Can God be in the presence of sin?

In prayer ministry work with abuse survivors, it’s common to ask Jesus to show up in the memory of the abuse. This is an effective way for Him to speak His love and care to the heart of the one who was harmed and bring healing to the wounds caused by others.

But sometimes a theology question can stop the work before it happens. “God can’t be in the presence of sin,” more than one friend has said to me, “so there’s no way Jesus could be there where that awful stuff is happening.” Continue reading “Can God be in the presence of sin?”

“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

I have friends who are walking through hellish darkness in trying to recover and stay safe from evil perpetrated on them and their children that, when they entered their marriages, they had no inkling even existed.

I have friends who are trying to stay safe from being stalked by their rapists or other stalkers who for their own purposes want the world to think their target is crazy.

My friends often struggle with fear, because of flashbacks intruding into their present, and because of the very real and present threats of the wicked perpetrators.

And a Bible verse like this can send them spiraling. It just sounds like more condemnation.

But as always, it’s so, so important to look at the context. Continue reading ““Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?””

“It’s not about you”

Quiz time.

What’s wrong with that statement in the title?

Answer . . .

There’s no antecedent for the “it.” 

(As a writer, editor, and English teacher, I’m troubled by a missing antecedent because of the ambiguity it creates. And yes, that sentence was a little bit “about me.”)

So I had to do some research to find out what people think the “it” refers to. Turns out different people think it refers to different things. Imagine that. Gotta love ambiguity. Continue reading ““It’s not about you””

“Better than I deserve”

If you’ve listened to Dave Ramsey at all, you’ve heard it as a response to “How are you?”

If you listen to country gospel, you might have heard it as a song.

If you’ve been looking, you’ve seen it in blog posts (and more blog posts) and maybe even on T shirts.

If you’ve sat under C.J. Mahaney or any of his disciples, you’ve heard it in sermons and greetings at church.

It sounds like a cute catch phrase. To some people it sounds humble.

And Biblical. Continue reading ““Better than I deserve””

Will God send leanness to your soul?

Here’s something we taught our children from the time they were old enough to understand:

Sometimes the worst punishment a person can get is what he wants.

I remmeber how astonished our children were with that teaching. It took much discussion for them to even begin to grasp it.

And of course our Biblical example was the Israelites, who turned from God and got what they wanted—lots and lots of quail. So much that it came out of their noses, as Numbers 11 so colorfully describes. Continue reading “Will God send leanness to your soul?”

Three fingers pointing back at you

It’s common for preachers and Christian writers to tell us, “When you listen to this sin being described, don’t think about anybody else; just think about yourself and search your own soul.” 

Many Christians, well-meaning and good-hearted, very much take that admonition to heart and do their best never to apply any Scriptural finger-pointing to anyone around them. 

That’s because frankly it’s a little scary and perhaps condemning, to think, “When you point the finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you.” Continue reading “Three fingers pointing back at you”

Is your fear sinful . . . or actually pleasing to God?

When Helena Knowlton of Confusion to Clarity first began talking to me about fear in the cult she came out of, I knew I wanted to write about fear. But since I wanted to have a better grasp of the concept, I spent time studying fear in the Bible. (This study covers only the New Testament. I want to do the Old Testament eventually, to cover all the excellent Scriptures there.)

So, it may not come as a surprise, but there’s more than one kind of fear. Continue reading “Is your fear sinful . . . or actually pleasing to God?”

The good news about Biblical bitterness (a short talk)

In March I was privileged to speak at the Awaken Network’s conference on abuse. My topic was Biblical bitterness, showing how in the Bible “bitterness” refers to one who has been poisoned and is grieving, and “bitterness” also refers to one who is doing the poisoning. Both are called “bitter,” but only one is sinful.

Megan Cox of Give Her Wings (with whom I also did a recent interview on this subject) said, “This is such good news.” Finding out that the Scriptures teach something different from the heavy burden of guilt and shame that church people often lay on the backs of the oppressed—well, that really is good news.

You can view that talk here: