Redefining Normal

We can’t properly understand what is abnormal until we understand what is normal, and just because something is common does not mean it is normal. Contrary to popular belief, normal isn’t what most people do.  It isn’t what is common.  Normal is the way God created things to be and thus how they function properly- not what they are given the influence of Satan and fallen man, which corrupts. Normal is the original intended purpose of a thing, or the standard by which all else is compared.  And abnormal is the degree to which we vary from that. Normal is what we should all be striving to get back to.  In short, we need to view normal the way that God views it, not the way fallen man views it.
It is common for man(kind) to be arrogant and proud. It is common for man to be rebellious and selfish. It is common for man to sin and reject God. But none of this is normal. None of this is the way it was intended to be.  None of this is the standard to which we should strive.  All of this is far from what God intended at creation or intends for us now.
I am so angry and tired of people who normalize sin, apathy, abuse, lukewarmness, worldliness, idol worship (In America that looks like the worship of sports, celebrities, money, status, etc.) and all the other things clearly laid out in scripture as not of God.  And I don’t care if the whole world decides something is “okay” just because “everyone does it” and it’s therefore “normal.”  I don’t care if every professor, government official, and psychologist in the world says something is “okay” or “normal”.  If it falls short of what God originally intended then it is NOT okay.  It is NOT normal.  It is NOT the standard.
And while we all fall short of God’s standard, that does not mean we get to lower the bar or change it to our liking.  I’m not trying to be dogmatic or lacking in grace.  I’m simply trying to express that God doesn’t change His standards just because we fail to meet them.
The bar is already set. God says “Be ye perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).  This has been and will always be the desire of God.  When we face God’s throne, we aren’t going to be judged based on the average level of sin per person.  We aren’t going to be weighed in the balance compared to our neighbor.  We’re going to be weighed on one side while Jesus – ultimate perfection – is on the other side.  We’re going to be judged and compared to perfection and held accountable for anything and everything that falls short of that.
God is going to point at Jesus and say “this was the standard set for you, this is my normal”.  And we will clearly see all the ways we fall short, except this time, we’ll have no more excuses and what government or society deemed “okay” will no longer matter.  We will be judged in comparison to Jesus’ perfect example and whether or not we lived up to that, not the hellish standards of fallen man.
Those who live in perpetual awareness of the difference between our lives and Christ’s also live in perpetual awareness of our lack – our depravity – our impossible state.  They’re the ones who continually cry out “Abba Father, forgive me a sinner unclean.”  They’re the ones who both know and desperately cling to our High Priest and perfect sacrifice, Yeshua.  Because we know that it is only by His blood and His works that we are saved from God’s judgement and wrath.  Oh, how deeply our souls know our own depravity.  How painfully aware we are of our need for Him.
It’s when we start normalizing the sin which is common to man that we stop seeing and feeling our need for Yeshua and start thinking we’re “okay” simply because we’re common.  Let us never fall into the trap of thinking that God has lowered His standard of perfection just because we decided it didn’t matter and thus began our slippery slope away from Him.
Yes, oh yes, how deeply we need to redefine normal.  How much we need to see the gulf between us and Him, so that we may know that it was never because of our works that we were saved, but only because of the perfect work and blood of Christ that we have been saved from wrath.  How unworthy we are, and how worthy He is.  Glory be to God for His love.  For He truly is the author and finisher of our faith.
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The Black Horse Dream

I had a few dreams last night, but I only remember this one.


I was sitting inside a glass house with friends.  It was dark outside.  We all knew we were in the beginnings of the times of judgement.  We knew we were in the White Horse time period, but we were still somewhat complacent.  Nothing really bad had happened yet so we had no emotional sense of urgency about anything.   Perhaps we were a little more awake than normal but we weren’t afraid.

Suddenly, there was a whirlwind of black smoke and out of the whirlwind came galloping a black horse.  In the dream I was aware of the different horses in Revelation but I was confused because I knew the red horse is after white.  The black is supposed to come after the red so I was looking to see if it was really black.  I confirmed it was definitely black (the color black does symbolize death and destruction but it was out of order).  I was confused because of the switch in colors and didn’t understand what was going on.

We were immediately overcome by the smoke and horse and we had no time to escape or hide.  Everyone was scrambling and I immediately fell to my knees praying that God would seal me and hide me from this horse judgement and protect me from it all.  I knew that God would protect me if I was sealed by Him.  I wasn’t sure why the colors were out of order, but I knew I needed to pray that I be marked and sealed for protection.

I knelt and prayed, then I woke up.

Lord, You Rescued Us Again

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“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

 

Lord, you did it again.  

You rescued us.  You helped us.  You were good to us again.

We cursed you and yet you blessed us.  We bit your hand but you fed us still.  We blasphemed you even as you intervened on our behalf…and yet you intervened still.  

Lord, we do not deserve you.  Your love is too great for us.  It’s greater than we know.  We ask for grace, then reject it when you give it.  No Lord, we do not deserve you.

Your knowledge is far beyond ours, and yet we judge you as though we knew you.  Your understanding is limitless, and yet we curse you as though you were foolish.  You rescue us from enemies we can’t even see yet we blame you for our troubles still.  

Oh Lord, we are a foolish people.  We are arrogant, prideful, entitled, judgmental, and ignorant.  We say we trust you and then we curse the gifts you give. 

And yet, you love us still.  You bless us still.  You help us still.  You rescue us still.  We didn’t deserve this rescue.  We don’t deserve this love.  But I am so grateful, Lord.  So grateful.

You are so good and we are so faithless.  Let us repent and seek your face.  Let us drop our prideful hearts, give up our haughty spirits, and submit again to your sovereign love.  Let us thank you for our gifts.  Please open our eyes in the places we cannot see them.  Let us give praise for your intervention, and rejoice that you are not a man but a God who’s love does not depend on our faith.  Your love depends on your faithfulness, which is perfect beyond measure.  May we never doubt it again.

Thank you, Lord.  Amen.

 

The Heart and The Mouth

Above all else, guard your heart.  For everything you do flows from it.  – Proverbs 4:23


Everything comes down to the position and motivation of the heart.  Everything.

Jesus taught this when he says, “…but the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man ‘unclean’.” (Matthew 15:18-19)

That which we speak comes from our hearts, and it is our hearts that determine how clean or unclean it is.

For example…

Say you notice something different about your friend.  Where once he/she was thoughtful and giving, now they are more reserved.  A loving heart would perceive this as concern for them and you will approach them in love and ask what is wrong.  If you love them and care for them, you will listen to the answer and provide them with emotional support and care. If you love them and care for them, you’ll make sure you understand what they are going through and why they are acting differently than normal.

But if you do not love them, you will judge them without even knowing what is really going on.  You won’t talk or even ask before casting a judgment.  If you do ask, it’s with the agenda of casting judgment.  Unloving hearts doll our judgment to friends and strangers alike without any form of understanding of what the truth may be.  Unloving hearts get upset only that they “changed” and then become sullen and self-pitying because the friend isn’t serving you as they used to.  Unloving hearts expect or demand love without ever offering it.

Unloving hearts also accuse others of being judgmental, simply because they feel convicted of being wrong.  They feel convicted, refuse to address such conviction, and so accuse others of being “judgmental” simply for speaking honestly.

But here’s the funny thing.  You can’t call someone judgmental without being yourself, judgmental.  And since hardly anyone makes that accusation with a heart of love, that also makes the accuser not only judgmental themselves, but also prideful, haughty, and hypocritical.  You accuse someone of what you believe is wrong (which may not actually be wrong, since you didn’t bother to look into the matter), and you end up incurring three more wrongs upon yourself.  Funny how that works, huh.

Is it any wonder Jesus taught us not to point out the speck in someone’s eye before removing the plank in our own?  He didn’t say “never point it out.”  He just said to check ourselves and approach all matters with a pure heart.  Because when, and only when, our hearts are right is it a beautiful thing to come to someone in love and concern about theirs.  We are called to speak the truth, in love, and to sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron.  We are even called to rebuke those who are stubborn in their sin and, if they are causing harm to others, we are to remove them from our inner circles so as to protect ourselves and those we love.

Unfortunately, most people in today’s world (just look at social media…holy cow) throw around accusations and judgements to people they don’t even know, never took the time to talk to, and have no actually love or concern for.  People get a rush of god-like delusion from casting judgements on everything and then calling it “free speech.”  People with planks so big they can’t even see straight, setting out with prideful and arrogant hearts, seeking only to expose the specks in everyone else’s eyes.

Christ calls us to be different.  May we, as followers of Christ, be ever more wise and discerning in the purification of our own hearts, and leave the hearts of others to the real Judge, who knows and sees all.

Into The Light

Life finally seems to be making more sense.  That may sound rather anti-climactic, but for me it’s incredibly refreshing.  As someone who thrives off structure and logical reasoning, the last few years have been anything but comfortable.  In fact, they’ve been almost purely maddening.  For things to finally start making sense is more of a relief  than most people realize.

While I don’t believe our God is one of chaos or confusion, I do believe he allows our lives to be confusing and chaotic.  Realities of evil, sin, and their consequences mean that life will inevitably be both confusing and chaotic… and sometimes worse.  Sometimes it becomes downright excruciating and destructive.  My life has been lived mostly in the latter and yet my deepest pains have not come from evil actions against me but rather from not being able to make sense of them.  It’s impossible to move past things you can’t even make sense of, so understanding has always been my unrelenting pursuit.

Throughout my life, I’ve learned that all manner of evil can be endured with patience if we’re able to see the end game.  If we know the purpose of a particular pain before we experience it, the pain is much easier to endure.  For example, if I have asked God for patience and all of a sudden my life becomes annoyingly complicated, I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that God is growing my character and internal strength.  I then ease into the discomfort and find myself working with God instead of resisting him, and life almost magically becomes easier.

On the other hand, there are some sufferings so tragic, so deep, and so damaging that they’re as senseless as they are painful.  And this has been my greatest struggle – enduring pain that is not only excruciating but also seemingly senseless.  What purpose is there in being repeatedly victimized in such a way that your wounds never heal but only compound into something not even recognizable?  What is the purpose in abuse by parents, friends, or people who claim to love you?  What is the purpose in being raped?  What is the purpose in being lied to and manipulated and coerced?  Those are hard questions to answer when you’re in the thick of things.  But with time and space have come perspective, and with perspective comes a great deal of peace.  It may be over 30 years coming, but important answers are finally arriving.

In the same way that we are blessed by God in order to be a blessing to others, I also believe that we are allowed to endure great trials in order to help others through the same.  God would not have allowed me to survive the assaults on my life and very soul if he didn’t want me to help others survive as well.  And I firmly believe that one day, the balances will shift in the right direction.  That survivors from all walks of life will find their voice, speak out against the abuses they have endured, and enact positive change that shines a bright light into the deep darkness of pain that has threatened to overtake so many lives.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”  I pray that no matter what darkness you find yourself in, you’re able to gravitate towards the light.  And as you find yourself moving more and more into the light, you will become a light for others as well.

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Abuse and Forgiveness

Forgiveness-and-Freedom


For many, the idea of forgiveness brings with it a feeling of inner peace, comfort, and freedom.  For those who have walked the road of deep remorse and regret for their own wrongdoings, forgiveness can taste very sweet.  As Jesus says in one of his parables, “…he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:36-50 ESV).  Likewise, he who is forgive much, loves much.  Forgiveness is, and should be, a wonderful thing.  But it isn’t always…

Like any other inherently good thing, forgiveness can be misused.  It can be taken out of context or used selfishly to further one’s own ends, or it can be applied inappropriately in ways that bring about harm instead of healing.  In these cases, forgiveness does not bring freedom at all, but rather further harm and in some cases, psychological and emotional trauma.

Here are some honest aspects of forgiveness and how they commonly get misused.

  1. Forgiveness is both a free-will choice and a process.  Forgiveness is misused when it is demanded, guilted, or otherwise manipulated from a person who has been wronged.
  2. Forgiveness requires a full acknowledgement and assessment of the wrongdoing and its effects.  Forgiveness is misused when it is equated with or implied to necessitate condoning, excusing, forgetting, or denying the wrong that has been done.  (As Pastor Mark Driscoll states, “forgiveness does not come with a side of amnesia”).
  3. Forgiveness is the process by which rightful emotions stemming from wrongdoing are resolved.  Forgiveness is misused when it is spiritualized in a way that dismisses the need for emotionally processing valid feelings of anger or pain associated with being wronged.
  4. Forgiveness is a personal process that takes place within the self.  Forgiveness is misused when it is equated with reconciliation with another person, especially when the other person has neither acknowledged nor repented of their wrong.

Forgiveness is, essentially, about our own heart and our own actions that flow from our heart.  It’s about not exacting vengeance or seeking retribution for the wrongs done against us (which is different from seeking justice, which should be pursued if violent or criminal activity is involved).  Forgiveness is the process through which we are able to both process and effectively resolve anger, pain, loss, and even rage resulting from harm that has been done to us.  The only emotion we are to look out for is that of resentment, which is simply the unresolved, unprocessed anger that has taken root in our hearts.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “be angry, and do not sin.”  It actually says “be angry!”  Anger is healthy and necessary to feel and process.  The only thing we aren’t supposed to do is use that anger as a reason or excuse to cause more harm.  But the emphasis of that scripture is on controlling our actions and responses, not in denying the initial emotions themselves.  Clearly, scripture expects anger (Jesus got angry a lot), especially in the face of wrongdoing.  However, scripture does expect and implore us to control it and handle it in healthy ways.

Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable with the emotions of anger and rage, hurt, or grief.  Yet these are healthy and necessary emotions to feel, especially in the wake of loss, betrayal, or abuse. The full range of emotions need to be felt and acknowledged in healthy ways which, depending on the severity of the offense, may take anywhere from weeks to years to fully analyze, assess, and process.  And while it’s true that dealing with hurt feelings isn’t always easy, expecting a person not to have them when they have been harmed (or dictating how long you think they should last) is not only irresponsible and ignorant, it is further damaging.

If the rightful feelings of hurt, pain, loss, or anger are not allowed to be communicated or expressed in healthy ways, the only alternative is for them to settle into resentment or repression…that’s just how it works.  Allowing people around us to feel and healthily express the full range of emotions, especially in response to wrongs done against them is necessary and good.  We must understand that the entire concept of real forgiveness was hijacked for many people, not being used as a healing balm to restore but rather as a battering ram meant only to control, shame, and manipulate.  We need to understand how to help those people work through their feelings without further traumatizing them.

When people have been abused this way, they may hear the word “forgive” and, quite naturally, have a negative reaction.  Conscious nor not, the body and mind remembers former attempts at manipulation or psychological/emotional abuse and will respond instinctively to avoid it again.  What emotionally battered people need is compassion, a listening ear, and the freedom to both feel and communicate their emotions in healthy ways…not more dismissal of, shame about, or demands to feel or not feel their feelings.  This, as one can expect, only pushes a person into resentment…not lead them out of it.

I believe it’s our job as Christians, friends, parents, pastors…or just as compassionate people in general… to understand what it means to have suffered from spiritual abuse and learn how we can help and not further hinder those who have suffered it.  And whether intentional or not, callous dictates to “just let it go” or “move on” or “forgive and forget” can, and often do, deepen the emotional and spiritual damage of an already battered person, pushing them further away from healing than ever.  I hardly think that’s the goal of any well-intentioned individual, Christian or not.

If we are to truly help those who have been wronged or spiritually abused, we need to properly understand the emotional and psychological ramifications of that abuse.  We need to learn how to walk with people through the turbulent waters of emotional, psychological, or spiritual trauma so that we can patiently, kindly, and compassionately lead them to a place of healing and peace.  Then, and only then, is true forgiveness possible.