Toxic Shame

Some years ago while in prayer I saw a white marble fountain situated in a gorgeous courtyard. It was beautiful. As I looked I realized that it didn’t have clean freshwater like you might think, but it spewed feces and urine. It was gross, it was awful, and I immediately understood.

I realize that I was that marble fountain, and I generated only filth.

Being ashamed is cruelty that can only destroy a person. We think we must have defense mechanisms to survive. We drink, use drugs, get involved with sex. We might put on a tie and raise our hands in the church worship time. Whatever works I suppose. Almost always shame drives us to look for ways to escape.

People who live with shame often feel worthless, depressed, and anxious. Shame can be a contributing factor to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. People who are constantly ashamed live out a difficult emotional and mental battle each and every day.

The psalmist understood. The human spirit can not handle shame. I know first-hand that it’s terribly destructive. Psalm 44:15 describes a person who understood:

“My disgrace is before me all day long,
and shame has covered my face.”

I believe only the power of Jesus can “purify” us. Only He has the ability to clean my spirit. In the New Testament, we see Jesus healing the leper with just a touch. Shame will be removed from your heart when he touches your own “leprosy.”

Here are things you must remember.

  • Shame seperates me from God.
  • Shame is a sign of self-hatred.
  • Shame makes me feel like giving up.
  • Shame leads me to go out and sin more.
  • Shame destroys the gifts that He is waiting for me to serve others.
  • Shame makes me judgemental and critical of others.
  • Shame weakens the Church in ways I can’t comprehend.

These two verses (below) are true. They will move you out of shame and guilt. These two must be believed and put into practice before you can be really free. It will probably be a battle–every day. The following two promises are crucial.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.”

1 John 1:9, LB

“Once again you will have compassion on us. You will tread our sins beneath your feet; you will throw them into the depths of the ocean!”

Micah 7:19

I must reiterate this, and use all authority God has given to me, to bear on you its importance.

Jesus stood against Satan in the wilderness. He used the Word to do this. You’ll need to do this if you want to destroy Satan’s grip on you. You must do the same. Too many people are waiting for you to do this.

Unless you do so you will be destroyed by the enemy. I dare not pull any punches with you. I don’t mean to be hard, I really don’t.

I strongly suggest you share your battle with another believer who will understand and be discreet.

Shame is the raincoat over my heart that repels the living water of Jesus. It’s that shame that keeps me from understanding that I’m the beloved of God and His precious child.

 

Love is On the Loose

“Cross Jesus one too many times, fail too often, sin too much, and God will decide to take his love back. It is so bizarre, because I know Christ loves me, but I’m not sure he likes me, and I continually worry that God’s love will simply wear out.

Periodically, I have to be slapped in the face with Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Michael Yaconelli, “Messy Spirituality

I admit I live with a continuous fear that God’s love has limits.  That someday, I will sin myself beyond a Savior’s reach.  It nags on me and betrays me.  The fear that I will end up on some spiritual “junk heap” is real, and it is pervasive. I guess it has to do with the unbelievable richness  of God’s fantastic grace.

This doubt accentuates my depression, aggravating it and poisons my whole being.  I feel worthless and so alone.  Since my particular struggle is with paranoia, I end up bringing that with me into the throne room.  Kids who have been beaten by their fathers often visibly flinch when Dad raises his arm to scratch his head.  They cower and duck out of habit, waiting for the blows.

Our heavenly Father has gone out of his way to make the gospel truly good news.  We often have to be convinced of a love that cannot be diluted by the stuff of life.  And we who are the wounded and paranoid need that assurance.  We are loved with a love of such quality and quantity, and such magnificence that all we can scream is “GRACE!”

As broken people we must come and allow ourselves to be loved with this outrageous love.  Our depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, BPD, OCD, and schizophrenia are not insurmountable issues.  We are sick, we admit it.  We are different than other people (“the norms”).  But the Father delights in us. 

He especially loves his lambs who are weak and frightened.

 

The Art of Denying Jesus

deny

“Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.”

Matthew 26:75, NLT

Three denials are followed by three reaffirmations.

A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

John 21:17

The apostle Peter was a fervent disciple. He knew who Jesus was before most. He was always included in special times (e.g. the transfiguration, Gethsemane). He was favored by Jesus throughout times of ministry. I also believe that he was Jesus’ friend.

Peter is known for:

  • being called on the shores of Galilee, Matt 4:18-19
  • ‘almost’ walking on water, Matt 14:29-30
  • finding the tax money in a fishes’ mouth, Matt 17:24-27
  • having his feet washed, John 13:6-7
  • in Gethsemane– cutting off an ear, John 18:10-11
  • his remorse at denying Jesus, Matt 26:75
  • at the empty tomb with John, John 20:3-8

Peter’s own denials were of a serious nature affecting who he was, and who he was to become. Jesus astutely intervenes as they ‘breakfasted’ on the seashore. There would be three affirmations; one for each denial. Peter needed to meet the resurrected Jesus, and speak with him about what he had done. Peter needed this.

A denial has different intensities and can be used in many different ways.

Out of our own confusion, we realize that we can also deny Jesus. Perhaps frequently.  And none of us have an immunity as of yet. We deny the Lord when we refuse to speak of him to others. We deny the Lord when we fail to do what is right. Sometimes we deny him flagrantly, other times it is a more subtle attitude. At best, we’re still inconsistent, and at worst, apostate.

We’re not punished or abandoned for this behavior.

Human logic would suggest that we should be. But instead we are gently restored. Given the opportunity, Peter the fisherman, would eventually become a wise shepherd to the young Church. I would also suggest that Peter’s personal weakness would serve him well as a gentle, and caring pastor.

Peter, near the end of his life, goes ‘full circle’ and uses a very precise Greek word found in only two places in the New Testament. It is the specific form of the word “shepherd.” It is only used in John 21:16-17 in Peter’s restoration, and in 1 Peter 5:2. Peter encourages the Church with the same words Jesus himself spoke to him on the beach so long ago! Peter wrote:

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.”

1 Peter 5:2, NIV

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We Plead for Good Pastors

Within our personal issues of vulnerability, there are usually troubling problems. These are bruised and painful areas, things that result in terrible devastation in our lives and loved ones. Here are just a few of them:

  • alcoholism and drug abuse
  • mental illnesses
  • homosexuality
  • sex addictions, internet porn
  • physically disabled
  • chronic depression
  • suicidal thinking
  • religious deception, cults
  • on and on…

This isn’t a definitive list by no means. (Although each are substantial issues of pain and conflict.) But it’s strange, as defeated strugglers we often feel intimidated by leadership in the Church. We feel frustrated, and very much alone. This is a problem.

It seems all we can see is their authority, and we are afraid.  

Typically, in our fellowships, our pastors and elders are men.  And that alone can sometimes create issues in hearts looking for a tenderness that will heal. We need to make room for our sisters to help us out. (Just a thought.)

Often rather than opening our brokenness up to our shepherds, we fabricate illusions of self-sufficiency and invulnerability. But we are still afraid deep down, and our weaknesses effect us profoundly. We are afraid of disclosure. We fear that some will find out who we really are inside. It seems everyone is hiding something; especially us.

Because we’re strugglers filled with great deal of pain and confusion, we feel lost. And no one will help us.

We can easily label ourselves as “hopeless” and very lost.  Some of us secretly believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. (But this is a lie, as God forgives every sin but one.)

Some have heard (or misheard) that they are going to hell no matter what they do, and that they are truly lost and irrevocably separated from God. They need to know this is a lie, because whenwe confess our sins, the blood of Jesus covers them ALL and cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Many of us who struggle have an ugly and a twisted sense of our leaders in the Church. We get really strange whenever we meet them– a sort of a deep change comes over us when we shake hands with them after the service. Deep inside we can be afraid of the ‘man of God,’ and think he is going to ‘see’ the sin and weaknesses in our lives, and shame us publicly (see Joshua 7).

Pastor, you should understand that some of us feel pretty much lost all the time, and afraid when we meet you.

Typically, we pretend or even avoid those who are sent to pastor us.  As a result of our flaws and weaknesses we want to separate ourselves from the Church. This reality is we feel like we don’t belong. We may feel like a hypocrite just coming to the service. We end up going out of duty or habit. That is a warning light of trouble.

Often we try to live a life insulated from any outside intervention.  We avoid people who could really help us.  We are terribly sick, and need a pastor or elder to help us work through these things. Certainly that there is often a need for scriptural correction, but always in love– and even then with some tears.

There is a spiritual war that encompasses us. The torrents of hell are released on us and we discover Satan working in various ways. Admitting you’re under attack is not weakness. (If you knew what you are really facing you’d be terrified.) But Jesus Christ stands to intervene for us. He stands and intercedes for our souls–all the time

We must pray for our pastors. Sometimes their title and gift is hard to carry. Their gifting is often limited by extraneous things, and yet Jesus, the Good Pastor comes alongside to help them. Pray hard for your pastor. Cover them and bless them.

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