Our only hope

For those of us who have looked for hope in the homeschooling movement, the patriarchy movement, the neo-Calvinist movement, or any other movement.

Our only hope is in Jesus Christ alone, not only for our salvation in eternity, but for our day-to-day salvation right now. The primary purpose of the Bible isn’t for learning principles to live by. The primary purpose of the Bible is for knowing Him, in his kindness, goodness, greatness, and glory, and for seeing ourselves in relationship with Him.

If you seek Him there, asking the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to what He has to show you, you may be surprised by a whole new unfolding of beautiful truth about who He is and who you are. If the Scriptures have seemed impossible for you to read because they’ve been used to abuse you, maybe it’s time to try asking Him to get those old voices out of your head, and begin reading again.

Don’t expect to just get a vitamin pill for the day, though. Don’t expect to get principles to live by. Expect to learn to know God, the real God, especially as He reveals Himself fully through Jesus Christ in the New Covenant.

If you decide to take me up on it and begin reading the Bible when you haven’t been before, I’d love to hear about what the Lord is showing you regarding Himself. You can post here in the comments or write me privately. I’m praying for you.

Righteous anger or sinful? A response to the Women’s Study Bible

Last Friday morning I wrote and posted a response (link) to Michael Pearl’s blog post in which he answered the questions of a woman who, with her children, was living with an abusive husband (link).

The title of my post, “Dear Michael Pearl, this is what righteous anger looks like seemed self-evident. This is because, as it so happened, the previous morning someone else had written to ask me a question that in God’s providence prepared me for Friday morning.

She asked for my thoughts on a short lesson about anger from the Thomas Nelson Women’s Study Bible (WSB), edited by Dorothy Kelley Patterson and Rhonda Kelley. (There appear to be dozens of editions of this Bible available, but I’m linking to one of the most recent ones.)

Here is the lesson, found at Ecclesiastes 7:9. (in this edition it’s on page 982.)  Continue reading

Dear Michael Pearl, this is what righteous anger looks like

Michael Pearl, I’m angry.

I’m angry at how you responded to this letter. 

Dear Mrs. Pearl, I don’t want you to think I am dishonoring my husband. My heart is to lift him up and be a good wife. 

Something has happened over the last year that is scary. My husband has always been somewhat given to the flesh and occasionally angry, but now his anger is out of control. He often comes home from work mad—mad at me, the dog, the kids, the car, the guy next door… anything and anybody can bring on his rage.  


The kids have nightmares and cry out begging him not to hurt their dog because he threatens crazy stuff when he is having a fit. We all try to have everything just right, but he still finds something wrong. We are all a nervous wreck. Sometimes I wonder if he is demon possessed, but then he still goes to church and teaches. What do I tell the children, and what can I do to lessen the anger? —Sarah   

I’m angry at how you misrepresented God to this woman who was asking for help. (Original letter and response here.)

You minimize the husband’s sin

You talk about being unable to diagnose her husband, when the diagnosis is quite clear: unrighteous anger.  You use what seem like weasel words that minimize his sin when you call him an immature bully who may feel that he is not respected at work or at home.” You sayhis sin is hidden and unidentified.” No, I think we can identify it. It is named in the Bible. He is practicing the sins that in the Bible are called reviling (or KJV railing), brawling (KJV clamour), and rage (KJV wrath).  Though there may well be pornography involved, as you mention, there’s no need to dig any deeper than those three Biblical descriptions.

There’s another sin here that never gets mentioned in your entire article: hypocrisy. This is a man who causes his family to wonder if he is demon possessed, but still goes to church and teaches. This is a problem that you feel is unnecessary to address? You’re not going to mention that this man is unfit to be a leader in the church, when the Bible very clearly says otherwise? This makes me angry.

You figure she must be at fault

Assure him of your desire to make him happy, and just ask him what you and the children are doing that makes him angry,” you say. So this inexcusable behavior is excusable because she and the children are somehow causing it? You say, “make sure you are not exacerbating the problem with antagonistic responses.”

You, sir, are a fool, in the same sense as the blind guides Jesus rebuked in Matthew 23. You’re telling the wife to give her husband justification for his brawling, reviling, and rage. There is no justification for those sins.

In your paragraph about all the wrong actions she’ll probably want to take in herhuman nature,” you say she’ll want to make him repent and admit he is wrong.” What? It’s wrong to want to get a sinning husband to repent and admit he is wrong? But you say, this is a satisfying human emotion, but one that will end in divorce.” The only time you mention divorce is implying that it will be the wife’s fault if it happens, rather than the fault of the brawling, raging reviler. This makes me angry.

You tell her to be Wonder Woman

On the other hand, you tell the wife to stand up before his rage and name it. You tell her, look his anger in the eye as one who has personal dignity and will not be crushed by verbal abuse and unreasonable demands on you and the children.”

I take it you have never been confronted with constant, unrelenting, unpredictable rage like what this woman is describing—rage that give her children nightmares. You tell her to remain uncrushed when all of them live in constant fear?  You then are showing your ignorance of what the Bible says about how bitter (poison) words crush the spirit. Proverbs 12:18 and Proverbs 1:21 are examples.

In regard to pornography and sexual abuse, you tell the wife to look him in the eye as you say with dignity, ‘I am not going to take the path to hell with you. God created my body for natural use, not queer perversions.’” Are you so clueless? Are you completely unaware, after all these many years of hearing about troubled marriages, that when a man is a brawler, the wife is being abused? That when she says, “I won’t do that,” he says, “Oh yes you will,” and he does things to her that are absolutely unthinkable? Have you been hiding your head in the sand regarding what men are really doing to their wives?

You set up three artificial mutually exclusive categories. You say she has been “a victim” (which you apparently scorn), she could become an “adversary,” and she needs to be “a child of God.” You do not assure her that if she has trusted in Jesus Christ she already is a child of God. Instead you imply that only a child of God unflinchingly and with confidence looks him in the eye and takes his verbal lashes as if they were confessions of his weakness.”  If she cannot do this, she may well assume in her confused and weakened state that she must not be a child of God. Didn’t you know this?

You tell her to suffer persecution and be a martyr

Later on you offer one more category, telling her that if she follows your advice, she will be a true martyr.” I don’t understand how you can sit there so smugly and tell a woman to stay in a relationship in which you tell her she will be martyred.

You predictably quote Jesus’ words about rejoicing when one is suffering for righteousness, suffering at the hand of revilers and evil-speakers.

And yet, at whose hands did Jesus’ New Testament followers suffer? The ones who had committed to love them and care for them? Ones who were Christian leaders? No! They suffered at the hands of ones who were opposed to Jesus Christ.

And also, when we look at Jesus’ followers, did not every one of them escape the persecution when they had the chance? Which one of them was fool enough to stay in the persecution by choice? Not one! Brother Yun, the “heavenly man” of China, suffered great and intense persecution at the hand of his government. But he also escaped, over and over and over.

This wife’s life is in danger. The lives of her children are in danger. But not once do you tell her, “according to the examples in Scripture (David, Peter, Paul) and examples of godly people throughout history, you and your children should not remain in persecution. You need to escape!” Instead you tell her to stay there until her death. I’m angry about this, and this is righteous anger.

You make it clear in the rest of your response that anything is better than divorce: a life of nightmares and trauma, or even death.  This makes me angry. The heart of God is not for His sheep to be abused and oppressed like this by those who claim to be shepherds of His sheep. Ezekiel 34 shows the heart of God on this matter, and I want to reflect that heart in these words.

You say, An angry husband cannot defeat a Spirit-filled wife.” You’re right, and I’ve known many amazing women who were undefeated by their husbands, women you will never have the privilege of knowing because they walked away from your teachings. An angry husband cannot ultimately defeat a Spirit-filled wife.

But an angry husband can kill a Spirit-filled wife. Does that mean nothing to you?

You are clueless about the children

But you say, As to your children, do not allow them to grow up thinking . . . that they are to blame and must alter their actions in unreasonable ways to quash his tirades.” Are you yet so clueless? Do you not understand that a child will alter his actions in unreasonable ways to quash the tirades of a monstrous tyrant? Of course he will! In what imaginary land is it otherwise?

I know a family whose children grew up in circumstances like what you’re describing here. They all had to deal with the (elder, Sunday school teacher) father’s constant and unpredictable rage and reviling. They were all blamed for it, because of how “wicked” they all were, especially the wife and mother who was trying to obey every order. She always tried to help the children hold to truth and didn’t pretend that what her husband was doing was acceptable.  And yet all of them suffered from the confusion that a mind-manipulator exercises. None of them escaped the trauma that has needed extensive years of counseling to untangle once they finally escaped.

You said, “If you come down to his level and fight with him, they will forever hate Christianity, which is a reasonable response that has produced many emotionally driven atheists.” This arouses my righteous indignation. Do you, sir, know how many atheists have been produced with the very kinds of teachings you’re espousing here? Have you seen what happens to so many children when they grow up watching their demonic father –who teaches in the church, no less!—destroy their meek and quiet mother who tries to maintain a shred of dignity? “If my father represents God, then this is a God I want to have nothing to do with.” That has been repeated so many hundreds of times over that I’m told only ten percent of the young people who exit this form of “Christianity” still call themselves Christians. The children will not be harmed by his anger,” you say? You live in a fantasy, and I deplore this false teaching.

I’ve done wrong too

This brings me to another reason I’m angry. I’m angry at myself that I used to listen to you and respect you regarding child-raising. I’m ashamed that I thought your wife had good advice for me about marriage. I used to read advice like this from you and thought you must know better than I did. I’m utterly disgusted with myself. But that is a “self” I’ve changed from, when several people in my life told me about the results of the Pearls’ teachings and explained that I was doing wrong to follow the Pearls. I listened and heeded.

But so many have tried to reach you, and you refuse to listen and heed. I’m aghast that after all these years, in 2017, you’re still giving destructive counsel like this. I am appalled.

A word to anyone in a destructive marriage

Michael Pearl said one important thing: You are a child of God and are loved by God; love in return.”

This first part of that is true and needs no further explanation—one of the few statements here I agreed with unequivocally. The second part, “love in return,” I agree with, but in a very different way from what Michael Pearl espouses.

One way you can love your children best is by keeping them and yourself safe.

And perhaps one of the ways you can love your husband best is by refusing to allow him targets on which he can unleash his anger. You can love him and pray for him from a safe distance, and if he refuses to repent of his idolatry of self, you can follow the true God and move forward and away, in Him. It could well be that your children will rise up and call you blessed for doing so.

***

Righteous anger needs to be handled carefully. For that reason, I’m now walking away. I’m going to eat a smoothie my daughter made, and I’m going to take the dog for a walk and praise God in His creation. I’m going to remember that He is greater than all the foolish counsel in the world, and He will love and care for His children.

I pray all the women crying out to Him for help will also know this to be true.

***

Update Monday June 26, 2017: I have a post up about righteous vs. sinful anger to help distinguish, because this can be a confusing topic. You can read that here.

If you know someone who can’t hold onto hope . . . yet

The other day I was helping a friend who was moving under extremely difficult circumstances. As she and I lifted a plastic bin onto a shelf, I saw this plaque inside and recognized it as mine. “Is that yours?” I politely asked. “No, it’s yours!” she said. “You lent it to me 4 or 5 years ago, remember?” (I didn’t remember.)

plaque

Continue reading

Maybe your bitterness isn’t really sinful

It sounds radical, doesn’t it? And as a solid Christian, why would I want to convince anyone that something we’ve always thought of as “sinful” isn’t really sinful?
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To be clear, I’m extremely opposed to sin! But I believe many in the church of Jesus Christ can end up putting “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne” on the shoulders of those who are already being oppressed, and I want to do my part to lift those burdens through the love and power of our Lord Jesus. Sometimes one of the first steps can be lifting that burden of false guilt.
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As one commenter said in regard to the video below, “At first I was like, nah, but then I thought to persist and listen to what you had to say, and I’m so thankful that I did. Thank you for sharing this. It was really helpful. I truly appreciate it.”
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Another commenter said, “This is amazing. I’m weeping.”
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There’s a kind of bitterness that is sinful. And for sure, for sure, it’s really bad! But if you study every time the word “bitter”—or any of its associated words—is used in the Bible (the way I did), you’ll find there’s a whole lot more to discover about bitterness than just those few passages—eight, to be specific—that are sometimes used to tie people up, gag them, and tangle their minds.
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This interview with Natalie Klewja of Visionary Survivor explains more, with topics based on much more information available in the book Untwisting Scriptures. (If you want to read the RealTime comments and questions that others have left on the video—and leave your own—you can right-click on the video to get the link to go to the original site.)

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When is bitterness sinful and in need of rebuke? When is it not sinful and in need of care? I hope these truths helps you on your quest toward full freedom and joy in Jesus Christ!

There weren’t any wicked people in MY part of the world

This coming Friday, the plan is, I’ll be doing another Facebook Live interview with Natalie Klejwa of Emotional Abuse Survivor (aka Visionary Survivor). Because we’re going to be talking about “bitterness,” I was naturally led to think about the wicked.

So here’s a funny story. It’s actually true, too.

Around 25 or 30 years ago when I was reading through the Psalms, I sighed and said to myself, “There sure are a lot of Psalms about the wicked. But I don’t personally know any wicked people, so these psalms seem like they don’t apply to me.”

Yes, it’s true. That’s what I said.

Then I went on to think, Continue reading

The other kind of radical

This  post is also being published today at the blog of Give Her Wings, an organization that helps and supports women leaving abusive spouses. Please visit their site.

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

Last September for my Birthday Reflections post (an annual tradition), I wrote about going down into the dark valley called The Valley of Weeping.

Today, though, I want to express my boundless praise for the gift God has given me in that valley, the people I’ve been privileged to get to know there. I want to shout out my thanksgiving to God for the faithful trauma survivors He has put in my life. Most of them were traumatized by people who claimed to be Christians, even Christian leaders. But in spite of that, these women are still following God, or longing to follow Him, in faith.

My heart swells in even thinking about them. I would far rather sit at their feet than at the feet of the most popular speaker.   

Many of them will never stand before a microphone and speak. Many of them will never write a book. Many of them will not have any sort of following at all, because they are simply trying to live their lives. If we take David Platt’s Radical as a mantra, Continue reading

An interview on the topic of “yielding rights”

An off-schedule blog post for me, just to let you know that this morning at 11:00 EDT I was interviewed by Natalie Herbranson Klejwa of Visionary Survivor, (aka Emotional Abuse Survivor), in the topic of “rights” in the life of a Christian and whether or not a Christian should “yield rights,” with totally Christian totally freeing teachings supported by Scripture. (The actual real interview starts 5 minutes in.)

Sadly, my thoughts weren’t as organized in the interview as I would have liked for them to be (“oh, I just thought of one more thing!”), but you can read about the totally Christian perspective on your rights in a more organized fashion Continue reading

The other kind of hypocrisy

This post is being simultaneously published at the website of Leslie Vernick.

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I’ve been urged to watch 13 Reasons Why to see the 13 reasons [why] a friend hates it so much. (Though I’ve read and heard enough about it to understand it, so far I’ve been able to get through only the first episode). The bullying she personally experienced at her Christian school, she said, was pretty much everything that happened in this Netflix series, and more.

One of the most important things she described to me about her school was the dynamic of bullying. Some students there were genuinely nice people, but they lived in such an environment of fear that whenever the main bullies were around, they remained silent or even participated in the bullying if necessary, so they wouldn’t become a target. (You may wonder why no one tried to alert teachers or administrators about this massive problem, but someone did and it wasn’t believed, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog post.)

So while I was pondering the dynamics of a bullying school environment that went stratospherically beyond anything I had experienced in my own high school days of mild bullying, we heard a sermon on Galatians 2.

“Well, what do you know,” says I to myself, “there it is again!”

The story goes that the apostle Peter and the other Jewish Christians were actually welcoming the Gentile Christians and even eating with them (a truly big deal in those days) . . . until the bullies came.

The bullies weren’t swaggering studs or prima donna divas; they were Continue reading

Dear sister I read about on the CBCMoscow blog post

I don’t know you, but I’d like to reply to the letter you wrote asking for counsel, which was published on this blog post, with a troubling reply. Here is your letter:

Dear Pastor,    

You’ll never believe the terrible state of my marriage. I was raised in a Christian family. My father and mother never fought. I wasn’t rebellious as a teen and my husband and I went through all the “proper” courtship process before getting married. Now, five years later, everything has fallen apart.    

Roy, my husband, who was so loving and kind in the beginning has become rude, surly, and angry all the time. The good thing is that he doesn’t hit me or the children (one boy and two girls), but he gets really quiet and spends a lot of time in the basement. Every once in a while, he does blow up and wowser, what a blow-up. He curses, yells, calls us all kinds of names, and throws things.   


We never know when he’s going to blow and what is going to cause it. We’re all walking on egg shells all the time.   

Can you fix him? Can you help us?   

Hurt & Confused    

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Here is my reply:

First, I want to tell you that I get being hurt and confused. I’ve never been in your situation, but because of many friends of mine that I’ve listened to at length, I’ve tried to imagine what it must be like to think you were getting a loving and kind husband, but then realize he’s a completely different person, a scary person, and you don’t even know who he is. Hurt and confusion are appropriate responses.

You may have counselors giving you unhelpful advice along the lines of “What were you expecting, a bed of roses?” But Continue reading