I’m Back

I apologize for having been so slow at posting anything on my blog. But, like many of you there have been some significant issues in my life that needed to be resolved, and they had to take priority. Thank you for your patience.

But I’m back(ish).

A Little About Suffering

February 17, 2011 1 comment

There is a verse in the Bible which has been haunting me lately. Well, maybe haunting is not quite the right word. It laid on my mind like a wet blanket on a cold Fall day.

A friend of mine pointed it out, and I’ll bet you haven’t heard it preached very often. It goes like this and can be found in 1 Corinthians 4, “To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”

When I left ministry that is how I felt: lower than the lowest. A person whose reputation was destroyed along with his life’s ambitions. I had achieved becoming a zero, a betrayer, a loser, both morally and financially bankrupt. I hated myself and was convinced that others did as well. My wounds were deep wounds.

And there has been great suffering: partly self-inflicted, partly inflicted by others. All of it allowed by God, maybe even orchestrated by God, ordained by him. As many of you know the past year has been a terrible one for me and my family. Leaving ministry was just about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It brought me to the edge of chaos emotionally, spiritually, financially, and every other way imaginable. It was an experience that I barely survived. It was crucial to be able to process the suffering.

What was it that was happening, and why? Why would God allow this?

I can just hear some of my old church friends thinking, “because God was punishing you.” If you know the situation, you’ll recognize to whom I’m referring. And maybe they’re right. But there is always more to it than that. God is about a redemptive work, about healing and grace.

At a time when I needed help more than ever before, what I faced was a wall constructed by some of the loving people of the church. It hurt so deeply that I could hardly breathe.

And, when I mentioned, and claimed, God’s grace in the context of my life to friends of mine who are pastors their response was almost unanimously, “yes, but don’t forget that God is a holy God.” The implication being that we need to be obedient sons and daughters. This is true, but in that moment of crisis it was hardly helpful. There was precious little hope offered. Instead what I felt was shame, a deep, profound sense that I was a mistake.

Sandra Wilson defined shame like this: “…a soul deep sense that there is something uniquely wrong with me that is not wrong with you or anyone else in the world. Because I am not perfect and problem free, I felt hopelessly, disgustingly different and worth less than other people. I view myself as literally worthless. I isn’t that I make a mistake when I make a mistake; I am a mistake when I make a mistake.” This is shame’s message. It’s harsh and it’s ugly. I felt like that for a long time when I left ministry.

You know what? The battle takes place deep within us in a hidden darkness. It is a heart battle. It’s something that has the potential to kill emotionally, relationally, mentally, spiritually, and even physically.

But here’s the message of this blog.

There is another verse in the Bible that goes like this, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” For those people who read this blog but don’t read the Bible, you can find that in 1 Peter chapter five.

This suffering did have a purpose, and maybe punishment was a part of it. I believe, however, that there is no punishment left. I believe that because Jesus took all of the punishment I deserve. Instead, what I think is that the process of suffering allows us to be perfected. In the process of suffering the dross in our hearts and lives is scooped off and we become more pure. It requires a furnace to remove the ore from the gold. That’s what suffering does, it perfects us.

So, here is what I believe God is doing, and it is a promise of his that I claim for myself. I believe that he is perfecting me. Notice that I do not consider myself perfected. I believe also that he is confirming me as his. I am a member of his family and of his kingdom. This is not something that any human can take away. I am not going to “rot in hell” as some have said. Furthermore, this is a strengthening transition. I’m not strong yet, but I am getting there physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

God is in the process of re-establishing me where he wants me. The truth of the matter is that he did not remove me from ministry. His call on my life is irrevocable. And he has been giving me some very powerful messages about what it is that he wants me to do. I will write more about that in another post. For the moment it’s enough to say that in the midst of this very dark night God has turned on a very bright light.

The Heart of the Matter

January 2, 2011 Leave a comment

I went to church this morning, as I have done most Sundays for the past sixteen years. The pastor was talking about our hearts and their importance for our lives. It’s interesting but not surprising that God was already talking to me about mine today, since I certainly have some heart issues. But that is not the only reason that God was talking to me about hearts. You see, the human heart is of the utmost importance to God, and in one way or another it unifies entire Bible.

If you don’t believe there is a God, or if you don’t believe the Bible is God’s word, I encourage you to read on anyway. Hopefully, somewhere in my ranting you will find some wisdom.

However, before we go too far with this discussion we need to figure out what exactly we mean by heart. In this context it is our true self. Our hearts are not really separate from our minds, but add in a little passion, some emotion, and a dash of spirit for spice. Who we really are is in our hearts, and although they are hidden from people, our surface actions point to them. From the heart our will is expressed. We make decisions from our hearts. It is the center all that we do and all we are. Actions follow our will, and our will is “resident” in our heart.

Let me give you an example. Proverbs 30:31 says this, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Now ostensibly, this passage is in reference to women. However, the truth of the matter is that it applies to us all, both women and men. This one short sentence shows two characteristics. The first is one of deceit and vanity. The second is one of a reverence for God.

To be vain is to have an empty, valueless, and inflated pride about yourself. Much like conceit, it is strongly self-focused. Yet, vanity is the result of something else. It is the product of something deeper. A vain person will puff himself up in his own eyes.

Have you ever stopped to ask why people do this? Is it a fluke, or just part of their nature? Did the environment play a part? Where they born that way? Part of it must be that they(read we) are concerned deeply about how other people see them. It is profoundly about how we perceive the way people perceive us. It like comes from an inner sense of insecurity.

In other words it’s a heart issue.

There is something that has a grip on the vain person’s heart that causes this behavior, and to varying degrees it will result in a failed relationships. People begin to avoid a vain person and drift away. A gap forms between them simply because the heart is in the grip of a need for approval.

So, here’s the point. If we don’t take care of our hearts we put ourselves at risk. Not only that, but you will never be able to stop lying, cheating, being vain, committing adultery, coveting or anything else until you do some real business with God about the root cause of those behaviors. This is, of course, why the church exists. And it is, without a question, the reason the church is full of people who can, at best, be called hypocrites.

We all have heart issues. Psalm 51 says in part, “create in me a clean heart.” Do you have the courage to pray Psalm 26:2? It says this, “Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.”

In this, the new year, we will be unable to fulfill any of our resolutions, and our personal life goals will go completely unrealized unless we pay heed to whatever it is that has a grip on our hearts. We will be unable to stop overeating, or drinking, or smoking, or spending more than we make, or anything else until we do some deep business.

My challenge to anyone reading this is to first examine your heart. Don’t beat yourself up emotionally, but really take some time to ask what the real issues are that drive you to do the things you want to change.

Husbands

December 26, 2010 Leave a comment

In Ephesians 5:21 through 5:33 Paul writes about the relationship between husband and wife, and likens it to that between Christ and the Church. He starts by saying that we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Notice please that it is a mutual submission guys. This is not a one way street. Notice also that it is a different word that is used here than that used in Ephesians 6:1 where children are told to obey their parents. My point is that wives are not called to “obey” their husbands.

In this entry I will speak to husbands, since that’s what I am. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (ESV). As men we have a tendency to look at that passage and think very highly of ourselves: we’re sacrificing ourselves for our wives. We’re amazing people, we husbands, aren’t we.

Trust me when I tell you, I have done my share of thinking well of myself. But that is not the point of the statement that Paul is making.

Let’s start with the church. What kind of people make up the church? Are they holy, righteous, kind, merciful, tolerant people? Is that what you have found when you do more than scratch the surface of the church? Or have you found another kind of person, the kind that needs a bit more grace than you’re willing to extend?

I have found all kinds of people in the church, but without exception I can tell you that every one of us is a sinner. The church is full of people who need forgiveness. The church is made of people who have lied, stolen, cheated, lusted, committed adultery, who are arrogant, have dishonored parents, who are combative, depraved, who have participated in all kinds of sexual deviations. You name it, someone in the church has done it. So I repeat, the church is made up of real sinners.

If ever there was a group of people more undeserving of God’s love you would be hard pressed to find them. Yet there you have it, we’re called the bride of Christ. Jesus loves us as a husband loves his wife, but not as a human husband. We don’t set the standard for loving wives, and you wives have God to thank for that. If we husbands set the standard for God’s love then God would not be a very loving God, would he?

God’s love is different than the world’s love. Christ made an amazing sacrifice for people who certainly did not deserve it. An absolutely holy God made this sacrifice for the most vile people. And we husbands are called to do the same. Now, I’m not calling our wives vile. I’m just saying that the love we’re supposed to extend to our loves is not like the world’s love. It is not like human love.

The way we love most of the time is dependent upon something that we see or find in our spouse. She has some beauty, wealth, personality, or other characteristic that we find engaging. This is what some of my friends recommend. Find a woman that has prestige, personality, and panache: some positive characteristic. It’s not a bad idea really. But that love will be fickle. What happens when you discover, much to your dismay, that she no longer has some of those characteristics? What if she never really had them? Most men move on to the next woman. They become serial monogamists.

God’s love is not like that. First, God is not partial with his love, and second he doesn’t expect us to be worthy of his love. As I said above, if he were to only love those who are worthy of his love, then no one would be loved by God. But it’s in his nature to love what he created.

So, husbands, what does this mean for us? We are commanded, yes commanded, to love our wives, period. Love her not only when she deserves it, but also when she doesn’t deserve it. Love is not about being attracted to her, it’s God’s command. If you can love her when you’re not attracted to her, she will become attractive. That’s part of what it means when it says that she will be “sanctified” as the result. Love is not about what, or who she is. It is about what and who we are in Christ.

There will likely come a time in your married life when you are not attracted to your wife. In fact, there will likely come a time when you find that she is not the person you believed her to be. Some, or maybe all, of those engaging characteristics of hers disappear. Husband, you are still obligated to love her. Indeed, you are under a greater obligation to do so since she needs it more. There is something powerfully redemptive about being loved when you need it.

Divine love is such that God loves us despite the fact that he knows us.

That’s the love that Christ has for the church. That’s the love that husbands are to have for their wives. That’s the call that God has laid on you as a husband. But let’s take it one more step. She is in the world just like you are in the world. That means that she’s been wounded like you have been wounded. She needs you to be Christ to her in the very place where she hurts the most, where her wounds are deepest. This may be a place of great pain for her, and it may call you to be very dependent on “supernatural” love and grace.

The role of husband is to be the leader in the home. So, lead already. Leadership is not the same as boss-ship. It means “go first.” Set the example. Establish a vision.

Love first.

Categories: Love, Marriage

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope that this Christmas finds you well.

Despite it having been a very hard year, I find that I am blessed beyond measure. My family has been more than supportive and loving. And I want to thank you for that.

Also, throughout the worst of this crisis there have been a few very close and loving friends. You stood by me even when it looked the worst, and even when it looked as embarrassing as it could possibly be. It is very interesting to experience a personal crisis in your life. Some people will stand by you, some will abandon you.

For those that stood by me, thank you. You have blessed me greatly.

Categories: Love

Why FounderSeed

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

A friend of mine asked me today why I named this blog FounderSeed. The answer is quite simple. It is named after God, the founder of the church and the founder of this mission. And it is named for Jesus who is the seed that God planted here to spread the Gospel.

The tag line “Wandering Homeward” is a reflection of what we’re all doing here. I’m sure you’ve noticed that everyone dies. The question is, what happens then? Is it like falling asleep with no dreams? Is there anything after life? Or do we join the great “force” since we all know that energy is never destroyed but only changes form. Or is there life after death?

Well, having had a personal and close encounter with God, I admit to believing that we do experience life after life. You are, of course, welcome to disagree. I get that, and I can’t prove you’re wrong; won’t even try. Frankly, I’m not here to try to prove anything. And if you’ve ever read the Bible you may have noticed that it never attempts in any way to prove the existence of God either. It begins, continues, and ends with the supposition that God is real.

So, wandering homeward is just my way of saying that I’m going home, and I seem to be taking the long way.

Categories: Purpose

Preparing for the AT

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

OK, so I’m old, I had a heart attack when I was thirty-eight, planted a church in North Central Ohio in my early fifties, have had some personal struggles that temporarily took me out of ministry and here I am planning a through hike of the Appalachian Trail. Some of you may say that there is indeed some village somewhere that is missing its favorite idiot. But, this is something I’ve dreamed of doing ever since I read about Grandma Gatewood.

In some ways this is a mission, and in others it’s a redemptive hike. And it will not be easy. Along the way it will be tedious, the terrain laborious. There will be cold, hot, muggy, rain, snow, and bugs. There will be long stretches of gray skies and green mud. There will be substantial call for determination to reach the goal of Katahdin Falls which is located in Baxter State Park.

It’s a mission because I’m a crazy Christian who believes that the primary purpose of the church is to talk to people about Jesus and for whatever reason I also believe that there is someone I’m supposed to meet on the Trail. It’s redemptive because life has been pretty difficult lately and it will provide an opportunity to heal and to “interact with the environment” to quote my counselor.

When you’re out on the a trail there is only one thing to focus on, and that is taking the next step. Yes, you must have a determination to reach a goal, but that goal is very far away. So, sometimes the best you can do is take a step, overcome the inertia, and begin to move in some direction: even if it doesn’t seem to make sense.

I remember reading that there are three things that can undermine a vision. They are fear, criticism, and good opportunities. All of those were present when I planned to start a church, and they are present now. Many good friends have expressed a fear for my safety, and quite frankly I appreciate the concern being expressed. Others have flat-out told me they think I’m a “bit off my rocker,” and I probably am. But the church we planted is still there and I believe that this will produce something significant and lasting as well.