Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Category

A caution to transitioning Ex-Mormon Christians
00-0628c2

“Cosmic Conflict” by Lars Justinen

by Fred W. Anson
Without question the loss of community is one of the things most quickly, and often most painfully, felt by Mormons transitioning out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That’s why I believe that former Mormons can and should find encouragement and support by joining with others like themselves as soon as possible after exiting the Mormon Church. The stories of those who don’t are, all too often, heartbreaking.

However, sometimes the stories who do are even worse. That’s because all too often, Ex-Mormon support groups, that lack a positive sense of direction can deteriorate into a quagmire of complaints, bitterness and anger. As a result many former Latter-day Saints stay stuck in a negative attitude for the rest of their life after leaving the Mormon Church. And we all have stories of those who have gotten downright mean and nasty.

This need not be!

While I understand that most people in the healing process need a gracious place where those feelings can be vented I always encourage my Christian Ex-Mormon friends to press past the quagmire of angry bitterness and into health and happiness through a restored relationship with the God of the Bible and His covenant people.

This is possible but requires belief and trust that God’s word is true when it says:

‘God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.’

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:6-10 (NIV)

Simply put, I have found that all too often transitioning Mormons cut their own healing short and fail to gain the hard won wisdom that God is trying to impart to them by choosing to attack Mormonism rather than staying in the humble, reflective, broken place of learning spoken of in this passage. All too often it seems that they are trying to resurrect and exalt themselves by trying to kill and destroy their “Judas” rather than waiting for God to avenge, resurrect and lift them up as Christ did. As one Pastor said well of such God-given (but rarely welcome) lessons:

As soon as you pick up the sword the lesson ends.
Pastor Kevin Davenport, Saddleback Covenant Church (Mission Viejo, CA)

Yes, transitioning Ex-Mormon, an injustice has been done: You have been betrayed – and now your betrayers are out to crucify you! We acknowledge and validate that fact. However, there will be time enough for the sword later. The Mormon Church isn’t going anywhere, and we know where to find it because it’s a stronghold. But as Jesus said of strongholds:

No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.
Mark 3:37 (NKJV)

Binding the strong man and then plundering his house is going to take God given strength, wisdom and persistence! That’s why I encourage you to stay humble, submitted, and attentive to God’s lessons. You’ve been broken: Stay here for awhile, let others bind up your wounds then wait for them to heal. Be Christ not Peter. And always remember the words of Christ who not only said but also modeled:

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Matthew 23:12 (NKJV)

Gain strength and acquire wisdom. then, once you’re whole, strong, wise, and endowed with power from on high, you may1 hear this call: “Go forth and conquer in My Name!” If so, then pick up your sword and we’ll storm the gates of the LdS Church together!2

Amen?

1-the-civil-war-wounded-soldiers-in-ward-everett

Suffice to say, these folks probably shouldn’t be storming the gates of hell for a while.

NOTES
1 And you may not hear that call – which is absolutely fine too. Many Ex-Mormons after they’re whole, strong, wise, and endowed with God’s power simply close the chapter of their life called, “The Mormon Church” and walk the other direction never looking back. God calls who He will to what He will and not all are called to storm gates.

2 See Matthew 16:18 (NKJV) which says:

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

Credits and Acknowledgments
The core principles introduced in this article are expounded and expanded on more fully in Gene Edwards’ classic book, “A Tale of three Kings: A Study in Brokenness”. This book has been of great aid and comfortable to recovering ex-cultists for over three decades. It’s a riveting tale that can easily be read in one or two sittings (it’s only 105 pages long). You will find the Amazon page for Mr. Edward’s book here. I simply can NOT recommend this book highly enough. I know that’s it’s a cliche but this book truly is a lifechanger and a must read!

Portions of the above text are from the introduction of Ross Anderson’s, “Jesus Without Joseph”. Once again, this is another resource for Ex-Mormons that I can’t recommend highly enough.

frigid temple

“The Mormon Church isn’t going anywhere, and we know where to find it because it’s a stronghold.”

“The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still.”
Exodus 14:14 (CEB)

BACK TO TOP

by Fred W. Anson
A review of Andy Stanley’s
“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You”

Andy Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church and son of Dr. Charles F. Stanley, who is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.  Andy is also the author of several books including “How Good Is Good Enough?” which I read several years ago and, I thought, a solid vernacular treatise on grace versus works. He has an engaging, approachable style and his theology is sound – which, I suppose it could be said, is hardly a surprise given his pedigree, training, and life experience.

enemies-of-the-heart-andy-stanley-i10“Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You” was published in 2011 so this review is admittedly late to the game. Never-the-less I found that prior reviews had missed an important – but blatant – weakness in this book that this reviewer felt worthy of consideration.

The four “enemies” are guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy which Stanley unpacks like this:
Guilt = “I owe you”
Anger = “You owe me”
Greed = “I owe myself”, and
Jealousy = “God owes me”

The book is short, concise, engaging, thought provoking, easy to read and practical. There’s much sage wisdom here grounded solidly in Biblical truth.

What’s missing – though it’s admittedly a minor irritation – is balance. While the author lightly, and it seemed to me somewhat grudgingly, acknowledges that transitive guilt, greed, and jealously in some contexts and in moderation can be good, even healthy, I could find no admission in the book that this is equally true of anger. Rather, the author seems to have bought into the false modern Christian doctrine that anger is always sin. If so, may I introduce you to Sinner #1, His name is God Almighty:

God’s anger was kindled [against Balaam] because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary.”
— Numbers 22:22, ESV

“Then my [God’s] anger will be kindled against them in that day [that God’s people worship other gods], and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured.”
— Deuteronomy 31:17, ESV

“They have made me [God] jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols.”
— Deuteronomy 32:21, ESV

“But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon”
— Ezra 5:12, ESV

“In the temple he [Christ] found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”’
— John 2:14-16, ESV

I will spare the reader any more proof texting but suffice to say the Bible is full of references to God’s anger. Simply put, God gets angry, yet doesn’t sin, and even speaks openly of His anger as if it’s a good, normal, and healthy thing.

Further, and some of you might want to sit down for this one, no where – again, no where – in the Bible is anger defined as sin. In fact, Ephesians 4:26-27 (which Stanley cites in the book) states plainly, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Did you catch that – the Apostle Paul states plainly “be angry”. That’s mind blowing stuff if you, like me, were raised to believe the false doctrine that anger is a sin. Think about it: If anger is in fact sin, then Paul is giving the Ephesians flawed, even reprobate, counsel.

Rather, the Bible is clear that anger, like guilt, greed, and jealousy can lead to sin if it’s not processed in a righteous manner. What God models for us in the Bible is that anger is normal and healthy when something of value is threatened or requires protection. That’s why we see God getting angry with Israel over their idol worship in the Old Testament and why we see God the Son getting angry over His holy temple being transformed from a sacred space into a common strip mall in the New Testament.

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley

Put another way, would you be sinning for getting angry if a bully starts beating up your child on the playground for no reason? Or at a pickpocket trying to take your wallet? Or at a vandal spraying graffiti on the side of your house? Or at your spouse flirting with another person in front of you? Or, or, or . . . see my point?

So it’s clear that when expressed in healthy, transitive ways anger is normal, productive, and even godly. It’s only when it becomes chronic, permanent, or gets expressed in sinful ways that the problems begin.

I saw this first hand when I was a DivorceCare counselor at a local church. On one hand, many of the Christians there (including me, I confess) would have benefited greatly from this book because they were holding onto and expressing their anger in ways that were unproductive: Needlessly extending legal action out of spite, drawing their divorcing spouses into conflict, damaging community property, making a “scene” in public, using the children as weapons in their war with the other party, choosing to hate and distrust all men/women, etc., etc., etc. Their anger fueled sin was easy to see, easy to understand  and easy to identify. Yet believe it or not, they were actually the easy ones to counsel to a place of balance.

Far harder were the Christians who had been told that anger was a sin and, as a result, they refused to fight for their marriage, their children, their property, or even their basic, inherent rights as a person created in the image of God. These poor souls would simply let their aggressive divorcing spouses roll over them like a steamroller and do nothing. In some cases they had marriages worth fighting for yet they wouldn’t fight! And no amount of logic, reason, or prayer would convince them that there is, “a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7&8, ESV) In their mind tearing was sin, speaking was sin, hate was sin, and war was sin because they all involved anger.

And this is the nuance that Andy Stanley “whiffs” on badly in this book. In his quest to make his point it seemed to me that the author got it right in three cases and struck out on one – normal, protective, transitive, even godly, anger. In fact, had he made this distinction I would have no complaints with the book.

Never-the-less, and regardless this flaw, this is a book that I heartily recommend with this suggestion: Whenever the author uses the words, “guilt”, “anger”, “greed” or “jealousy” simply insert the clarifying adjective “chronic” in front of each of them.

HeresToThePast

by Fred W. Anson
They say that if you don’t have any regrets then you’re probably not trying hard enough. If that’s true then I often wonder if I’m trying too much because I have a lot of regrets. In fact, after I joined the Facebook groups for my old High School and the Nazarene Church that I grew up in I spent the first couple of weeks apologizing to everyone.

Then a funny thing happened, I realized that most of the people that I thought I’d so offended back in the day either didn’t remember or didn’t care any more. So essentially I’d spent all those years needlessly beating myself up, avoiding others, and taking side streets shadowed in shame when all I needed to do was show up and be myself.

The truth of the matter is I’d been lied to and had squandered much of my life as a result of it.

Actually, I should have known all this since Michael and Stormie Omartian warned me in song way back in 1978 . . .

Ms. Past
(click above to hear song)
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Ms. Past, she’s such a wicked lady,
Ms. Past, she’s always there a waiting,
She’s the Devil’s favorite tool,
She’ll play you like a fool,
She’ll try until she rules.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Ms. Past, she’ll always try to feed you,
Ms. Past, she’ll say He never freed you.
But don’t fall for her disguise,
And look back in her eyes,
She wants you paralyzed, by all she knows.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.
Don’t look, don’t look back just let her go,
Lately, all she’s done is lay you low.

And there’s certainly no doubt that I’ve been a “tool” allowing Ms. Past to constantly sting and restrain me with fiery darts of regret!

In the end, I most certainly want to learn from the past but I don’t want to be bound by it.  After all, as Larry Norman observed, “Your life’s a play you can’t rehearse.” And mistakes are actually a blessing in disguise since, if you learn from them, you can avoid making the same ones again, again, and again.

What’s more, human development experts (not to the mention the Bible) tell us that mistakes are one way (actually the main way) that humans grow and mature in a number of areas.  So, that means that occasionally we’ll pick up a regret or two in the process:

If you don’t, then you’re just not trying hard enough.
And if you do, don’t look back, just let it go.

SeasonsOfTheSoulAlbumCover(from the album “Seasons of the Soul”)
Lyrics by Stormie Omartian, Music by Michael Omartian
© 1978 “See This House” Music, Used by Permission, All Rights Reserved.

Heavenly Father, I need Your Holy Spirit to help me not think and live according to my old ways. I place my childhood fears and bloodline curses behind me and ask You to cancel them. By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I choose not to be enslaved to them any longer!

Today I lay aside my fear of facing the pain from the spirits of pride, bitterness, lying, self-exaltation, rebellion, witchcraft, and the occult. I choose not to walk in these any longer. When I am tested by these deceiving spirits, I want to respond in godliness. God, please remove any mental strongholds and to help me think and see clearly.

I choose NOT to listen to other spiritual voices. Instead I choose to listen to Your voice. From this time forth, I will NOT trust in lying spirits nor the spirits who claim to offer me protection from evil. I close every door to Satan. I will not seek a false defense to shield myself from wrong, exploitation, or harm. I look to You, Lord Jesus and place my trust in You to protect me from the harm of well-meaning people and from demonic spirits. Jesus, I choose You to be my Savior and Holy Spirit, I choose You to be my defender.

Lord Jesus, please forgive my sins. I confess that I have NOT loved rightly. I have resented others. I now recognize this as sin and confess this to you now. I choose to forgive those who have hurt me. By Your blood, I forgive them as You have forgiven me. I am sorry for my sins. I confess and renounce them, known and unknown. By Your blood I am cleansed of my guilt, my shame, and my regret. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins, and that You rose from the dead and ascended to God the Father. You now sit at His right hand. With repentence in my heart, I ask You, Lord, to deliver me from the snare of the fowler and to set me free. Your truth is a shield to me. Under Your wings, I seek refuge.

Lord Jesus, I claim Your promise in Psalm 91:14&15: Because I have set my love on You, You will deliver me. You have set me on high because I have know Your Name. I will call on You and You will answer me. You will be with me in trouble. You will deliver me and honor me.

Amen

98622[1](adapted from “Unmasking the Jezebel Spirit” by John Paul Jackson; pp. 166-168)

I think that 2013 may well mean that it’s time
(I can hear the calling – do you?) 

Words and Music by Lindell Cooley

It’s time for the dead and gone
Time for the broken ones
to live again
It’s time time for the dead to rise
Time for the wings to fly
to live again

I can hear the calling
I can hear the sound of rain
Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to sing
Time for the walls
to ring
With the songs of freedom

It’s time for the numb
to feel
Time for the wounds
to heal
With the songs of freedom

It’s time time for the tide
to turn
Time for our hearts to burn
with a desperation
It’s time it’s time for a sacrifice
It’s time that we paid the price
for our generation

Over the mountains and over the valleys
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the numb
to feel
It’s time for the wounds
to heal
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time that we paid
a price
It’s time for
a sacrifice
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for the dead
to rise
It’s time for the wings
to fly
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time for children
to return home
It’s time for the prodigals
to come back
I hear the calling it’s time

It’s time to break down
the walls
It’s time to see them all
fall down
I hear the calling it’s time

Over the cities
and all through the nations
I hear the calling it’s time

child-rain-dance-dancing-girl-rain-Favim.com-100493(as performed on “Open Up The Sky” by Lindell Cooley) 

As Christians all over the world gather this Christmas to celebrate the first advent, like God’s covenant people of that great day, we long for the promised arrival our Great Love . . .

We cry out to You . . .

Deep within
There’s a fire
That can’t be quenched
And there’s a love for You
Jesus
That’s as strong as death

Hear us Lord
Hear the longing of our hearts
We want to be where You are
And not apart

We feel You near
Oh, Your presence all around us
Oh Lord, we want to see Your face
Come Take us away

The Spirit and the Bride
Cry out to You
Lord, we cry out to You
Come quickly

We long for the day
When we will see Your face
We long to be with You
Come quickly

Breathe on us until You come
Breathe on us until You come

Words and Music by Tom Dickson
Copyright © 1997 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

(The Lindell Cooley cover of this song recorded during the Brownsville Revival)

by Andy Park
Many waters cannot quench Your love,
Rivers cannot overwhelm it
Oceans of fear cannot conceal
Your love for me

Many waters cannot quench Your love,
Rivers cannot overwhelm it
Oceans of fear cannot conceal
Your love for me
Your love for me

Holy love,
Flow in me,
Fill me up
Like the deepest sea
Like a crashing wave
Pouring over me,
Holy love flow in me

Many sorrows cannot quench Your love,
Darkness cannot overwhelm it
I will not fear,
Your love is here to comfort me

Many sorrows cannot quench Your love,
Darkness cannot overwhelm it
I will not fear,
Your love is here
To comfort me

You comfort me

Holy love,
Flow in me,
Fill me up
Like the deepest sea
Like a crashing wave
Pouring over me,
Holy love flow in me

When I find you I find healing
When I find you I find peace

And I know that there’s
No river so wide,
No mountain so high,
No ocean so deep
That you can’t part the sea

Holy love,
Flow in me,
Fill me up
Like the deepest sea
Like a crashing wave
Pouring over me,
Holy love flow in me

jesus-love-new

Copyright © 1995 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.