Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘confession’


Every church member is a sinner. One implication of this fact is that every church will experience conflict, both big and small. Churches are wise to cultivate a culture of conflict resolution.

Resolving Everyday Conflict (Updated) Sande, Ken cover imageOne of the things we did as a part of this is to buy a case of Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson to give away to our members. This doesn’t mean that people will read it, and try to implement it. One of our members is seeking to become a certified conciliator, part of that process is facilitating a series based on the book. Next month we will begin 12 weeks of instruction on the principles of conflict resolution taught in Scripture and summarized in this book.

“Conflict is a normal part of life. … Many relationships are too important to walk away from. Some issues are too big to give in to. And some people won’t let go until they get everything they want. Add a variety of intense emotions to the mix, and conflict can get messy and painful.”

Resolving Everyday Conflict is a greatly shortened version of Sande’s The Peacemaker. This makes it easier to read, and apply, in the ordinary conflicts that people will find themselves in the family, church and workplace. One of the key words is “everyday”. This book is not intended to deal with more profound conflict that results from trauma.

The book begin with The Nature of Conflict. This chapter is largely focused on James 4:1-10. Conflict is about unfulfilled desires both proper and misguided. Being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from these desires, and engaging in conflict to fulfill our desires.

“Many of our differences aren’t about right or wrong; they are simply the result of these God-designed personal preferences.”

Some of our conflicts result from our God-given diversity. We want everyone to share our preferences and opinions. We see uniformity instead of unity. Our unmet desires become cravings and begin to control us, and we begin to try to control other people.

Sande and Johnson then remind us of The Hope of the Gospel. Our fundamental hope for conflict resolution is the gospel. The gospel enables both parties to humble themselves instead of pressing on to a battle to the death. The gospel helps us to be honest with/about ourselves because Jesus has removed the guilt and condemnation of our sin. We don’t need to be afraid anymore.

“Because running away delays finding a real solution to a problem, flight is almost always a harmful way to deal with conflict. … Peacefaking happens when I care more about the appearance of peace than the reality of peace.”

They then discuss Escaping, Attacking and Peacemaking. The first two are among the works of the flesh to avoid or win a conflict. Peacemaking moves us thru conflict toward reconciliation thru confession and forgiveness.

“People who use attack responses when they are more interested in winning a conflict than in preserving a relationship. … Peacebreaking happens when I care less about our relationship than I do about winning.”

They then shift to the 4 G’s. Sande loves his acronyms to help you remember the process. The first G is Go Higher, or bringing God back into the picture. We want to remind ourselves that we are not simply called to win a conflict. We are intended to glorify God in how we go about the conflict. We are reminded that every horizontal issue also reveals a vertical issue. Our conflict with our brother or sister also involves a conflict with God. We can’t love them unless we love Him, and while we are focused on our glory, kingdom, or agenda we are opposing God’s glory, kingdom and agenda. In this section they also discuss overlooking sin: choosing to forgive without confrontation. They help you to sort out when you should and shouldn’t overlook.

Image result for sande slippery slope

Then we are to Get Real, or own up to our own contribution to the conflict. This is getting the log out of your own eye, which is painful and avoided by most people. Most people are highly defended and overly focused on the other person’s sin (real or imagined) instead of humbled by their own sin. This section includes what Sande calls the 7 A’s of confession to avoid a bad confession which will usually prolong and exacerbate a conflict.

The 3rd G is Gently Engage. You will not this is not “confront”! We are to restore gently (Gal. 6). The goal is restoration, not pummeling the other person into submission. It is established by your own confession and seeking of forgiveness.

“We often stomp into a situation with heavy boots. We lay into people for their sin. That’s a sign of peacebreaking, caring more about getting our way and fixing a problem quickly than preserving a relationship.”

The 4th G is Get Together, Giving Forgiveness and Arriving at a Reasonable Solution. This is about working together to resolve the material issues because the personal issues have been addressed. This includes a discussion of what forgiveness is and isn’t.

The final chapter is Overcome Evil With Good. Hopefully you won’t get to this step because it means one person won’t be reconciled to the other. Peacemaking takes two. Some people want to cling to their peacefaking or peacebreaking. Doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee that the other party will own their own part of the conflict, and work toward gentle restoration.

“Although some opponents readily make peace, others stubbornly and defensively resist our efforts to reconcile. Sometimes they grow more antagonistic and even go hunting for new ways to frustrate or mistreat us.”

We are to love them, do good to them and give them space at times. There are times only God can work in them, so pray instead of push. This is hard because living with the reality of a former friend out there hating your guts is really hard to deal with.

This is a helpful little book that gets to the heart of the issues. It isn’t overly complicated which is important because when you are in a conflict, you don’t have the brain space for complicated. Sande & Johnson keep it simple and sweet. There are plenty of personal illustrations to show you what it looks like.

Doing what this book says to do is not easy (as I speak from firsthand experience). It requires faith. And that faith and obedience may not see the short-term results you would like. You aren’t responsible for the results, just whether you trust and obey, whether you seek reconciliation or you seek your own way.

 

 

Read Full Post »


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?

Read Full Post »


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 your 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.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »


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.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


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.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


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.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »


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.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Way back in 1517, Luther attacked the use of indulgences by the Church of Rome.  They were used to provide a false hope, and a steady flow of cash for Papal building projects.  The Reformation was born.

Many, Cavman included, think we need a new (or renewed) Reformation since the doctrine of justification by faith alone as fallen on hard times in evangelical circles.  People have once again put sanctification prior to justification, just in a different form than Rome did.

But the Church of Rome has made a change that was not expected by many people.  Indulgences are back.  Yes, like the Terminator they have returned, and that is not a good thing either.

“Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. “Because there is sin in the world.”

Like the Latin Mass and meatless Fridays, the indulgence was one of the traditions decoupled from mainstream Catholic practice in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, the gathering of bishops that set a new tone of simplicity and informality for the church.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


Though my sermons for Advent seem to be more about the Resurrection than the Incarnation (though the former requires the latter), I’ve been doing some reading on the Incarnation.  Paul Miller’s Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus is a very good book.  I’m not done yet, but I’m getting there.  I’ll do a review when I am done, but I wanted to process some thoughts with all y’all.

“The person of Jesus is a plumb line to which we may align our lives.”

He is the standard and I fall woefully short, particularly when it comes to love.  This is one of those “ouch!” statements that fill the book.  In view of God’s kindness in presenting Jesus as a propitiation for my sin, it drives me to repentance instead of despair.

“Jesus has shown us how to love: Look, feel, and then help.”

Much of what we call love may not really be love.  That is because we do not “feel” the other’s pain.  We move from looking to helping- avoiding the emotional attachment necessary to love them well.  Jesus identified with people in their pain rather than just wave a magic wand.  Oh, miracle wand.

“Loving means losing control of our schedule, our money, and our time.  When we love we cease to be the master and become the servant.”

Love is not just inefficient, but it is costly.  And humbling.  Now wonder we avoid it whenever we can!

“Jesus lowers himself in order to care, while the disciples elevate themselves in order to judge.  (speaking of John 9:1-7) … Compasson affects us.  Maybe that’s why we judge so quickly- it keeps us from being infected by other people’s problems.  Passing judgment is just so efficient.”

They were more concerned with how this happened, why the guy was blind.  Jesus was more concerned with restoring sight.  Like the religious leaders who later interrogated the man, the disciples were spiritually blind.

“Love often doesn’t erase worries- it just shifts them to a different set of shoulders- our own.”

Yeah, that whole bearing one another’s burdens thing (Gal. 6).  It is bearing those burdens that is often instrumental in our own growth, though at the time it seems to impede our growth.  We think our time would be better spent elsewhere.

“He doesn’t just need an assist from God; he needs a complete overhaul, so he cries out, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’  He has come to the earth-shattering conclusion that he, not his circumstances, caused  the mess in his life. … It is a huge relief to admit that you are a mess: that you turn inward and instinctively take care of your needs first. … Knowing you are a mess means you can stop pretending you have it all together.  Jesus says to people, ‘Relax- you’re much worse than you think!’  It is a little scary to move in this direction because you lose control of your image- of how others see you.  But did you ever control it anyway?  … Getting in touch with your inner tax collector makes room for God’s energy in your life.”

 This is part of the joy of interviewing for pastoral positions.  What they see is what they will get with me- I’m not trying to sell myself and create false impressions.  That doesn’t always work well … but it will with the people God wants me to work with.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

“Our helplessness is the door to the knowledge of God.  Without changing the heart, obsessing over rules is like spray-painting garbage.”

Nice imagery.  One last quote…

“Because he has the love of God in his heart, he doesn’t need other people to love him.”

This is what I aspire to- so I’m not pretending with anyone so I don’t lose their ‘love.’  Only as we depend solely on the love of God for us will be truly be able to love people as God intends rather than the shallow substitute we offer.  We call it sugar, but its not; butter, but its “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.”  Oh, what wretches are we.

Read Full Post »