Sin


The idea of whether we have permission to speak comes up a lot among those who have been hurt and disillusioned by and with the church.

Author/Speaker Anne Jackson is releasing a new book today titled Permission to Speak Freely.

If you or someone you know has been hurt by the church and has questioned God, this could be the book that will begin a road to recovery. Permission to Speak Freely is also an excellent resource for those in the church who haven’t been through the things Anne and many others have to help them to become aware of the dangers of living a life of condemnation toward others. The stories in Permission to Speak Freely can serve as a wake-up call to the church. Jackson’s book and ministry will help many in the church who have been wounded and left to pick up the pieces. – CBA Retailers & Resources Magazine

Today Jonathan Acuff at Stuff Christians Like posted an excerpt from the book, an excerpt showing some of the roots of Anne’s disillusionment with the church. He ends with this question, “Have you ever had an experience where how people in the church acted and what the Bible says didn’t line up?”

I share this not to draw you to more stories about what is wrong with the church. That is not my heart, nor do I believe it is something Jonathan or Anne would support. I share this because the discussion about having permission to speak, having a voice, speaking out, and confessing our need for each other and for a Savior is so important.

Pick up the book.

Lurk on the sites and learn more.

Find the courage to speak freely.

You have permission!

My words have not been right lately. I have been short-tempered, prideful, and questioning. My words are a reflection of my heart. My heart has been experiencing shame.

My heart needs to change.

Not temporary or surface level change, but deep heart-felt change.

Recently I received some email communication from someone I have not communicated with since May 2009. Their communication contained something that caught me by surprise and I did not interpret part of it correctly so did not respond as well as I wish I had responded. Their second message said they had hoped that I had been “set free” this past year, but it was clear I was still working through some things. There was a part of me that felt justified that I had reason to still be working through issues as things are not yet resolved with my last church, but deep down what really bothered me was that this person had seen something I had not seen, even after all these months of hard work. When I stopped to look, I realized they were addressing something in my heart and attitude that needed to change.

Today I finally had the time to work on that with God.

Correction, today I finally had the courage to let God work on me.

Often we know when something is not quite right in our heart. We may avoid it, deny it, reject it, or twist it, but we are still aware it there. I have known recently that things were not completely right in my relationship with God, but I did not know what to do about it. Yesterday the weight of it became heavy and I knew I needed to change. I knew it was time to look at what lay underneath. However, I also knew that I couldn’t change anything. All I could do was to let go, to open myself up to God, and to trust that he would lead me.

So, this morning before I even started the day and moved from bed I laid my heart bare. I surrendered and let go of all plans, all desires, all expectations. I asked with a sincere heart for the Lord to change me and to reveal what I needed to know.

Today has been an amazing day.

The Lord waits for us to come to him.

He is always ready. He will always respond and will not fail us.

That doesn’t mean we will get the desires of our heart or he will answer how we want him to, but he will respond.

Like David, I became aware of my sin, and I cried out for him to change me. (Psalm 51)

Like Paul, my heart grew and my desires are changing so that I am drawn to be like Christ, even in his sufferings (Phil. 3)

This song holds a lot of truth, and it reminds us that the heart, our heart, is the key to our relationship with the Lord.

We can’t change it, but he can change us on the inside. It is our heart that needs to change.

I long for freedom to live in the truth
I want to be more like you
But every time I try to bring about change
I try to change the visible me
There's only one way I'm really gonna change…

Just like King David I cry out to you
Create in me a clean heart
I've grieved you again, I need your release
From patterns that keep me is sin
There's only one way I can finally break free

Change me on the inside
Change me on the inside
Change me on the inside

God isn’t finished with me yet. There are still areas of my heart I need to let go of, but today as we celebrate America’s independence I am also celebrating the freedom I have from sin, from bondage, from chains of falsehood and deception. I am celebrate that the Lord has changed me from the inside and he will change me even more. I long for freedom to live in the the truth, and I know the only way to break free and really change is by having the Lord change me, from the inside!

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/

I had a good discussion with someone this week about responsibility. An insurance company has a commercial out talking about responsibility. I like the commercial, but sometimes as I watch it I am left feeling that it is easy to do the right thing. Sometimes it is easy, but sometimes it isn’t, and when it involves other people it can be very messy.

If I make a decision to share information with someone I have made a choice. I am responsible for the choice I made to share. The other person would not have known the information if I had not shared. They are responsible for their choices regarding what they do with the information, but I am still responsible for the information I shared in the first place. That is exactly the situation from my last church. I made a choice to share information with T. She was a leader of a home group, the second eldest woman in the church, and by all I could see of her life she is a believer who is seeking to live a Godly life. I shared my story and my struggles with her and asked her for help. My intentions were good and were not to hurt anyone but were to work through all issues and resolve any conflicts that existed.

I made a choice.

I choose to share my story with T.

My choice cost me.

I believe T was well-intentioned, but I have learned that she does not have the best judgment about what and how to share with others. What T did and said are between her and God. I can only be responsible for my decisions and actions.

I am responsible for my decisions and actions.

When we do or say something we are responsible for it. Our feelings might change from when we first said something, but we are still responsible for what we said. Our heart might have been in the right place but our words may not have adequately reflected our heart…we are still responsible for our words.

In this case the things I shared with T made it back to the pastor and he interpreted it as me speaking against him. That was never my heart and I do not believe my words said anything like this, however I did share that there was relational and communication struggle between us. Due to this I was charged with disunity. I didn’t stand in front of the church body or even a group of people and say anything that blatantly opposed the pastor. I told a woman my story in confidence. I had prayerfully considered speaking with her. I went with a heart that wanted to work through things and not hurt anyone. However, I still made the choice to share.

I have to accept the fact that I did speak in a manner that caused disunity.

I have to accept that I stood against my pastor because I told someone that conflict existed.

It wasn’t my heart to hurt anyone, but in reality I did.

It wasn’t my heart to cause disunity, but in reality I did.

I did seek to share my story with others, but in reality it was shared.

I turned to a friend to seek counsel and guidance, but the friend I turned to was a bad choice.

I came seeking assistance to resolve things, but because I choose the wrong person the conflict grew.

I wanted to find resolve, but instead I took comfort in the fact that T shared some concerns and frustrations she had regarding the direction of the church. That was gossip and it was wrong.

I wanted to walk through the struggle with others, to be in community, to share life with others, but I did not do that in a healthy manner.

I am learning that taking responsibility and admitting our faults and shortcomings is hard, because our mistakes are not always made with an intentional heart.

I take responsibility for my words, my actions, and my choices. I was hurtful and sinful in the choices I made and I have to walk through the repercussions of those decisions. I repent of those choices and would not make them again.

In my case that means I can’t have relationship with people I love. I am not able to share life and faith with people I consider family. I am not granted forgiveness by leaders and others that I consider friends. The price I have to pay is high for the choices I made, but that happens at times. Many people have had to pay prices for being on a road when a car accident took place, being in a town when a natural disaster took place, or being at a wrong place at the wrong time.

Responsibility is hard, very hard, but I am learning that it is important to take responsibility. It is what a person of integrity, character, and truth should do. It is what I as a Christian believe Christ asks me to do.

I am walking with a friend right now who is going through a similar depression, spiritual struggle, and crisis to what I experience 10-12 months ago. For the last couple months she has been through an incredibly dark time that has been one of the hardest seasons of her life. She has struggled to hear God, to have confidence in her faith, and has been emotionally distraught and stressed.

When I went through this time last year I tried to express it to my pastor, but he didn’t understand.

When I expressed my struggle I was told I needed to trust the Lord and go through the motions. I was told that we do not need to understand everything and that I needed to attend fellowship even if it was an uncomfortable place for me (since all we did was hang out and have dinner but no spiritual fellowship and I was in such spiritual need).

  • My friend’s pastor has advised her to take the time she needs, to let us know how we can help, and those who know and love her are reaching out to her and offering support so she does not need to initiate.

When I expressed that I was having questions about my faith and understanding about God/Christianity and wondered if I had some misconceptions I was told that I was not a believer because I was doubting.

  • My friend has expressed her struggle and has been told that others will stand with her, help her to work through questions she has, and that because of the Gospel we will never let her go or reject her.

When I asked for support and resources I was told that all I needed was within the local church. I was discouraged from reaching outside that church.

  • My friend’s pastor encouraged her to find a counselor and now she is on medication to help with anxiety and depression.

When I wanted to share with others to get support I was told that I could not share my struggles because it involved miscommunication with the pastor and would cause disunity in the body.

  • My friend’s pastor has encouraged her to share how she is doing and invite others into her journey and struggle so she has people around her praying for her, uplifting her, and supporting her.

When I was in crisis and expressed that to my pastor he never responded and neither did others in the community, and a month later I was told that I was not allowing him to speak into my life so I was sinning by being unsubmissive and was excommunicated from the church.

  • Today my friend expressed that she is not able to serve in a way she had committed to for a ministry. Others have come around her to not only fill in the gap but to minister to her in deeper ways.

I know I walked one of these paths as the person in need and one as the person walking alongside, but the two stories are very, very different. One story led to anguish, pain, rejection, and abandonment. One has led to support, community, unity, strength, and empowerment. My friend’s story is not done yet and I do not know the outcome, but I know that God is actively involved and ministering to her. I know that he is involved and being called upon by a community that is standing with her. I know that he is being allowed to minister to her because her community of Christian friends (that goes far beyond her local church) are standing with her in prayer, strength, and hope.

It is amazing to see the people of God stand together when there is a need!

I received information today about the “charges” from my last church. The information still is not concrete with specific actions that I did and how that was sinful, but instead are vague generalities about the pastors’ struggle to communicate with me and how he had heard from others in the church that I was sharing that there were communication difficulties between us. So I have been charged with 1) lack of submission 2) spreading discord.

The counselor who communicated this to me has again asked for specifics from the elders about who I spoke to and what discord I spread but as it took eight months to reach this point I doubt we will get anything more. They have stated that I am not repentant and that my communication to others about what has occurred is clear evidence of that. They are very upset that I have expressed to them that others who I have turned to for counsel feel I have been abused, and that there are unhealthy and inappropriate things in how the church is lead and how I have been treated. Those are not my statements, but have come from others. The leaders will not communicate with me directly, but they do not want me communicating to others to process through things, seek input about what I have done and how I can change, or even share my story and glorify God.

I again struggle to know where that line is between sharing openly and transparently about our journey and story, and not spreading discord. It seems like it comes down to the heart that it is shared with. If we are sharing with a heart to hurt others or slanders their name then that is wrong, but if we are seeking to be open and transparent it seems like that is honest and can be used to help others grow and heal. I recently heard someone express that we are called to be open and vulnerable, but we don’t need to be naked (share everything).

Does anyone have thoughts about what is appropriate to share and in what settings?

I don’t want to hurt anyone or cause disunity but it doesn’t seem right that I never am able to share about my story either. I want to glorify God and be obedient to him in all I do, and I feel like my story could bring hope and healing to some others who have walked through similar paths of pain and disillusionment.

At times on the recovery journey things happen or days occur when our hearts are heavy, things seem out of sorts, or circumstances lead to difficult steps. How we choose to handle those times makes a big difference in where we go and how we move forward in the bigger picture. They may seem like small things but they do affect the bigger picture of where we are trying to go.

One thing I have been learning about is perception. Someone who is in the midst of the last stages of marriage expressed deep sorrow to me when they shared their spouse has a perception of injustices that were done in the past that they can not move past. This person has set their mind on a certain belief and even though others don’t agree with it they continue to stand firm in their convictions. Due to that the other spouse has found there is no further room for communication, compromise, reconciliation, or restoration.

If you have experienced relational struggle, abuse, injustice, rejection, or abandonment then what is your perception? Do you believe the others were completely in the wrong? Have you taken responsibility for your part? Are you willing to accept that your perceptions may in some ways be incorrect? Can you see ways others are holding incorrect perceptions? Could the perceptions you have be the cause of the problems in the first place? How do you respond when others have incorrect perceptions about you?

The elders and pastor of my last church hold a perception of me that is incorrect. I have tried to correct it but they continue to believe that I desire to hurt the pastor and the church. It actually is the exact opposite of my heart. I have protected them and spoken highly of them so many times. I love the pastor very, very deeply. They are Christians who are part of the family of God and as such there is no need for division, hostility, brokenness, or separation, and I do not have any intention or heart to divide or disunify God’s family. I keep trying to see the situation through their eyes, through their perception, but so far I can’t find that point. I want to take responsibility for my parts, to repent of all sin, and to rectify things. Recently I was told that the elders still are open to see my repentance and to reconciliation but the pastor will no longer be involved in any communication with me. There are perceptions held on both sides that keep us from finding common ground. I wish it was different. I wish our hearts were not hardened against God’s ways, and that we could choose love, forgiveness, grace, healing, and unity. I miss my friends and “family” that I am separated from at that church, and I am really concerned about the future impacts of this brokenness on the Christian community in Portland. May God continue to redeem this and bring repentance, truth, and life where other things exist.

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