healing for the victims of abuse, not a place of hiding these evil atrocities and coddling the abusers. We should stand up for and defend those who are abused.

Each case is different, and each case should be approached with much prayer, treated with extreme care. In all cases of abuse, I suggest that the victim go to a pastor or an elder, and a professional counsellour.  If the abuse is physical or sexual, by law, police must be involved. If you are a victim of a prolonged pattern of domestic abuse, whether it is physical, sexual, or emotional – you need to get out for your own safety and the safety of any children involved.   The sixth commandment certainly mandates that you are allowed protect yourself from harm. To be sure, leaving an abuser creates an unbiblical marriage relationship as married couples ought to live together. But the responsibility for this distortion of the marriage relationship falls completely on the abuser, not the victim who leaves. Let me be very clear about this, it is not a sin to protect yourself and your children from harm.  Even harm which comes from your husband’s hand. I am not necessarily condoning divorce, but separation is definitely the best course of action in the case of a prolonged pattern of abuse.

Don’t worry about the gossips.

Don’t worry about the abuser playing the victim in your leaving.

Don’t worry about retaliation from the abuser toward you or your loved ones.

Protect yourself and your kids.

While the victim should  get out to protect themselves from harm, I should clarify one thing. From a Biblical perspective, the door should never be fully closed on forgiveness and reconciliation. I am not saying to forgive and forget and just move right back in if the abuser has not shown evidence of genuine fruit of repentance. But, if the abuser confesses his sins, names them and calls them his own without deflecting any blame or minimizing his actions by blaming his victim or others, and if the abuser repents, turns from the sin to Christ, and seeks professional psychiatric help (often perpetrators of domestic violence have personality disorders),and real spiriitual accountability, and makes real amends, and shows by his life over a significant period of time that he is a new creature regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and as such displays genuine fruit of repentance,  then reconciliation may be possible and should be sought… and that door should not be closed prematurely by divorce.  I know that goes against the so called liberal logic of today which simply says, “Get out and run as far away as you can as fast as you can…” but I believe the Bible also teaches forgiveness for repentant sinners.

Now, I am also not naive…this world is a broken, sinful, messy place full of hurt and pain and irritating, confusing grey areas.

I am aware that abuse may scar the victim for life and that abuse may cause a permanent rupture in the marriage relationship. The victim may forgive a repentant abuser, but some hurts may never go away. No hurt is too big to forgive, but some hurts may be too big to forget. And in this broken world,  the consequence for the sin of abuse may be a permanently ruptured marriage. Who am I to judge a woman who cannot go back to the marriage bed with the man who tortured and tormented her for years?  I would pray for reconciliation with the deepest part of my soul, and I would recommend counselling in that situation, and an honest attempt at recovering what was lost, because, after all…God hates divorce, and Christ never gives up on his bride (us) as we daily abuse him through our weakness and sin.  And the power that raised Christ from the dead is living in all children of God, and if he can resurrect the Lord of the universe, then he can resurrect even a marriage that is dead and rotting because of past domestic violence. But this article is not about what happens after surviving the abuse, it is about what happens now.

Right now.

Right now, in the midst of domestic violence.

Right now when your prayers are drying up, and you tears are drying up, and you are a broken shell of the person you once were.

If you are in an abusive relationship, it is not your fault and you don’t deserve what is happening. If you have asked one of the questions I posted at the beginning of this article, you need to get help and get out to protect yourself.  But don’t get out alone…surround yourself with those who will help you and protect you – hopefully that includes your Church Body. Remember that ultimately God is your refuge.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.

 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
 He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

If you believe someone is the victim of Domestic Abuse, don’t turn the other way.  Don’t tell yourself that you are imaging things.  Privately take them aside and let them know of your concerns. Point out specifics to back up your concerns. Be there for them and tell them that you will be, whenever they are ready to talk. Remember to assure them that you will keep everything that is said in confidence and offer your help in any way they need it.

Keep in mind when you speak to a potential victim, that abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims – even when they are not around. Victims are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They will need help to get out, yet they usually have been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing (Smith & Segal).

 Look for these warning signs (Smith & Segal):

Capture

A final word to the perpetrator of Domestic Violence.  Stop.  Confess.  Repent. Seek psychiatric help. Seek spiritual accountability from a pastor.  There are consequences to sin, so if you have physically or sexually  harmed your loved ones, turn yourself in to the proper authorities. Get the help you need, and protect people from yourself.

Resources:

Hamberger, L., & Ambuel, B. (2014). Family violence and public health. Magill’S Medical Guide (Online Edition). 

Holcomb, Justin. (2014, October). “What is Domestic Violence?“, Reformation21.org. Retrieved October 20, 2014

Holcomb, Justin. (2014, October). “Those Suffering Domestic Violence“, Reformation21.org. Retrieved October 20, 2014

Holcomb, Justin. (2014, October). “Those Who Choose to Abuse“, Reformation21.org. Retrieved October 20, 2014

Johnson, M. P. (1995). “Patriarchal Terrorism and Common Couple Violence: Two Forms of Violence Against Women,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 57 : 283-94.

Malyadri, P. P. (2013). “Domestic Violence against Women Strategical remedies for its Causes and Consequences.” International Journal Of Information, Business & Management, 5(1), 97-108.

N. S. Jecker. (1993). “Privacy Beliefs and the Violent Family: Extending the Ethical Argument for Physician Intervention,” Journal of the American Medical Association 269, 776-780

Piper, John. (2012, December). Clarifying Thoughts on Wife Abuse. Desringgod.org. Retrieved October 21, 2014

Smith, Melinda. & Segal, Jane. (2014). Domestic Violence and Abuse. helpguide.org. Retrieved October 22, 2014.

Stewart, D., MacMillan, H., & Wathen, N. (2013). Intimate partner violence. Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne De Psychiatrie, 58(6), 1-15.

Taylor, J. (2013, February 5). Behind the Veil: Inside the Mind of Men “That Abuse” Domestic violence and unmasking the terror of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Psychology Today. Retrieved October 21, 2014.

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I have not had a radio in my car for about a year.  And my phone is so old that I can’t play music on it.  So I don’t have music to listen to on my hour long commute…each way…that is until last week when my car broke down.  We borrowed a van (thanks mom and dad D) and it had a radio.  I was in my glory.  Singing praises…but after 5 days and about 10 hours of driving…I was sick of the music! Hearing, “Praise you in this Storm” 7 times and “Blessed Be Your Name” 8 times…I like those songs…but really?  And most of the other songs are kinda fluffy.  Let’s be honest here, some of the songs have very weird romantic  undertones.  Like, the song “I Love the Way You love Me,” could be sung to a husband and played on regular radio! I began to long for the songs that really glorified God. I thought, what artists do I want to hear on the radio?  What follows is a list of ten artists I would like to hear on Christian radio.  It was very hard to narrow it down to 10 artists and it was very hard to narrow to a single song for each artist.  I I kind of counted down, but really this is in no particular order.

I could have called this post – Music I Like. :)

Disclaimer – I don’t listen to much radio – so if any of these artists are on Christian radio already, that is fantastic!

10: Adam Young (Owl City)…is not a CCM artist.  But judging from his version of In Christ Alone and this hymn…he should be.

9: Ghost Ship. A strange name for a Christian band, but this song is really catchy!  And it has good lyrics, their other stuff is good too.

8: Sufjan Stevens.   Sorry Jaydon Lavik…this is my “go to” version of Come Thou Fount.

7. Sons of Korah.  Psalms.  They sing Psalms.  Why is this not on the radio?

6. Citizens.  Upbeat group that does upbeat remakes of old hymns. Yes I know this one is not an old hymn.

5. Shai Lynne. OK I can’t stand rap and hip hop.  But the lyrics are fantastic.  Check out his song “False Teachers” where he calls out by name a number of prosperity teachers including Joel Osteen, Pal crouch, Joyce Meyer, and Benny Hinn. This will never be on CCM Radio.  Here is my favourite Shai Lynne song: All Consuming Fire

4. Soveriegn Grace. It’s Your Grace.  In The Valley is my favourite song by Sovereign Grace – the title track from the album based on the Puritan Prayers of the same name – but I have posted that a number of times on facebook already!  I love this group.

3. Indelible Grace.  Not really a group, but a rotating group of various members who come in and out.  Very reformed.  Very catchy.  Very nice to listen to listen too.

2. Dustin Kensrue.  My current favourite CCM artist.  And this is my favourite song by him. This is my favourite lyric written in the past  couple years.  That was a lot of favourite.

1. Shane and Shane.  Though you slay me.  Brilliant musicality, blended with the truth of God’s Word, and in this song also a clip of John Piper’s Reformed view of suffering.  Sermon and song should be blended more often in my humble opinion.  This is probably my favourite song right now.

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In the 1920’s and 1930’s there was a paramilitary group in Germany called the Sturmabteilung, known as the SA.  Or more commonly known as the “Brown Shirts.”  Founded in 1921, the SA played an instrumental role in Hitler’s rise to power, and the implementation of the Nazi Regime. They were Hitler’s “muscle” and they essentially committed violence against Jews and anyone who opposed the Nazi world view and ideals.  We all know the travesty that occurred at Hitler’s hand.  The methodical genocide of the Jews, the removal of religious liberty, freedom of speech and many other basic human rights.

Zoom forward to 2014.

October.

Houston, Texas.  And again we see religious liberty being challenged and undermined. But this time the shirts are not brown.  This time the shirts are rainbow coloured.  The Regenbogen-Hemd (Rainbow-shirts). And don’t get me started about how the liberals have taken  the sign of God’s Covenant of Common Grace with all people and turned it into a sign of pride for being homosexual.  Anyway, the liberal government has moved in to Houston’s mayoral office and are trying to oust any conservative Christian from the city, stick them in camps and burn them in ovens.  OK, they have not gone that far…yet.

For those still unaware of what happened, the city of Houston has subpoenaed all conservative churches in the area to hand over, “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

I can just see Hitler whining in his den and getting all ticked off at some group who did not agree with his ideals. Then sending in the brown-shirts to inspect their documents, and if they were Jew, anti-Nazi or anti-Hitler they were dealt with swiftly…  And don’t kid yourself…this is exactly what is happening here. Rainbow shirts have been sent to inspect the documents of the conservative Church. Funny thing is I am pretty sure that most of the sermons are available online. Maybe they should read all of them. Better safe than sorry, right? Pray that they read the faithful sermons and meet God in His mercy.

Oh and yes it seems I just compared  Mary Annise Parker to Hitler.  Is that unfair? Sue me.  Or whatever it is you liberals do.

Imagine if a conservative Republican Mayor attempted to subpoena Joel Osteen’s fluffy sermons! Shock and horror would rain down upon us from every major media outlet about our intolerance towards one of the nicest men in america.

Yet we are not tolerated.

We are hated.

And you took our rainbow.

Anyway.

My point is this.  We need to stand up now.  We need to stand beside the pastors who are being persecuted.  If we do not… If we simply hide away in our sanitized little Christian bubbles and close our eyes…. it will be here before long.

And it is coming.

If you are child of God…persecution is coming.  And it should not surprise you when it comes. Stand up now.  Fight for your liberty. Write your elected political leaders. Pray for the persecuted, pray for God’s hand.

Don’t let the Regenbogen-Hemd bully you.

I have some gay friends, and they know that I believe that the homosexual act is a sin.  But I love them and never condemn them. I just keep pouring the Gospel of Jesus onto them, a steady drip of grace from the tap that never runs out, and I pray that eventually they are all awash in the blood of Christ.  But it is a sin.  And I will never deny what the Bible says, so I wonder what will happen to me when this persecution finally comes? Well, they don’t have to subpoena any of my articles.  They are all here free for the reading.

SDG

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Just Follow Your Heart…

Posted: October 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

follow_your_heart__by_abiiii_x

Just follow your heart!

The sincere cry of western society today. Everyone says it.  All the “successful” athletes and pop stars say it, “Just follow your heart and you can be like me!” We even hear this message dipped in Christianese and preached from the pulpit of liberal Christianity by people like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers. The message is simple and appealing. They say things like, “God gave you a desire and you just need to follow it. you just need to believe in yourself and follow your heart.” It sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Of course your heart must want what is best for you, right? I mean all the Disney princesses follow their hearts into happy ever after right? And if you Google, “follow your heart,” there is no shortage of cutsey images and breathtaking scenery with the phrase. Just follow your heart! It sounds so good!

But.

Wait.

I am going to have to hit the pause button on this Disney movie. Sorry to ruin all the cotton candy good times here…

But your heart is a liar and if you follow it you are a fool.

Wow.

Whoa.

Where did that come from?

Buzz kill!

Liar? Fool? Those are strong words! Yeah but they are not my words. They are God’s…Jeremiah says,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

And Proverbs says,

“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”

Liar.

Fool.

Sorry to break it to you.

I can attest to those verses in my own life. I followed my heart into a world of sin and heartache, and no matter how much I tried to blame him… the devil didn’t make me do it. It was all me. My heart wanted what was evil, what was sinful, what was selfish. My heart told me that I would like those things, that those things would make me feel good, and everything would be better. It lied to me. But if I am completely honest, if it were not for the work of the Spirit in my life, I would still follow my heart into the depths of hell.

How can you say that? You are a Christian! Your heart is changed! Yes but not completely. My heart will only be made perfect when I am with my Lord and Saviour after this life. While I am here, my heart is not to be trusted. Neither was king David’s heart to be trusted. “The man after God’s own heart,” followed his own heart when he committed adultery and murder. Neither is your heart to be trusted.

Look at your heart.

Really look at it.

How many of you Christian guys follow Christ, long to serve him, and have devotions, but when you are tired, or in a time of distress you slip, stumble and fall into sin? Maybe you get drunk? Maybe you use porn? Or to use an example from a previous post, maybe when it is 3am, and the baby cries for the 5th time, and that curse word dribbles down your chin…What does that say about your heart? Should you follow it?

So please don’t follow your heart. I beg you. Don’t listen to that liar. Don’t be a fool. Instead, do the opposite. That is, be wise and listen to the truth. Proverbs 1:7 tells us,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

And psalm 119:160 says,

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

Seek Him. Run after wisdom. And then maybe your heart will be conformed to his. In that you will find true Joy and happiness…not in following your heart.

Adult Baptism

Posted: October 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

I received a number of comments from pastors, seminary students, and lay people,  in response to my article Repent, Believe, Be Catechised, Be Baptized. The most in depth was was written by Rev. Ken Weiske, who is a Missionary Pastor in Recife, Brazil, sent by the Canadian Reformed Church at Aldergrove. It is reprinted here with permission.  Read the Facebook Thread for context.

I was marked in a comment, so I feel obliged to say something now :) First of all, let me say that Rev. Anonymous beat me to it. Many of the Scriptural examples invoked to promote quick baptisms are really not convincing arguments. Rev. Anonymous very eloquently and accurately described how in most cases those who were quickly baptized into the Way did in fact already have significant knowledge and experience of the basics of God’s Word and revelation. The Ethiopian wasn’t some guy that Philip just happened to meet on the road; he was a man steeped in the Scriptures, and he was such a committed believer that he had just been to Jerusalem to worship. He was a Psalm 1 kind of guy, using his time while travelling to meditate upon the Word. He, like the many thousands baptized on the feast of Pentecost, and like several other examples mentioned, “just” needed to transition from the Old Testament era to the New Testament dispensation. These Old Testament believers knew of, believed in, and waited for the Messiah…. the only piece missing in the puzzle was “Who is the Messiah?”. When Christ was preached to them, the final piece fell into place and they could be received immediately into the New Testament Church. It is noteworthy that the conversion of thousands happened exactly at an event where there were many well educated, committed Old Testament believers; you don’t read of thousands converting and being immediately baptized in Athens for instance in Acts 17. Since it is impossible to find in our days a group with the same makeup and level of education in and commitment to God’s Word as you find in Acts 2, such mass conversions and almost immediate subsequent baptisms can really not be expected in our days. Even in the case of the Philippian jailer, we should remember that there were many synagogues in many cities, and Judaism was known as a special religion whose refusal to participate in civic religion was exceptionally tolerated by the Roman empire; it is not unlikely that the jailer was acquainted with the basic teachings of the Jews, and that this together with Paul and Silas’ godly example and teaching, reinforced with the miracle of the earthquake, literally put the fear of God into the man. His question, “What must I do to be saved” suggests that he had at least some prior knowledge of the basics of God’s revelation concerning sin and judgement. It should be noted that Judaism, with its emphasis upon pure monotheism, high ethical standards, rational (non-sacrificial) worship of the synagogue, ancient and inspired written revelation, and the social cohesiveness of the Jewish community, was very attractive to many Gentiles at the time of the apostles (see Backgrounds of Early Christianity, by Everett Ferguson). It is interesting to note that James, speaking to the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15, speaks about what should be expected from Gentile converts, and then goes on in the next verse (21) to explain why this really shouldn’t be unknown to the Gentile converts: “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

With respect to Berkhof’s comments about not judging or prying into the heart to evaluate if a profession of faith is genuine, this is certainly true. Only God can judge the secrets of the heart. When a person publicly professes faith in Christ, then unless their life and works clearly show them to be lying, we take their confession at face value. We see and treat them as Christians. However, when someone first comes into contact with the gospel, and as yet do not know the basics of the Christian faith, they are simply not able to make a credible profession. To profess Christ, you need to know Who He is, what He has done, and why He has done it. Otherwise your profession is meaningless. For that reason, there is a basic amount of teaching that a new convert must know, understand, and embrace in order to be able to make a credible profession. Historically, the Church has summarized these basics in what became what we now call the Apostle’s Creed. (see LD 7 of the Catechism). It is significant that the Apostles Creed developed out of a series of Scriptural affirmations that were expected from new converts at the moment of their baptism. The roots of this practice can be traced back to the time of the NT. We can expect that as the gospel followed the widening circles described by Christ (Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, ends of the earth), there would be a longer and longer period between first hearing the preaching and subsequent conversions and baptism, since the more the audience was ignorant of the basics of OT revelation, the longer it would take them to be instructed to the point where they would be able to make a credible profession.
Further, while we do not try to pry into people’s hearts, the Bible does teach us that preachers of the gospel are to call upon people to repent, believe, and bear fruits worthy of repentance. The Lord Jesus clearly taught that we are to judge people by their fruits. Once again, the vast majority of examples of “quick” baptisms in the NT refer to OT believers who are God fearers, and who have the example and witness of a godly life. Lydia, for example, was at a place of prayer when she heard the preaching of Christ. The church during the time of the apostles would certainly not have baptized a known fornicator and idolator who simply mouthed the words, “I repent and believe” but continued to live in his sin. We certainly have no NT examples of *that*.
Having said all this, there certainly is tension between the need to instruct people new to the gospel, and the need to avoid unnecessary delay in baptizing those who truly believe in and confess Christ. In Matthew 28.19, 20, the Lord Jesus commands the Church to make disciples by baptizing and *then* teaching ALL that He has commanded. In other words, it goes against the teaching of Christ to expect a new convert to be fully taught all of the Word of God before he can be baptized. In Romans 10 Paul teaches that if “you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. This is said in the context of how people ought to search for righteousness: in their own works (like the Jews), or in Christ. When the sinner recognizes that his only hope to be right with God is to bow the knee to Christ, and recognizes that Jesus has definitively dealt with sin by conquering death (the wages of sin), as was shown by His being raised from the dead (for our justification!)… when he believes that in his heart and confesses that with his lips, he is saved.
And yet, for someone to really believe this in their heart, and to really confess this with their lips, they need to be instructed in who God is, who Christ is, what sin is, what bowing the knee and confessing Jesus as Lord really means, and how and why Christ rose from the dead, and what the significance of that is. As the early Church spread, and reached more and more people who had less and less knowledge of the basics of Biblical revelation, the period of pre-baptism instruction grew longer and longer. In the early centuries, it quickly arrived at about 3 years before they were baptized, usually at Easter.
I work in a missionary situation, and I find that once someone has expressed interest in knowing and following Christ, it usually takes a minimum of one year to really come to the point where I can be satisfied that the new convert really understands, embraces and believes the basics of what the Church confesses in the Creed. The period of one year also gives time to evaluate if there are “fruits befitting repentance”. A practical consideration also comes into play: since it is a very serious thing to be baptized into Christ and His Church, and to be received at the table of the LORD, baptizing newcomers any more quickly without the period of teaching and evaluation would almost certainly increase the workload of the elders in discipline, as people baptized but then not showing a changed life would have to go through the entire process of discipline and finally excommunication.
In order to deal with the tension between waiting too long or being too quick, we (like the early Church) treat catechumens (newcomers who are preparing for profession and baptism) as people who in many ways are part of the community. As we teach and instruct them, and mentor/disciple them, looking for and encouraging fruits of repentance, we take their stated desire to love and follow Christ at face value, treating them as believers until such time that their words and actions convince us otherwise.
One final comment for the one or two brave souls who are actually still reading at this point: one reason that adult baptisms are not that common is that many people in the West(at least until recently)were baptized as infants, even if they grew up without Christian instruction and without following Christ. Since the Church does not re-baptize, this explains why we see fewer adult baptisms in the Christian West than we see for instance in pagan cultures.

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KD writes, ” … I have a question. Are we doing adult baptism right? Growing up Canadian Reformed, I did not see any of them as a youth.  The first one I saw was my wife’s when we were 22 years old.  She came with me to Church for a year and when she asked to be baptized she had to learn 2 years of catechism class first.  When I asked why, the response was that  they needed to make sure she is serious. Is this biblical? “

Hi KD, Thanks for the question.  I have often wondered about that as well.  While I was baptized prior to joining our church, I also had to go through about 6 months of introductory training, and a year of formal catechism training before I could profess my faith and partake of the Lord’s Supper.  On top of that I also had private meetings with my pastor to to go over the finer points of doctrine – although I initiated those, not the elders. I have only witnessed a few adult baptisms in the CanRC.  They tend to be few and far between. And when it happens that a new convert joins the church, sometimes I think that we might be overly cautious about it.  Why do we tend to wait so long? Do we really need to make sure they are serious?   What is the prerequisite for adult baptism?  How much do you need to know before you are baptized?

If an unbelieving adult is suddenly converted, when should he be baptized?

This is what our Church’s form for the baptism of adults says:

Those who were not baptized in their infancy, and at a later age declare that they desire Christian baptism, must first be thoroughly instructed in the essentials of the Christian doctrine. After having confessed this doctrine before the overseers, they shall be admitted to the public profession of their faith and to baptism.

This begs the question, “What are these Essentials of Christian Doctrine?”  Does  a new convert need to learn the entire 3 Forms of Unity? Just the Heidelberg Catechism?  Just the Apostles Creed?  Do they just need to recite John 3:16? What is it they need to do before being baptized? How thorough is “thoroughly instructed?” One could answer that you just need to believe first. Isn’t saving faith simply, recognizing your sin and need, then confessing your sins, repenting of them, and turning to Jesus Christ in faith? How deep of a knowledge does one need before we baptize them?

We should look at the scriptures. Let’s consider the Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch:

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

How long do you think that Phillip evangelized to the Eunuch? If it was a very long ride, maybe a few hours or half a day? How thoroughly instructed was he? What depth of knowledge did that Eunuch have before he was baptized? Let’s also consider Paul and the Jailor:

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

…That same hour…

An hour of training?  Is that what is required? As an aside, notice also that in both these accounts, those who received baptism were rejoicing afterwards. Joy is a certain sign of saving faith.

Now let’s consider the conversion of Saul.

And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

“…Why do you wait?” One could argue that Paul already had a ton of knowledge being a Pharisee, but the point still stands.

Consider Lydia:

And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

It is not entirely clear how much time elapsed between her heart being opened by the Lord to hear the preaching and the time that she was baptized.  But from the flow of the sentence, one would be lead to believe that the Lord opened her heart, and immediately following that she was baptized.

And consider this account:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Again we can’t tell how much time passed between Peter’s exhortation and the time they were baptized.  But 3000 people believed and were baptized in one day. How thoroughly could 3000 new converts be instructed in one day?

The Reformed theologian, Louis Berkhof states in his Systematic Theology:

1. ADULT BAPTISM. In the case of adults baptism must be preceded by a profession of faith, Mark 16:16; Acts 2:41; 8:37 (not found in some MSS.); 16:31-33. Therefore the Church insists on such a profession before baptizing adults. And when such a profession is made, this is accepted by the Church at its face value, unless she has good objective reasons for doubting its veracity. It does not belong to her province to pry into the secrets of the heart and thus to pass on the genuineness of such a profession. The responsibility rests on the person who makes it. The method of prying into the inner condition of the heart, in order to determine the genuineness of one’s profession, is Labadistic and not in harmony with the practice of the Reformed Churches. Since baptism is not merely a sign and seal, but also a means of grace, the question arises as to the nature of the grace wrought by it. This question is raised here only with respect to adult baptism.  ~ Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology

KD, I am not saying our Churches are right or wrong. I too am looking for answers. I am simply asking what are these ‘essentials’ of Christian doctrine are that the church’s form speaks of? How thorough is “thoroughly instructed?” How much catechism training is required to  have saving faith?  Is any required? How much time should pass between professing faith in Jesus, and being baptized?  Remember that we are not waiting a period of time to test the person to ensure his faith is real, we are to take a profession at “face value” as Berkhof states.  Which also means that the response you received that, “they needed to make sure she is serious,” if that was in fact the reason, is not entirely right. If the response was that she needed to be thoroughly instructed in the essentials, then that falls in line with the form.  The time we wait should simply be to instruct and hear the profession of faith – but how long should that time be?

I submit that once a person professes to have saving faith in faith in Jesus Christ, and this is verified by an elder in the church, he should immediately be baptized as soon as is feasible. At least that appears to be the pattern of scripture. The Ethiopian pulled his chariot over and was baptized on the side of the road.  The jailer (and his whole family) was baptized outside his home at night.  Lydia appears to have been baptized after hearing the preaching. They didn’t even wait for the next worship service.  And I wonder how long it took to baptize all those 3000 converts?

KD thanks for your question.  Please don’t dwell on what might be wrong, look to the beauty of baptism.  The rich promises that God  makes to us in our baptism.  I hope I didn’t just muddy the waters.

I welcome the reader’s thoughts.  And I would love to hear some CanRC minister’s thoughts on this as well.  Am I off base?

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“We were enduring the consequences of poorly made decisions. We had no idea how to help our friends go through their terrible trials. We were disappointed weekly by the church’s avoidance of tough topics, or the black-and-white binary boxes. The church gave us cat-poster clichés or pulpit-pounding guilt-trips. So we adopted the self-improvement techniques of culture, which turned out to be self-improvisation, and it only made us worse.”

_____________

From the intro to JS Park’s new book, “What the Church Won’t Talk About.” Which begs the question…So what is the answer? What will make it better?

When pastor and blogger JS Park messaged me and asked me to review his new book, What the Church Won’t Talk About, I was both shocked and honoured that he would ask lil ol me. I should warn you that I came into this book expecting to like it. I have been following blogger JS Park for a couple of years now. I remember very clearly the first post I read about his personal struggle with pornography addiction, and how he found freedom in the grace of Jesus Christ. I was amazed that a pastor would be so open and vulnerable about that. After that I read his post on being an introvert  and I was immediately hooked on this former atheist turned pastor’s blog. The way he was so open about his own struggles, doubts, sins and caffeine addiction was like a breath of fresh air in a blogo-sphere full of angry, ranting, Calvinistic adolescents hell-bent on just being right. Over the past year or so, I have had the privilege to get to know Joon on a more personal level through Facebook and email, and though we live approximately 3200 miles (5180 kms) from each other and have never met in person, I consider him a friend, and a brother in the faith.

JS Park has a love on for everyone. From the vibrant, happy, feeling-the-presence-of-God, filled-to-the-brim, street preacher to the lonely, broken, doubting smoldering wick of a depressed teen who is hanging on by a thread. And all that comes through loud and clear in this love drenched, Jesus focused book. Not afraid to tackle any topic, JS Park takes us on a journey through the grittier section of his email in-box, where the hardest questions get asked. Questions about faith, doubts, struggling with lust and porn, to the hard questions about forgiveness, depression, homosexuality and abortion. So often we in the church try too hard to get the answers “just right.” Someone confides to us a problem so we give them a pat answer, about praying harder, or singing more psalms, or trying harder, or just stop sinning!

Not JS.

Not here anyway.

For those of you who like pat answers, this book is not for you. If you like closing your eyes and pretending that girl doesn’t have depression and doesn’t cut herself, or there are no homeless people, or that abuse doesn’t happen, or that the church is limited to the confines of your upper-middle-class, white, suburban, perfect little Christian bubble, then this book is not for you – actually, maybe it is for you. If you would rather condemn the girl who had an abortion instead of loving her, this book might get your feathers ruffled. If you believe that people can’t change, if you believe that God can’t change hearts and minds, then this book will challenge you with the sovereign grace of God. You will be challenged to think outside the box and look at the person behind the problem. I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the book, but with humility, he admits that he could be wrong, and he even challenges us to, ” Question everything. Use the Bible as your lens. Ask: Would Jesus have agreed with this?”

With that all said, Joon and I do agree on the most important thing: It is all about Jesus. And Jesus is the answer. And that is what this book is really about. Written with a rare vulnerability we don’t often see in pastors, in each situation Joon always points us to the grace of the Gospel of Jesus as the ultimate answer. Jesus meets us where we are, as we are, in our sin and misery and pulls us to himself. He loved us when we were unlovable, and we should do the same for others.

Now, I admit that I am unashamedly and passionately Reformed, and in my Reformededness (is that a word?) I am prone to recommending books by Reformed authors. Well, Joon used to identify as Reformed, but he no longer does, although with the amount times he quotes Reformed guys like Tim Keller, I wonder if he will come back around… ;) Anyway…Overall I really enjoyed the book and I recommend it to those hurting souls who are looking for answers for the hard questions.

Find it here:

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca (Canada)

Pastor Appreciation 2014

Posted: October 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

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It is October, that means it is pastor appreciation month. My pastor is Abel Pol. Pastor Abel to some, Reverend Pol to others.  My daughter calls him “The Minister,”  which is a pretty cool superhero name. He signs his name as “AcP” on the weekly church news.  I think that is short for, “A cool Pastor,” which is awfully presumptuous, but pretty accurate, of him.

Although I could be mistaken.

He faithfully brings us the Word each Sunday.  He visits the sick and elderly.  He teaches the children and teens of the church.  He is passionate about each person’s walk with Christ in the congregation. He responds to my crazy, emotional emails with wisdom and grace. I could go on about him, but Proverbs warns us about flattery.  So simply, he is a faithful pastor.  He is my pastor.  I appreciate him.  And I thank God for giving him to us as a shepherd to teach us, and guide us.

Oh and he is not just a Pastor preaching passionately from the Bible up on the pulpit. He is also a normal, regular guy.

Sort of.

Um.

Well… I will let you decide.
Abel C Pol

Here he is with a big green microfibre car washing mitt attempting to bring in visitors at the outreach carwash and BBQ our church had last weekend in Chilliwack. You should have seen him waving and smiling at every car that drove by.  Meagan even asked, “Is the Minister dancing?”

Gotta love a pastor who is wiling to get his hands dirty.

Thanks for everything you do for us Pastor!

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

You Don’t Have What it Takes…

Posted: September 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

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It happens in the wee hours of the morning, long before dawn’s early light, you stir in your sleep, crack open an eye, and tilt your head toward the bedside table. Your one open eye catches the red glint of the alarm clock’s light…3:30. All you hear is thick silence, the only sound is the rumbling of your spouses breathing in the deepness of sleep. You begin to doze off again. The thick silence is obliterated by a piercing scream. You sit up, heart pounding, in your frustration an inaudible curse word finds it way past your lips and dribbles down your chin, and you mutter a halfhearted “Forgive me Lord…” You pick up the baby for the fourth time in 2 hours. Work comes soon, your wife is exhausted, and the only thing you can think is, “Why is it my turn?”

And the thought enters your head that you don’t have what it takes…

angry dadA couple hours later, it is 530am and your 4 year old is bouncing around the house looking for chocolate chips to eat for breakfast, and trying to stick her dirty fingers in the baby’s mouth, and you look up momentarily from updating your Facebook status (something about how caffeine will be your best friend today), and bark at her, “Don’t touch the baby with your dirty fingers! Stop bouncing! Sit down!!!! AND NO CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST! STOP IT!!!

And the thought enters your head that you don’t have what it takes…

It’s 730 and you are at work. After an hour long commute in the rain and traffic (with people driving too slow in the fast lane, and too fast in the slow lane, not to mention hitting every red light) and after 3 cups of coffee, everything is just…ugh. You can’t tell if you need a nap, or a coffee, or a water and if you still smoked you would walk out into the torrential downpour and light up. But it’s been 5 years, and you don’t want to give in to that habit, so you indulge in your other one, “2 cream 2 sugar.” The weariness overwhelms you and the realization sets in that there is only 17 years 50 weeks and 3 days left in your baby’s childhood…

And the thought enters your head that you don’t have what it takes…

On your coffee break you read an article online about how, “It’s ok parent! You are doing great! Just hang in there!” And another curse word enters your brain threatening to dribble down your chin…and you quickly kill it with another little prayer.

You don’t feel like everything is going to be ok.

You don’t feel like you are doing great.

You just swore at the computer!

You cursed under your breath at your child wanting to be held in the middle of the night.

You lost your temper at your 4 year old.

You kicked the neighbours cat! At least, you did in your thoughts…

You just want to go to sleep and you are not feeling like a very good parent, you are not feeling like a very good Christian, in fact you are not feeling much of anything.

And the thought enters your mind that you don’t have what it takes.

The words of Jesus, in Matthew 15:18-20, echo in your mind,

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”

So in the wee hours of the morning, after little sleep, when all the patience is gone, and the baby cries for the 5th time, when that curse word escapes your lips, it is then that we see what our hearts are truly made of. And we wonder why this is. How come we still display the old nature? I thought we were saved to a new life! 2 Corinthians 5:17 says,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

But as we look at ourselves, maybe we don’t see this happening, perhaps it is going too slowly, and we grow more depressed and we grumble. And we think that we don’t have what it takes. And it is here, as we are tested – and fail – that we see that we need Jesus more than ever.

But it’s ok! You are doing great!

Wait.

No.

I won’t coddle you with those words, like those other bloggers will. You probably are not doing so great…but… everything will be ok. That is, everything will be ok if you look to Jesus. Don’t get caught up in your failures. Stop looking at yourself.  I am not saying brush your sins off. Admit your sins. Call them out by name. Claim them as your own, confess them, and then stop looking at yourself and look to Jesus instead. Wage war on your sin in the strength that he provides. He gets it. He knows what it is like to be tempted to swear at those who deprive him of sleep, he knows what it is like to be tempted and tested beyond the abilities of our physical bodies – and he didn’t give in. He didn’t fail.

And the thought enters your head that you don’t have what it takes…

My friend JS Park puts it so eloquently, “The devil will often make you doubt that “you don’t have what it takes” — when really, you don’t ever have it. God has you. True assurance in our walk is knowing the object of our faith, not our degree of it.”  Do you see? So look to Jesus as the object of your strength and faith. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work and bring you to a greater measure of holiness. Be quick to kill those nasty thoughts and dribbling curse words. Obey his precepts. Pray. And when you fail, because you will fail, remember to look to Jesus. You don’t have what it takes, embrace it, and look to Jesus. Because Jesus has what it takes.  In Him everything will be OK.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:28-31

Pray for the Hovius Family

Posted: September 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

“I believe in God’s power to heal—by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing. Cancer is not wasted when it is healed by God. He gets the glory and that is why cancer exists. So not to pray for healing may waste your cancer. But healing is not God’s plan for everyone.”  John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Cancer

This is a short post.  I am going to cut to the chase.  Will you please pray for Gary Hovius as he battles cancer?  Will you please pray for his wife and his kids and grand kids as well?  Gary, we are praying for you.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18