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By Eric M. Pazdziora

broken arm is painful. A broken glass is dangerous. A broken mirror is unlucky. A broken heart is depressing. A broken toy is sad. A broken promise is wrong.

So it’s strange that some well-meaning devotional writers tell us that spiritual brokenness is something we should aspire to, an attitude that we should constantly maintain. The doctrine has it that God uses suffering to break us spiritually, forcing us to depend on Him and making us willing to serve Him.

The Bible says the opposite. Spiritual brokenness is destructive and unbearable:

The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness,
But who can bear a broken spirit?
(Proverbs 18:14, ESV)

A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.
(Proverbs 17:22, ESV)

Life has a way of hurting us, injuring us, breaking us. Sin, grief, injury, pain, suffering, bereavement, all of them act on our spirits like a hammer on glass. Some people may be in denial about it; some may be suffering from it every moment; some may be slowly recovering. Whatever the case, nobody needs to break us. We don’t need to break ourselves. We’re already broken.

That’s not a good thing. That’s an awful, painful, horrible thing. But it leads us to the only verse in Scripture that seems to put brokenness in a positive light:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
(Psalm 51:17, NASB)

That might be where some of those misguided teachings were extrapolated from. In reality, the verse is much simpler, deeper, and better than that. David wrote this psalm while he was in anguish over the guilt of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Sin breaks our spirits; remorse breaks our hearts.

When we’re broken like this, in our shame or despair or pain, we start to think that God doesn’t want us, that we’re not good enough for Him, that we have to wait until we’re whole again before we go to God. Who wants a broken heart lying around cluttering up their house? Broken things belong in the trash, not in the throne room.

Not so, says penitent David. God doesn’t despise us if we’re broken. God wants us to bring our brokenness to Him. God wants us to come to Him fractures and all. God will take any heart you have to give Him, even a broken one. Especially a broken one.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
(Psalm 34:18–19, NASB)

Brokenness is an affliction (not an aspiration), but the Lord is in the business of saving people from afflictions. The Lord doesn’t just want you to bring your broken heart to Him; the Lord sees your broken heart as a reason to come near to you.

The Lord does not break us in order to heal us any more than a doctor breaks your leg in order to put a cast on it. Why should He break you when He wants you to be whole? Isaiah said as much a few thousand years before:

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…
(Isaiah 42:3, NIV)

God doesn’t break you. But if you’re already broken or hurting, God heals you. If you have a broken arm, you go to the doctor. If you have a broken sprit, you go to the Great Physician.

I will seek the lost,
bring back the scattered,
bind up the broken,
and strengthen the sick…
(Ezekiel 34:16a, NASB)

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
(Psalm 147:3)

God heals you by taking your brokenness onto Himself. In the person of Jesus Christ, God Himself was bruised, rejected, beaten, bloodied, broken.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:4–5, NKJV)

…this is My body which is broken for you.
(1 Corinthians 11:24, NKJV)

This is one of many reasons we worship our Lord by making a sacrament out of broken bread. That was our brokenness on that Cross. You don’t need to be broken anymore—by His wounds we are healed. And when we are broken, we can look past the brokenness of the Cross to the empty tomb. What is broken will be made whole. What is dead will be brought to life.

Brokenness isn’t something we need to achieve. Brokenness is something we already have. Brokenness is something Jesus heals.

Jesus’ Heart

What can bring hope to a broken heart?
Only a heart that’s been broken too;
And Jesus Christ had a broken heart
When He spilled His blood for me and you.

What can bring warmth to a frozen heart?
Only a heart with the fire of love,
And Jesus Christ has a heart of fire
With the tenderness of God above.

What can bring peace to a troubled heart?
Only a heart that has conquered pain,
And Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace,
For He gave His life and He rose again.

What can bring help to a sinful heart?
Only a heart that is free from sin,
And Jesus Christ has a perfect heart—
Will you give your heart to be cleansed by Him?

(Music and Lyrics by Eric M. Pazdziora. Copyright © 1999.)

Eric M. Pazdziora is celebrating his mumblemumbleth birthday today, and he got a new CD of his original settings of hymns about grace. There are copies for everyone else, too. His wife Carrie sings on it, so it's really good. If you want one, some details are on this post at ericpazdziora.com.

[Image Source]

Humiliation Manipulation | Guest Post

by David Orrison

Every once in a while a light shines out revealing the truth of our surroundings. Sometimes it only lasts a moment, but we gain insights that change our understanding of the world. Suddenly, the explanation we have been looking for explodes like a flash of lightning.

For several years we observed a phenomenon we struggled to understand. We watched as people in our (insert your favorite legalist/performance community here) group put each other down, humiliated certain people, and offered the most self-righteous criticism we had ever heard. If we tried to interfere, we were met with rejection—by the victims! An obvious pecking order existed, but why it was tolerated was beyond us.

The pecking order extended beyond our group. When someone came from HQ it was obvious that he or she was of a higher class than the rest of us. When we attended gatherings, it appeared that the put downs and criticisms happened even among the elite leadership. And, again, the victims seemed to be more committed to the group than before.

In my counseling office, the real feelings would come out. Anger, hurt, rejection, depression—spewed out as the consequence of this kind of group interaction. I would ask why the victims allowed the abuse to continue and they would have no answer. They just wanted to be a part of the group. They believed that there was something in it for them, if they could just get their act together. 

As I counseled and observed, I realized this was the way almost everyone in the group felt. They lived in fear of criticism, knowing they never really measured up to the group standard. Husbands felt like they were failures. Wives felt disappointed and ashamed. Kids felt frightened and angry. No one was happy! So, why did they stay in the group and what made the group popular?

I puzzled about this for a long time, believing my observations to be accurate but not being able to explain what was going on. Then, while watching a favorite television program, I heard a succinct explanation of the situation. It was on “The Mentalist”, March 24, 2009, about 28 minutes into an episode called, “Carnelian, Inc.” Patrick Jane, the main character, explained brainwashing, the way a certain group was able to manipulate its members. He said:

“When the individual is humiliated 
their perceived value of the group is raised.”

Jane called it “group suffering.”

Mind Control and the Adult Child | Pt. 3

Continuing my series on Mind Control and the Adult Child, and our discussion of Hassan's BITE model..."B" here.

A dult children from deeply conservative, homeschooling families are probably familiar with the degree of "child sheltering" often taught at conferences, in homeschool groups, and shared among like-minded families. I'm sure we'd all agree that it's important to protect children from inappropriate messages, images, behavior, and other things that could bring spiritual, emotional, psychological, or physical harm. I'm sure, also, that many of us are thankful our parents cared enough to understand their responsibility to us.
     Mind control within the Christian family is, understandably, a difficult topic to read about or address, especially when our heart's desire is to love and honor those who raised us. Sometimes this forces silence and hiding ~ but silence and hiding are not helpful to our walk with God or to ourselves. As previously stated, addressing issues that have arisen in our lives does not mean we don't love, appreciate, or honor our parents. Jesus was sent to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up wounds. Acknowledging that we have wounds admits that we need Jesus.

The Quiverfull Family
     One challenge that full-quiver parents sometimes face is how to shelter each child properly with regards to their individual maturity. While this is a broad application, what is relevant to seventeen-year-old Mark won't be appropriate for four-year-old Jane, but to keep Mark at Jane's level won't be conducive to his growth. It's a fine balance, one that requires wisdom and the Holy Spirit for parents to navigate successfully. As adults, sometimes we need to examine some of the roots in our lives that, established in childhood, bear unwanted fruit as we mature. It is my prayer that as we look over this information and seek wisdom and truth for our inward parts, God will give us understanding of our infirmities, compassion for others, and show us the way to freedom.
     While it's likely that not all of these elements will be present in your history, review the ways information is controlled within destructive or high-demand groups. How did your experience differ? How was it the same? If you were exposed to certain things at a later time, how did you feel / what did you think after absorbing the material?

II. Information Control
by Steve Hassan
1. Use of deception
    a. Deliberately holding back information
    b. Distorting information to make it acceptable
    c. Outright lying
2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
    a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
    b. Critical information
    c. Former members
    d. Keep members so busy they don't have time to think
3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
    a. Information is not freely accessible
    b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
    c. Leadership decides who "needs to know" what
4. Spying on other members is encouraged
    a. Pairing up with "buddy" system to monitor and control
    b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership
5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
    a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
    b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources
6. Unethical use of confession
    a. Information about "sins" used to abolish identity boundaries
    b. Past "sins" used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution
Thoughts for Discussion

     A sheltered upbringing is a point of delicate concern for those on both sides of this spectrum. Please share your experience, whether you believe it was positive or negative. Some who were extremely over-controlled report a sense of betrayal when realizing that all was not as portrayed to them. How has this impacted you? Your faith? Your trust, of God and others? Please share whatever comes to mind as you reflect on these issues.
The BITE Model
From chapter two of Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves
© 2000 by Steven Hassan; published by Freedom of Mind Press, Somerville MA

Quivering Daughters Giveaway

Soul Liberty FaithSoul Liberty Faith is hosting a giveaway for my book, Quivering Daughters ~ Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy. Please click here for more information. 
     I hope you're having a lovely weekend!

Coffee, Love, and Grace

Lisa Byrne is a holistic health counselor and Christian mom. When a dear friend read her article, "Who Do You Feel You Are", she sent it to me immediately because she knew I'd love it. And I do. The entire piece is wonderfully refreshing, but there is something specific I want to share that women struggling with the bonds of  'performance spirituality' need to understand. Lisa writes,
The bible records that Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was.  He replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But in my experience, this is more than a command..it is how things truly are. I can only love others as I love myself.  I can only extend grace to others as I allow myself to accept grace.
How are you?
How are you, really?
     I see this paragraph as a call to seek truth in the inward parts, like David writes; as a call to see what is real, not just as we really wish they would be. For in our zeal to follow Jesus' command to deny ourselves and take up the cross, the full context of His command to "love your neighbor as yourself"  often becomes watered down. Worried we'll go too far, others warn us that self-love is innate, natural to the flesh and something to rise above everyday. Perhaps some need these exhortations, but what about those who struggle with depression and emotional wounds? With bitter self-hatred? Whose arms wear burns and slash marks? Whose heart wears burns and gashes?
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20
What if you were your own neighbor? What if you were your own brother?

Have Grace

     I live in the South where Southern hospitality comes a-twinkling in crystal glasses of sweet iced tea. We want you to be comfortable, to eat, to inhale gallons of tea and relax on a porch swing loaded with giant floral pillows. Your visit would not be complete unless you heard "Can I get you anything, honey? Are you hungry? Do you need another pillow?" at least thirty times. While I am not the epitome of the southern gal ~ I 'm not as sunny, for one thing, and I'll offer you powerfully strong coffee, and the porch swing might be a dusty seat on the balcony with plants tickling your ear ~ I do want my friends to feel comfortable, to feel wanted, welcomed, and loved. To leave refreshed, nurtured, rested, inspired, and ready to face another day.
     Scripture tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. What does your mouth speak about yourself? Do you attend to your needs? The expression "actions speak louder than words" applies, too. If you treated your friend the way you treat yourself, how do you think she would she respond? If you spoke to your friend the way you speak to yourself, how would she feel? Try to reflect on this over the next few days. It's important to be aware of how you view yourself. 
     This isn't a call to selfishness; rather, a plea for balance. Look again at the command: love your neighbor as yourself. What a lovely tension! Yet there was a time in my life that if I truly loved my neighbor as myself, that would mean I'd punch my neighbor in the leg. That I'd tell her she was fat and ugly and worthless and should've never been born. That she was a mistake and a burden to everyone she loved. I would've tried to rip the hair off her head and scream at her til I was hoarse and beg God to kill her. I would've planned her murder.
     If you were to truly love your neighbor as yourself, what would this look like to her? Would you try to poison her? Would you attack her with razors? Would you starve her? Withhold care and nourishment? Would you make her work and work and work without rest? Would you force her to eat until she's sick? Would you keep her from health? Would you hate her, tear her down and tell her it's for her own good, so she can learn humility?
     Lisa Byrne writes truth she learned from her own experience:

I can only nurture others as I nurture myself.

     Please pray that God will show you what this means for you, and how this looks for your life. Just as He is gracious, let us be gracious to others, even when the others are ourselves.

Reflections: How do you treat yourself? How does your own heart see you, and your mouth speak of you? What would it mean for you to learn to love your neighbor as you love yourself? What holds you back?

Discover grace with us on Fridays and link to discoveries of your own...

Martha, Martha: In Which the Author Fails to Get the Point

By Eric M. Pazdziora

The joke’s on me.

I was thinking and praying about my topic for this week, and one story just wouldn’t get out of my head—Mary and Martha. We all know it, it’s really simple, but sometimes it does us a world of good to go back to the basics.

So I started my usual round of studying, reading, praying, trying to find the shape of the idea, maybe a profound insight, a unique twist, something unexpected, something new. The weekend went by, and I still had only a handful of scattered notes and observations. Nothing was coming together.

Writers don’t like that, or at least I don’t. I get a bit frazzled and start to fidget, especially when I know there are a lot of people waiting for me to meet a deadline. My other articles so far have all been enjoyable to write, but this one was just not working. Yet I couldn’t get away from the topic. I was starting to get worried and upset, wondering if I would have to work harder than usual to make a good post that would really serve you.

And then all of a sudden it hit me. I was getting distracted and worried by all the work and service I had to do…

…while trying to write an article on Mary and Martha.

Yeah, sometimes it takes me a while.

Now, as Chesterton said, I’m the fool of this story, thank you very much, and I’ll have no one coming to topple me from the jester’s throne. But really, my own thick-headedness makes the point (better than any illustration I could have thought up) of just how easy it is at any moment for any one of us to get a case of Martha’s Disease.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3, NASB).

Martha just wanted to serve—to serve Jesus, in fact. Serving is a good thing; serving Jesus is an even better thing. But that was the problem. It’s not the best thing. Strictly speaking, it’s not even a necessary thing. Only one thing is needed.

Mary found it. She found it at Jesus’ feet, just sitting, listening, and being. And even though someone close to her berated her for it with the best of intentions, nothing could take it away. Not then, not ever.

It would be a mistake to say “We need to be more like Mary.” The whole point of what Mary was like is letting go of sentences that begin “We need to.”

“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

So, nothing fancy today. You don’t need me to tell you what you already know; you can just stop and remember it again. Let’s go back to the story we all know and spend some time listening to what Jesus has to say. Read it slowly and reflect and bask in it. Spend some time at Jesus’ feet. That’s all.

As Jesus and His disciples were going along, Jesus came to a village where there was a woman named Martha. She welcomed Him as a guest.

She had a sister named Mary, who came and sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what He said.

But Martha was distracted, pulled this way and that with all her serving.

She came up to Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister is leaving me to do all the serving alone? So tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” Jesus answered. “You’re worrying and bothering about so many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away.”

—Luke 10:38–42, paraphrased EP.

(Recommended hymn with that: Jesus, I Am Resting.)

Eric M. Pazdziora wishes he could practice what he preaches as much as he practices the piano. He writes music and words in Chicago with his wife Carrie, who guessed where this article was going before he got there. A forthcoming CD of his settings of hymns on grace, New Creation, can be found along with more writing at ericpazdziora.com.

Celebrating Versatility

Alison from Joy in the Journey surprised me last week with this lovely blog award! It is shared between bloggers to show appreciation and recognition for their work, their writing, and their purpose. I am truly humbled by this and honored to accept. :-) Alison is a long-time reader of Quivering Daughters; I've had the privilege of sharing a bit of her journey over the last year and more. You can read about her here while peeking at her adorable little babies while you're there. :-) Thank you for this, friend.
     So here's how this is done:

Rules of The Versatile Blogger Award:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award. (You don't have to do this part if you don't want to; I realize this is a controversial site and you might not feel comfortable linking to it.)
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Pass on the award to up to fifteen deserving bloggers.
4. Contact the bloggers you chose for the award.
Okay, here we go:

About Me in Seven...

1. Awards and about-mes make me shy. So I'm blushing in my heart right now. And about right now ... I am supposed to be tackling a huge pile of laundry. But isn't passing out blog awards so much more fun?
2. I am an artist. I have recently rediscovered how therapeutic it is to unleash my acrylics on a poor, unsuspecting canvas. I'm also an amateur digital photographer who relishes fabulous Adobe Lightroom and CS3.
3. I've been married for 8 years to an awesome guy, whose support and love have helped me immensely in my walk with the Lord and emotional healing. Without him I wouldn't be where I am today. He is my ezer.
4. I am not a good candidate for this award because I am behind on writing reviews! Coming Soon(ish) But Not Soon Enough: A review of Paradise Recovered: a new coming of age feature-length film from By The Glass Productions where a devout young woman learns about faith, living, and love from a surprising source; and: Shari Howerton's amazing spiritual memoir Breaking the Chains about her experience within a cultic church. I'm sure I missed others on my list somewhere.
5. I am so stuck at number 5. I'm really quite a boring person. I see my desk, which needs to be organized. I smell my hazelnut candle, burning warm. I'm thinking about coffee in the afternoon. I don't know what people want to know about me. Wait...I'll go ask on facebook...
6....and of course my friends came through! Some of the questions were really great and I will try to find a way to incorporate them into future posts. One friend asks: how did you meet your husband? At work. :-) But we were friends for awhile before anything changed. I was very serious and he was always cracking jokes and trying to make me laugh or blush (I used to blush very easily). And then he found out what kind of coffee I liked and started bringing me coffee, even if he happened to be off that day. I noticed how he was always carrying things for people or opening doors for others...very chivalrous without being stuffy. He's a keeper. :-)
7. Another question: It's pouring down rain outside on a Saturday. How do you spend your time? I reply: Ahhhh! I love rainy Saturdays! After a cuddly morning with afore-mentioned awesome guy, I light candles and we enjoy a pot of coffee or two. Then I might paint or clean a bit or cook or write.

Now this is more my style! Here are the versatile bloggers I've chosen to receive The Versatile Blog Award...

Emily | in the hush of the moon Inspiration, creativity, love, and soul.
Sisterlisa | Soul Liberty Faith Intriguing reflections on Christian spirituality.
Bethany | Coffee-Stained Clarity The journey of a young mother healing from spiritual abuse.
Darlene | Emerging from Broken Survivor of sexual abuse who writes about depression and mental health.
Leah | Musings Aloud Sweetness and beauty and a tender heart.
Darcy | Darcy's Heart Stirrings Thinking mama, special friend.
Jumpers2Jeans | Denim Jumpers to Blue Jeans Finding freedom in the One who makes free.
Jerry | Grace Like Rain A father seeking grace.
Karen | That Mom She has a wonderful ministry for homeschooling mothers.
Rachel | Three in One Makes Five  A young mother addressing her past while on the road to grace.
Young Mom | Permission to Live Her husband is a protestant minister and she leans toward Catholicism.
Trish | Bringing Creativity to Life A Blog for Burnt-out Human Beings. (Don't you love that line?)
Paula | Words of a Fether She writes about the Bible.  
Meg | Meg Moseley's Blog Her amazing novel about spiritual abuse comes out from Waterbrook next spring.
Bethany | Goats and Dandelions She is fascinating and so are her reflections on life.
Krista | Rambling Tart You will drool. I promise.

Happy reading! :-)

Mind Control and the Adult Child | Pt. 2

Women raised within authoritarian homeschooling, Quiverfull, or fundamentalist Christian families know that our parents had good, godly intentions for their choice of lifestyle. Nevertheless, as we often discuss at Quivering Daughters, many of us grew up experiencing depression, thoughts of suicide, fear, shame, and other serious ramifications as a partial result of the abuse of authority and the abuse of control. Obviously this doesn't implicate every homeschooling or Quiverfull family, but if you were raised with such a conservative background and struggle with these issues, you know what this involves. "Abuse" means"mis-use." We know that addressing the effects of the mis-use of authority, the mis-use of our emotions, and the mis-use of our spirituality and personhood doesn't mean that we don't love our families, our pastor or husband or whoever operated outside of their boundaries. In fact, we must invite the light of Christ into these painful places in order to be healed. This means that we must seek truth and expose darkness.
     In the quest for healing from over-control, it's important to understand how it happens so we can begin  addressing the areas affected. We've discussed why the mind is so important, for as Christians, we are to be transformed by the renewing of it so that we can prove good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. No one else can do this for us. However, many try!
     I do not address minors regarding these issues, but our upbringing plays a huge role in why we sometimes feel stuck today. This isn't to cast blame or vilify parents or anyone else but to simply apprehend the truth about what contributes to our dilemma. Understanding the roots of our struggles will clue us in to practical ways of overcoming them.
     Please note: I realize that much of my audience has an acquired disdain for modern psychology. I hope, however, that the material I present will be a helpful tool to facilitate your journey. As always, also know that I'm not a mental health professional. Please research these things on your own, ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, search the Scriptures, and pray for God to lead you as you address your past. Again: the purpose of this is not to blame or shame anyone who has, for reasons and convictions of their own, promoted these things. It is to understand what role undue influence, thought patterns, and methods of living have played in our lives ~ with the goal of taking responsibility for ourselves, our beliefs, and recovery.

The BITE Model

A former Moonie, Steven Hassan has spent more than thirty years writing, speaking, and helping others understand and overcome mind control. He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and holds a Masters degree in counseling psychology from Cambridge College. He has written two books, "Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults" (1988) and "Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves" (2000). He also owns an online resource titled The Freedom of Mind Center.
     Hassan graciously gave me permission to reprint his document "Mind Control ~ The BITE Model" in my book, although it didn't make it into the final version. His history and grasp of mind control gives him a unique perspective on the ways psychological coercion affects our lives ~ and readers may be shocked to discover unique similarities between what he has observed from destructive groups and the daily lifestyle of many authoritarian or fundamentalist families. 
     This doesn't mean all of these things are bad or harmful in and of themselves; I hope to facilitate dialogue over each element so we can determine how much inappropriate control affected us and where we might still have trouble as we seek to be made free. So for the next few weeks I'd like to discuss each element of The BITE Model ~ Behavior Control, Information Control, Thought Control, and Emotional Control.
I. Behavior Control
by Steven Hassan
1. Regulation of individual's physical reality
a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with
b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
d. How much sleep the person is able to have
e. Financial dependence
f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations
2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
3. Need to ask permission for major decisions
4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors
5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques - positive and negative).
6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails
7. Rigid rules and regulations
8. Need for obedience and dependency

The floor is open ~ let's discuss!

     Is any of this familiar? What similarities can you find between this list and your upbringing? While there must be responsible regulation in the lives of young children, at what point does a maturing young adult need to take responsibility for their own behavior? How does this list make you feel? Even if you agree with a strict childhood, remember that many quivering daughters (and sons!) live at home until marriage which could mean well into adulthood, yet many of the elements remain the same. What about when it's a Quiverfull family, and there are children of all ages under the same roof? How should behavior control be handled then?
     Remember that you can post anonymously or use a pseudonym, if you're more comfortable.

With the Rain

"Be gentle to yourself."
These words were as foreign to me, once, as they are to her. Hands cup steaming mugs, drawing warmth ~ she, a chocolate chai, and me, a dry cappuccino with whispers of cinnamon and vanilla. It rains, outside. Gray and cold, yet here we snuggle cozy, speaking close. Heart close. She speaks in chorus with the younger me:
     "But I don't know how."
     Oh how I understand. There was a time I didn't know how either, or even know in the first place. But I did know I was evil, fallen short, and that with every sin, every thought, every breath, I nailed Jesus to the cross. Again and again and again. Just being was disgrace.
     I sip warmth. The cafe murmurs. "What would you say to your friend, if she told you everything you said to me now?"
      "I would tell her not to be so hard on herself," she replies thoughtfully, and sets mug on table. "That she can learn from her mistakes, that she's only human. God still loves her." She smiles a little. "But that's different."
     I watch rain slide sideways in the wind; umbrella curls up as someone runs to the door seeking solace and coffee. "Why is it different?"
     She shrugs. "It just is."
     I know why it was different for me, when I had that conversation before. It's different for those of us who struggle to believe we have anything worthwhile to offer. That esteeming all others better than ourselves really means to consider myself a blight on the earth who should never have been born. Who would want such a person? Who would love such a person?
     We are silent for a moment. Our soundtrack pulses against the window; chocolate and freshly ground coffee make a heady aromatherapy. Without, altogether delicious.
     Within, soul-ache.   
     "You matter, you know." I speak softly. 
     All-cried-out eyes trace cup; they are empty, shadowed. She shrugs. "To whom? God loves me. That's enough, isn't it?"
     "Well, yes, but." I search for words. "What does His love mean? What does it make Him, and what does it make you?"
     She is quiet, although desperation seeps from still frame, the frame He remembers with mercy...
    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
         So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
    As far as the east is from the west,
         So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
    Just as a father has compassion on his children,
         So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
    For He Himself knows our frame;
         He is mindful that we are but dust. (Psalm 103:11-14, NASB)

     I weep, reflecting on shortcomings and sin and regrets.
     He reigns, remembering my frame.
     What does this mean for me? He knows how I am affected, what I love, what I need, what is hurtful. He knows all the nuances of shadows and light that play in my heart and mind and spirit, the emotions, the fears, the faith. And He shows grace, redeeming.

     "I just want to be good enough." Her voice breaks into my thoughts. Oh so familiar, again!
     I tiptoe using words; sometimes conversation bruises tender places, and other times it heals. "Sometimes good gets in the way."
     She looks up at me, blinks. Head tilts, bewildered. "What?"
     The words of Christ burn in my heart:
When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:12-14, NKJV)
     "Jesus doesn't call the good people. He didn't die for the good people. Maybe you're carrying a burden you aren't meant to carry?" I say it gently, praying. The rain keeps watering the world. I taste cinnamon on my lips.
     She draws breath. "Hmm. Okay..."
     Grace, she is delicate, residing with the lowly, given to the humble. "Perhaps if you are gentle to yourself, and see yourself as He sees you, you will understand?" I am hopeful.
     "Maybe one day," she says, unsure and tired and old, but the light comes back into her eyes.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not
to bring to nothing the things that are...(1 Cor.1:26-28)

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Godly Authority: A Flight to Topsyturvydom

by Eric M. Pazdziora


oet and playwright W. S. Gilbert (you might know him from his operettas composed with Arthur Sullivan) wrote some comic poems about the far-away land of Topsyturvydom:

Where vice is virtue—virtue, vice:
Where nice is nasty—nasty, nice:
Where right is wrong and wrong is right—
Where white is black and black is white.

Everything in Topsyturvydom is precisely the opposite of what you expect in our world. Soldiers are cowards, criminals are judges, and babies are born knowing differential calculus and become more ignorant as they grow. It’s silly, of course, but that’s the fun of it. As Ken Medema sang, “The world looks different to you when you’re flying upside down.”

So I’ve noticed a recurring phrase in certain schools of doctrine: “Godly authority.” Husbands should have godly authority over wives. Fathers should have godly authority over children. Pastors should have godly authority over their congregations. Don’t rebel against godly authority.

It sounds good and devout, probably because “godly” is a good faith word and “authority” is something we take for granted. Somebody has to have authority, and certainly “godly authority” seems preferable to the other kind. In fact, it’s exactly what we would expect to hear.

That makes me suspicious. Most of these doctrinaires would agree with me that “godly” should only mean “following what Jesus taught.” But Jesus never taught exactly what we expect to hear. Jesus taught about flying upside down.

Jesus managed to subvert almost everyone’s expectations. They expected a Messiah who would enforce the Law of God; they got one who religious people called a wine-bibber and a friend of prostitutes. They expected a Messiah who would be a conquering hero; they got one who died on a cross with thieves. It’s not for nothing that His critics accused His followers of “turning the world upside down.” Sometimes I’m left wondering whether Jesus was a secret citizen of Topsyturvydom.

When we look at what Jesus taught about authority, what we find seems equally wrong-way-up. Look closely at some of what Jesus said and you’ll start to think you’re standing on your head:

But Jesus called [the disciples] to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25–28, NKJV. Cf. Luke 22:24–27, Mark 10:42–45.)

When Jesus taught about authority, He said one thing clearly: It’s not about exercising authority. The great one is a servant. The greatest one is a slave.

Jesus didn’t let up with the topsy-turviness, either. He said you shouldn’t even take a title of authority:

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8–12, NIV).

The formula for greatness, according to Jesus, is to thrust greatness away from you. It’s not to be looked up to but to be humble. The greatest is the least, the most exalted is the humblest, and the highest is the lowest. If you want to become great, try to be humble; if you want to be humbled, try to be great.

Is this just more nonsense and silliness, something W. S. Gilbert might have dreamed up? Contrast this to the entire doctrinal systems that fixate on authority, and who has it over whom, and whether it’s shaped like a chain or an umbrella, and you do get the distinct impression that somebody is standing on their head. Somebody’s got something very, very wrong.

Here’s another clue in another flight to Topsyturvydom. Jesus based these paradoxical statements directly on Himself and His own work: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” The apostle Paul (possibly quoting an early Christian hymn) elaborates on this in a lyrical passage:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5–11, NASB)

Jesus was God, and Jesus became a servant. Jesus humbled Himself, so the Father exalted Him. It’s upside-down, but it’s true.

It gets even loopier. When God exalted Jesus to the highest place, He made another statement about authority. It casually succeeds in blowing all our discussions about “godly authority” to smithereens:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18, NIV).

All authority belongs to Jesus.

“All authority in heaven and on earth,” just so we’re clear it’s all-inclusive. Not “all spiritual authority” or “all authority in the church” or “all authority over My disciples.” Those would be radical enough—but “all” means “all.”

This isn’t anti-authoritarianism. There’s plenty of authority for us to obey—but only Jesus has it. It does not belong to anybody else. It is not given to anybody else. It is not shared with anybody else. If anyone says they have any authority in any context and their name is not Jesus Christ, they are wrong. (And if somebody says his name is Jesus Christ, don’t believe him, unless maybe he starts walking on water.)

After this statement, any discussion about who has “godly authority” is pretty much pointless. Nobody does, except Jesus.

Far from being a passing observation, this fact is tied directly to our salvation:

“For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.” (John 17:2, NIV)

Since Jesus has all authority over us, Jesus has authority to save us. Since Jesus has all authority over our lives, Jesus has authority to give us eternal life.

So what then? Don’t get the wrong idea. If your association with “authority” gives you a picture of Jesus sitting at the top of the heap and bossing everyone around, then it’s back to Topsyturvydom we go. Jesus followed His own teaching about authority: authority, He said, is something that should make you act like a servant and wash people’s feet.

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12–17, NASB)

This ties everything so far together. Jesus is in authority over us, and (logically enough) we can’t set ourselves up as superior to our authority. Since Jesus humbled himself and acted like a servant, if we follow Him, we should humble ourselves and serve as well. No one sits higher than the King, and the King is washing people’s feet.

So there we are. If godliness means following Jesus, then “godly authority” is an oxymoron. Godliness is not about authority; godliness is about humility. It’s not about leading; it’s about following (namely, following Jesus). It’s not even about “servant leadership”; it’s about servantship.

But—I hear some people still perplexed with the shock of being turned heels over head—but how on earth does that fit with the way we do things in real life? Doesn’t someone have to have authority in, say, the government? In a marriage? In a church? In a workplace? In a family? Doesn’t the Bible tell us directly to submit to those authorities?

All right then, one last flight to Topsyturvydom. The Bible does tell us to submit, which is appropriate enough considering everything we just saw that Jesus said. But what’s glaringly missing are any corresponding verses that say leaders have authority.

This puts an interesting spin on verses and topics that sometimes become needlessly controversial. Consider husbands and wives (I’m thinking of course of Ephesians 5:21–33). Yes, the Bible says fairly clearly, “Wives, submit to your husbands.” But it follows this statement not with the corollary we’d expect—“Husbands, exercise godly authority over your wives”—but with “Husbands, love your wives like Jesus did for the church,” that is, by sacrificing everything so she can benefit. This makes sense when we consider that Jesus’ kind of love involves washing feet like a servant. What do servants do? They submit.

For that matter, and it is simply amazing how rarely this point gets made, the statements about husbands and wives in context both come immediately after this verse:

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:21).

Godly submission, yes. Godly authority, not so much.

Well, OK, there is one verse that talks about husbands having authority, but I doubt it will ever become especially popular in the Patriarchy movement. It puts it this way:

For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians 7:4, ESV).

Again, the idea is not patriarchal authority but mutual submission. (You know what, can we just go ahead and say that this verse all by itself proves once and for all that Patriarchy is an unbiblical teaching? I mean, seriously, “the husband does not have authority.” And that’s not just in the physical relationship; it’s the same Greek word for “authority” that Jesus says in Luke 22:25 we shouldn’t have at all.)

It’s the same with other positions that are considered authoritative. The Bible says that we should serve the government, but also that the government should serve us by providing peace and justice (see Romans 13:4). There’s a reason we call them “public servants.”

Again, the Bible says that we should submit to our pastors, elders, spiritual leaders (however you like to translate presbuteros), but also that they should not lord it over anybody, just serve as good examples (see 1 Peter 5:2–3). Paul explains his position as an apostle precisely this way: “Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm” (2 Corinthians 1:24, NASB).

It might be tempting to misconstrue this and go running around telling our bosses that they’re not the bosses of us. It’s true, technically, they’re not, but to do that you’d have to ignore all the verses before about humility and servantship. I think we’ve gone so topsy-turvy that we’re making figure eights, so it’s probably time to catch our breaths and see the big picture from the air.

The big picture is simple, clear, and beautiful. It’s love.

We’re free. Anybody who tries to forcefully control us or require us to obey is trying to usurp a position that only belongs to Jesus. Conversely, if I want to lord it over anybody, I’m trying to set myself up as the Lord. Men and women alike, husbands and wives alike, pastors and congregation alike, we’re all brothers and sisters, free and equal.

But since we don’t have to submit and serve out of obligation, that means we’re free to submit and serve just because we want to. Just because we love. Since we’re not obliged to make payments, we can give gifts. We can freely sacrifice for others with no other motive but love. We can serve others not because they have authority over us, but because Jesus has authority over us, and Jesus serves from love.

If you want to see what “godly authority” looks like, don’t look to any person but One. Jesus is washing His followers’ feet. Jesus is giving and serving and loving. Jesus is flying upside down, making loops in the air over Topsyturvydom.

Eric M. Pazdziora still can't fly without an airplane, but music brings him close sometimes. He works as a freelance composer, author, and worship leader, and lives in Chicago with his wife Carrie, several stories above the ground. If you want to hear some of Eric's music or read some more articles, visit his website at ericpazdziora.com.

In the Garden | Guest Post

by David Orrison

“And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

When I was a young pastor an older lady in my church told me that I shouldn’t use the song, “In the Garden,” because it has nothing to do with the Christian walk. She said that it was a song about lovers, rather than the Lord and His servant. I confess that I was puzzled at her words. I didn’t agree, but I didn’t understand why she would say something like that. This was an old song of the church. Surely others didn’t feel that way, did they?
     Well, many years have passed since that comment and I have learned a great deal. One of the saddest things I have learned is that many, perhaps the majority, of those who consider themselves Christians have no real idea of Jesus as a friend with whom they can walk and talk and bare their hearts. Instead, they have been taught to view the Lord as a petty and vindictive manager. They try hard not to make Him angry, but live with the idea that He will never really be pleased with them. How sad!
     Sad because these poor folks go through their lives without the comfort and peace that comes from knowing the Lord as the most intimate friend. For them He truly is a God who is far away.
     Sad because so many have left the faith thinking that God is mean-spirited and inconsistent, if indeed such a god exists at all. They reject the church and the teachings of the Scriptures without ever learning that the Christian faith is first and best a relationship with the One whose love overcomes all barriers.
     Sad especially because the Scriptures are so full of the love of God for us. The whole message of the gospel is about that love. It was love that moved the heart of the Father to look past our sin. It was love that led Him to reach out to you and to me and save us through His own suffering. There is a great deal of mystery in all of this, but the message of love is consistent and loud.
     Yet, even as I grieve for those who have never known a real relationship with Jesus, I confess that, for me, living in such a relationship is infrequent. The “stuff” of this world pulls my attention away from the One who loves me and often I forget that He is there and I am secure in Him. I understand “dry” times and fear and all those emotions that come from feeling small and unloved.
     But then, when I return to those “garden” times, I find Him again and He reassures me and tells me that He has never stopped loving me. He has forgiven all my sin and I am whole and free in Him. As we walk together and talk, my confidence in Him returns and I know that His love will truly conquer all.
     Yes, Jesus is a lover far beyond any human lover. He knows my whole story and accepts me. Amazing love!
David Orrison has been a pastor for over 30 years with a sincere desire to help people know the love and grace of the Lord Jesus.  He holds a PhD in Theology from Trinity Seminary.  He has worked with pastors and other church leaders who have been discouraged by the expectations and failures of ministry.  He has also helped parents, spouses, and young people who have been hurt by the legalistic teaching of what he calls, “performance spirituality.”  His website, www.gracefortheheart.org, and blog, http://graceformyheart.wordpress.com, have been sources of encouragement and teaching for many.  He is available for speaking engagements as well.  He and his wife, Alice, have eight sons and live in Colorado. 

Mind Control and the Adult Child | Pt. 1

“In their zeal for producing godly offspring, many well-meaning parents insert themselves in their adult childrens lives in ways that are deeply inappropriate and hinder them from growth and maturity. Addressing the effects of this does not mean they are inherently bad parents or that we arent loving or loved. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Healing from over-control and surrendering to the transformation of the Holy Spirit in our lives is crucial to our growth —because it is when we walk in the Spirit that we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Our parents (or pastors, husband, and friends for that matter) cannot walk in the Spirit for us.The Over-Controlled Adult Child
In this perverse world, it's important for kids to understand their personal boundaries. "It's not okay for someone else to touch you there," a parent might say. Teaching a child how to keep her body safe involves understanding what is off-limits to others. "This part belongs to just you," she learns. "It's private and no one else is allowed to look at you there. If someone asks or tries to touch you, you scream as loud as you can and run away."
     Owning and protecting those private places are essential to being human. Violations are horrific, often causing lifelong pain, injury, and trauma to the body and the heart—as well as legal repercussions for offenders. But we have other areas that need owning and protecting, too. Other parts of us just as private and personal and off-limits to anyone else. We can choose, at appropriate times and for legitimate reasons, to allow ourselves to be influenced or touched by safe people, but self-control is important enough to God to be included in Scripture along with love, faith, and other qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit. Therefore it should be important to us.

     As young children, we learn healthy responsibility for ourselves from parents if they model for us appropriate self-control. Over-control, or when those in our lives take over the areas God gives us as our responsibility (or when we do this to others) is serious, especially as we grow into adulthood. Norm Wakefield illustrates from a spiritual perspective why this is dangerous:
Until Marty has a relationship with Jesus, his parents must teach, train, and demand honor and obedience (Eph. 6:1-4). However, once the Holy Spirit indwells him, Marty should be taught to walk by the Spirit in relationship with the heavenly Father. As Jesus told his disciples, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). As a son starts to walk by the Spirit, an earthly father should encourage his son's decision-making and guidance to come from a personal relationship with the heavenly Father, not himself. To the degree that the father makes the decisions and dictates the lifestyle of his believing son, to that degree he hinders his son's spiritual life. A father's role should decrease just as John the Baptist's role decreased when Jesus appeared (John 3:30). The Curse of the Standard Bearers
     As His creation, we belong to God and yet He gives us stewardship over our own hearts, our bodies, our souls and our minds. These things belong to us. We alone answer for them on Judgment Day. What we answer for, especially where our soul and matters of eternity are concerned, is in our jurisdiction and should not be taken away from us. It's critical to be self-controlled, and when others seek inappropriate degrees of control they hinder the work of the Spirit in our life. 
     It's no wonder that Jesus calls us to love God with all we've got, with every fiber of our being. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...” When the ability to do these things of our own volition is taken from us, we must make right this aspect of our lives in order to be whole.
     The answer to over-control is found in Romans 12.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (v.1)
"You" present yourself. Your parents, pastor, husband, and friends cannot appropriately present your body as a living sacrifice. How this looks will be different for everyone, which makes it crucial to hear God's voice and will for your life.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (v. 2)
Being conformed means to be squeezed from the outside—which is undue influence or control, whether we allow it, or whether it is projected onto us. Transformation, however, comes from within and is a direct result of walking in the Spirit. Let's look again at verse 2, paraphrased according to the understood verbiage of our language:
And [you] do not be conformed to this world, but [you] be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
When we are filled with the Spirit and walk in Him, He is the One who renews our minds for the purpose of living in obedience and proving the perfect will of God. Yet when we are hindered by others who insist that we follow their will, or their ideas of what is good and acceptable and perfect, we won't be able to prove God's.
     We cannot serve two masters.
     The pivotal point in that verse is the renewing of your mind. Only you with the Holy Spirit can renew your mind. God doesn't force Himself on us. Yet mind-control is overwhelmingly present within authoritarian families. Healing from mind-control is essential for us to be free, for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.
     Next week we will begin looking at ways mind control manifests within high-demand groups and compare it with the authoritarian family.

Grace With a Floppy Face

I don't sew much anymore, but when I was six years old, a thoughtful gift from my mom  ~ a cookie tin stuffed with my very own red pincushion, thread, buttons, and delightful squares of fabric ~ launched several years of  me curling up on my bed, trailing awkward stitches in whatever scraps of calico I could find. I spent hours at Wal-mart looking at rows of colorful cotton, imagining everything I could make with the materials. I loved to create things, to bring beauty and joy using ribbon and satin, rosettes and yarn, muslin and batiste.
     As I grew older and perfectionism set in, this affected my sewing as well. Unhappy with the slightest pucker in a hem, I'd rip the whole thing out and start new, fresh. Even though no one else could see interior seams, the slightest fray that I knew was there grated on my mind like nails on chalkboard, prompting me to devour a book from the library on Sewing the Perfect Seam and then transforming simple patterns into French couture ~ on the inside, at least. Sometimes, when projects became hopelessly befuddled and beyond [perfect in my eyes] repair, I abandoned them to my little sisters who gleefully added them to their own collections. It got so bad that at one point, sentimental me-who-keeps-everything threw away the very first project I made with my birthday sewing kit: a floppy little dolly which I thought was dreadfully ugly.
     But my mom saw something in her I didn't, fished her out of the trash, and stuck her away in a special place.
     The thing about perfectionism is that it eventually leads to burnout. It's tough to gather motivation for a new project when we know how draining it is to complete it to standard. It's hard to keep "fighting the good fight" when every day we fail to measure up. Perfectionism becomes a ruthless master, killing, stealing, destroying, and ravaging our lives. Aghast at the efforts of the Galatians, Paul exclaimed, "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" (3:3) Yet perfectionists try, and try, and try...growing physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually fatigued.
I made her all by myself
when I was six.
My floppy dolly with crayon eyes and lips.
Thank you, mom.
    The truth is that God commands us to be holy. Holiness and perfection are not necessarily the same. The sacrificial lambs were required to be perfect, without spot or blemish. The Sacrificial Lamb was holy, set apart, sanctified. For those raised within authoritarian, high-demand, performance-based, image-conscious households, understanding grace comes at a personal cost because our very ideas of faith, goodness, and biblical living are wrapped up in how godly and righteous we can be. Yet what does God say?
     Perhaps what we run from most, in ourselves, is what God wants for His glory?
     Isn't this the personification of perfectionism: us running from our weaknesses, our failures, our unfinished seams? And in the arduous quest for perfection, are we unwittingly running from grace?
     I believe that until we can stop striving for perfection and rest, trusting in the One who justifies the ungodly, grace will remain elusive. Because grace is found through brokenness, through mistakes, through ugly things, through a little dolly swept from the trash bin by a mother who understood something I had yet to learn.

Grace makes the imperfect . . .

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The Myth of the Lukewarm Christian

by Eric M. Pazdziora


here’s this sermon I’ve heard a few dozen times. You’ve probably heard it too. It goes like this. Some Christians are really passionate and sold out for the Lord. They do great things. They live ri­ghteously. They don’t do anything that could be considered worldly. They only listen to Christian music. They have biblical family values. They’re on fire.

And others? Well, they’re “lukewarm Christians.” Sure, they say they believe, but they’re not that committed. They show up in church to warm the pews, but they still do worldly things. You should see the way they dress and those movies and music they listen to! If only they knew all the right things to do so they could be on fire like us. Jesus says, “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16). That, strong children, is why you have to be on fire for the Lord. Let us pray.

Obviously, I can’t object to an exhortation to be more committed to the Lord, and I dislike “easy-believe-ism” as much as the next disillusioned evangelical does. But if you know about Spiritual Abuse, you recognize a few other all-too-familiar themes lurking in the subtext.

There’s a strong temptation to elitism there—you want to be better than all those “lukewarm” folks, don’t you? Legalism’s waiting to pounce, too; it blends in perfectly as long as you define “On fire” as “Doing our things” and “Worldly” as “Not.” All that’s left is for us to spin “I will spit you out of my mouth” as “You might be eternally lost if you don’t do our thing” and we’re practically in cult territory.

But it’s biblical, right? It even has a Bible verse in it, and you can find dozens of people interpreting that verse in exactly that way, pretty much that same sermon, even. Tweak the applications a bit and it’s good for weeks.

Well, there’s one tiny problem: That’s not what that Bible verse means. Actually, it means pretty much the opposite.

Yes, Jesus says He doesn’t like it if you’re “lukewarm.” Yes, Jesus says “I will spit you out of my mouth,” and yes, it’s true (as you’ve probably heard) that that refers to puking. But what makes Jesus want to vomit? Is it really people who claim to follow Him and still (horrors!) watch PG-13 movies with wizards in them? Is it people who claim to follow Him but are just pew-warmers?

Or is it something different? Not just a different token “worldly” action, but a completely different way of thinking about your relationship to the Lord?

The answer, like the answers to most things, is found in context. The context here is the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, that is, the part that you don’t need an advanced degree in theology or screenwriting to interpret. John records letters from Jesus to seven churches in Asia Minor, at once pointing out their sins and shortcomings and encouraging them to stand firm in what faith they have. It’s dynamite stuff; I wish I had time to expound all of it.

The letter with the “lukewarm” verse is the seventh and last, addressed to the church in Laodicea. It begins like this:

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.

Already this is a bit confusing, given the standard interpretation. If the “hot” people are those who are “on fire” for the Lord, then the “cold” people must be… atheists? Flagrant sinners? Crooked politicians? Richard Dawkins and his merry band of infidels? Could be, but then why does Jesus say “I wish you were cold or hot” like they’re both equally good? Surely He doesn’t consider it the same to be on fire for Him and stone-cold against Him?

16 ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

That bit we know. Jesus doesn’t like lukewarm beverages. He spits them out. Insipidity, something that’s the same temperature as the room, doesn’t do it for Him.

That’s obviously a metaphor for something (unless you’re a hyper-literalist and think that Jesus drinks people). Yet there’s no mention of the behaviors we’re often told are “worldly.” Is Jesus speaking in riddles, or will He explain what He means? What’s the difference between “hot” and “cold”? What makes a person “lukewarm”?

The next verse tells us. Specifically. It even starts with “Because” so we won’t miss that it’s connected. Here’s why Jesus gets nauseated by “lukewarm” believers:

17 ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…


Well, that’s not what they told us it meant.

The “lukewarm” people Jesus is criticizing think they have it all together, but they don’t. They think they are rich when they are actually poor; they think they can see when they are really blind; they think they need nothing when they are living on the streets. They have the worst of both worlds—all the smugness of wealth and all the neediness of poverty. They need help, but they think they’re well off.

This makes the rest of Jesus’ metaphor perfectly clear. “Lukewarm,” obviously, means a mixture of hot and cold, producing something bland and tepid. The Laodicean church combined feelings of passion for the Lord (hot) with the condition of being apart from the Lord (cold). The result is horrible: people in spiritual need who can’t recognize it because they think they’re doing great.

“Lukewarm” means “self-righteous.”

A “lukewarm Christian” is not somebody who claims to follow Jesus but also does worldly things. It’s somebody who says “I don’t do worldly things, so I’m living in God’s will.”

A “lukewarm Christian” is not somebody who claims to follow Jesus but only shows up on Sundays. It’s somebody who says, “God must be pleased with my devoted church attendance.”

A “lukewarm Christian” is not somebody who doesn’t have a quiver full of children. It’s somebody who says, “I have biblical family values, so I’m more sold out to the Lord than those feminists are.”

Lukewarm Christians are satisfied in themselves. Lukewarm Christians are proud of their spiritual commitment and pleased with all that they do for the Lord. Lukewarm Christians believe that they are living the right way, with all the right values, and all the right methods, and all the right works.

Except they aren’t. The fact that lukewarmness—self-righteousness—nauseates the Lord matches what He said (terrifyingly) about people who won’t make it into heaven:

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” (Matthew 7:22–23)

These people did great works for the Lord—even miracles—and thought well of themselves, but they missed their need for the Lord Himself. Jesus said, “Only one thing is needful,” and it isn’t to do great works for Him. Jesus wants us to trust Him, rest in Him, believe in Him, see our need for Him, get to know Him, let Him get to know us. That’s all one thing: it’s called Faith.

That may explain why Jesus says “I wish you were cold or hot.” If you’re “hot,” then of course you’re exactly where the Lord wants you to be—surrendering to the All-Consuming Fire. You’re seeing your need of Him and depending on Him to burn away your impurities and kindle your love.

If you’re “cold,” you’re apart from Him—and you feel it. Sometimes we have to hit the bottom before we learn to look up. As Martin Luther said, if you’re going to sin, you may as well sin boldly. None of this socially respectable stuff. Try it all, if that’s what it will take for you to see it doesn’t satisfy. When the Prodigal wound up in a pigsty, he realized how good his father really was. The sooner you get to the end of your rope, the sooner you’ll see your need to be rescued.

Being “cold” is just as good as being “hot,” from a salvific standpoint, because in both cases you’re seeing your need, insufficiency, and helplessness, and coming to depend on Jesus for His grace, forgiveness, and righteousness. The one fatal condition is to be needy while depending on your own righteousness. That’s disgusting. That will get you spit out of Jesus’ mouth. That’s lukewarm.

The point is not that we should be lazy, worldly, or half-hearted in our commitment to Jesus. The point is that there are much worse sins than laziness or worldliness. As C. S. Lewis said, “A cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

What’s the cure for lukewarmness? Jesus (again) tells us exactly in context. Here’s the rest of His letter:

18 ‘I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

The answer is to look to Jesus. It’s to see your need and see that only Jesus can fill it. It’s to ask Him to give you whatever it takes to fill it, and to give up anything it takes to get it. It’s to let Jesus enrich you, cover you, heal you.

There’s hope. Jesus counts even the “lukewarm” people among “those whom I love”; otherwise He wouldn’t take the trouble to correct them. It’s never too late to repent and open the door to friendship with Christ. If you let Jesus sit down with you at your table, He’ll let you sit down with Him on His throne.

If you simply do that—if you open the door to Jesus, trust in Him, get to know Him, and let Him help you overcome your self-righteousness—then you’re not lukewarm anymore. You’re one who overcomes. You’re on fire.

Don’t let any of the lukewarm Christians tell you otherwise.

Eric M. Pazdziora is a recovering legalist, but doesn't like to boast about it. These days, he mostly writes words and music. He lives in Chicago with his beautiful wife Carrie and his spoiled cat Eloise. If you want to hear some of Eric's music or read some more articles, visit his website at ericpazdziora.com.