Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Debating doctrine

On some christian online groups, there seems to be a fascination with doctrine. Doctrinal debates will begin that get so intense that they often de-escalate into arguing and name calling and sometimes even cursing. As a result, some members leave the group wounded and hurting. I’ve even seen this happen in groups where the members supposedly understand grace.

These believers will say that doctrine is important and that correct doctrine is critical and they feel it’s their christian duty to defend correct doctrine at all cost. To prove their point, they will cite the fact that Jesus, Paul and the other New Testament writers all wrote about doctrine. I think they forget that Jesus, Paul and the others discussed doctrine in the framework of real life.

The New Testament letters were written as a help and encouragement to believers who were dealing with specific issues. Paul didn’t just out of the clear blue sky write them letters and begin talking about doctrine. Either they had contacted him or he had heard about struggles and questions they had and he wrote to share what he had learned hoping that it would help them in their journeys.

People who focus heavily on doctrine seem to feel it’s okay to correct total strangers who they disagree with and often seem to forget that brothers and sisters should be treated with respect. As I look at the New Testament letters, one thing seems to stand out and it’s the fact that these letters were written out of relationship. They were written by an individual who knew the heart of the people to whom he was writing. That’s why Paul when writing even the most corrective letters could remind the people of the good that was in their hearts.

Understanding doctrine is important but it was never meant to be expressed outside of the natural flow of life. All doctrine is meant to be lived and not merely discussed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Misunderstood God

For some time, Darin Hufford has been working with Windblown Media on a rewrite of his excellent book, “The God’s Honest Truth.” Windblown Media is the publisher of “The Shack”, a book written by William P. Young, which skyrocketed to success and was listed by The New York Times on their bestsellers list. Darin’s book is now finished and ready to be released in early November under the title of “The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells Us About God.”

Darin self-published the original book and I’m excited that this wonderful book will now be available for wider distribution. Anyone who reads my blog with any regularity knows that I’ve been greatly impacted by this book and by Darin’s ministry. Since reading his book and getting involved with his ministry, my life hasn’t been the same. Darin opened my eyes and helped me to see the loving Father that religion had hidden from me. I don’t think any other book has impacted my life as much as this one has and I’m looking forward to getting my copy of Darin's new book.

If anyone hasn’t read “The God’s Honest Truth,” I highly recommend reading it as well as the new version, “The Misunderstood God.”

To read detailed information about this new book by Darin Hufford, follow this link.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Performance Based Acceptance - my story

Although I’d been a believer for a number of years, I knew my life didn’t measure up to what I believed it should as a christian and, to be honest, I didn’t see that anyone else around me was doing any better. Toward the end of 1997, my desire to know God more intimately increased and I began praying what I’ve since come to realize is a dangerous prayer. I told him daily, several times a day, that I wanted to know him. Well, he took me at my word but, if I had known what was ahead, I don’t know that I would have prayed that prayer.

A few months later, he led me to a church that later became abusive. I stayed there over three years and those were the most difficult three years of my life but it was there that God began the process of setting me free from the need for people's approval.

As with all spiritually abusive leaders, the pastor of that church preferred new and inexperienced believers. Since I had been a believer for over 20 years, it was obvious that I was being pushed aside in preference to the younger believers. I even once told him that I felt like I wasn’t wanted there. Of course, he denied it but I knew it was true. The young and inexperienced were definitely preferred over those of us who were more mature and seasoned in our faith.

I struggled to gain this pastor’s approval and I remember thinking that there was nothing I could do to please him. For someone who thrived on the approval of others, that was tortuous. I hated it there and decided to leave several times but each time, God made it very clear that he wanted me to stay. It was only years later that I understood why it was important for me to stay. He wasn’t punishing me as I thought at the time but he was setting me free in ways that I couldn’t even imagine at the time.

After I left, I found Wayne Jacobsen’s Lifestream website and later Darin Hufford’s Free Believers Network. I devoured their teachings and, as a result, I finally understood the bondage I had been in and how God had been setting me free through what he allowed me to experience.

I also learned that I have a Father who loves me too much to let me stay in bondage. My freedom began with a lot of pain as I struggled to make sense of why he put me in an abusive church. Now, I look back on those days and think that knowing what I know now, if I had to do it over again, I would. I sure wouldn’t enjoy the suffering I went through but sometimes to effect a cure, a surgeon has to cut out the sick parts and that’s always painful. However, when the healing is complete, the results are worth it.

For me, this was the start of a very exciting journey and it has been a journey. I haven’t arrived yet and, at times, I still find myself reveling in the praise of man and looking for it. I still struggle at times when family members give me patronizing looks that seem to say that they’re being patient with me but I’ve also learned to laugh at myself when I act like my elevator doesn’t go up all the way.

I’m learning that it’s okay to be me. God created me and gave me my unique personality and he’s pleased with me just the way I am. If there’s any changing to be done, he’ll do it in his own time and in his own way. I’m not supposed to get stressed about it and spend a lot of effort trying to change what I view as faults. I just need to spend my time getting to know him and, through that relationship, he will change what needs to be changed in me.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Friendships without a hook

We tend to want our friendships to all fit into a neat little predictable package but the truth is . . . they don’t. Since we’re all unique individuals relating to other unique individuals, each friendship will be different.

I prefer friendships where the relationship is mutual. I absolutely love it when my friends initiate some sort of communication with me. A phone call or an email just to say hello means a lot to me and makes me feel like they care and value me as a friend.

The friendships that I view as being one sided are very difficult. I get tired of always being the one to make the contact and eventually I find myself pulling back from those friendships. I want some indication from those friends that they care so I end up putting them on a point system. I compare the number of times they’ve contacted me with the number of times I’ve contacted them but that’s a surefire recipe for hurt.

With some friends, I have a real heart to heart connection that goes deeper than other friendships. These get complicated when I feel like they’re one sided. These types of friendships are very emotionally stressful so, sometimes it becomes necessary to pull back from some things for a time in order to avoid further hurt.

I believe we need to come to the place where we understand that God is there to meet our needs and he will sometimes ask us to be a friend to someone who isn’t meeting our emotional needs. It may be, that during this season, the other person needs our friendship and encouragement and God wants us to give freely with no strings attached.

Darin Hufford has an excellent teaching on giving and in it he says, “If you have love, giving will arise from that love. If giving does not arise from your love, it’s not love; it’s just fond of.” In other words, we’ll give because it’s the nature of love to give; it’ll simply be a natural outflow of the love Father has given us.

Learning to give up expectations and to love freely is difficult. It’s a process that I’ve entered into and it’s been hard. I like to be in control and to know how my relationships will work out but I’m slowly learning to just let those friendships be what they’re going to be.

Darin once told me that we tend to care more about what people do than we care about why they do it. I believe this is true. It’s easy to get so self-focused that we don’t look for the reason why. Maybe if we understood the “why”, the “what” wouldn’t be so painful.

God is our source for all things and, as we learn to look to him to provide the emotional support we need, he’ll provide in ways we never imagined. As we allow him to meet our needs, we’ll no longer be controlled by our expectations of others. Although learning to give up expectations is difficult, I believe it’s the only way to successfully navigate through the difficult and unpredictable waters of relationships.