Tag Archives: Spiritual Abuse

Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out

“Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 33:23).  My parents used to say that to me all of the time, and when I read this article, or any article involving such heinous sin in Christian leadership, I think of this.

Christian leaders who are involved in unrepentant sin, you can be sure, you can be very sure that your sin will be exposed. Maybe you really think you’re getting away with it because you’re above everybody else and you make the rules and you don’t answer to anyone, and maybe you’ll continue getting away with it for a long time.  But it will come out. You can take that to the bank and cash it.

And when it does come out (it will, it will, it will), you will lose everything, because nobody buys a politically correct statement that lacks sincerity (and by that point) credibility.  Because there is nothing respectable or honorable or worthy or defensible in using your position to inappropriately touch anyone. Not ever. I don’t care what you say your intentions are.  And neither does anybody else.

Be sure, if you are sure of nothing else, that your sin will come out. And you will bear its consequences.

I’ll leave you with just one other verse: “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11).

 

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The Skeletons in the Homeschool Closet

They are ALL coming out. (DISCLAIMER:  This post relates directly to the conservative Christian homeschool movement, NOT to homeschooling in general).

This has been a hard year for the conservative Christian homeschool movement.  First, at the end of October Vision Forum leader Doug Phillips stepped down from his post due to sexual immorality, leaving many of his followers disillusioned and shaken.  (And somewhat understandably so).  I am not and have not been personally involved with Vision Forum, and my comments about that scandal have been minimal.  Now, we have Bill Gothard of ATI stepping aside because of allegations of abuse that are now coming out.  As many of you may know, my family was an ATI family until I was around five.  Although we left the movement at that time, my family has continued to apply many of the principles Mr. Gothard taught.  It just got a little more personal, so I will say more about this particular situation.

First of all, I want to express my sincere grief for the young women who have allegedly (to cover my rear end legally here) been abused by Mr. Gothard.  I am so sorry they were left vulnerable by family and friends and were misused by a man everyone trusted and respected so much.  I have so much respect for their journeys in getting to a place where they could tell their stories at all, and pray continued healing for them as they continue their lives.

Secondly, I am thankful for ATI placing Mr. Gothard on leave and for taking these allegations seriously instead of dismissing them.  It means the world to me that they are not in denial about it, as some people seem to have been over the years.

Thirdly, and most honestly, I am angry.  And I’m not just angry at a leader who allegedly used his position to take advantage of vulnerable woman.  (Although I AM angry about that, for the record).  I am angry at the countless people who have dismissed these women and their stories, not just since they’ve been posted online, but for YEARS.  I am angry that it took ATI taking them seriously for so many others to take them seriously too.

I am angry because we in the conservative Christian homeschool movement are in denial about abuse.  Like, it doesn’t really happen.  Like, it’s all in their heads.  Like, maybe they’re remembering it wrong because it’s been so long.  And we wonder why it takes these precious women so long to take a stand and tell the truth. Why would they, when we all just think they’re liars or crazy or viewing their lives through a dramatic lens? When their own families

Okay, take a breath, Lydia.

Breathe.

You see, I was just talking to God about this anger last night on my way home from work, and I didn’t even know the allegations were being weighed by ATI.  And you may wonder how that can be, if I didn’t know.  Most of you have probably guessed by now that my anger is largely toward an underlying issue, and you’re right.

Just so you know, I’m about to go to a really sticky place right now in the most respectful way I possibly can.  I’m not trying to make anybody mad, or hurt anybody’s feelings, or turn anybody’s world upside down or whatever happens online these days when people read unsettling things – it just is what it is.  Okay? Okay then.

About a year and a half ago, my dad played the “umbrella” card on me regarding a major life decision.  (You ATI people know what I’m talking about).  I sincerely believed God wanted me to go one direction, but my dad felt another direction was best.  At the time he told me that as my father, he stands before God for what I do.  He assured me that it was his role to protect me.

While I went with what he decided (kicking and screaming, I must admit),  I was determined to understand this umbrella theory and its Scriptural background once and for all.  I had heard it many times growing up, and even embraced it (after all, it’s the pinnacle of Courtship: Homeschool Edition), but I had never heard a Bible verse to back it up.  I googled, asked friends on Facebook, searched concordances, and friends, I have STILL never heard a convincing argument for the “umbrella” theory, spiritual covering or protection.

That’s not the point, though.  (Sadly).  The point is that I can’t find anything in God’s Word about anybody but God being my Protector.  If I’m looking to Him exclusively to keep me safe and sound and away from all harm, I’ve made protection the point, and ATI-ers, it’s totally not.  Following Christ is a battlefield, and if you claim Him, you’d better be prepared to fight, man or woman.

Here is what made me really, truly, to the core angry on my drive home with God.  Protection has been the ideal around which I think this movement revolves, and it has at times been beaten over my head.  But you guys,  I’m disillusioned with this ideal.  I’ve come to believe based on studying God’s Word and personal experience, that it was never my dad’s job to protect me.  It was his job to train me up in the way I should go (Prov. 22:6), and he did;  it was his job to bring me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), and he did; but I can’t find a verse that says it’s his job as my parent to protect me, much as he wants to.  God would never have placed such an impossible burden on my dad, or any other father out there. On one level or another, every man would fail. (By the way, just to be honest, I did not come to this particular conclusion overnight, but after a season of a great deal of anger toward my dad for not protecting me in certain areas – which I will maybe someday talk about, but not today).  I’m honestly angry that people still place this burden on husbands and fathers, and that wives and daughters and (to a lesser extent) sons lose their autonomy before God.  And I don’t want to project or anything, but I think it makes God angry as well. (Yes, a loving God gets angry about things that displease Him).

Having said all of this, I should really thank the fabricators of the “umbrella” theory.  If my dad didn’t take his responsibilities as a father so seriously,  he might have considered sending my siblings and I to serve.  As it was, he didn’t, because he felt that some of the programs there should be undertaken in the home and local church.  Even if he had, if I had come back with reports that someone was sexually abusing me, he would have believed me, no questions asked. He would not have regarded Mr. Gothard’s position for a minute before calling him out on his sin.  (I have a great dad).

I hope those of us from the conservative Christian homeschool movement, along with ATI, take the stories of victims seriously and pray for and support them.  I hope we grieve with them and have the guts to be angry about what was taken from them (because, dear brothers and sisters, God is grieved and angry). I hope we pray for them, and find ways to help them heal.  And while we’re at it, I hope we evaluate where we’ve added (or allowed others to add) to God’s Word, and acknowledge how offended He must be when we do that – when we place on ourselves and others burdens He hasn’t.  I’m not asking us to reject all of Mr. Gothard’s teachings because of his sin, but that perhaps his sin can be the catalyst for looking at his teachings more objectively.  And certainly, let’s pray for honesty and repentance from Mr. Gothard in the days, weeks, and months ahead and for God to deal with him mercifully, as He has dealt with each one of us.

This is way longer than I intended it to be.  Over the past year and a half, the buried emotion I’m having to learn to deal with productively is not sadness or grief, but a lot of anger.  I have had to learn it’s okay to be angry, just not bitter – because there are things in this life that grieve and anger God, and with His Holy Spirit within us, we will feel that.  (And not always just toward others, but towards ourselves as well). Of course, of course, God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, but that does not mean we automatically dismiss negative things as positive.

Much love and prayers to my ATI and former ATI friends.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

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Reasons I Love Christians

It’s kind of popular for Christians to hate on other Christians.  It’s kind of popular for some Christians to be fed up with and disgusted by those other Christians, who are too stuffy, too judgmental, too hypocritical and aren’t loving enough, gracious enough, compassionate enough.  It’s popular to expect perfection from Christians, and we get angry at “those Christians” who are falling short and making “the rest of us” look bad.

Let me be honest and say, I am guilty of having been in both parties – hating on other Christians AND being one of “those Christians” everyone loves to hate.  It comes with the tension of having Christ living in me and still being human.  Sometimes I go to extremes, rather than walking in the balance God has called me to.

So today I wanted to give you SEVEN reasons why I love Christians:

  • Christians are not perfect.  Just like their human counterparts who do not identify with Christ, Christians mess up and make mistakes.  They sin.  It could be something the world views as normal, such as gossip, or something less-accepted, like adultery.  Sin gets in the way of our relationships with God and others.  The beauty of the gospel is that salvation is not based upon what we do or do not do: it is trusting that Jesus was God’s acceptable sacrifice for our sin.  We don’t have to be perfect, because He was.
  • Christians have a lock on accountability. Our society is plagued by the god of self; as in, we answer to no god but ourselves.  Christians understand we will be held accountable to God for our actions.  In the meantime, many of us seek the counsel and guidance of other Christians in the areas we’re struggling.  We answer to more than just ourselves. (I want to make a note on this: It is not my business or responsibility to hold other believers accountable unless they ask me to do so, it is my business and responsibility to make myself accountable to believers who are sharpening me in my walk with Christ).
  • Christians understand transparency and vulnerability. Our society doesn’t like the idea of vulnerability; after all, it literally means to leave yourself open … to whatever.  As people, we are expected to be impregnable.  And we certainly don’t hand anybody anything that could be used as ammunition against us.  And yet, Christians are bound by the fact that none of us has it all together, but because of Christ we can have restored relationships with God and each other.  That means we are free to love each other in spite of our faults, and be loved in spite of our faults. 
  • Christians are motivated by love.  Okay, so you don’t like the guy who shouts at you to repent every day on the street corner.  You don’t like the protesters outside of the abortion clinics.  You don’t like church discipline.  Here’s the bottom line: any Christian (by that I mean someone who trusts Jesus as Savior from sin and Lord of life) I know is motivated by love for the people they are trying to reach.  It may not seem like it (because why are they shouting?) but I promise you it’s true.  That guy downtown?  He wants to see you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and be restored to a right relationship with God so you can enjoy Him forever.  Those protesters at the clinics?  They just don’t want to see you make a decision that will negatively impact you physically and emotionally.  Those elders who put you under discipline for moving in with your boyfriend/girlfriend? They want you to understand the implications of violating God’s design.  I get that it comes off as abrasive sometimes, but these people don’t hate you, they’re not angry at you, they’re trying to help you. Why? God loves you, and they do too.
  • Christians agree to disagree among themselves.  There are a lot of people who love Jesus and have accepted Him as Savior and Lord because of His death and resurrection who have VERY different opinions on what the Bible means.  There are some things that unite all believers in Christ, but there are some minor things that are not as important that distinguish denominations and local bodies.  It is EXTREMELY rare for a local body to not interact with other bodies in their areas.  I know First Baptist McKinney joins up with other churches/denominations to serve McKinney frequently, even churches that they don’t line up with 100% on doctrine.  Churches get along peacefully with each other for the most part. 
  • Christians are unique.  We all have different personalities, ideas, gifts, and talents, but what is so amazing is that we bring all of the different things we have to offer into our local bodies and our local bodies to our communities and our communities to the world … and together, we make up this universal organism called the Church.  Totally a God thing, by the way, but it’s awesome how He works it out!
  • Christians are movers and shakers. We are trying to reach the world with the good news about Jesus, and it’s common to see us volunteering to serve people, starting organizations to better serve people, being active in government and influential in policy formation and change, starting movements in the church and obeying God’s call to go to different parts of the world and minister there.  We’re not trying to brainwash or indoctrinate, we’ve got good news, and we want our lives, not just our mouths to tell you about it!

So yeah.  Christians can be human and sin, but we’re not just sinners.  We are this crazy awesome bunch of people from all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of talents that God has ordained to walk counter to cultural and societal norms that fall outside of His will and impact our world by telling it about Jesus.

I love Christians!!!

 

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God’s Representative On Earth

I’m about to get controversial again, y’all.  😉

I’ve actually been percolating on this since before Thanksgiving, but hadn’t really known how to frame my thoughts until this week.  I want to organize my argument, my discussion around a concept that has been with the Church for ages: God’s representative on earth.

I guarantee you I just made some ex-Catholic Evangelical cringe a little bit, because one of the older forms God’s representative on earth has taken is the Pope.  For the benefit of non-Catholics or people who have been ill- or under-exposed to Catholicism, the Catholic Church believes the Popes are spiritual descendants of Peter, the rock upon whom Christ promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18).  Until the Reformation, it was widely accepted that the Popes spoke for God.  Then King Henry VIII formed a popular opinion that a monarchy of a given nation was God’s representative on earth to that nation.

And we Evangelical Christians might get a little high and mighty, because we’ve been enlightened, and haven’t believed Popes and monarchs are God’s representatives on earth for hundreds of years. (Especially not here in the U.S.A. where we are all about no authority but ourselves).  We don’t put mere men on such pedestals.

I’m here to tell you, in case you were not already aware, that this issue of putting men on pedestals is alive and well in Evangelical Christendom.  Among those who are aware that this is indeed an issue, it is popular practice to blame the men on the pedestals, especially when they fall into sin and are not held accountable for it.  After all, being on a pedestal, they’re just asking for it, aren’t they?

I want to invite us all to take a look at ourselves as we look at God’s representation on earth.

“Now then, we are ambassadors [or representatives] for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (1 Corinthians 5:20).

In Christ, we are ALL new creatures, and all representatives for Christ.  But is the position one where we are to assume authority in the lives of others, telling them how to live, forcing issues that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things? NO! The only message I’ve been given from God to deliver on God’s behalf, the only message any human has been given from God on God’s behalf, is to implore, to beseech, to beg people to be reconciled, restored, brought back into a right relationship with God!

How is it then that we have so many men and women on pedestals in Evangelical Christendom today? And how is it that we place sole blame for these pedestals on the people who are on them as if we their worshippers haven’t put them there?

I’ve seen a lot of disappointment on the internet over the past few months concerning two leaders in Evangelical Christendom who have committed sin and been dealt with publicly.  I’ve never idolized either man, although I had more respect for one than I had for the other; no, I’ve always recognized them as being human just like me, and being equal representatives for Christ, even though both have far greater influence than I ever hope or desire to have.  I’m not reeling from the revelation of these sins, but other people are. And in their understandable pain, they tack all of the blame onto these two men.

While these men are most definitely responsible for their sin, they are not responsible for the places others have given them in their hearts and lives.

I have been reminded a number of Sundays in the past couple of months that all humans are created to worship something: if we don’t make THE God our God, we will make something else our god.  And isn’t that what we have done with so many of these men and women in Evangelical Christendom? Haven’t we exalted them, their teachings, their methods without considering the One who calls and enables them? Isn’t HE the one who deserves the praise, the adoration? Don’t put that on these men, that is on us and our treacherous hearts, ever looking to someone or something besides God!

Let me break it down: I grew up in the church.  I have seen the failures of its leaders up close and personal since I was a very little girl, and for many years I was incredibly resentful.  Although it has been nearly ten years, I remember very clearly the day I gave up on the church, I remember how angry I was over deceit from the pulpit, and how I told my mom that if that person named names and lied again from the pulpit I would walk out the door of that church and never go back.  I remember my mom calling my dad and having him talk to me because of how upset I was.  And I remember my dad telling me that God would deal with this person and hold him accountable, but I would also be held accountable for my response.  And frustrating though it was for many years, this was always and continues to be my dad’s counsel concerning me and any issues I have with the church. And hard as it was for me to admit when I realized it, my dad is right.

I was looking to the wrong people, to the wrong things even, for things only God could give me.  Being a jealous God, He made sure I could not get what He wanted to give me anywhere else. 

I can now love the church better, even love its leaders better, accepting their humanity, making room for when they fall.  I’m not saying their sin is any less sinful, but it doesn’t leave me reeling anymore, because I’ve come to see them the way I’m supposed to. It’s true for you, too, however little you want to accept it: if you have been completely disoriented by the failures of men, you have placed them in too high a position in your heart.

I close with a snippet from Martin Luther:

“[Idolatry] consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils, and [does not] care for God.”

 

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What’s Broken

I’ve asserted for the past several days that broken sexuality came into our world as a result of the fall.  While I certainly don’t intend to backpedal on that point, I think there is more to why sexuality is so broken in our culture than the fall itself.  It’s a perpetuation of the prevailing attitudes that resulted in the fall;  attitudes we are all prone to, whether we admit it or not.

We see something, we begin to desire it, and we think we’re entitled to have it.

Eve saw the “tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise” and she just had to eat its fruit.  After all, why would God withhold something good from her?

This rationalization is ever-present when I’m being tempted, and it is exactly where we get ourselves into trouble when we talk about sexuality and sexual expression.  In our culture (and even in the Church), committed relationships, marriage, and sex are not just good, they are often thought to be the be-all-and-end-all.  It is suddenly necessary for good health to express yourself sexually.

Now, committed relationships, marriage and sex are all good and I believe they are gifts from God, but they are not gifts He gives to everyone.  They’re not even gifts He gives everyone who desires them.  He certainly hasn’t given them to me yet.

God must be withholding from me.  Right?  And since He’s withholding something good, I have the right to go outside of His design in order to satisfy my desires.  Right?

First of all, God does not withhold good things “from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).  Secondly, although I do not think I’m wrong to desire any of these things, my desires never trump God’s clearly declared will for me.  First John 2:16 says, “All that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life – is not of the Father, but is of the world.” When what I desire becomes paramount to God’s will, it becomes lust, and lust and the things lust brings about are not of God, and are not good.

We don’t like to be dependent.

One thing that struck me about Matthew Vines’ testimony was that at the end, he expressed that gay people were not broken, and how hurtful it is to refer to them as such.  On one hand, if he’s referring to Christians, he’s right: redeemed gay people should identify with Christ and the healing and restoration He brings, and other believers should encourage them in that identity.

On the other hand, we are all broken people living in a broken world.  We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and it is only because of Christ that we can have fellowship with Him at all.  We are none of us perfect; none of us has arrived.  While we can have tremendous victory in Christ, we still need, we still lack on this earth.  We can’t deal with our own imperfections, let alone the imperfections of others. And I think that deep in our hearts, we all know this, even if we never say it out loud.

I think we need to start saying it out loud more: “Look, I struggle with ______________.” Humbly admit our imperfections, graciously accept the imperfections of others when they are confessed to us.  If we don’t cultivate an atmosphere of openness and brokenness about sin (even “little” sins), we cultivate atmospheres of pride and no accountability for sin.  That is how we start accepting sin as somehow less offensive to God, in our own lives, and in the lives of others.

Of course, some people in the Church do not want accountability – we’ve hardened ourselves to it.  Being held accountable is now thought of as spiritual abuse, or an authoritarian church culture. (“Who are YOU to be all up in my business?”)   We can’t make them accountable.  I can’t make you accountable.

I can make myself accountable.  I can seek out accountability.  I can be honest about my struggles, allow people to lovingly correct me, pray over me, and encourage me.

This has been a challenging topic to think about and write, and I’m sure it’s a challenging topic to read.  I wanted to say these things, want to be clear about where I stand.  I want to be balanced: loving and truthful.  If you’ve read all of it, I want to thank you for sticking with me on a controversial and emotional subject.  I don’t normally write about things like this, because I’d rather let people think what they think what they want and I think what I want and we all just leave each other alone.  Unfortunately, I can’t do that anymore.  Gotta’ get real.

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Why’d You Have to Go And Make Things So Complicated?

“But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another” (Galatians 5:15 NLT).

I am so sick of all the biting and devouring, of all the damage we inflict on one another.

I suppose we just don’t get it: we’re only hurting ourselves, weakening our own body and curbing our own effectiveness as partners in Christ.  I suppose we think it’s okay, defending individual egos, individual agendas, without realizing something much bigger is at stake.  I suppose we all think we know best and are looking out for ourselves or looking after the ones who have the most to offer us.  I suppose we forget we’re all part of each other, no matter how little we like each other.

What are we doing, screaming at each other?  Tearing each other down?  Not  speaking to each other?  Don’t we realize these things are counterproductive to spreading the gospel?  Why can’t we just get together around Christ? Why do we have so much extra stuff we need to agree on before we coexist and cooperate?

We really think it’s all about us as individuals. We think it’s about our agendas, our reputations, our feelings.  And we will fight to the skin of our teeth to make sure we are protected.  We’re sold out for ourselves.

It’s like we’re Corporate America or something.

And this is why I’m struggling: I don’t want to be a part of the biting, devouring, and destroying anymore. (For the record, I never wanted to be a part of that).  I just want to worship God, to worship simply, yet with everything I have. I just want to make friends with people and tell them about Jesus and how He loves them, and gave His life so they could have a relationship with Him.  I just want to be a part of a Christ-centered community where we all grow together, even if we have different opinions on stuff, even if we sometimes struggle.

I don’t think it should matter if I’m non-denominational or a Baptist and you’re a Pentecostal or a Methodist.  I don’t think it should matter if I take communion every Sunday morning or you take it once a month or during small group.  I don’t think it should matter if my worship service is traditional and yours is contemporary.  I don’t think it should matter if I start conversations with people so I can get to know them before sharing the gospel with them and if you just go up to them and ask, “Do you love Jesus?”  I don’t think it should matter if I was homeschooled and you were public schooled.  I don’t think it should matter if I’m “all natural” and you eat whatever you want.  I don’t think it should matter if I voted Libertarian and you voted Republican or (gasp, haha) Democrat.  I don’t think it should matter that I support a complementarian view of marriage and you support an egalitarian marriage.

No, it’s not that I don’t think it should matter.  It. Does. Not. Matter.  And there are countless other little, non-essential things we squabble over that do not matter.

A while back, someone made a really big deal to me out of something that was not a big deal.  For some reason, the issue at hand was of extreme importance to the person dealing with it; I would never have thought twice about it or thought anyone else would have either.  It just didn’t matter.  And it wasn’t that it didn’t matter to me, but the fact that it mattered to anybody … Ugh.  It’s just petty.  (By the way, I did explain the situation to the person).

These are the conversations, the situations I don’t want to be in anymore.  They just don’t matter.

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