Shame, Shame, Shame

“When I was your age, I never would have done that!”

“How could you do such a thing when we’ve given you so much?”

“What is the matter with you? Are you stupid or something?”

“You’ve ruined our family’s name and reputation.”

"You're lucky to still be in this school."

None of these statements is imaginary. All of them and many more come from the mouths of Christian parents and Christian authorities to children. They are the totalitarian responses to some action done by a child that has met with disapproval by the adult. The statements deliver nothing but shame, a defeating and debilitating state of mind. The proclamations wound and scar the victim. The accusations offer no help and no way of escape. They widen the chasm between child and authority. They isolate the child, fostering in his mind the lie that no one else but him has ever done anything like the thing he’s done.

In his recent book Parenting, Paul Tripp offers a key truth when he instructs “We are more alike than different.” He isn’t talking facial features or DNA. He’s talking about what goes on in our hearts and what went on in our hearts when we were younger.

If we are honest, we must admit…

  • We are more alike than we are different in our immorality.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our untruthfulness.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our rebellion.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our ingratitude.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our anger.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our complaining.
  • We are more alike than we are different in our foolishness.

Because we are more like our children than we are different, you would think we would express empathy and sympathy toward them. Instead, what too often comes from adult to child is shame, as if “I never!”

When discovering your boy has dabbled with pornography on his iPad, instead of shattering the iPad into a thousand pieces, how about coming alongside your son and empathizing with him because you know what the battle with lust was and how the battle remains. Instead of shaming him for giving into temptation, how about identifying with him as one fallen man to another? How about showing him the way out that you discovered in God’s Word? How about leading him to Jesus who cares more about him than you ever will? You see, you are more like your son than different.

When hearing for the 10,000th time the complaining of your daughter, instead of screaming at her how ungrateful she is, how about coming alongside of her and empathizing with her because you know the battle that rages in your own heart when you don’t get what you want? Instead of shaming her for being an unappreciative brat, how about identifying with her as one fallen woman to another? How about showing her the way out that you discovered in God’s Word? How about leading her to a thankfulness to God that she and you are not burning in hell at this very moment because of God’s unending mercies and abundant grace. You see, you are more like your daughter than different.

As a Christian boy, I heard over and again the dangers of temptation and the recitation of the “thou shalt nots.” I watched what happened to those who were found out, to those who got caught. I witnessed the shame cast down on them for their failures. I made two conclusions: (1) don’t get caught and (2) no adult has any idea what I’m going through; they only want to point out my failures. I learned to hide from anyone who could help me because I was convinced by their shaming of my peers that no one would help me.

When one human being shames another, he establishes a superiority and inferiority that does not exist. None of our sin natures is less corrupt than that of another. We all are undone. All of us are unrighteous (Romans 3). Who do we think we are that we can go around shaming one another for sin and failures? After the fall when their nakedness was uncovered and became a source of shame for both of them, could Adam say to Eve, “Well my nakedness isn’t as bad as yours! Put some leaves on.” Yet, that’s exactly what happens when we shame the fallen nature of others identifying their nakedness but ignoring the reality that we too were once naked but have been covered up by the work of God. We are far more alike than we are different.

The Bible calls us to sympathy and empathy (Galatians 6:1-2). The Bible calls us to lift the fallen. The Bible calls us to embrace the mercy and grace of God for ourselves and for every person close to us.

If you have determined you are more unlike than alike, then that’s straight foolishness.

If you shame another human being – whether a son or daughter or a fellow Christian in our church – well, then, shame on you!

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

"Daddy's home!" The Two Scariest Words in Some Christian Homes

In the last few days I’ve read two crushing stories written by wounded women raised by men who professed faith in Jesus Christ. One of the women was a dear teenage friend and the other the daughter of an acquaintance. Separated by a generation and unknown to each other, the women tell similar stories whose common theme is “my father controlled the family in every single area of life.”

These women share a common vocabulary – abuse, manipulation, domination, guilt, shame, fear, threats, beating, prison, favor, freedom, independence and love. They write of a hidden child and a lost little girl. They describe cover up, their masks, their confusion, and their diminishing connection to reality.

These fathers – the men God used to bring these women to life inside the womb, the men commissioned by God to raise their daughters in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the men to whom God entrusted these former little girls – these fathers consumed these girls on their own lusts well into their early adult lives. All while claiming the name of Jesus.

  • They used loud language to control
  • They used sarcastic language to control.
  • They used mean language to control.
  • They used demeaning language to control.
  • They used bully tactics against male suitors to control.
  • They used the church and God’s Word to control.
  • They used brute strength to control.
  • They used intimidation toward their wives to control.
  • They used money to control.

Of course little girls are not the only victims; boys and teenage sons are too. They usually don’t write stories sharing their pain. Instead, they bury the pain deep in their souls, often turning to any remedy to dull the agony caused by dad. Sometimes, these boys become men who do the very thing to their wives and children that they vowed they would never do.

Control should never be confused or misnamed as leadership. It is an illusion and a lie to defend controlling behavior as something that protectively polices or something that positions others for success. God has called men to lead in their families and relationships, and God condemns every expression of force that serves to buttress a man’s position (1 Peter 5:3).

Men, there is one Lord, and you aren’t him.

The difference between control and leadership could not be clearer. For example, leadership supplies security and positions another for success. Where leadership is about the protection and advancement of others, control is about the protection and advancement of self. Leadership gives away power; control amasses power. Leadership loosens the grip while control tightens it. Leadership fills the room with fresh air; control sucks the oxygen out of the room. Leadership delivers relief; control burdens with shame.

God detests the actions of the men whose stories have now been told by their daughters. I cried for my friend when I read her story and pray for the healing of her soul. The telling of these stories causes me to wonder how many more women are out there like them. Further, I want to help.

If you are a woman who has a husband who is on the edge of destruction, would you contact my wife or me? We want to help you. If you are young woman whose dad has abused you, beat you, manipulated you, or assaulted you, we want to help you. If your siblings are next in line and you are concerned for their wellbeing, we want to help you. What is happening in your home is not normal; it is not ok. Our Lord is on your side. He loves you. Help is available to you. Healing grace can be yours.

If you are a father who has fostered the first chapters of the story your daughter will write, get help now. It is not too late to find forgiveness and God’s grace. Your pride will tell you to hide and cover up. Your pride will tell you you’re not as bad as your daughter or son makes you out to be. Your pride will justify your behaviors, even convincing you that you have the Bible’s authority, God’s authority. You do not. Your pride will destroy everything, and your pride may carry your soul straight to hell. Help is available to you. God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. Our Lord loves you, and he is the only one who can save you and your family before all is lost. Would you reach out to me and allow me to point you to Jesus?

I never again want to read one of these stories. More specifically, I never want to read one of these stories written by a little girl I once knew. May God protect the potential victim, and may God thwart the sinful control of the abuser.

Weeping with those who weep.

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

On the Road Again

I suspect pastors have attended conferences as long as there have been pastors (Acts 20:17ff). Early this morning, I jumped in the car with Chris Jones and Chris Pitts and headed south for the bi-annual Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference held in Louisville, Kentucky, where we will meet up with Thad Yessa. I do not attend many pastors’ conferences, but I have attended this one since its inception in 2006. I want to express my thanks to the church for making it possible for me to attend. Your supply of the funding and your encouragement to attend an event like this makes it possible for me to go.

What Happens at a Pastors’ Conference?

As you can imagine, there is talking and a lot of it. Organizers expect 10,000-12,000 attendees. Bringing thousands of pastors together in a confined space nearly guarantees more words flying than at a middle school girls’ sleepover. As we connect with old friends and make new ones, we catch up on family and reminisce about the “good ol’ days,” but most of our conversation is about our Lord, His Word and His church.

Our churches vary in size and location. Some pastors serve by themselves while others have a multi-staff ministry. Most are from the United States, but pastors come from numerous countries. Many are Baptist, and all are orthodox in doctrine. We talk doctrine and debate topics of recent authors and well-known pastors. Most of the conversation, however, returns to common ground. We all want to know how we can help the people we serve grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). And we want to know what we can do to fulfill our Lord’s commission to make disciples both locally and globally.

We want to see our churches full of growing believers and new converts. Most pastors I meet really love people, have no agenda other than helping people, and are not satisfied with the current state of the ministry. They want to accomplish more for Christ. Most pastors serve churches of 75-100 people. Most pastors keep plugging away week after week, and most pastors consider themselves inadequate for the job and woefully underperforming. It just goes with the territory. I think for all of us who attend a gathering like T4G, we come away thinking, hoping, and more committed to the work God has given to us and to the people we serve. Your investment should pay dividends.

The Preaching Is the Thing

Not all gatherings are like this one, but at this conference, preachers listen to preaching. All told we will attend 9 general sessions where we will hear John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and others preach God’s Word. Between the general sessions, we will take in 5 panel discussions addressing a wide-range of ministry issues, and we will attend a breakout session covering a specific topic of interest for each of us. Do the math, 15 occasions to hear God’s Word in three days.

We Need Preaching

Most pastors I know listen to preachers online or via podcast, while others read sermons from pastors long since with the Lord. While helpful, there is nothing like listening to the Word of God preached in a live setting. Because we are usually the ones preaching, we don’t often have the privilege of listening to preaching.

The preaching challenges us. We are mere men who need the ministry of the Word to stir our consciences. Like all other Christians, we benefit from the preaching of God’s Word. By the Word, the Holy Spirit exposes our sin, reveals our motives, addresses our pride, and stirs us to action.

The preaching encourages us. You might be surprised to know of the insecurities of many pastors. We wonder if we are doing anything of any lasting value. We wonder if we are doing the right thing for our churches. We wonder if we are giving to our families the spiritual leadership we hope all husbands and fathers give to their families. When a preacher shows us Jesus’s ongoing work, he reminds us we are not responsible for the success. We are responsible for our faithfulness to our Lord.

The preaching sharpens us. The men we hear model biblical preaching. We learn again how to approach God’s Word and how to preach it. We don’t try to mimic John MacArthur in the pulpit, but we do try to learn from his delivery how to preach God’s Word. In addition, we hear truth from the Word that prompts us to pastoral care and to consider ideas to strengthen the church.

So, thank you for praying for me while I am gone. Conferences are great, but in some ways they are like summer church camp. Conferences are not reality; the work of the local church is reality. When we pastors return to our ministries, it’s time to get back to the work of the Word and the Gospel.

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

What Does That Mean?

I know what it means to wish me a Happy Birthday and to tell me Merry Christmas. I know what it means when a friend or acquaintance asks me if I had a nice Thanksgiving. But what does it mean to wish someone a Happy Easter or to ask “How was your Easter?”

For Christians, Easter is the most significant event on our calendars. Many pastors think the Easter morning sermon is the most important one they will preach over the course of a year. As I said Sundaymorning, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the most essential Christian doctrine of our faith.

Late Sunday afternoon as I walked out my front door to my car to drive over to the church building for the evening service, I heard one of my neighbors walking through the neighborhood yell to another neighbor, “Did you have a good Easter?” My neighbor responded with a hearty, “Yeah!” I heard similar expressions throughout the weekend from people in the community, “Have a nice holiday,” and “Happy Easter.” On Monday the same people asked, “Did you have a nice holiday?” or “How was your Easter?” I wonder what they mean. What makes for a happy Easter?

Slowly but surely the Easter holiday is becoming less of what it is, the declaration and celebration of the risen Jesus Christ, and more of what it isn’t, a day for community events and family get togethers. We now confirm the day successful when the egg hunt goes well, when everyone is in one place to sit down at the family dinner table, and when the boys didn’t put holes in the knees of their new pants and the girls didn’t spill gravy on their new dresses. How those in my neighborhood define a happy Easter and how believers define a happy Easter should be significantly different.

To answer the question, believers gathering together to declare the fact of the risen Jesus makes for a happy Easter. Hearing others declare in song and word that Jesus lives makes for a happy Easter. Seeing new believers choose to be with others of the redeemed on Easter Sunday makes for a great day. Hearing professions of faith and witnessing the public baptisms of new Christians makes for a great day. Sharing with brothers and sisters in Christ around the Lord’s Table, remembering His work on the cross in the elements, and singing When I Survey the Wondrous Cross makes for a great day. Sitting in worship with my wife and children who love the same risen Lord that I love, believe the same gospel I believe, and hope in the same promise in which I hope makes for a good day. Eating a delicious noon meal with other believers, talking about the Lord’s work in our lives and the prospect of the Lord’s work in the lives of others makes for a great day. Thinking that I will someday die as many of those I love have already died and thinking that the living Jesus Christ conquers death so that my death like theirs becomes the gateway to eternal life makes for a great day.

So, yes, I had a great Easter. I want it always to be that kind of day for my family, myself, and our church.

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Desiring To Die, Willing to Live

The magnetism of this world pulls strong on every human being including us Christians. So strong, in fact, is the attraction that many Christians would push back when the Bible says, “to die is gain” and “to depart and be with Christ is far better” (Philippians 1:21, 23). Not you? You don’t push back? Please continue to read.

Paul wrote those famous words while under arrest in the imperial city of Rome. For Paul, the previous two years delivered blow after blow to his physical and mental wellbeing (Acts 21-26). Now he finds himself perilously close to the executioner’s blade. What will happen he does not know. What he desires to happen he is quite certain. He wants to depart this life by means of his death to be with Jesus which, Paul proclaims, is far better. To which most reply, “Well, of course it’s better to die and to go be with Jesus than to live under persecution.” But that response misses Paul’s point.

Paul is not saying that departing this life via death is better than the parts of this life that stink. Paul says departing this life via death is far better than the best this life can offer to us.

We agree departing this life via death to be with Jesus is better than Christian persecution, better than cancer, better than bankruptcy, better than fighting, better than pain, better than divorce, better than infertility, better than temptation, better than addiction, better than paralysis, better than abandonment, better than jealousies, better than bitterness, and better than heartbreak. But the Christian view is departing this life via death to be with Jesus is better than the very best this life can offer to us.

  • Life on earth with Brenda is wonderful but departing via death to be with Christ is better.
  • Life on earth with two sons, two daughters, a daughter-in-law, and a future son-in-law is wonderful but departing via death to be with Christ is better.
  • Life on earth with grandchildren is wonderful but departing via death to be with Christ is better.
  • Life on earth with a healthy heart and lungs, and strong arms and legs is wonderful but departing via death to be with Christ is better.
  • Life on earth with expansive liberties because I am an American is wonderful but departing via death to be with Christ is better.
  • Life on earth with financial freedom is wonderful but departing via death to be with Christ is better.
  • Life on earth enjoying with family and friends mountain slopes, wilderness lakes, and tropical breezes is wonderful but departing via death to be with Christ is better.
  • Life on earth seeing all my dreams come true is wonderful but departing via death to be with Christ is better.

Do you push back against any of those declarations? Frankly, I do. In reality, I, like many of you, have little interest to leave this world for another better world in order to be with God. “My life is good,” I think, “There is so much left to enjoy here and to look forward to here. When I get old and frail, suffer memory loss, cannot see or hear well, then I’ll want to go be with Jesus.” Our contentment with the best of what this life offers reveals how far away we are from God, from His love, and the blessed life which is in Him.

Now, don’t be argumentative or worse, foolish, and conclude that you should end your life today because the Bible says, “to depart and be with Christ, is far better.” Paul determines in the next line, “Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” For Paul the timing of his departure via death to be with Christ belongs to heaven. Paul desired to die, but he was willing to live. While death would have been gain to him, he would endure the personal loss of living on earth if it meant a benefit to others.

What do you desire, to depart and be with Christ or to have a little more of the good life here? Your answer determines in part how you will live your life here and what will hold the passions of your heart.

O Lord, while I am thankful for the life you have given to me here, I often find myself far more interested in this life than in the life to come with you in heaven. I want to hold this life loosely, even the very best parts of it that you have given to me to enjoy to the max. I want to be like those who have gone on before me who desired a better country, a heavenly country (Hebrews 11:17). Separate my heart from its love for this broken creation and stir my heart to want to be with you. Amen.

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.