If you want to help the abused in your church, begin with the pure Gospel

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In most American churches, the Gospel has been reduced down to easy-believism and do-goodism. But this kind of Gospel is worthless. Simply believing that Jesus is God, and going about doing good because you’re dedicated to Christian virtues won’t save anyone.

Micah 6: 8, He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Walking humbly with God means much more than acknowledging Him. It means dying to self, and living for Him. When we do that, we will do justly and love mercy. We cannot help but do so. But to get to the point of being able to walk humbly with Him requires that the Gospel has been preached.

So what is the Gospel? It’s the Good News that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a holy life, died a substitutionary death, rose triumphantly, and now lives at the right hand of the Father. One day, He’s coming back. Until then, He’s working out His will in the lives of those who love Him. It is His will that we obey Him (Luke 6: 46, John 14: 23), that we are salt and light to a sin-sick world (Matthew 5: 13-16), that we serve others (2 Corinthians 4: 5, Colossians 3: 23, 24), take care of the poor (Galatians 2: 10), the widows and the orphans (James 1: 27), and serve the oppressed (Matthew 25: 34-39). In short, He is the God who died for us and we are to take up our crosses daily and follow Him wherever He leads us (Luke 9: 23).

If we dedicate our lives to doing what God has required of us, starting first with obeying Him, our lives will be a blessing to our families, to our churches, and to our communities. Included in these will be those who have suffered under the heavy hand of domestic abuse. To serve them, start with the pure Gospel. Our preachers must preach it, we must believe it, and then we must take it to them. Anything short of this is disobedience to our Holy God.

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Prayers of an emotionally abused woman by Cheryl Williams

I am not sure where I found this poem but it’s not mine. Cheryl, wherever you are, thank you for sharing your heart. May God comfort you. 

This is how so many emotionally abused women feel….

She prays for sweet freedom every day.
When he hurls stones,
she deflects them with silence.
When he soaks her in his poison,
she prays it will not seep into her soul…
for she knows she is better than this.
She gives until she is spent.
She loves until she is depleted.
She used to sing like an angel,
but her voice has been stilled.
She used to laugh with abandon,
but she is scared to feel joy,
for it is so very fleeting.
She cringes at the sound of his coming.
Tears fill her eyes,
for she knows that no matter how she tries,
she will not be good enough
or pretty enough
or smart enough
for the one who thinks he is perfect.
She puts up her invisible wall,
and he wonders why.
She cries rivers of tears,
and he steps over them,
afraid of getting his feet wet.
Sometimes she prays
for his demise,
and at the same time
prays for her soul,
lost in wicked imaginings.
Sometimes she prays
to disappear.
Finally she would be free.

 

31 Flavors (or more)!

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!   

How many kinds of narcissists are there? Someone has said that if you ask eight people for their political opinions, you will get nine opinions. We are individuals, not identical to each other. And, sometimes, the answer is even more complicated.

Not only are there different kinds of narcissists, but different relationships with narcissists. The narcissist might be very different to church people than to his wife, or different to the people in the club than she is to her own children. In fact, narcissistic parents often treat their children differently. For some it may be a “divide and conquer” technique; for others it may stem simply from seeing different children as useful in different ways. The point is that no two people will see the narcissist in exactly the same way.

So we have all kinds of different narcissists in all kinds of different relationships…

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Opening a Transitional Housing Shelter for Abused Women

Go Fish Ministries, Inc

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A variety of programs and services already exist for abusedvictims to treat and prevent domestic violence. Since 1964, more than 1800 transitional housing shelters for abused women have been established in the United States. Initially designed to simply provide a safe place for victims and their children, shelters now provide a wide range of programs. At shelters, victims of abuse may receive legal assistance, counseling for themselves and their children, referral to other treatment programs (substance abuse programs), and additional advocacy services. In 1994 Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, which authorized more than $800 million in federal funds for state and local programs to combat domestic violence. One federal program was established by the 1987 Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. Among other things, this act established adult education programs, provided emergency homelessness prevention funds, and created a number of transitional…

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She gets up in the morning

whataboutthechildren

She gets up in the morning, full of apprehension. There’s so much to do, and only she to do it. If she does it the wrong way, or at the wrong time…she doesn’t even want to consider the consequences.

Her life is full of chaos, despair. She doesn’t want to give into despair, doesn’t want to doubt God. But where is God? That she has to wonder. Her pastor told her to search her own heart, make sure her motives are pleasing to God, and that God would be pleased with her. She wonders if she has done it. She’s tried. Her Bible is underlined and highlighted. Her husband says she’s not submissive enough, that’s she’s lazy and selfish. So daily she searches her Bible to see where she’s failing. If only she could do better, be more, then maybe, just maybe, her husband would be happy with her.

She gets her children ready for church. Serving breakfast, finding lost shoes, combing hair, washing faces, and cleaning up, are her jobs. Always are her jobs, even when her husband is going. But today he isn’t. Last night, there were things he wanted to do. Today he is just too tired. She tries hard to keep the children quiet so he can sleep. If he awakens, things will not go well.

She sits through the service feeling cold, lonely, afraid. Will it go over too long and her husband get angry? Will she fail to get his lunch on time and things escalate? Her pastor is preaching on marriage. She’s done everything he’s preaching on…and more. No matter what, she never measures up to her husband’s ever-increasing demands.

She rushes out of the building. “We don’t have time for you to play,” she tells her crying son. “Hush, we’ve got to get home.” Her husband is up, looking disheveled, scowling, as she walks in the door. Her heart sinks. She sends the children to their room. They start to fuss, wanting lunch. “Please, I’ll be right with you.” But she isn’t. Her husband comes first, demands to come first. He always, always, comes first.

She goes to bed that night, exhausted, crying. The fight came late but it came nonetheless. She justifies that he shoved her. Explains to herself that she was being stubborn. She really shouldn’t do things to set him off. But a small part of her wonders why she’s always the one giving way, always the one who pays the price. She falls asleep alone, with his words of condemnation in her head.

She gets up in the morning, full of apprehension.

Hyper-Headship and the Scandal of Domestic Abuse in the Church

Overheard

(Reblogged from The Gospel Coalition Blog)

by Jared C. Wilson

(NOTE: This is the kind of thing I have been praying for – no, BEGGING for – to see happen in the church for a VERY long time. His word-picture about the 3 doors parallels what I have often said: “When it comes to abuse, there is no ‘Switzerland’ – you either side with the abuser or the abused; there is no third choice.”)

Jason Meyer, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, gave a powerful and important sermon this past Sunday.

In it, he defined things like “hyper-headship”:

Hyper-headship is a satanic distortion of male leadership, but it can fly under the radar of discernment because it is disguised as strong male leadership. Make no mistake—it is harsh, oppressive, and controlling. In other words, hyper-headship becomes a breeding ground for domestic abuse.

Meyer also addressed the issue of…

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Abuse Has No Switzerland

Overheard

Overheard:

“There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse.”

The following is another excerpt from the book I am writing about my experiences being a Biblical counselor to abuse survivors:

Abuse Has No Switzerland

As I have mentioned many, many times in the past, “There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse!” Intentionally or unintentionally, we automatically side with either the victim or the offender. There is no neutral territory, no middle ground.

Abuse does not and cannot happen in a vacuum: it happens in relationships; it happens in families; ; it happens in churches; it happens in communities.

Evil people don’t look evil – they look just like everyone else. So, becoming aware of and sensitive to the warning signs of abuse and abusers is necessary if we are going to answer God’s call to rescue those caught in…

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How pastors respond to accusations of domestic abuse

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A Christian woman who gets up the courage to report her husband’s abuse frequently turns to her pastor first. Usually, he is not equipped to help her. The church hasn’t yet fully stepped up to confront domestic abuse. If they would, they’d find that the women involved in it are both out in the world and in their pews. Many Christians have a hard time believing that Christianity and domestic abuse can, and do, go together, so all too often it gets swept under the rug.

Before you misunderstand, hear this: I’m not saying that a true Christian can be an abuser. A genuine Christian cannot be an abuser, but an abuser can hide in a Christian church. A Christian can lose their temper, fall into sin for a season (like King David), be hard to get along with at times, and misbehave in various other ways but domestic abuse isn’t a temporary sin. It’s a pattern of sin, of control, of seeking power over one’s partner. Domestic abuse is evil, and it often hides in our churches.

One in four American women experience some form of domestic abuse in her lifetime. Many of those are members of churches. When those abused members get up the courage to speak out about the abuse, and seek help for it, they often turn to their pastors. And, more likely than not, they will receive little, if any help.

How could that be? Wouldn’t a pastor jump at the chance to help an abused woman? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But you’d be wrong. Here’s why.

  1. Domestic abuse is, at its core, unbelievable. This man, who stood before God and man, proclaiming his love for a woman, making a husband’s vows, is now beating her, berating her, or neglecting her? How could such a thing be? So when a wife comes to her pastor and tells him that her husband, a man he most likely knows, has done and/or said these horrible things to her, his first response is likely to be that she’s blowing it out of proportion. She must be mistaken. How could she not be? He knows Peter (or Bob, Tony, Phillip, etc.), he’s prayed with him, talked with him, ministered to him. He’s seen his heart for God, for his children, for the church, for her. There’s no way that she can be telling the full unmitigated truth.
  2. Pastors don’t understand domestic abuse. Seminaries don’t usually offer classes in how to handle domestic abuse cases. So when he’s faced with it, he just doesn’t know what to do. So he does what he commonly does when faced with marital problems: He suggests prayer, self-examination, couple’s counseling, etc. He might tell her that if she would just work on herself some, she could probably make things better in her marriage. Minister to him, find out what’s eating at him, serve him more, help him more, repent of her own sins, and things should get better. 
  3. Abusive men are masters at manipulation. They can pull the wool over your eyes quicker than anyone. Do they need to act repentant? They will. Do they need to confess to some small aspect of the abuse to give credence to their denial of greater acts? Confess they will. Do they need to shake their head, sigh, and tell the pastor that he didn’t really want to have to expose this about his wife but, well, she’s not really mentally stable. She lies. She twists the truth. She, well, see, she just can’t be trusted. He looks sad, downcast, maybe even sheds a tear.  And the pastor is eating out of his hand, just like he intended.
  4. Pastors don’t understand that traditional marital problems and problems caused by domestic abuse are nothing alike. When the things he’s suggested, such as couple’s counseling, the wife working on herself, etc., don’t work, he might just be inclined to blame the wife, not realizing that she could do those things eight days a week, and it won’t ever make a dime’s worth of difference–except now her abuser understands himself to be the victim in the pastor’s eyes, and he sees that he now has her permission to continue with the abuse because she isn’t confronting him, isn’t demanding change from him, isn’t threatening to leave or actually leaving, but is accepting the blame for it. So things get worse.

God’s Word stands against abuse. The word isn’t usually in most versions but words such as oppressor and oppressed are. God’s heart is with the abused, and against the abusers. Ours must be also.

If we want to see change within our churches concerning how domestic abuse cases are handled, then pastors must become educated about domestic abuse. Christ’s church should be a haven for His people, including for His women who are being beaten down by their husbands; instead, churches are often havens for the abusers who manipulate the leaders into believing them rather than helping their victims. It’s a win-win for the abusers. And a lose-lose for the victims, for our churches, for our church leadership, and for the proclamation of the pure Gospel because the Gospel of Christ cannot thrive where abusers hide.

Have you know a church that had to confront a domestic abuse case? How was it handled?

Defining myself

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Abuse will not define me.

I am more than a woman who has been abused. More than a child with a broken heart wondering why…again. More than an over-comer, a survivor or a thriver. I am the proud mother of beautiful children. I am blessed to homeschool them (yeah!). I am a lover of words, of beautiful music, of creativity. And I’m a pretty good cook. I love cooking new dishes but my favorite foods to eat are simple ones. Time and again, I turn to cheesy oatmeal and tomato soup. I hate soft-drinks of any kind but I adore water. And coffee. And milk, but I’m now allergic to milk so I drink almond milk. And lots of sweet tea.

I’m a sometimes crazy woman who actually loves housework–as long as it is accompanied by the sounds of children’s laughter, much prayer, or really good music. I love old movies, funny ones, serious ones, sappy ones. Bring ’em on. I get a kick out of ’60’s sitcom’s. My middle daughter and I steal moments away to watch them because she enjoys them just as much as I do. I’m a reader. Growing up, I was that child that, when she had nothing else to read, she read the back of the box of cereal. And the toothpaste container. And the writing on the box of grits. I just get a thrill out of reading. I especially love reading the Bible. But I also love poetry, mystery novels, and lots and lots of non-fiction. I always wanted to be a writer and, you know what? I am a writer. A writer of journals, of poetry, of truth, and a co-author of a book on domestic abuse. Oh, and there’s this: I can’t turn away a stray animal. I’m pretty sure animals know this as they seem to find their way to my house. My children laugh and say that we’ve got a big flashing neon sign above our house that’s only visible to animals that says “Sucker for animals lives here”. Best of all, though, and the thing that actually defines me is this: I’m a child of God, a daughter of His who is undeserving of His tender grace and mercy but oh-so glad to be blessed by it. By His wounds on that old rugged cross, all of my wounds, even the worst ones, are healed.

And I’m tired. Tired of a messy life. Tired of fighting battles that I didn’t start. Tired of dealing with, and cleaning up, other people’s messes. It’s been such a long, hard road for such a long, long, time. But I’m here, and I’m fighting. Against being labeled by folks who don’t have a clue what I have gone through, against false accusations–by folks who are foolish enough to believe the lies and then repeat them. Against passing this madness on to the next generation. Against abuse in all its forms. In all its evil. So, to that end, I’m here to share my heart, my story, and I’m going to listen as others do the same. More importantly, I’m here to share what God has done–what Jesus did on Calvary two millennium ago, and what He’s done for me. Ultimately, He is my story. He is what, and Who, defines me.

Would you care to start the conversation? What defines you?