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What is good biblical leadership?

What is good biblical leadership? This is a question I've been asking myself lately. Oftentimes, I see Christian leaders referencing boo...

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Powerful Warning to the Church (Francis Chan)

This is a powerful warning to the Church about the dangers of gossip and divisiveness in the Body of Christ and the great importance of pursuing unity with fellow believers. The sermon length is 35:34, but well worth the time. 

1 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV) 
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Disconnecting God's Love from His Blessing

Today I am going to expand on the confusion many people have between God's love and His blessing. I believe the reason for this confusion is because for most, if not all, of our lives we've been conditioned to believe this kind of blessing equals love mindset. This way of showing love through blessing is literally built into most, if not all, earthly cultures where love is connected to behavior. So good behavior is rewarded with love and blessing and love and blessing are withheld with bad behavior. 

But what I want to propose to you is three things, that:
  1. God's love for His creation/people is not connected to our behavior
  2. God never withholds His love towards us
  3. God's love is not connected to His blessing
God's love for His creation/people is not connected to our behavior
God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). This means that God's very essence is love which means that He cannot not love. This means that everything that God does is from a place of love. The way that helps me understand the difference between God's love and human love is through percentages. You see, God loves His creation/people 100% all the time. Because His love is perfect this means the quality and quantity of His love is always at 100%. This means God's love for you will never lessen, not even to 99.9%, but always stays at a constant 100%. 

I find this helpful because oftentimes we can project our own feelings of rejection, disappointment and unlovableness onto God and in so doing we believe that because we've done something wrong that He loves us less. This is common because that is how most of us were raised as children and taught as we grew up by our cultures and societies. But we must recognize that this way of conditional and inconsistent love that has been ingrained into us is not the way God loves. He loves us full stop and there is nothing we can or cannot do to change this 100% love He has towards us. 

God never withholds His love towards us

So, even as I am raising my own child, I have to resist the impulse to withhold love from my daughter when she misbehaves as I express my disapproval of her behavior. Because the easiest way for me to express my disapproval of her behavior is to give her the impression of withholding my love towards her which couldn't be further from the truth because I love my daughter full stop. But I need to be mindful of my interactions with her because this is what she may end up concluding. Now, I believe at the root of this desire to withhold love or to give the impression of withheld love is control. I mean what better way for me to control my daughter's behavior? 

But, this
 imperfect way of expressing love is completely human and far different than God's divine expression of love. God is not a control freak. He has given people freewill and He honors that in people. God is not out trying to manipulate and control people but rather honors people's freewill. Because if you take away freewill, you take away the means to a real and genuine love relationship. 

So when my daughter misbehaves, I try my very best to 1) not overreact (easier said than done at times), then 2) let her know that I love her (I do this by giving her a cuddle and telling her), and then 3) as gently as I can tell her that what she did was not nice, wrong or selfish (which ever seems to fit at the time). I've learned over the last few years of being her father that I need to be intentional and consistent about building a foundation of love, trust and security with her. 

When it comes to God's Divine love for us, He is perfect in the way that He loves us and He will never resort to any sort of controlling or manipulative tactics when we misbehave/sin because He truly desires to have a real and genuine love relationship with us built on trust and security. This means that He will never withhold His love from us, full stop because that would go against the very nature of who He is (1 John 4:8, 16). 

God's love is not connected to His blessing

Another example of one of my "amazing" parenting tactics is bribery (yes I am being sarcastic here). The easiest way for me to get my daughter to do what I ask her is to bribe her with some sort of blessing. For example, there are times where she refuses to sit in her car seat and so I will offer her different things that I know she likes to get her to obey me. Now, when I do this I know that I am only reinforcing behavioral conditioning where good behavior = blessing and bad behavior = no blessing. Because I also use reverse bribery (yes I think I just made this term up), but I threaten to not give her something (some sort of blessing) if she doesn't listen.

This way of behavioral conditioning is again common to the way many us were raised which continued on as we continued on in school where good behavior was rewarded and bad behavior punished. To use an extreme example of this, just look at prison systems, where good behavior is rewarded with time off a person's prison sentence and bad behavior is punished with solitary confinement and/or added prison time. But, if we really paused to look and see just how common behavioral conditioning is in our society, we will discover that it is integrated into just about every part of our society and just not on the fringes. 

Hopefully you are recognizing the great need to begin unlearning the way we have been behaviorally conditioned towards blessing and love. I would also add that working towards separating the two is vitally crucial because we will naturally approach God in this way. We will believe that as long as we are doing good and right things, He loves and blesses us and when we do wrong He withholds His love and blessing from us.

Now, I believe this may have been true through the Mosaic Covenant of the Law, but today we are under a New Covenant through Christ which makes the Mosaic Covenant irrelevant to us because Jesus has fulfilled the Law and we now stand with Jesus in this fulfillment. If we are to follow any commands of love I believe John 13:34-35 shows us the way: "So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you're me true followers" (The Passion Translation). 

do want to highlight the dangers to a formulaic approach to faith which means when we start implementing formulas into our understanding of God's ways. If I do (A) + (B) then God must do (C) kind of thinking.  When we begin to rely on formulas we will either end up in legalism or in believing we can manipulate God. 

This is why I believe the sooner we disconnect God's love to His blessing towards us, the greater intimacy we will have with Him because too often, when we believe the two are connected this has the ability to drive a wedge between drawing near to God and fully living in His perfect love for us. 

Now hear me on this, I am NOT saying that God doesn't reward and bless us, what I am saying is that we should never allow our sense of His blessing in our life to be the measure of His love for us. If we are to have a measure, then the Cross should be the only measure we look to in understanding the greatness and fullness of God's love towards us (John 3:16) and never our life circumstance. 

I believe the main issues that hinder us from experiencing God's 100% love is our own personal barriers that we hold and that we need to breakthrough, so that we can know, understand and experience God's 100% love more comletely. A friend of mine has recently posted this on social media (thanks Joe K.) which I believe sums this up well: 
  • God didn’t send Jesus to die so that He would be able to love us, He sent Jesus so that we would be able to love Him.
  • His mind was never set against us, but ours against Him. He has never not loved us.
  • Sin didn’t set God against us, it set us against God. It didn’t separate us from God in the sense of Him withdrawing, it turned our hearts against Him and so we withdrew.
  • God didn’t send Jesus to die to satiate His anger towards humanity in its sin, but to satiate humanity’s anger towards God as a result of their sin.
  • He is the Lamb who took away the sin of the world. He is the Lamb who dealt with the irrational hostility of humanity towards Himself by circumcising their heart of the sin nature.
  • God didn’t reconcile Himself to us, He reconciled us to Himself.
  • God isn’t the one who was hostile, we were.
  • He loves us, and always has.
  • “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ 
I hope you were encouraged by this and my prayer is that the Holy Spirit would continue to draw you closer and closer to Jesus and that your sense of His love for you would be firm and unshakable. God bless you! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

How to Identify Spiritual Abuse?

In looking through my blog I have yet to create a post that actually talks about spiritual abuse. So, considering that January has become the "unofficial/official" spiritual abuse awareness month. Here goes. 

Now, this post is not to point fingers at specific people, churches or organizations but rather to just help people discern and identify when spiritual abuse is happening. It saddens me when I hear stories of people suffering abuse from a leader or within an church/organization but had no idea that what they were actually experiencing was spiritual abuse. And so they end up accepting spiritually abusive behavior as normal. So heartbreaking.

My hope is that through this post people would be able to more readily recognize spiritually abusive behavior and not have to endure ongoing abuse but be able to either confront the abuse or make decisions to remove themselves from under the abusive leader or from out of the abusive environment. 

The reason spiritual abuse is so dangerous is because it causes people to become disillusioned with Christianity and even causes some to walk away from the faith completely. Spiritual abuse is sinful, but because of its destroying impact on a person's faith, I would say oftentimes there is a spirit of witchcraft involved because spiritual abuse has all the markers of witchcraft. Witchcraft has 3 main markers that fall under the umbrella of Control: 1) Domination, 2) Manipulation and 3) Intimidation. I've posted a more in depth post on this here

Below is a phenomenal video on the topic. The only thing I would add is the non-negotiable need to honor people's freewill. Freewill is a gift from God and is something that God honors full stop. I mean God honors a person's freewill to the point of allowing them to choose to reject Him forever. So, what I've concluded is this: who are we to dishonor something God honors. If God honors a person's freewill, than we (humanity) must also honor a person's freewill. When a leader demands blind obedience or unquestioning submission they move into the realm of dishonoring freewill. And when a leader start dishonoring a person's freewill I believe they move into a place of spiritual abuse. 

Here is a really good and informative video on "How to Identify Spiritual Abuse." Not only does the speaker explain what a spiritually abuse culture looks like, but also what a spiritually healthy culture looks like. I hope and pray that this helps you move forward on your journey.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Disillusionment & Divine/Cruciform Accommodation

Divine Accommodation in a nutshell is the concept that refers to the various ways God had to adjust His appearance in order to communicate to us because of our limited mental capacity and sin-filled hearts. This concept was first used by John Calvin but more recently picked up again by Greg Boyd who has expanded on Calvin's original concept and added a "Cruciform" Accommodation component.
"This principle holds that the cross, rather than a presupposed philosophical conception of what a “perfect being” should be like, must serve as the primary criterion by which we access the degree to which any biblical portrait of God is and is not a divine accommodation. Any divine portrait that reflects the character of God revealed on the cross is a direct revelation of God’s true character and will. Any that fall beneath what is revealed on the cross must be considered an accommodation of a stooping God.
The biblical narrative reflects God’s willingness to bend his ideals to accommodate the fallen and culturally conditioned state of his people. God is consistently depicted as a heavenly missionary who must temporarily appear to condone grotesque practices and beliefs that he actually deplores if he intends to gradually influence his people away from these practices and beliefs." (http://reknew.org/2017/07/four-principles-cruciform-thesis/) emphasis mine. 
Where I am going with this is to help explain why Jesus allows abusive leadership to persist within the church. I speak about this not as an outsider looking in but as one who has been disillusioned and has by the grace of God been restored. If there was one thing that I hope you take away from this blog is this: 
"It is not that God ever approves of a leader's controlling, abusive sinful behavior, rather God deplores it but He is divinely accommodating them as He works at helping them be and act more in line with His character."
Understanding this has helped me to come to terms with my own disillusionment. Disillusionment is a very real thing and is impacting Christians all around the world. Now what I believe to be the main catalyst in this is controlling, manipulative and abusive leadership. The reason for this post is to address the growing epidemic of disillusioned Christians who are leaving church and sometimes the faith altogether.

Some of the questions that I needed to grapple with and come to terms with followed along the lines of: 
  • "Jesus why are you allowing these controlling and manipulative leaders run your church?" 
  • "Jesus why are you allowing leaders who are more interested in getting people to serving their agenda, than actually loving them lead your people?"
  • "Jesus why is there so much spiritual abuse happening in your church?"
  • "Jesus why are you allowing greedy self-seeking leaders shepherd your flock?"
If you have ever asked these questions than understand that God is accommodating these leaders and is in no way, shape or form actually approving of their behavior. Now I will submit here that sometimes I wonder why is God accommodating them, but then I am reminded of my own failings or when I got it wrong and am grateful for the times that God has accommodate me in my own misguided demands and failings.

I would even go so far as to say that, if God didn't ever accommodate people than we would all be certainly doomed. But, from my own journey with the Lord and understanding of Scripture what I see and have experienced is God as more of a loving Father than a harsh Judge. I believe God is still the Judge of all things, but I don't believe that is His first impulse. What I see throughout Scripture is God being gracious, compassionate and merciful first and foremost. So, for me rather than wondering why God accommodates, I am now just grateful that He does.

An example of this in is 1 Samuel 8 where the people are demanding a human king, in lieu of having God as their King. In this passage of Scripture we see that the time had come for God to form a nation for Himself. But, rather than fully accepting God as their King, the people demand that Samuel appoint for them a human king. 
Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. 7 “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.” 10 So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. (emphasis mine)
Here is one clear example of Divine/Cruciform Accommodation. God's original plan was to form this nation with Him as their Divine King, but the people wanted to be like all the other nations of the world, rather than being an exception and example to the world as God originally planned. So, He accommodates their sinful request and masterfully weaves this into His plan of redemption.

At the heart of Divine/Cruciform Accommodate I believe what we must see and understand is a God who is always stooping down to meet culturally conditioned and sinful people where they are at, and from this place patiently and lovingly helps them slowly come to greater and clearer revelation and understanding of who He is and His plan for them. What we get a glimpse of is a loving, gracious and merciful God who is patient and long-suffering towards His creation/people. And since then God has continued to accommodate His people, even until today.

Another verse that has helped me in my own understanding and restoration is Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (NLT). I believe that there are lots of things happening both within the church and outside of it that is not God's will, but that doesn't mean that God cannot bring some good out of any situation no matter how dark and sinful. 

I mean just look at the good He bought about through the crucifixion of Jesus by the hands of evil principalities and powers and sinful evil people. If He can bring about the salvation of the whole world through the most tragic event of all history than He can also bring good out of any and all other situations. This understanding needs to be firmly rooted in the foundational bedrock of our faith.  

If you are interested in learning more on this, here is a video where a few guys discuss Greg Boyd's take on Divine (Cruciform) Accommodation: