Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Fear of God, part 4

So what does the fear of God have to do with the journey from bitter to sweet? More than what most people know.

David dealt with this issue and wrote about it in Psalm 73.
In verses 2 & 3 he confessed:

~"But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."

He then went on to talk about how the wicked get away with stuff with apparently no repercussions.
Often this is how an abused person feels. Their abuser carries on abuse with no one stepping in to stop them. Not the church. Not God. Not anyone.

The abused who have feared God and tried to do what God wanted in the face of abuse may feel the way David felt when he said in verses 13 &14:

~"Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning."

David could not understand how things could work the way they did. He said in verse 16:

~"When I thought to know (understand) this, it was too painful for me:"

Yet in verses 17-20 he turned to God and things were made clear.

~"Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How they are brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awaketh; thou shalt despise their image."

So, here I have scriptural verification for the experiences I explained in part 2 and part 3 of these Fear of God posts.
David, 1000s of years ago, Betsy, several decades ago, and little ol' me received revelations on the precarious position of the wicked. These were revelations we needed because the situations we witnessed appeared to be unjust. But God, in His mercy and concern for us, made known to us, not to envy the wicked. They have put themselves in a bad place, no matter how it looks.

Here's what all this has to do with bitterness. In verses 21-24 David looks back on the bitterness he felt watching the wicked prosper:

~"Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. [NAS translated it this way--When my heart was embittered, And I was pierced from within], So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee: Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory."

This is such a wonderful promise to those who are bitter. God doesn't let go. Even when we are foolish and senseless like an animal in our bitterness, He still holds us by the hand and guides us by His counsel out of the place of bitterness and into the place of glory.

One of the first steps out of bitterness is to understand that the unrepentant wickedness of another will not go unpunished. They must either repent or face the music.

When we get this. When we see that God is just, it is much easier to release the wicked into God's hand and believe that vengeance really does belong to the Lord. We do not have to hold onto bitterness. We can trust the Lord to do what is right.

And hopefully we can take the next step and start praying for the wicked that they will escape judgement by repenting with tears.
It's hard to pray for our oppressors when we are bitter. Our prayers will be more pure and God-like if we can pray from the place of glory God has for us.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Fear of God, part 3

After the experience I had mentioned in The Fear of God, part 2, I read the book "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom. If you have never read this book and call yourself a Christian, you need to put it on your to-do list. Even if you don't call yourself a Christian or you are not a big reader, this is a must read.

In summary, Corrie and her sister Betsy hid Jews in a secret room in their home during the Nazi occupation of Holland during WWII. They ended up getting caught and put into a concentration camp. Corrie's book tells the events leading up to this and what happened after this with details I cannot get into for those who haven't yet read this book.

But there is a particular story that happened while they were imprisoned that cemented my understanding of God's judgement on abusers and oppressors.

Corrie made it out of the concentration camp alive and went back to Holland. Betsy did not. But while in the concentration camp Betsy seems to have been given a special grace to get through the experience without bitterness and to see the events that unfolded around them from a more heavenly or spiritual standpoint.

One day a female prison guard decided to show off in front of a visiting male prison guard. And she did so by beating a prisoner at the work site.
As Corrie observed this she said to Betsy, "Oh that poor woman."
Betsy agreed but said something that stunned Corrie. "Oh yes, and may God forgive her."
It took a few moments for Corrie to understand that Betsy meant the prison guard. Betsy had a grasp on the fear of God. She knew that it was better to be oppressed in this life than to be the oppressor. The oppressor is under the judgement of God in a way that the oppressed is not.

Just as I realized that the abusive man mentioned in my previous post is under judgement and to be pitied, so Betsy understood that this prison guard was under greater bondage and judgement than the prisoner she was beating.
The prison guard did not fear God. And by not fearing Him she put herself in a dangerous position not to be envied.

Oftentimes we don't take God seriously when He says that He will bring judgement on the wicked. Since we don't see it happening before our very eyes we seem to not be able to trust God to carry out His word.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Fear of God, part 2

Back in the 90s, my husband pastored a church. One day, a friend from our church came nearly in tears with a prayer request. It seems that her cousin's husband was demanding a form of sex that actually damaged her cousin. It created a tear in her rectum and caused her to bleed. The husband also gave instructions that my friend's cousin was not to tell anyone about his demands.
My first thought was, "Yes, we need to pray for this selfish, self-centered man right away so that he stops hurting his wife."

So my friend and I immediately went down on our knees and prayed for this couple. They used to go to church somewhere, but at the time they weren't going anywhere.

But a strange thing happened. I went down thinking, "We need to pray that this man changes his ways." I came up realizing, "This man doesn't fear God." A deep sense of needing to pray that he would fear God came over me. Somehow I knew that this man's actions brought him under God's judgement. And that place of judgement was a very bad place to be.
But this man was blind to it.

I stood up and told my friend, "He doesn't fear God."

Her eyes went wide and she confirmed it. "No, he doesn't. He told me that before."

I don't remember what I said after that. I don't even know if I made it clear to my friend that we needed to change our prayer focus, that we needed to pray that this man get a good healthy dose of the fear of God so that he could escape the judgement he heaped on himself.

I just know that my view of men like him changed. I now saw them for what they were, wretched sinners who need to escape the judgement to come.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Fear of God, part 1

I've had several of encounters with other Christians on this path of life that I'd like to share.

I had a friend who married an abusive man back in the 80s. I've since lost track of her but am relieved to know that she is not still married to him. Her mother told me that marrying him was a huge mistake. That is should have never happened.

Anyway, my friend told me this story while she was still married to him.

They lived in an area in the Midwest near a fault line that I forgot the name of. The area doesn't experience many earth quakes, perhaps once a decade. But one of these rare quakes did occurred in the eighties. Apparently it frightened my friend's husband so much that he treated her much better afterward.

This man was religious. I've seen him witness to people on the streets to get them saved. And he believed in the end times.

This quake may have caused him to think that end was near. Perhaps he thought he better get his act together, including how he treated his wife.

But when the fear passed away, he became abusive again.

After hearing this story, I began to wonder if some abusers lack a healthy fear of God and His judgement on the wicked.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Where have I been lately?

I've been about, traveling, lurking and posting sporadically on other blogs. I have regular places that I visit that have discussions that interest me. I'm learning a lot about the Christian Subculture as it is represented on the Internet. There a places that I feel at home and have a kindred spirit. There are also places I've learned to avoid because they have nothing for me, only legalism and dry bones doctrine.
The places that I like to go have names that include words like mercy and grace. They are honest and talk about the struggles they have as they work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Some of these places are hosted by people who have been wounded by an unhealthy church or doctrine. Though they cling to Christ and His word, they either don't go to "church" at all, go visiting new places with their guard up needing to protect themselves from possible further abuse.
I'm happy with the new acquaintances that I've made in the last few months. Some of them have inspired me and given me a reason to come back here and jot down a few thoughts again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Worst Abuse?

When considering the different kinds of abuse, what is the worst?

There is physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, and spiritual to name a few.

I've heard the abused say that physical abuse is bad, but emotional or sexual abuse are worse. The say the reason is because physical abuse damage the body, but emotional and sexual abuse damage the soul. And this damage makes it hard to connect with other people.

I also have read about spiritual abuse. One woman who was abused by a pastor was told that she needed to have faith. When "they" told her this her heart sank. She wrote that she couldn't have faith because the part of her that was made to have faith had been destroyed.

Remembering what I do about this woman and coupling it with what I read in Carolyn Jessop's book, "Escape" (read previous post), I've come to a conclusion. Spiritual abuse is the worst of all because it can warp, destroy, or otherwise damage the part of us that connects us to our Creator.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Example: a cult calling bitter waters sweet

I have just finished a book called "Escape" by Carolyn Jessop.

I highly recommend it as an example of the bitter doctrines of men being held up as revelation from God.

But a word of caution. If you are coming out of a very abusive situation and are easily triggered, you may want to wait and heal a bit more before you read this book.

Carolyn grew up in the FLDS (the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), a radical offshoot of the Mormon Church. This group practices polygamy, which is the practice of men taking multiple wives.
Carolyn became the fourth wife of Merril Jessop who proved to be an abusive man.
Rather than go into the entire story, I'd recommend that you read it yourself. But I want to pull something out from my reading of it that I feel pertains to this blog.

The women in the abusive home described by Carolyn dealt with a great deal of psychological abuse from their husband either towards themselves or towards their children. They were also in a nearly daily battle with the other wives for dominance over each other. Sadly, their religion did not offer them any justice or peace. Since their husband was the "priest" of their home, the wives were ordered to support and align themselves with him no matter what. A woman was never supposed to tell her husband no, for anything, no matter how abusive or inconsiderate his demand was. If a wife struggled with any anger or resentment, she was told to "keep sweet". She was also accused of not being spiritual enough or worthy of the Kingdom of God if she admitted she struggled with any kind of bitterness.

Thankfully, Carolyn did finally escape from the situation as the title of her book suggests.
And she later met a wonderful Jewish man named Brian who treated her with respect and as an equal.
He invited her to his synagogue where she learned a little about his faith.
About this she says on page 400 of her book, "It was interesting to me, but at the moment I'm not in the market for another God."

The bitter waters poured out on her by her religion and her husband has given her an aversion to thinking about finding another religion. And after reading her book, I can't say that I blame her.
Carolyn states in her book that she suffers from PTSD from time to time from the terrible damage done to her in the past by her husband and her religion. She is still in the process of healing. And I understand that it will take time before she can again think about her Creator and her relationship with Him.

My best wishes go out to her as she continues to sort out her life. She has given hope to others involved in FLDS. She has given hope to all that read her story that they too can escape from the clutches of such a bitter religion and lifestyle. My hope for her and all others struggling in the aftermath of such devastation is that they can find TRUE sweetness rather than the ugly bitterness put forth by controlling men who lie and call it sweet.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Wrong View of God

Many Christians are familiar with the Parable of the Talents that Jesus told. In the parable a land owner gave money, called talents, to three servants and instructed them to do something with them while he was gone and he'd check on them when he got back from his trip.

Two of the servants did well with what they were given and were praised by the master when he came back. But the third did poorly and was condemned. And most sermons that I've heard about it state that the reason the servant did poorly was because he did nothing with what he had, but rather buried it. And I'm sure that was one reason he was condemned.

But one woman was convicted by this parable, and not for the reason stated above.

The servant who did poorly didn't just not do anything. That servant had a bad attitude about the master. The servant accused the master of being a hard man and harvesting what others had planted.

The convicted woman who read the parable realized that she was like the servant with a bad attitude. Since she was in a relationship with a difficult and unreasonable man who was hard on her and even verbally abusive at times, she took on the attitude that God was that way. God is referred to as a "He" and this woman began believing the way her husband acted was the way all men acted to some degree, including God. It was easier for this woman to bury her talents and hide herself rather than use her talents for an unreasonable God. She felt God convict her for having this wrong view of Him, stemming from her dysfunctional relationship with her husband.

So what did this woman do?

First she asked for forgiveness from God. Then she asked Him to lead and guide her into a right understanding of Him. And she believes that she is on her way to a life where she no longer feels the need to bury her talents, but rather joyfully use them for God's glory and to find fulfillment in her life.

My wish for all reading this is that each one will discover who God really is rather than the way He has been presented through dysfunctional churches and homes. My hope for you is that whatever bitter waters you have been given concerning God and His design for your life, those waters will be swept away and that you will find the true sweet waters that Jesus offers.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sweet water made bitter

A very beautiful piece of scripture with wonderful symbolism has passed through the hands of too many people and made bitter.

Ephesians 5:21-33 talks about the wonderful and rich relationship that can exist between husbands and wives and compares it to the relationship between Christ and the church.

One woman I know says that when she meditates on these passages and thinks of Jesus and Him nurturing and cherishing her, she is swept off her feet in worship. But when she meditates on these scriptures and thinks of her domineering and verbally abusive husband everything inside her tenses up and she's better off not thinking of them, otherwise she becomes resentful.

This woman has had the experience of having sweet waters made bitter by the traditions of men and the abuses of her husband. What Paul wrote in Ephesians was meant to bless men and women, but unfortunately it has been used against women, sending them back home to submit to a tyrant, all in the name of obedience to God.

The church has commanded abused women to drink bitter waters and then judged these women when they have gagged on these waters and spit them back out.

The worst part of all this is that there are so many more passages of scripture offering so much comfort and peace for these women who have suffered oppression in their marriage. But all some churches offer is the bitter waters of return and submit to the oppression.

Hopefully in the next few weeks we can explore together the sweet and living waters that Jesus Christ offers to all who are afflicted and see just how much He loves and cares for, nourishes and cherishes those the church so lightly esteems.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why the name for this blog

The Bible says in John 16 that we will have tribulation in this world. But Jesus comforts us with the words that we should take courage because He has overcome the world.

I would think that when dealing with tribulation, the temptation will always be to fall into bitterness. But Jesus encourages us that we should take heart. Therefore we should be able to overcome bitterness.

However, I have seen things that make me concerned. I have seen doctrine and pressure from church leaders that were not the sweet water that Jesus offered, but rather bitter waters. And those putting forth these doctrines and pressuring people to accept unrighteous decrees from leadership have been deceived and try to state that their doctrines are sweet.

Now those of you reading may wonder what I'm speaking of. I suppose there are many things that fall into this category. But I'd like to mention one in particular. And this is the pressure many churches have placed on women to remain in home situations where there is some sort of abuse.

For many years, it was as though churches denied that abuse existed.
But I had and early exposure to it's existence in the form of a sentence spoken by an acquaintance. She said that her ex tried to "beat the fear of God into me with a folding chair."

I was shocked by this statement. I had just given my heart to the Lord a few years earlier and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. And it hurt me that anyone thought that they could beat another human being with a folding chair. And I longed to tell the woman about the real love of God. But her heart was hardened. She preferred smoking, drinking, and partying now. They were better companions. And in all honesty, can anyone blame her if she felt her only choices were to be beaten in the church or to have fun outside the church?

Some reading this may believe that this is an isolated case, or that I'm exaggerating for the sake of shock value. But sadly, this thing of women leaving the church rather than being abused is more common than many polite Christians want to believe. The reason these women are leaving the church is because in many cases the church has turned a blind eye, or worse, blamed the victim. And these women have had enough. They refuse to drink the bitter waters that domineering men have tried to give them. But sadly they haven't found the true sweet water that Jesus had for them all along. So they left to find other waters.

And worse still, in many cases, instead of the church recognizing her error, it again blames the victim, judges and labels these women as unsubmissive and turns it's back on their wounded souls.

The good news is that things are changing.

The bad news is that it has taken so long and the church has lost many who would have been assets to the cause of Christ.

This blog is for women, both still in the church and who have left the church. Those who have been abused and been forced to drink bitter waters rather than sweet, and who have been judged for spitting the bitter water out. If you are one of those women, please feel free to tell us your story.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Sweetest Water of All

John 4:10 Jesus answered and said unto her, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, 'Give me to drink;' thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water."

Just as Moses did not expect the children of Israel to drink bitter water and James rebuked believers for handing out bitter words by comparing them to bitter waters (see previous two posts), so Jesus gives out the sweetest water of all, calling it living water.

Those familiar with the story of the woman at the well in the Gospel of John would know that this woman was most likely not saintly in nature. But Jesus still offered her living water freely.
And with Jesus as our example, so should the church as his body and representation on this earth, ought to give out living water.

And yet, shortly after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, James is already pointing out and correcting the bitterness he saw coming out of believers.
Perhaps I'm not the only one that used to wonder why it is so easy for believers, those who have access to the sweetest water of all, why do believers succumb to bitterness?

Well, I've lived a few years before I first asked myself this question. And I've been through a little bitterness. So now I have a better understanding of how people can fall into this. And hopefully because of this experience, I can point a few away from bitterness and into the direction of the sweetness God has called his children to.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blessing and Cursing

James 3:10-12 From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
Does a fountain send out from the same opening both sweet and bitter water?
Can a fig tree, my brethren produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce sweet.

Here James is speaking to his "brethren" which is the church. It is evident that individuals within the church were having difficulty with this issue of using their mouths to both bless and curse, to give out both bitter and sweet water. And James states clearly that such things should not be. And yet they were.
This would lead me to believe that if it could happen with the first century church, it most certainly could happen with the twenty-first century church. And not only could it happen in theory, I think many of us have seen it with our own eyes, and may have even felt the sting of it in our own lives.
But the worst part about it is that many individuals are completely unaware of the cursing and bitter waters that come out of their mouths onto believers and unbelievers alike. They are unaware that they have a bitter root within their hearts that their words, like water, pass over, and so are defiled.
That is why bitterness is called a root in Hebrews. It's because it is not always seen. But it will eventually produce fruit.
So what kinds of bitterness or cursings have been poured on you by Christian friends and family?
Did those bitter things produce a bitterness within your own heart? Were you able to overcome in some way? Or are you still struggling?
You don't have to answer me, unless you want to. But it might not hurt to answer your own heart and make it a prayer concern.
Bitterness comes. It can't always be avoided. And sometimes it slips in. But being aware of it's existence is the first step in getting past it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bitter Waters to Drink

Exodus 15:23 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore the name of it was called Marah.

Sometimes you go places where you can't get what you need, even the most basic things that humans need for survival. Sometimes, figuratively, all you need is a drink of cool, clear, fresh water. But all you see is bitter tasting liquid that people try to pass off as water. You taste it, and you know it is not fit to drink. So what do you do? Do you drink it or do you move on. Or do you pray for a miracle, something to make the bitter waters sweet so that you don't faint from thirst.