Thursday, March 26, 2009


Coming back to last week’s conversation about emotional wholeness….

Well-meaning Christians, trying to be helpful, far too often use scripture out of context. As a result, their “biblical” advice can be confusing and even more damaging. Let’s consider a few examples:

1) "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” [Phil 3:13-14]

While frequently quoted to encourage those with a wounded heart to “put their past behind them and press on,” read in its full context, [*verses 4-8] Paul is actually renouncing all confidence in lofty titles, degrees and family histories. Paul’s desire to give Jesus all glory can not be rightly interpreted as instruction for effectively handling our painful past.

2) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” [2 Cor. 5:17]

This is repeatedly quoted to convince those tormented by agonizing memories, that whatever happened in their past vanished the minute they accepted Jesus. “If you would only walk in your new life,” they are told, “you would find that it’s just as if that old stuff never happened!” Instead, Paul is referring to our reconciliation to God. Our old sinful nature is taken away and our new righteousness comes forth in Jesus! [Vs. 11-21] As glorious as this is, Paul is not promising a miraculous purging of traumatic memories from our minds.

3) “Just forgive and forget.”

Although, Jesus does command forgiveness, I have yet to unearth a biblical command to forget painful experiences!

4) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Phil 4:6-7]

Paul is not suggesting that “peace which passes all understanding” will miraculously appear on our emotional screen if we would willfully strike the delete button. Instead, pleading with two women facing strife in their relationship, Paul reminds them to seek God’s peace through rejoicing in Jesus, [vs. 4] prayer and focusing on praiseworthy things [vs.6, 8] instead of arguing.

5) “All you need is Jesus! Just go to Him and He will solve all your problems. You don’t need anyone else. Just go to Jesus!”

Although presented as “Christian” advice more times than I can count, neither applicable biblical references nor a clear picture of what “going to Jesus” looks like are ever offered. Consequently, those writhing in an emotional crisis are left feeling more alone and inadequate: “I guess I shouldn’t have shared my heart. Where and how do I find Jesus? Maybe I just don’t have enough faith.”

Certainly all of us struggling to live with a painful past need to look ahead to the hope that is in Christ; we need reminding of who we are as new creatures in Christ. We need to learn to forgive and to seek God’s peace through prayer. Yes, we need Jesus. But… those who desire to help must learn to use God’s Word responsibly.

Maybe it would be helpful to discuss how we can loving and effectively help the broken-hearted find:

• Hope
• Identity
• Forgiveness
• Peace
• Jesus

What do you say about coming back to this next week?


Thursday, March 19, 2009


We all have troubling emotions which we aren’t sure how to handle. It seems that with each person we ask, we get conflicting advice which leads us to even more confusion and frustration. Maybe it would be helpful to all of us if we spend some time chatting about this.

Although it is not a perfect example, I would like to use the cock-pit of an airplane for an analogy. The many gauges, signals and alarms necessary for reliable flight can be totally overwhelming to those unfamiliar with them. However, a competent pilot is very aware that proper and safe handling of the plane is dependent upon scrupulous attention to each and every one of these measuring devices. Ignoring even one of these warning signals as if it holds no importance could be fatal to the pilot and those entrusted into his care.

I have found in my own life and in mentoring others that this is also true of our emotions.

If we ignore our emotions, we risk the spitting, sputtering and eventual dying–out of our mental health. We can attempt to manipulate our emotions, only to find ourselves repeatedly spinning out of control in the heavy fog of their intensity. Each time we ignore the warning signals of our emotions, the destruction we bring into our own lives and those around us increases.

Yet, hurting people are often advised, “You need to ‘forget what is behind (i.e. their painful past) and strain toward what is ahead (i.e. their heavenly future).’ [Phil. 3:13] If only you had genuine faith in Jesus, a painful past would have no affect on your current life. Don’t you know that “the old has gone and the new has come?” [2 Cor. 5:17] You simply need to choose to “forgive and forget.” You have to realize that you won’t find the “peace that passes all understanding” [Phil. 4:7] until you learn to put your past behind you and move on. All you need is Jesus!

This advice, offered by well meaning Christians, often leaves wounded people confused and discouraged, once again heaped with more guilt and shame. Despite all the effort they can muster, the dark and consuming memories just don’t seem to go away. So what is the answer? What does a person do with these troubling emotions?

Can we learn to assess our emotions as a pilot learns to read and evaluate his gauges? Can we prevent “fatalities” in our lives by learning to accurately interpret their warning signs and responding appropriately?

What do you say we explore God’s Word together? Maybe putting the Bible verses we just mentioned in their proper context will eliminate some confusion. We can then work together toward identifying applicable biblical guidance that is more reassuring and helpful.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Having been associated with various Christian denominations through the years, I’ve only recently come to realize that the Lord had wonderful plans to use my experiences to lead me into re-evaluating His Word regarding the issue of denominationalism.

It isn’t uncommon to hear others suggest that there will always be dominations of Christians; I pray that they are wrong. Although I don’t deny that various denominations may have doctrinal differences, do we not have blood relatives within each of them? My heart hurts over the grief which Jesus must feel when He sees His Body so dismembered.

Did Jesus ever give permission to amputate His legs which are seemingly on a different path than His arms and walk them over to the Baptists? Where did He direct, “If My eyes don’t have the same perception as My ears, pluck them out and haul them off to the Lutherans?” Does He ever say that it is His will to have His Body attempting to function as mutilated parts, rather than being joined in loving fellowship and dependence upon one another?

It baffles me to consider that any sect believes that it has a handle on the fullness of God’s Truth while other denominations do not. Did the Holy Spirit speak more clearly to Martin Luther than he did John Calvin; maybe in some regards, but not in others. Did John Wesley have a handle on Truth that John Knox didn’t; maybe regarding some truths, but not others. These men received no knowledge which was not imparted to them through the Holy Spirit; consequently neither they nor their followers have any reason to boast! [1 Cor. 1:1-7]

When St. Paul heard that Jesus’ followers had begun to follow other men, dividing themselves into religious sects, he rebuked them for being worldly rather than spiritual [1 Cor. 3:1-4] and warned them:

“Do not go beyond what is written. Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” [1 Cor. 4:6-7]

So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” [1Cor 13:21-23]

Paul reminds them that those who are of Christ
are God’s building where God’s Spirit lives.
Then he warns,

“If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred,
and you are that temple.”
[1 Cor. 3:16-17]

Do the 39,000+ denominations in the “Christian world”
today not realize that in all their factions, quarrels and
boasting they are actually tearing God’s temple to shreds?
Do they not fear the results of that?

Isn’t it wise to pay close attention when Paul warns that those who idolize men cause disagreements, factions, and finally ingrained forms of religious opinion? These “will not inherit the kingdom of God!” [Galatians 5:20]

Maybe we should spend some time visiting about what it looks like for God’s people to live in unity.


Thursday, March 5, 2009


Hi! I’m glad that you’ve invited me back. I’m really enjoying our visits!

I don’t know the history of how it came about, but I am impressed by the fact that Diagonal has only one visible congregation of Christians. This kind of precious unity is rare in today’s world where most communities have a “church” building on every street corner, not to mention that they were typically erected by various sects.

It concerns me that many denominations are bringing missionaries home because they “can’t afford to continue supporting them.” Yet, in most instances, these same denominations seem to have enough money to maintain “church” buildings and to pay employees.

According to the Barna Group, our nation’s leading marketing research firm, “real estate owned by institutional churches in the United States today is worth over $230 billion! Church building debt, service, and maintenance consumes about 18% of the $50 to $60 billion tithed to “churches” annually!”

These statistics don’t even include the rest of the “church” budget!

Speaking of the remaining budget, have you ever wondered why “churches” attempt to provide “their pastor” with a wage comparable to that of the world, while complaining that there’s not enough in the budget to support a missionary’s meager income? In fact, these same congregations often also pay secretaries, organist, janitors, etc.

Do you suppose that Jesus considers the “church building” a necessity for a meeting place?” Have you ever pondered what He thinks about hiring people to do the work of His Kingdom? Can you imagine how much money would be available to actually do God’s Kingdom work if “churches” weren’t attempting to maintain a business-style institution? I wonder, “Is any of this ever what Jesus intended for His Body, the Church?”

It’ll be interesting to see if the current economic crisis will cause denominations to leave their differences behind and join in unity as the One Body that they were redeemed to be in order to accomplish the work which He called His Church to accomplish.

In some of our future discussions, I’d like to visit about the traditional reasons for needing a “church building” and how we might lower the budget in order to “free-up” money for true Kingdom work. While we are visiting, let’s consider what Scripture says in regards to being an “employee” for Jesus.