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Posts Tagged ‘confession’


I’ve begun reading Unplanned, the autobiography of Abby Johnson. Abby used to be the director of a Planned Parenthood office. That she ended up in this position is understandable on one hand, and on the other hand it makes no sense. There was a disconnect between what she believed and what she did.

“I’d been part of a small community and a close and loving conservative family. Growing up, I’d attended church weekly, loved God, and cared deeply about my friends and community. I’d been taught that sexual intimacy was for marriage, and I had embraced that as a value. But my behavior hadn’t followed my values, and I knew it. … I simply avoiding thinking about these issues, about whether they were right or wrong. And somehow, any tensions between what I had been raised to believe and value and what I actually did, I managed to keep hidden in a box buried deep within me. A box I had so far managed to never open, never examine.”

She is not alone in this, but she is one of the few  people realizes she was doing this. After the damage was done. It actually took her longer to live contrary to her values than it took some of us. I remember talking with a friend’s mother about my values. I hadn’t even gotten to college yet and I’d lived contrary to most of them and the rest were soon to follow. I wasn’t a Christian yet, but I had some values. But my actions showed otherwise. My true values were the love of self above all.

We all have areas of disconnect that operate under our radar at times. Often this is because we don’t think through our values: why we believe this and think we should do that. It is when the contrary desire arises that we begin to disconnect beliefs from actions.

Abby, according to her story, started slowly. After starting college she was a party girl until her grades suffered. Then in community college while rehabilitating her grades she met a guy. Sexual desire was too great, and they were engaged so ….

All of this made her vulnerable to the greater disconnect of first volunteering at and them working for Planned Parenthood. She was unable to see through the wrong application of good desires (to help women in trouble). The process that led her there is a very common process. We see it among many church-raised kids who go off to college. We see it among adults at work.

How do we deal with the disconnect? This is one reason, among many, that we spend time in the Word of God. There we receive the values we should have. We can’t stop there, we have to think and ask ourselves: Do I live this way or do I make the choice to live contrary to this? When we see particular disconnects we need to confess it and ask God for forgiveness through Christ. He is willing to grant pardoning grace to all who come through Christ. We also need to ask for grace to change, to begin living consistently with God’s good will and purposes for us. We cannot change in our own power, but need His power. Purifying grace will come as we change, usually incrementally.

We all deal with the disconnect? Will you continue to go with the flow or will you begin to investigate your own disconnect?

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Everybody has done it. No, not that it. I’m talking about gossip, and while I’m sure a couple of people in addition to Jesus haven’t partaken of gossip, the number is quite small. Even little children gossip; we call it tattling. Elderly women are known for being busy bodies. We do it at lunch with co-workers, over dinner with friends and over the phone with other members of our church. Gossip is such a part of us we usually don’t know that we are doing it. There are whole industries devoted to feeding our appetite for gossip. But when we are caught we feel nearly as much shame as if we were doing the other thing.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1

There aren’t many books that deal with gossip which is strange for such a common sin. We minimize how serious it is, but it shows up in the list of sins found in Romans 1. Often we focus on the sins of others, especially those outside of the church, and neglect those sins that have a serious foothold among those in the church.

Resisting Gossip by Matthew C. Mitchell is not only a much needed contribution but an excellent contribution that should be read by church leaders and …. well, just about everybody (see my intro above, and note the questions at the end of each chapter). Mitchell always keeps an eye on the gospel as he exegetes our hearts and shows us how to fight the war of the wagging tongue (to play on his subtitle). He also follows a thoughtful plan in laying out the book.

Mitchell begins with a definition of sinful gossip. His working definition is “the sin of gossip is bearing bad news about behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” This recognizes a few things. There are times in which it is okay to bear bad news about a person. Church discipline would be impossible if we could not do that. It has to do with the motivation. The motivation of gossip is usually to either be “in the know” or to harm the other person’s reputation.

Like the author, I am an information junkie. In my counseling classes we often talked about “the vows” that people make to never be hurt again. Or look stupid again. Or …. I remember a time when I was about 12. A teammate’s father was giving me a ride home from a basketball game. He asked if I liked BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive for those of you not in the know). Clueless as to what he meant. I felt embarrassed, and didn’t want to feel that again. It begins to dominate you life, and it knows no bounds. You move from facts about stuff to the dirt on people. It feels good to be in the know. It feels horrible to be the last to know.

“There are a number of sinful heart motivations that can produce sinful gossip. The good news is that the gospel of Jesus Christ has answers for them all.”

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Where I live now isn’t like where I lived immediately before this. It isn’t about geography, or the population. There are many differences between here and there. One significant difference is its view of homosexuality.

There homosexuality was still in the closet. We knew someone whose son is a homosexual in a long term relationship with another man. Everyone pretty much knew, but they were considered “friends” for the sake of other family members. I really don’t recall seeing any homosexual couples expressing affection while I lived there.

Where I live now is known, so I’m told, as a popular place for lesbians to live. In the last month I’ve seen 2 different couples expressing affection. First, I was picking my family up at the airport and 2 reunited women had a few kisses. I was hoping my kids didn’t notice because I’m not sure I’m ready to have that conversation that HGTV wants to make me have. Last night 2 younger women made out briefly in the restaurant I went to.

In some communities, particular lifestyles are still closeted. In others, people are quite open. In the church, some sins are still closeted. Peter Hubbard considers this question after realizing that in all the years of testimonies he’d heard, he couldn’t remember anyone including SSA as part of that testimony.

Hubbard has a few theories in the first chapter of Love Into Light: The Homosexual and the Church. He also refutes each of these theories with the gospel.

Possibility #1: Homosexuals are not like us; they are “abnormal.” The church has often made this argument. We shouldn’t wonder why people don’t want to confess this particular sin in our congregations. They are (often for good reason) afraid they will be rejected.

“He couldn’t wait any longer for me to reject him, so he rejected himself for me.”

I’ve had people admit to having an abortion, giving up a child to adoption and addiction to pornography. Not homosexual porn however. I’ve had women admit to me that they’d been sexually abused. But no men (at least with me as their pastor).

I have had a few people admit to profound sins. One recognized at the end of our counseling session that they had crossed the Tiber so to speak. Fearing I’d never look at them the same way, and always have questions about them, they left the church. Right there, right then. One hung around for awhile, but I wonder if they were trying to get me to reject them in the months that came. Or perhaps they assumed I was rejecting them as a result of that confession when other issues were in play. People expect to be rejected and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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There are few subjects guaranteed to raise a ruckus like that of modesty. This subject tends to bring out the worst in us. We often act immodestly when discussing modesty.

There have apparently been many books written on this subject. Many of them very bad. Or so I hear since I’ve only read one other book on the subject, Wendy Shalit’s A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. As a result, I am no expert on such books. I decided to read Tim Challies and R.W. Glenn’s book Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel precisely because it seemed to take a gospel-centered approach (which it does).

What they have done is write short, but important, book on the subject at hand. They begin with the obvious, and the most common objection to such a book.

“Discussing modesty among Christians is challenging because the subject typically has not been handled well. … And when a man is the speaker or the author or the discussion leader, women brace themselves, fearing an assault on their fashion sense and wondering if they are about to be blamed for all male struggles with sexual lust. Does he think I have to be ugly to be godly?

This is not like many of the books I’ve heard about: there are no lists, calls for the ruler, blaming of women etc. They recognize that many calls for modesty are not motivated by the gospel, but legalism. This has led to, in many circles, a neglect of the subject. Or a very narrow view of the subject, making it all about women’s clothing when it encompasses far more than that.

“When we build theology without clear reference to the gospel, we begin to take refuge in rules. … Indeed, in this particular area, the regulations become our gospel- a gospel of bondage rather than freedom. … Modesty without the gospel is prudishness.”

They then begin the hard task of defining modesty. They note the dictionary definitions. But they then do something that may surprise some people, they talk about one’s situational context. Modesty is partially a function of your circumstances. They give the illustration of a bathing suit. Appropriate by the pool or beach, but not appropriate for a worship service or funeral (and maybe even Wal-Mart). It would be modest in one context, but immodest in another. Your situation matters.

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Yesterday, as all of us who don’t live under rocks know, was Father’s Day (or is it Fathers’ Day).  In a fallen world, such a day is somewhat tricky.

I now view this day from 2 vantage points.  I view it as the son of an imperfect but pretty good father.  I also view as the imperfect father of children.  There are dangers on every side.

I probably struggled with my relationship with my father the most after graduating with my decree in counseling.  Fancy that, huh?  I did have to take an honest look at my father, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  But if you get stuck there, you become bitter.

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This afternoon I was re-reading a chapter from Paul Miller’s A Praying Life in preparation for Community Group.  He was talking about child-like faith.  One aspect of that is an “as you are” quality.  Kids come as they are: dirty, selfish, excited.  Kids are fully present, even if it isn’t what you want them to be fully present in.

Too often we try to put on a face- like we have things together.  We act ‘religious’ instead of as a child with their father.

It is all about praying as a justified person.  When we are justified (pardoned and declared righteous by God on account of Jesus’ substitutionary obedience and atoning death), we don’t have to pretend with God.  He knows where we are messed up, confused or distracted.  He accepts us despite our messiness because of Jesus.  We don’t have to try and impress with our words and attitudes.

The self-righteous person tries to impress God, to gain God’s approval on the basis of prayer performance.  They think they have to think they have it all together to come into God’s presence.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The self-despairing person isn’t resting in their justification either.  They beg God (or run from Him).  They are depending on their tears, pleading, ‘passion’ etc. to gain God’s ear.  They refuse to rest upon Christ as well.

We will confess sin in prayer.  But we must not think we lose our justification when we sin (remember, it is all about what Jesus has done!).  We even confess as justified people owning up to our failings, resting in Christ’s death for our pardon.  That doesn’t mean we are casual, but neither are we in doubt as to whether or not the Father pardons His children.

Perhaps so many of us struggle in our prayer lives because we struggle in our understanding and experience of justification.  Our access in prayer is a function of our justification.  Prayer is a means to our sanctification.  But we must never make our access to the Father in prayer rest upon our sanctification.  As we understand and experience our justification, we should have a more meaningful, honest prayer life.

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Is it me or does she look profoundly sad?

My experience with Jennifer Knapp’s music is pretty minimal.  CavWife played some for me while traveling from FL to NJ eons ago when we were engaged.  It was okay, but didn’t really hit me.  That’s okay.  Her music resonated with some other people I know including my now sister-in-law.

Then she (Jennifer) disappeared.  Because of my sister-in-law I took note of her recent re-emergence and impending album.  Then came the CT interview, and I was pretty shocked (here’s another on from Relevant).  Not being a fan of Knappy’s I was not aware of the rumors (which is perfectly fine by me).  Like many, I was confused but for different reasons.  Here were some of my thoughts:

  • How does this issue sneak up on a 30 year-old woman?  She talks like it wasn’t really an issue before aside from perhaps some overly dependent, non-sexual relationships with women in college (her comments were fairly cryptic).
  • Why does she expect a love fest from people who don’t really know her?  Yet she didn’t seem to trust her own community with the truth.  To be fair, she’s been traveling the world so I don’t know if she even has a community.
  • Why did she seem to think “me and Jesus” was enough when Jesus calls us into that community called the church to help one another in our battles with sin?  Maybe she did, but the article gave me the other impression.

Jennifer’s admission is a good thing in many ways.  Though necessary, it was bold of her to finally admit to the struggle going on in her heart.  I don’t agree with the path she’s taking.  Like all of have been (and may be) she appears to be blinded by the deceitfulness of sin.  She hides behind lots of words.  Maybe because she doesn’t want to be a spokesperson or public advocate.  Maybe she’s just really confused as she sorts out what the Bible says about her longings.  We can all fall into that trap.

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