021.2 Pain and Pretending, pt. 8: Love or transaction?

We will continue to explore transactional relationships and how they deeply affect our understanding of the world around us, from everyday interactions to how we structure our churches.

Jesus defined love as a denial of your self – it is not a contract with others. Transactional relationships make no room for love. They are inherently self-centered: these are my expectations and you must meet them. God is often accused of being transactional in His interactions with humans: He demands a certain kind of behavior and punishes man if they fail. This is not quite the case. God disciplines and desires true relationship. There is a difference between discipline and transactional punishment. A loving form of discipline doesn’t try to manipulate, it seeks to teach and guide. God wants us to share in His holiness – this is a condition, not a kind of behavior. In His discipline, God is continuously looking at your heart. He wants your heart to want Him. Though He is concerned with our behavior, grace covers our sin. God does not withhold His love as a form of disapproval in order to manipulate people into a specified behavior.

Discipline is not punishment. It is motivated by love and designed to bring us to a place of safety and blessing. Discipline can be hard and painful, and include rebukes, corrections, course changes, or merely acts of protection that temporarily inconvenience us. If eternal life is knowing God, then every step of obedience, every act of discipline, every occurance of suffering for righteousness brings us closer to knowing Him.

God Himself chose to suffer in righteousness. In redeeming a fallen and rebellious world, it is only logical that those pursuing God would suffer – otherwise we would live in a transactional universe that rewards and punishes according to firm rules. In that case, we don’t need love or grace. When we are transformed into the image of His Son, we are living by God’s design. In doing this, we find our creative purpose. We cannot find ourselves in our possessions, in a pursuit of storing up for ourselves, escaping pain, and seeking comfort. These are merely obstacles and insulators keeping us from God. You will find yourself when you sacrifice everything for strangers, because then you will understand God’s love, and understand why He did that very thing for you.

As victims try to move on from being raised in a transactional environment, they try to fill all the voids left by a confusion of love and approval. It takes a long time to accept that our worth comes from God’s love for us, not from our performance. Transactional relationships are the antithesis of unconditional love. Transactional relationships rob us of grace and love, because we equate our feelings with our condition, and our feelings are informed by our perceived sense of worth. Remember that love is tied to who you are, approval is tied to what you do.

Living in transaction “works” because it allows us to navigate the world while hiding pain. However, when pain changes who we are, we start to live in a self-centered world where everything is viewed through our expectations. This does not make us selfish or wicked, merely hurting. In this state, you will view everyone as abusers because you are constantly facing unmet expectations; you feel that others don’t value you.

People don’t just have transactional relationships with individuals, but with society. A transactional worldview puts you in constant fear of punishment due to failure. It twists you view of justice. God is love, and His understanding of justice and goodness is cosmic. It is His. It is Good. It is what is best for us. Obedience to God is simply living the way you were designed to live. Obedience to man is following rules to fascilitate a convenient relationship that has no costs.

Unfortunately, the American church has been trained into perceiving the world from a transactional worldview. We see people in calamity and assume hidden sin or bad decisions. This is due to our conforming to American spiritualism that puts great value on performance and holds up the myth that hard work and honest dealings will cause you to rise in social standing and success. It is also the result of a lack of faith. We fall back on a law that gives us a checks and balances between ourselves and God. The New Covenant has done away with all that. God wants to indwell us with His Spirit, build His Kingdom in our midst. He wants to walk with us in the cool of the day and whisper in our ear. We should not need a terrifying mountain and a delegate to go and retrieve stone tablets for us. Our hearts should be soft and ready for Him to imprint His design upon them.

There are many false gospels that teach that God is transactional, that we must behave a certain way and that we will be rewarded with physical blessings; that God is bound to an agreement to transact with us based on behavior and approval. This epidemic of transactional relationship, of the confusion of love and approval, has led to a predominate false gospel in America which preaches, “Come add yourself to this group of people who will engage in certain behavior and get rewarded.” This creates a self-centered ecclesiology – responding to “felt needs”, providing fresh worship, having a full-service club for people to join complete with child care, vacations, parties, concerts, movies, perfomances, branded merchandise, etc. God is not trite. He is not small-minded nor cold-hearted. He wants us to walk with Him so our desire for temporary things will diminish and we will come to know Him.

The modern American church has become a transactional system. We hire pastors to preach and judge their performance. If he fails, he is replaced. It gives positions based on tithing – those that don’t tithe aren’t allowed to become elders, etc. The tithe as a whole is a transactional system that is not a New Testament mandate. These things turn the church into a business. If the church is supposed to be a manifestation of God’s love here on earth, it cannot do that if it functions in transaction, because transactional relationships and love are mutually exclusive. God’s church functions on spiritual gifts given by God, not by job description and salaries. There is no pressure to perform for anyone.

An incomplete gospel, based on a transactional church system, gives us a religion that does not bring us to God. Accomplishing a set of tasks does not “fulfill our end of the bargain” to receive blessing, communion, or salvation. Unfortunately, this gospel is the easiest one to communicate, so much so that it will be passively communicated even if never preached, even if a true gospel is spoken, because this transactional gospel will have so much visible evidence.

This manmade church structure is a fragile system that must defend itself. It creates a false sense of unity, which is either uniformity, or a sharing of activity and meeting times. Look at the difference between nurturing a tree and training a tree to a form If you nurture a tree, you will plant it in good soil, water it, fertilize it, prune it, and give it the space it needs to become the tree it was designed to be. If you are training a tree to a form, then you are telling it what to become, and strapping it to a rigid pattern so that it only grows where you want it to. God’s design of unconditional love allows the created diversity of His people to flourish. He doesn’t want us to act, look, and talk the same. He wants us to be what He created, and He is endlessly creative.

Songs:

The Oh Hellos – The Valley http://theohhellos.com/

Leeland – Tears of the Saints http://leelandonline.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on August 21, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

021.1 Pain and Pretending, pt. 7: A World of Transaction

Let’s start over with the idea that humanity was designed by the Creator. We were meant to live a certain way. When God created everything, He called it good. Mankind quickly decided that we wanted to live our own way instead of God’s way. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God here to earth, to return the Spirit of God to mankind, and show them how to live with God as their Lord.

In this episode, we begin discussing man living by their own design with some (seemingly) silly examples (like robots). This moves to the idea that the the modern, western world is beginning to acknowledge the effects of pain. However, mankind still chooses to live by their own design – we look for our own solutions, as opposed to obeying God.

For example, many results of abuse include “bad behavior”. People lack the basic abilities to interact with other humans in healthy ways. They can’t focus in school. They take offense easily. They constantly feel their very existence is threatened. The consequences of those actions are alienation, more abuse, or punishment. When this happens on a very large scale, we end up with generational oppression. In America, this generally manifests in racism and all its tangents.

The penal system is one of punishment. It is a transactional relationship. When people get pushed to their limits, they get focused on their “needs” or inconveniences, and start reacting out of demands, which turns everything into a transaction. This leads to many people feeling disrespected or neglected much of the time.

Secular responses to deep pain will always fall short. They will only be the best of human strength and wisdom, which will forever be insufficient.

The answer is God’s love. Genuine care. Loving by serving. Walking in the Spirit, walking united as the Body. God can break down great things through humble obedience. We have seen Him break racial stereotypes and expand the boundaries of our “family” to include people that don’t look like us. We’ve experienced plenty of rejection, as well. But if we remain in a state of transaction, we will always be offended and always be withholding love from those who need it most.

The systems of the world are largely transactional. Business, banking, government, taxes, etc. We create “machines” to manage our world, and all those machines run on transaction. This means we are regularly investing our selves into machines that do not allow us to function on a human level. This tears at our humanity, and makes it hard to differentiate those interactions from ones with other humans. It is certainly nice for things to run like a well oiled machine, but humanity rarely does, so we cannot hold that expectation over ourselves. We cannot “transact” with other humans and think that it will result in healthy relationships.

Real love is not transactional. Transactional relationships do not make room for love. Economic exchanges are “fair” and based on expectations. Love is sacrificial. Grace is undeserved; it cannot be deserved. When we apply economic principals to our relationship with God we will be very disappointed, and miss the amazing acts of love He is doing right before our eyes.

Songs:

Amena Brown – Baggage Check http://www.amenabrown.com/

Newsboys – A Million Pieces https://newsboys.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on August 21, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

020.2 Pain and Pretending, pt. 6: Transactional Relationships

The confusion between love and approval can begin at an early age, through discipline, or through a lack of genuine displays of affection. People generally feel more loved when we’re being praised. It takes intentionality to show that we love when we disapprove, and to not withdraw signs of love when we disapprove.

These feelings towards love, approval, and disapproval get transferred to our feelings towards God. This can lead to people feeling God is punishing them, testing them, or teaching them something any time something bad happens. Confusing love and approval can prevent you from resting in grace.

Instead of jumping to anxiety and assumptions in the face of pain or discomfort – instead of viewing pains as enemies – we should view them as opportunities to know God more. The only thing we should “assume” in a painful situation is that it is painful and we need God.

Transactional Relationships

God is often accused of working in transactional relationships, but He does not. So what is a transactional relationship? Let’s look at some examples:

  • A child will often do something to get praise from their parents

  • A child might settle simply for attention from their actions

    • These interactions can never bring satisfaction because there will always be another “task” to be done, or eventually, an interaction will not go the way you want, which means you don’t get approval, which means all your “hard work” goes unrecognized.

  • Transactional relationships create a very unhealthy way to nurture who we are. It “feeds” a desire in us, like caffeine can “feed” our desire for sleep while depriving our body of the rest it needs

  • Transactional relationships bring “control” into a relationship. People try to control through their transactions, through their performance. It puts an unhealthy, critical eye on everyone else’s actions

  • Transactional relationships are often the subject of jokes and sitcom plots. While this makes funny television, unfortunately it “normalizes” transactional relationships.

  • Look at them as “economic relationships”. You would spend a set amount of money on an item at the store. You have performed a just transaction, involving expections, even exchange, etc. This is great for business, but utterly destructive for human relations.

The ideas of transactional relationships get planted early on in our helpless state as babies. All we know is what we feel, and that we are utterly dependent upon others. So we express displeasure at our circumstances until those circumstances change (hungry, hurt, tired, needing a diaper changed, etc). While it is good and healthy to indulge these “expressions of displeasure” on behalf of helpless babies, the nature of our nurturing relationships must change over time, and certainly once we receive the Holy Spirit of God.

Grace utterly destroys transaction. It is totally undeserved. It is the New Order of the Kingdom of God. It takes care of our mistakes, but doesn’t necessarily force our hearts to want anything. Some people don’t want grace, because it forces us to give something up. In a marriage context, I can do things that hurt or offend my wife, through impatience, aggravation, etc. But there is still love in the relationship. Our hearts still desire each other and our relationship. I have “sinned” by simply performing an act that was hurtful. However, once my heart starts wandering to others, now I have compromised the very fabric of the relationship. I no longer desire my wife or my relationship. It’s not a matter of “missing the mark”, now my heart is inclined towards other things. This directly applies to our relationship with God, and the relationship with sin and iniquity. A transactional relationship rarely gets to the point of the desires of the heart, and merely measures everything on a surface level looking at performance, while the true desires of the heart never get fulfilled, dispite how successful the transactions may have been.

Many people remain “fussing babies” complaining to try to get what they want. This is generally because of pain, or a vow, or never surrendering to God and being vulnerable. Once we are ingrained in this way of relating, we subject ourselves to imagined abuses. We turn every relationship into an abusive relationship, with ourselves as the victims of the abuse. It becomes a constant state of living in expectations, where those expectations are rarely verbalized, and rarely met, so we always feel wronged or slighted or unloved, dispite all our efforts to receive love. We will constantly misinterpret the words and actions of those around us, which simply sets them up to fail. So now we are every day experiencing “abuse” at the hands of people who are not abusing us.

God interacts through unconditional love. God loved us while we were still sinners. God told us to do all things out of love, and Jesus did that. So even things that He did that do not look “loving” (using whips, insulting pharisees, rebuking Peter, confronting crowds with bold questions, expressing impatience at people’s sin and doubt), these acts were in fact done out of love. Even when God’s wrath abides on us, it is love. The clear and distinct choice between Heaven and hell is a loving choice. They are not similar. There is no need to do a “cost/benefit analysis”. The choices are clear and entirely different.

Our relationship with God shouldn’t be one of trying to discern the task God wants us to do. He wants us to abide in His Grace. He wants us to know Him. He wants us to love. He knows that we are made of dust, that we are weak and sinful – this is what grace is for.

God sets out a way for us to live. This can bring blessing, but can also bring suffering. Jesus lived perfectly and suffered immensely. Obedience to God is not a transaction to get you what you desire. God does not work in transaction, but satan does. His kingdom is designed around them. He makes false promises, he amplifies offenses, he tempts us to arrange the whole universe around our desires and comfort. If God was transactional in His relationships, Hebrews 11 would look very different.

Transactional relationships are a trap of satan. There is no fulfillment or freedom there. There is only an endless striving to feed a bottomless hole of pain. Only grace and cover that wound. Only the healing power of the Spirit can set us free.

For more information about transactional relationships, please see the book “Love: No Strings Attached” by Rich Buhler

Song:

Josh Garrels – Burden Down www.joshgarrels.com

Brian Morykon – Prodigal Son http://music.morykon.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on August 14, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

020.1 Pain and Pretending, pt. 5: Locks and Chains

As we continue to explore pain and its effects, we will talk about vows – how pain changes our belief systems and causes us to make decisions that can last a lifetime.

The most destructive pain isn’t any specific kind of act or occurance, but rather whatever affects your sense of worth.

Many people make vows in an instance of abuse. This is a decision the victim makes concerning what they will allow in their life, or what they will pursue. Vows are so powerful because they are made to defend the victim’s very existance. It changes fundamentally their motivations and how they interpret the world around them. This essentially changes who you are. People also make vows of revenge – a decision to punish the abuser or those like the abuser through manipulation, etc. The vow becomes the mechanism by which the victim navigates the world – they now have something they can trust in.

A vow prevents you from becoming who God made you to be. It injects into your very identity something outside of God’s plan, something that is entirely self-focused and born in pain and extreme emotion. If we simply look at the destructive behavior that manifests as the result of abuse, we will never reach healing. We have to go to the vow and undo its binds. A vow binds a person by perpetuating the abuse. It creates a false reality where the abuse is constant and can never be let go. A vow ensures that the victim will perpetually be a victim.

Sometimes vows are known; the victim is actively and knowingly choosing to live out a decision. They constantly justify behavior. Conscious or not, this is a way of repainting reality. It also secures the victim identity. It sets the person up to be “failed” in every situation, because they are always defending themselves, whether or not attacks are coming, which means in their eyes, they are always being attacked, let down, betrayed, disrespected, etc.

Some people end up ministering out of a vow to make sure their pain would never happen to someone else. This sets you up to work in your flesh and strive against God. The Holy Spirit is the one that enters into us and unpacks our pain and bondage. Many church-attenders in America don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real person of God. If you never experience the Holy Spirit, and only hear others talk about Him in vague terms, then the Holy Spirit can be anything. If you want freedom, you have to seek the Holy Spirit.

How do I recover from what’s happened to me? God has given us something better than what the world has to offer – His Holy Spirit. Through accepting the grace of the sacrifice of Jesus and pursuing the Holy Spirit, our healing is guaranteed. God does not play games nor send us confusing answers.

So what do you do? First, learn to forgive. Forgive your abusers. Forgive God. Forgive yourself. Forgive the countless perceived abuses and slights that come every day. A large part of forgiveness is allowing guilt to rest on the offending party. Also, you must fully realize the depth of the pain and destruction that occurred to you. If you simply think “Oh, they said mean things and shouldn’t have”, you have not realized the depth of the pain, and so are not truly forgiving them for what happened. If you are crushed by the realization that the abuser stole your very identity with their words, now you are truly forgiving them, and ready to undo the lies and chains that resulted from that destruction.

Secondly, you have to admit the weakness you were in at the time of the attack, instead of applying that original incident to your current condition. You have to look at the abuse through the eyes of a child, or with a clear and compassionate eye toward your circumstances at the time of the abuse. This doesn’t just mean your physical prowess or ability to defend or avoid, but also understanding the magnitude of the abuse at that time in your life.

Third, get help from someone that knows about the topic. Seek a body of believers working in their spiritual gifts.

Learn to trust again. If you can never trust God or others, there is no hope for you. You are left with only your own imperfect hands to save you. Trust just a few people that are worthy of trust and start the process.

For more help healing from past pains, please see the books Love: No Strings Attached and Pain and Pretending by Rich Buhler.

songs:

TobyMac – “Stories” http://tobymac.com/

NEEDTOBREATHE – “Slumber” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PUGlXzAcp8 http://www.needtobreathe.com/

Additional music:

Enter the Worship Circle – “In this World” Used by permission. www.entertheworshipcircle.com

Shaun Groves – “No Better” Used by permission. https://shaungroves.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on August 14, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

019.2 Pain and pretending, pt 4: Violation of trust

God designed the church to help restore damaged individuals through love and the working of spiritual gifts. Man has sanitized this messy process and removed the effectiveness of the church to function in this way. Love should be the church’s response. Sometimes love is gentle and long-suffering, and sometimes it is bold and harsh. In order for love to exist and work, we need vulnerability.

Some people believe that those with physical disorders must not have enough faith to be healed, and this false idea also gets applied to emotional wounds.

There is a prevalence of people abused at an early age by people inside their “circle of trust”. This is the family, the church, the community, the very relationships that make up this child’s world. Young children are “untainted” by the destruction of the world – they have yet to construct false identities or believe an abundance of lies or give their hearts to idols or commit a lot of sins. The church should be seeking to create communities where this circle of trust can remain intact, and these children can become what God made them to be without succumbing to destruction first. If nothing else, we should be seeking to create a very nurturing environment that can minister to even the most heart-wrenching pains.

When a child is hurt by someone in the circle of trust, they immediately seek answers, for needs to be fulfilled. The first need is to be rescued. One of the first effects of abuse is a disintegration of trust in people and God. The victim starts making decisions about themselves and the world around them.

The victim’s search for answers leads to a lot of false conclusions. They accept blame for the abuse. This leads to guilt and shame. This can lead to excuse-making on behalf of other abusive people in their life. They might also reject their “victim-hood” in the incident of their abuse, but act powerless in every other situation in life.

Another common conclusion: the victim is disqualified from God’s love. They don’t believe that God will love them or act on their behalf. This directly guides their sense of self-worth. This leads to them trying to gain “qualification” – they try to strive their way into acceptance, position, control, etc. However, they can never go back in time to redo the situation. The only way out is to face the pain and get healing from God.

Victims also display cyclical patterns of behavior.

Children think and feel in a certain way. Their worldview is directly affected by their vulnerability and sense of trust – by their dependency on others and the needs they have. When adults try to look back on past pains, they can’t reason those situations from an adult perspective. They must humble themselves and accept how the worldview of a child was altered in that moment – that the pain might have been immense for something that appears utterly reasonable to an adult.

Victims must learn to let their abuser have the blame for their abuse. This can be especially hard if the abuser is in the circle of trust and if the abuse was never made known, because a long, drawn-out relationship will have been built over the years, and in many cases, the victim might even love the abuser, or feel indebted to the provision or care the abuser has given to the victim, or might have worked very hard to regain a position of favor with the abuser, to salvage some semblance of relationship.

People really don’t like revisiting past pain. It challenges their functioning sense of reality. And it hurts. It gets messy. That is the reality. It is offensive, and chaotic. It’s like being told to walk through a room full of fire to get to healing. You have to be okay with being weak. This fear of the pain drives people to drugs, escapism, promiscuity, control issues, self-harm, etc. They are simply trying to survive and fulfill the needs that were never met.

Songs:

John Reuben – There’s only forgiveness http://www.johnreuben.com/

Ben Pasley – Rugged Old Hand, from his album “Residue” http://www.benpasley.com/ and http://entertheworshipcircle.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on August 7, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

019.1 Pain and Pretending, pt 3: Setting Captives Free

Most people we encounter are carrying around the weight of unresolved pain from their past. Some people are aware, and some are not. Some pain is caused by cataclysmic events, and some is the result of subtle conditioning over long periods of time. However, most “victims” display similar patterns of behavior. We do not feel you can effectively minister and set captives free without understanding how pain affects people’s lives.

The pain we’re discussing is the pain that attacks your sense of identity, your sense of self worth. It changes how you view your self and the world. While most people recognize lasting effects of pain (PTSD, aversions, etc.), there are pains that are kept hidden or are forgotten, or we never recognize to what depths it has affected our understanding of our selves.

Pain changes what we believe – it subjects us to lies. Anytime something attacks the core of who we are, whether dramatic or subtle, we have to respond. We have to find ways to continue to live with the pain. Many of these ways are destructive and bind us.

The effects of abuse early in your life changes the way you process information, view relationships, your self, and God. Children largely perceive the world through their relationships. When relationship is violated, part of our world and our understanding of the world is destroyed. And anchor of our existance has been removed.

It is vital to understand pain and its effects in a ministry setting. We should not seek to change behavior, but to set captives free. The family, church, and community should all be a safe place for children to live and be nurtured. However, satan wants to destroy, so he infiltrates our families, churches, and communities. He destroys one person at a time. Therefore, if we intervene on a personal level and create nurturing communities of faith, knit together by love, faith, spiritual gifts, discipleship, spiritual authority, then we will truly take part in the work of redemption. Loving, transparent community is in some ways necessary to get free from pain – trusted friends can see your blindspots and your destructive behavior patterns. Spiritual gifts and spiritual warfare are necessary in bringing people to freedom. Understanding how the brain reacts to traumatic events also helps to have compassion on the victim.

Sin causes pain, and pain then causes sin. Pain causes people to distrust God, to protect themselves, to lash out, to believe lies, etc. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and He formed the church as a tool to take part in this. The Law was insufficient to remove sin and heal pain. Grace, in all its fullness, destroys the lies, shame, and guilt that surrounds and perverts us, and allows us to be healed by God. In order to destroy the works of the devil, we have to understand how he’s working.

Songs:

Beautiful Eulogy – According to God. From their album “Instruments of Mercy” available at www.humblebeast.com. Used by permission.

Jars of Clay – Dead Man (Carry Me) http://www.jarsofclay.com/ http://www.noisetrade.com/jarsofclay/noisetrade-eastside-manor-sessions

This episode originally broadcast live on August 7, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

018 Interview with Zach Winters and Jason Barrows

We interview musical artists Zach Winters and Jason Barrows, the afternoon before their show at Sun Cafe.  On The Resistance Radio Show, we feature music by artists we feel are expressing some form of God’s design, or who are using their artistic expression in meaningful and authentic ways.  Zach and Jason delve into their inspiration and struggles.  Please be sure to check out these artists:

http://zachwintersmusic.com/

http://jasonbarrows.com/

 

This interview was recorded on July 28, 2015 in KXEN studios in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

017.2 Pain and Pretending, pt 2: longing for freedom

Most Christians would agree to the idea of following God’s design. But once you point out specifics, especially of church practice, people get defensive. This is because our church experience is tied to so many things: family, history, culture, tradition, activity, morality, community, authority, education, etc. We become emotionally connected to our experiences and the exercise of our will. When you start to criticize one part of this web, people feel hurt or threatened or at least uncomfortable. Many people have lots of positive feelings towards their church and the people there. But all the good people, good experiences, and meaningful traditions cannot replace God’s design.

Despite the good people and experiences, many people are longing for freedom but don’t understand why they don’t have it. Jesus came to bring freedom – He doesn’t want slaves, but sons and daughters. And while there might be a lot of “doctrinally sound” teaching, that doesn’t translate into the power and presence of the Holy Spirit or transformed lives. When you are trained into thinking your experience of God looks like Sunday morning services, mission trips, camps, praise songs, seminars, Sunday school, etc, you’ve simply created a lot of activities, that might contain a lot of truth. But they do not compare with the wild, wandering savior saying, “Come, follow me.”

Jesus gave us authority in His name. He gave us the power of the Holy Spirit. When we function outside of the spiritual authority given to us by God, we function in our inventions, which prove ineffective. Man’s strength and wisdom will always be insufficient.

There is a pandemic of abuse in our country (sexual, emotional, etc). Most abuse victims feel undeserving or unqualified of good things, specifically God’s love. Abuse diminishes a person’s sense of worth. Victims accept the guilt of their abuse. This leads to decisions and vows made, which act as a filter to how they view themselves and the world. They become the foundational deception of their identity and motivation. Pain can go to the core of our being and seriously distort our understanding of the universe.

Because of this severe destruction, many victims end up with performance issues. They strive for acceptance. There is no rest here. However, having behavior patterns centered around striving can lead a victim to be lauded in many work and ministry environments, because it looks like hard work. This can be even more destructive, because their behavior appears to get them what they desire, but they will never get healed by gaining acceptance through performance.

The church, when functioning by God’s design, is the best tool to heal people from abuse. When the church operates by God’s design, there is no place to hide. The Holy Spirit reveals things and the spiritual gifts minister to people. The church should be filled with people whose hearts are inclined toward God, and those rejecting God should not be in the church. They will not be working toward His designs and bringing people to healing.

When the church doesn’t function by God’s design, it cannot reach its fullness. The church has created and filled unbiblical offices and positions, and these offices get filled by broken people often bound by pretending. Man’s design for the church has created spaces where abusers can come to power. Usually, they place young people fresh out of college, generally who have issues that have never been resolved, in places of authority over people just a couple years younger than them, all of whom also have issues that haven’t been addressed.

How do we get back to God’s design for His church? Recognize that He has a design and it matters. Examine our current practices and see if it matches His design. The church God designed lives together, shares together, and battles together. God’s church has not failed, it has been left untried.

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

G. K. Chesterton

How do you define ministry? Many people engage in compulsive ministry – it is very activity driven. It is a fleshly embrace of duty. What is your motivation? Is it a compulsion, or a relationship with God? True ministry must rest in grace – faith in God’s goodness despite our sin. Many other people’s compulsion comes from a striving for approval. We also need grace for others – do not minister from a position of pride, but lay down your life. We reproduce slavery by creating a culture of compulsion.

Ministry requires consecration – your heart is set on God and His desires. Because you are human, you will fail at some point, but that is where grace continues to work in us. Without consecration, our minds can be filled with fantasies, nonsense, lies, pain, etc. This distracts our minds from things above. It pollutes our thoughts with lies or meaningless babble. Many abuse victims will engage in pretending, which is a deep level of self-delusion. Pretending consumes our energy and blocks our ability to hear and obey the voice of God.

We are not designed to live and work alone. Rarely does God place people in a position where we have nobody. If you truly have no one, then you need to pursue God intensely. If you are simply praying and journaling, then it is easy for you to be deceived. There is no one to help you see blind spots, or to discern if you are still viewing God through a filter.

Songs:

Zach Winters – Monarch http://zachwintersmusic.com/

Needtobreathe – Able https://youtu.be/QW7esoMfVxI

For more insight into pain and its effects, please see the books “Pain and Pretending” and “Love: No Strings Attached” by Rich Buhler

This episode originally broadcast live on July 24, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

017.1 Pain and Pretending, pt 1: The church and God’s design

This week we will be discussing pain and how it binds people. But first, we will discuss how the church must operate by God’s design. Because while the church is perfectly equipped to address pain and overcome strongholds of the enemy, it can only do that if it functions by God’s design.

Many Christians have been lured into idolatry and paganism dressed up as Christianity. However, God has a design for the church, and it is good, and it can be found. It easy to feel like you are following God’s design if your context is an organized church structure and correct doctrine. However, God’s design starts with laying down your life and taking up your cross. In America, we’re more likely to question doctrine than daily practice. For example, the practices of age segregation or the weekly sermon structure are generally accepted, while people will debate whether or not one could lose one’s salvation. Sometimes, the practices which contradict God’s design are less obvious, like those being done by the hypocrites in Isaiah 58. What about practices like tax-exemption and paid positions? Why do we change the creative, expressive, and supernaturally-empowered gifts of God into a job? When it becomes a job, what is the motivation? Is it a move of God, or the need to pay the bills? Where are we instructed in Scripture to bring unbelievers into our worship gatherings? Surely we are meant to care for an minister to the very least of these – we are to be selfless servants, declaring the love of God in our words and actions. However, when we gather as the Body of Christ to worship our Lord, what role does someone who doesn’t believe that Lord exists play?

Many people are offended by questioning church practice. It can be scary to step outside of what we’ve always known and been told is proper, accepted, and even “holy”, even though there is little biblical support for our modern practices, and many instructions in scripture which we do not follow. In John 5:19, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, these things the Son does in like manner.” We must have the same attitude of obedience.

God’s design is far superior to any manmade structure. So let’s not simply follow what is popular, accepted, traditional, well-funded, or highly visible, and instead follow what God has done and is doing. Most churches are divisive from their inception – denominations are divisive. We also hold up church traditions as something sacred – as a heritage or legacy. Just because a practice was widespread or longstanding does not make it good or holy.

The church of God is a supernatural organism – the Body of Christ. It is God’s temple, which He indwells. God gives His people the Holy Spirit, and through Him, spiritual gifts. These gifts should be functioning together. Modern practices should not replace nor obstruct the functioning of the gifts. Our experience of the Holy Spirit should not be reduced to a planned meeting. If every minute of a “church service” is already planned, then what need is there for the Holy Spirit?

According to 1 John 3:8, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. One of those works is abuse and its effects. Abuse of any kind destroys someone at their core and binds them. When people function according to God’s design, their spiritual gifts work to remove satan’s strongholds on people. This is how people get free. However, the manmade church is insufficient to address pain. God designed a functioning, spiritually empowered group of people to deal with pain and deal with deceptions and strongholds. If those outside the covenant are within this assembly, they will not be able to help in this work, and will likely be used by satan to oppose it.

For more insight into pain and its effects, please see the books “Pain and Pretending” and “Love: No Strings Attached” by Rich Buhler

Songs:

Jon Foreman – The Cure for Pain http://www.jonforeman.com/

John Reuben – The Boy vs. the Cynic http://www.johnreuben.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on July 24, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

016.2 Separate from the world – Halloween, pt 2

We conclude our discussion of Halloween through the lens of being separate from the world.

Is it valid to say that present-day Halloween is just a commercial event with no connection to its pagan roots? Is this a valid idea within the Kingdom of God? Why do we even care? What’s the deal? So what? Are we legalistic? We’re talking about a context of living in two realms. Let’s look at God’s heart, what He brought, what the apostles were teaching and doing, what it means to be full of the Holy Spirit (and not other spirits), and that we shouldn’t joke lightheartedly about demons and put pictures of them around our homes. Instead of making a list of things we could or shouldn’t do, let’s look at what it means to be the church. Let’s not allow a pagan holiday to create a false context for us. Do you believe in a spirit realm? Do you believe in a devil? Do you believe you need to be separate from such things? The kindom of satan is about creating and spreading lies. Halloween does not induce fear of God, but of created things. Halloween makes light of spiritually corrupt practices, such as seances, violence, and divination. It becomes a gateway and an opportunity to become desensitized to such things. Peer pressure, even from within the church, makes you feel like a goofball for not wanting to participate in this holiday.

Many people can rationalize away the “original intents” of Halloween. However, simply look around at its present day manifestation. It’s not all princesses and superheroes. It’s haunted houses, violent horror movies, costumes that celebrate death, decay, and lust. Even the candy isn’t just candy…it’s images of skulls, human limbs, ghosts, and other things that typically induce fear. It certainly stresses fun, but fun generally in the context of spiritualism, gore, and fear.

Why is Halloween seen as an evangelistic opportunity? What makes it exceptional? Does this validate it? Why do we not apply this logic to other pagan practices and holidays? How many Christians celebrate Ramadan in order to evangelize? Does the fact that you could share the Gospel mean you have to participate in the practice? Coming up with a “christian alternative” in order to compete for attention or numbers is just as much conforming to the world. How about we let the holiday die by not participating? Christian “haunted house” alternatives focus on fear, and utilizing fear to scare you to Jesus, so your golden ticket to heaven gets punched. This is a terrible and expensive tactic, and delivers an incomplete gospel clothed in the ways of the world.

Final Thoughts:

Stop rationalizing and look at what you’re doing and exalting

Who are you serving?

Don’t pretend the spirit realm doesn’t exist or that you have control over it

Why are you celebrating a make-believe holiday that requires safe zones?

What are you filling your head, heart, and time with?

Songs:

Josh Garrels – Rise https://joshgarrels.bandcamp.com/track/rise

Keith Green – No one believes in me anymore

Heath McNease – The Screwtape Letters https://youtu.be/Q33LHk504Gs

Blindside – Pitiful https://youtu.be/t-K2EdbnK6s

additional music by Enter the Worship Circle www.entertheworshipcircle.com

This episode originally broadcast live on October 30, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)