Restoration


After I experienced spiritual abuse I questioned everything.

I did not know who to trust, what to believe, or what was true. I doubted my own judgment about everything.

For over four years I wanted to know what was true, but I did not know where to find it.

Thankfully, someone did. It took over four years of searching, trying Christian counseling, talking to pastors and ministry leaders, sharing with family and friends. It took over four years of searching, digging, striving, working, pleading, fighting, and finally surrendering before God said, “look here”.

I knew the answers lay with God, I just didn’t know how to find it and live it.

A door opened for biblical counseling/discipleship. This was completely different from the Christian counseling I had received because it was all about God and scripture and not about us. I was shown what the Bible said about each subject. I was taught that the Bible was not an instruction manual given to guide me, but was the revelation and presentation of God. I was shown once and for all that truth exists, and exactly where to find it. When God said, “look here”, he wasn’t referring to the discipleship, but to himself and his revelation in scripture.

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true.  And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)

If we do not believe that Christ is truth, and that he is the source of all truth then we are not believing in who he is.

I no longer believe in a man, believe in a religion, or believe in teachings. I live by truth.

Today I listened to an amazing sermon that clearly presents how we can be deceived and misled. It is based upon Colossians 2:6-8. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

If you have struggled to know what truth is or have felt as if you are mixed up, confused, and living under confusion I have three suggestions:   

  1. Study scripture to learn about the character and nature of God. Throw out everything you have known and especially what you have been taught by man, and let the Lord and the Holy Spirit bring truth to you.
  2. Read 1 John. I believe this book clearly shows how we know what is true, presents fruit that is exhibited by those who walk in truth, and teaches us HOW to live out a life that is changed from the Gospel transforming our lives.
  3. Listen to the sermon I mentioned above. It is by Matt Chandler at the Village Church in Texas. I do not know much about the church, but I know Matt’s reputation is very sound, and he is one of the strongest biblical teachers in our nation. He is very blunt (which I like), which means he will address things that other pastors might not, including how we are misled by false teaching. He gives us some tests to use and ways to communicate with others when they present us teachings and philosophies that sound good up-front, but which really drive us away from truth. You can find the sermon here. The first 12-20 minutes are the section that speak directly to these issues, but the entire sermon is good and powerful.
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One of the things I have learned through my journey over the last few years is that there are easy days and days that are more difficult ones. The last few days have been some of those more difficult days.

I am still learning that there are conversations which engage and bless my heart and soul, and others that may cause me struggle.

Unfortunately I am still not very good at recognizing ahead of time those that might lead to struggle and then avoiding them.

Recently I engaged in a conversation that has caused me struggle. One of the hardest pieces for me over the past year has been learning to deal with the love I still feel for my last pastor and the people of that church, and having absolutely no outlet to express it since they will not speak with me. In this conversation someone voiced an opinion they hold which left me conflicted. It is their right to hold their opinions, even if I do not agree with them. I do not believe this person had any intention of saying anything that would cause me to struggle, but the truth is it did.

Struggles come in all sorts of forms, and we don’t always know when they are headed our way. We can not always avoid them.

We can however prepare ahead of time to deal with them when they arrive.

In this situation, the root of my struggle is twofold 1) I am left asking what the biblical truth is about a specific subject 2) My heart aches that someone has spoke negatively about someone I care about, even if our relationship is currently broken and unresolved.

For the first issue, the best way to respond is through time in the Bible and in prayer. The Lord knows the truth and he can reveal it to me. He alone defines what truth is. Men may disagree, but the Lord knows how to take multiple scriptures that speak to different sides of an issue and to bring them together to make sense. I could have prepared ahead by spending more time in Scripture before this conversation, and by recognizing this area of uncertainty, however since I did not do that I need to turn to Scripture quickly and not let the questions and uncertainty fester and cause me confusion or distraction.

The second issue is more difficult for me to deal with in my relation to others. On my own, I have spent time mourning the loss of these relationships and allowing the Lord to minister to my heart. Each time this comes up I have to go back to him and allow the Lord to comfort me on a deeper level. I continue to try to reconcile the broken relationships and have to deal with the constant disappointment associated with that. I also have to protect my heart and soul from anger, resentment, and bitterness.

When I speak to others about my story I have faced some very hard conversations and pressure. Over and over again I have been told to have nothing to do with the people from my old church. I have been told to let go of the past and to move forward. I have had to listen to great criticism of others, and have faced a lot of criticism about how I have responded. There are some people I have encountered who hold a great deal of anger and bitterness in their hearts. They get angry about things that are not a part of their story due to resentment and offense they hold in their heart. I have been told to turn my back on others and to not work through the issues. I have been told it is okay to forget them. I have been told I am justified to feel angry, hurt, and to be unkind and unloving toward others.

I just can not agree! No matter what others have done or will do to me I have to choose to follow what the Lord has shown me love, sacrifice, and truth.

The Lord has changed my heart and healed it so deeply that I can not even understand much of what I have been told by others. I do not feel offense or anger. I do still live with the pain of the brokenness and disunity that exists. My heart desires love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Today my heart hurts. I wish the world would be a place where the only conversations I even could engage in would bless my heart and soul.

Unfortunately, life brings struggle, but I know that God can use every single struggle to bless, grow, change, and draw me to be more like him. That is where I want to go!

Sometimes circumstances leave you behind a rock and a hard place, and no option looks or feels good.

That is how it may feel to be authentic and transparent about your life.

You know your past, you know the story, you know the good, the bad, the lame, the extreme, and you know the parts that might live better hidden under a rock. Do you have any of those pieces? Pieces of your story that you are not proud of? Pieces of your story that you may be coming to terms with, but others don’t want you to tell? Do you have pieces of your story that could hurt others, and therefore you are not sure what to do with them?

When my life intertwines with others, then my story becomes our story. My story no longer exists alone.

It is hard to learn to own our story. We may be willing to accept the parts of our story that we feel responsible for, but not those parts that are imposed or inflicted upon us. When our stories involve others it is difficult to know how to own our story, and what to share with others. That is especially true if the story could hurt others.

Some of us have stories where we are hurt, disillusioned, and victimized. Church and spiritual abuse typically occurs at the hands of leaders, and many people feel it is wrong to speak against leaders or to say anything that might damage their reputation. However, not being allowed to share our stories can leave us in silence, shame, and bondage. Those things are not healthy, and they keep us from being authentic and transparent. They keep us from growing and having healthy, mature, and authentic faith lives.

Sharing our stories does not need to be a black and white issue. There are some guidelines that can help in knowing when, where, and what to share.

1) Own your story: Are you willing to accept your story for what it is? This includes being realistic about what happened, and not denying it. Accepting it means being able to state facts about what happened with little to no shaping of your own perspectives and agendas. It also means taking responsibility for your part of the story and accepting things you did wrong. In my story I had to accept my sin, my failures, my false theologies and beliefs, and my poor communication and relationships.

2) Check your heart: If you are going to share your story, take time to ask why. If you are only telling your story because you need to work through issues, then choose an audience who will help you do that. This will typically be people you see face-to-face, and I believe it is best done in community and relationships and not just in a counselor’s office. A time may come to share your story (or elements of it) to a larger audience like a bible study, a church group, in a written newsletter/article, on a blog, or in a book. Knowing the condition of your heart and why you are sharing are critical when you start to speak beyond those who are closest and most intimate with you. If you are not sharing for the right purposes, then please stop and take your heart to the Lord to have it changed.

3) Guard your words: When our stories intertwine with others, anything we say can reflect poorly on others involved. Checking our heart is the first step of guarding our words, but even if our intentions and purposes of sharing are correct, we still need to be very careful that our words are shaped in a way to redeem, build up, strengthen, give life, and encourage. Our words can hurt and destroy. Take time and make very determined effort to speak words that will bring life, hope, and healing. You do not need to tell everything to express your story, and if you are testifying about what God has done your focus will be his work, and not the deeds of other humans and how they might have failed you/God/others.

4) Seek to bring God glory: What better purpose is there in sharing our story than to bring glory to God? This actually might be the only reason to share our story beyond our closest circle, but our stories are also a work in progress and always changing. If all we do is seeking to glorify God and to bring him glory then our words, our purposes, our heart will all be focused on that. We will not have room in our heart or mouths to speak things that lash out, destroy, or bring malicious damage to others.

5) Give grace: Give others and yourself a great deal of grace. Even in the best of situations there is room for things to be misspoken, misunderstood, or shared with a perspective others do not share. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Be willing to correct and change things in your story if needed to clarify so others have the correct understanding. Be open when others are critical about you sharing, and allow them to speak their disapproval. It might be that their disapproval will change if voiced, or there could be room for compromise. Also, give grace to yourself. Sharing your story may open the door for shame, guilt, criticism, anger, frustration, or denial to surface. Take the time to feel what comes up, and to walk into the painful and difficult parts of the journey. Be realistic that you are a broken person who needs a savior, and even with all the Lord has done in your life up until now, there is still more that needs to be done.

If it is time for you to share our story and the situation is correct, then share it with a heart to glorify God. Speak with boldness, grace, and love.

Tell of how the Lord has brought you through, opened your heart/eyes, and how he is writing you a new story. You do not need to live in silence, shame, guilt, or secrecy. Be honest, be transparent, be authentic and real. Your story is your own, all of it! Sharing your story and confessing things might be the door that opens your life up to the freedom that only Christ can bring.

Doubt is not disbelief – doubt is faith taking itself seriously. Willfulness, not doubt, is the opposite of faith.

– Richard J. Vincent, 2004

I heard this song a couple of weeks ago and it immediately led me to think of all those I know who are disillusioned, hurting, frustrated, etc. Those who feel like they have been knocked down, but who need to know that they are not knocked out forever. God never gives up on us, and we need to stopping giving up on ourselves and each other.

Get Back Up
By Toby Mac

You turned away when I looked you in the eye,
And hesitated when I asked if you were alright,
Seems like you’re fighting for you life,
But why? oh why?
Wide awake in the middle of your nightmare,
You saw it comin’ but it hit you outta no where,
And theres always scars
When you fall back far

We lose our way,
We get back up again
It’s never too late to get back up again,
One day you will shine again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever,
Lose our way,
We get back up again,
So get up, get up,
You gonna shine again,
Never too late to get back up again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever
[May be knocked down but not out forever]

You’re rolled out at the dawning of the day
Heart racin’ as you made you little get away,
It feels like you’ve been runnin’ all your life
But, why? Oh why?

So you’ve pulled away from the love that wou’d’ve been there,
You start believin’ that your situation’s unfair

But there’s always scars,
When you fall back far

We lose our way,
We get back up again
Never too late to get back up again,
One day, you gonna shine again,
You may be knocked down but not out forever,
Lose our way, we get back up again,
So get up, get up
You gonna shine again
It’s never too late, to get back up again
You may be knocked down, but not out forever,
May be knocked down, but not out forever!

This is love callin’, love callin’, out to the broken,
This is love callin’.
This is love callin’, love callin’, out to the broken
This is love callin’.
This is love callin’, love callin’,
I am so broken
This is love callin’ love callin

Lose our way, [way way way ay ay ay]
We get back up, [get back up again]
It’s never too late [late late late ate ate ate]
You may be knocked down but not out forever!

Lose our way,
We get back up again,
So get up get up
You gonna shine again
Never too late to get back up again
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever,

This is love [lose our way] callin’ love callin’ [get back up again]
To the broken
This is love [never too late] callin’
[may be knocked down but not out forever]
This is love [lose our way] callin’ love callin’ [we get back up again]
To the broken
This is love [never too late] callin’
[may be knocked down but not out forever]

This is love callin’ love callin’
Out to the broken,
This is love callin’….

We have a problem in the church, a problem that is growing because we are not recognizing and addressing it. Our problem is we are moving away from truth and toward our own wisdom. We have taken up moralizing and psychologizing issues and not looking at our issues as a result of a distorted understanding of God where we have hold other things as idols that take the place of God in our lives.

This information is quoted from Galatians: The Law and the Gospel by Timothy J. Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, NY:

  1. Moralizing: Basic analysis: Your problems is that you are doing wrong. Repent!
    This focuses on behavior but doesn’t go deep enough. We must find out the why of our behavior. To simply tell an unhappy person (or yourself) to repent and change their behavior is insufficient, because the lack of self-control is coming from a belief that says, “Even if you live up to moral standards but don’t have this, then you are still a failure.” You must replace this belief through repentance for the one sin under it all – your particular idolatry.
  2. Psychologizing: Basic analysis: Your problem is that you don’t see that God loves you as you are. Rejoice!
    This focuses on feelings, which seem to be deeper than behavior but it also fails to go deep enough. We must also find out the why of our feelings. To simply tell an unhappy person (or yourself), “God loves you – rejoice!” is insufficient. The unhappiness is coming from a belief that says, “Even if God loves you, but you don’t have this, then you are still a failure.” You must replace this belief through repentance for the one sin under it all – your particular idolatry.
  3. The Gospel: Basic analysis: Your problem is that you are looking to something besides Christ for your happiness. Repent and rejoice!
    This confronts a person with the real sin under the sins and behind the bad feelings. Our problems is that we have given ourselves over to idols! Every idol-system is a way of our-works-salvation, and thus it keeps us “under the law.” Paul tells us that the bondage of sin is broken when we come out from under the law – when we being to believe the gospel of Christ’s-work-salvation. Only when we realize in a new way that we are righteous in Christ will the idol’s power over us be broken. “Sin shall not be your master for you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). You will only be “under grace” and free from the controlling effects of idols to the degree that you have both repented for your idols and rested and rejoiced in the saving work and love of Christ instead.

Grace, a word and concept we don’t understand. Christ saved us by faith and grace, not by works. Grace frees us because it does not condemn and shame us, but it points us back to the work that Christ did for us. It tells us that the law will not, can not, was never meant to save us. It just shows us the contrast of what the Lord did for us and how we are liberated and free.

Moralizing and psychologizing will not save us, but the Gospel will. It is all about Christ’s work and not ours.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to read Grace is for Sinners by Serena Woods. I say “privilege” because this autobiographical book gives a look into some very difficult aspects of Serena’s life and she presents them with grace, honesty, and humility.

Serena, although being a Christian, made some choices that did not adhere to the standards the Lord has given to us and she is transparent about the choices she made, the effects of her sin, and what the results have been in her life. Serena, while married, became involved with a married man and committed adultry. The results of her moral failures shattered her life, her relationships, and shook her faith to the core. She honestly tells about the questions she asked, the struggles she walked through, and the reactions she received from others.

This book holds some very powerful messages if people are willing to listen. For those who have made choices that led them into sin, Serena talks about coming to terms with those decisions and accepting that although she never thought she was capable of this type of sin it was now her story. For those who have faced rejection, banishment, or judgement from other Christians when they needed love, there is a message of understanding, and some direction for how someone might overcome the pain and the disillusionment. For those who want to provide safe, loving, and redemptive places for those who have been hurt or who want to be restored after sin, this book gives a fantastic glimpse of the pain and suffering someone may go through and the issues they may wrestle through in coming back to faith.

Serena is honest about the struggle she faced to accept her own sin, and to find some message of hope. She knew that she had made mistakes, but longed to set things right and to be restored to faith. The honest and authentic approach to her quest for resources, words of encouragement, and places of truth and hope provide the reader with a heartfelt understanding of her pain and desire to change.

Serena’s answer to her pain, her sin, and her quest for answer led her straight to the Word of God. Scripture became her place of truth, and strength as she looked for answers. That message above all others is the one that I believe we need to hear. She didn’t find the answers in the sinful relationship with the man she became involved with. She didn’t find the answers in the words or support of friends and family. She didn’t find the answers in books, podcasts, journaling, or attending church services. She found her answers, her hope, her path toward righteousness and restoration by turning to God’s word and learning about God in new ways. Her relationship with Him became the most important thing. She now knows that her lack of relationship and understanding of the Lord kept her from recovering, and through growing in her knowledge of God and scripture she now has a firm foundation that drives her life, her recovery, and her quest for hope and purpose. She is now a living testimony that God can redeem lives. She is now a living testimony that Grace is for Sinners, and she is developing a faith that will be immovable. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Serena is a witness to the power of grace and its power to change lives.

I commend Serena for her honest and authentic and transparent presentation of this time in her life. She does an amazing job of sharing the hardships and pain that her own decisions led to, and how difficult it was to return. She also presents us with hope that returning from a place of devastation and rock bottom is possible.

Thank you Serena for the message of hope and the witness of the Lord’s restoration.

It truly was a privilege to hear your story, and to see God at work in your life!

Check out Serena’s blog at http://www.graceisforsinners.com/

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