Sunday, October 12, 2014

When a Child Wanders Off Part Three

Ok, so I don't know how to fix the white background that appears later in this post.  It is not there on purpose.

It's 3:06 on a Sunday morning, and I can't sleep.  I've wanted since my last post to finish writing about this subject, so that task is my "I can't sleep, so I should be productive" thing.  

When I have seen "church discipline" occur, it's usually about the same:  Someone falls away with varying manifestations, quits being present at regularly scheduled times of assembling, and then after some sort of process is "marked" and withdrawn from.  My concerns about this have been pretty simple really.  I haven't thought that the biblical pattern is followed, that really what we've continued doing is what we've always seen and done instead of what the Bible says.

I have come, after looking at what the Bible actually says about this, to see two basic flaws in what I've always seen.  The first is that we have come to see regular attendance and faithfulness as one and the same.  Some have abandoned this, I know, but I think it merits mentioning.  God has always been primarily interested in the heart of a man.  Moses stated this succinctly in Deuteronomy 10:12-13 in his appeal to the Israelites as they prepared to conquer the land of promise:  And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord's commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?  David says this in Psalm 51:16-17, For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart,  O God, Thou wilt not despise.  Malachi recorded an unmistakable judgment against Israel for lacking a true reverence for God, rather they only were going through the motions of the law, but lacking what God really desired.  He said it like this in chapter 3 as he spoke about what God would do later in Jesus, And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.  Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord, as in the days of old and as in former years.  Many may have warmed the pews of our church buildings week after week, year after year, but have never done so with humble hearts of righteous offerings.  This faulty litmus test has removed from our minds what really is the test of faithfulness, and that is a humble heart which seeks the Lord with diligence and with the purpose of glorifying and serving Him.

The second flaw I have seen is a deviation from the biblical pattern in the application of marking and removing someone.  I have decided it best to list some quotes from the Bible itself and then comment.  Please, please read the references even if you're familiar with them and feel certain you already know what they say...
Romans 16:17-18
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.  For such men are slaves not of our Lord Christ but of the their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
Various verses in 1 Corinthians 5
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife.  And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed  from your midst...Your boasting is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?  Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened...Do you not judge those who are within the church?...Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, not did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example.  For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat.  For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.  Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.  But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.  And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame.  And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Titus 3:10
Reject a factious man after a first and second warning.
Revelation 2:14-15
But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam...Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
Revelation 2:20
But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bondservants astray...
Revelation 3:3-5
Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent.  If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.  But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy.  He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.

It has been my observation that the instructions for rejecting someone either imply or state that the person in question is in the midst of the brethren.  However, what I have seen practiced is that we "remove" someone after they have already removed themselves. Further, what I have heard explained is that we must do this for their good because this is God's way of bringing them back.  This belief found itself in 1 Corinthians 5:5, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  When the passage is read as a whole you see, however, that what Paul corrects is their arrogance in being willing to tolerate this immoral man among them.  He explained why, Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?  Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump...  This was a pattern in the Old Testament as well.  Unclean people and things were to be outside of the camp, at least until their purification was achieved.  The possible result of the wayward returning wasn't the primary purpose; it was merely a possible byproduct.  The purpose of removing the immoral (or factious or lazy man, etc) was to keep the body pure.

Having ignored the qualifying prepositional phrases in the above passages and taken liberty to broaden them is inconsistent with what we have clung to in other issues.  When we saw the prepositional phrase, "on the first day of the week" appear in Acts 20:7 we insisted that the Lord's supper only occur on Sunday.  The "with your heart" in Ephesians 5:19 excluded instrumental music.  We have objected to the striking of those qualifiers and have even gone so far as to question the state of the soul of one who doesn't rightly place these boundaries where God has placed them.  

A similar inconsistency on the topic of "church discipline" has occurred with the application of 2 Thessalonians 3.  We have rightly emphasized the importance of context for accurate understanding and application in other areas.  In 2 Thessalonians 3 Paul began talking about the brother who was leading an "unruly life" in verse 6.  He proceeded to define unruly in the following verses both by citing the example that had been set when he was among them:  because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that might not be a burden to any of order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example, and by offering a working word definition:  For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.  Even though Paul, through the Holy Spirit, made clear what an unruly life was, we have broadened that to include any whom we have decided are undisciplined in a sundry of ways which he did not mention "in this letter."

The passages in Revelation 2 and 3 were interesting to me regarding purity of the body. There were two churches, Pergamum and Thyatira, who were reprimanded for tolerating a wicked person(s) in their midst.  However, the church at Sardis appeared to have some who have remained pure while others did not.  That group was not reprimanded for tolerating evil among them but rather were affirmed in their ability to achieve purity in the midst of some who hadn't.  Looking at all of the passages listed above convicted me that any who are chosen for rejection should be those who still still walk among us and are polluting the body.

Another thing that has troubled me is the potential for harm that deviating from the biblical example possesses.  Paul did imply that the one who is outside the camp will suffer in the flesh.  He further expressed his hope that this destruction would be the thing to wake them up.  My gripping fear has been that when we go through this formal ritual (which doesn't follow biblical example) that we hold at arms length and give up access to those with whom Jesus would have eaten and walked among as the healing Physician and whom Jude says to snatch from the fire (Jude 23).  It has become my firm belief that the very thing which will bring healing to the one who has suffered in his flesh as a result of his wandering off is the thing we withdraw, and that we need to soberly look at this again with fresh eyes.  It may well be the difference between eternal life and eternal death.

There have been so many other things that I've thought about concerning children who've wandered off, and I have found myself with yet unanswered questions.  If you have thought through these things and want to comment, I'd be grateful to hear what you have to say.

Monday, May 26, 2014

When a Child Wanders Off Part Two

What you're about to read is absolutely subjective.  It is emotional and anecdotal.  I know that what we always need is to run to the Bible and seek out God's will for our lives.  I believe that in it is everything we need for "life and godliness."  It is my hope and intention to explore that "out loud" here, but first I want you to see the heart of one whose child has wandered off...

This post is going to have to suffice for the promised continuation.  It is not what I had intended as part two, but it is what I can do right now.  Right now some therapy is needed, and writing is certainly that for me.  I do intend to write the original part two some day, but it will really be part three, I guess.

Rod Serling’s residence in my house, of which I wrote last time, is a continuing theme.  Just when I’m deciding that he’s gone, and I’m living life as normal, I bump into him as I turn a corner.  That is a description of today, so I am going to just write about what living in The Twilight Zone is like.  At so many turns and times, I want to escape, to run far, far away, and honestly, with some particularly oppressive, suffocating events, I hope to just d-i-e.  That said, I think it might be therapeutic to write about how my buddy, Rod, has plagued me.

When your own child wanders off it’s a bit different than when it’s someone else’s.  It is (no tongue in cheek here) your worst nightmare come true.  It’s heavy, it’s desperate, it’s clarifying and yet incredibly disorienting; it’s a perpetual and terrifying fog.  Those you love seem to become your enemies, your everyday tasks seem impossible to perform, chocolate and potato chips seem the only acceptable foods, and children who have not wandered off are longed for as comfort and yet seem as one of those impossible tasks.  God is the only real comfort and is craved and pursued, but in many moments seems elusive.  Many of the things you’ve always been confident about become confusing, and the feeling of impotence in every familiar responsibility is paralyzing.  The utterance of the name of The Child is jarring, and his image draws the most unstoppable flow of tears.  Oh, and so do many other things: certain words, certain foods, certain people, certain songs, and certain places.  You just don’t ever know when you’ll be awash with the bitterest tears.

People offer advice and comfort, which is kind of them, but mostly it feels like salt in a wound.  Some people blame you for the debacle.  The discordant, reverberating echo of “You need to think about where you went wrong” clangs in my head like some whacky cartoon character with his head caught in a bell tower bell.  Every character flaw that I see displayed in the children still at home is a piercing terror, a real, nearly paralyzing, slow motion terror.  It should not be my family that is falling apart.  (It wasn’t going to be.  I took sure steps to ensure that it would not be.  Drat that Rod Serling!) 

Some people want to tell you the best way to deal with the child who wandered off. Though their intentions are good, it feels more like your life is being micromanaged.  That’s one of the hardest parts.   While you’re grieving and just want to escape, run far, far away, or you’re hoping to d-i-e, some people want to impose heavy burdens all in the name of A Solution.  They truly mean well, I’ve no doubt, but I want them to stop solving and start acknowledging that Rod Serling’s visit is real and Very Oppressive, and that I seriously think I’m drowning in sorrow.

I don’t think people understand the source of that thick, whirling vortex of sorrow.  I’m grieving for a couple of obvious things (including what follows in the next paragraph), but one very real reason is The Solution.  You see, I don’t think it is The Solution.  “Oh no, they cry! She doesn’t have faith in God’s way.”  That’s not it at all.  I don’t think “we”’ve done it God’s way.  (About which part two was supposed to be.)  My heart aches with a pounding, gigantic force of despair because I think The Solution is faulty, and I HAVE NEVER SEEN IT WORK IN RETRIEVING A CHILD WHO WANDERS OFF.  Do you see?  The implementation of The Solution IS Rod Serling’s knock at the door and his hopelessly eerie and perpetual presence. 

The sorrow of a family split apart is agonizing.  From the loins come all, and to them you want the all to cling in glorious harmony.  Sometimes it is not to be, but it is always what you want, what you dream about.  In fact, hope of it seems imperatively vital for survival, and the possibility of dashed hopes is incomprehensible – like in a desperate, “clap your hands over your ears, squeeze your eyes shut, and belt out a loud, rebellious chorus of LA, LA, LA, LA” sort of way.

Another torturous Rod Serling encounter is with Regret.  Only when you, yourself, experience something do you know how it feels, and once you do you cringe with an overwhelming weight of guilt over having attempted to impose a burdensome Solution on another.  Hugs are much better sometimes than reminders of how we got here or imposed protocols for A Solution. 

The bottom line?  When a child of your very own wanders off you live in one twisted, black hole episode of The Twilight Zone, but it is really - for real - reality.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

When a Child Wanders Off

(Before today it had been long ago that I posted anything here.  In fact, it took some doing to even get here again because I'd forgotten my blog name and address.)  I have had the desire to write down some thoughts that have developed over many years to help me remember them and to give me the ability to revisit if I desire to.

When I was a teenager, within a very short span, three men in the congregation of which we were a part, committed adultery and left their wives.  They were then "disfellowshipped."  It all made quite an impact on me because all three men had had no small significance in my life.  I was confused, hurt, angry, and perhaps, above all, shocked.

My own life took a dark turn just a short time later.  According to my own self, I had fallen and fallen long and deep into murky, mucky filth.  I shocked everyone who knew me.  I grieved everyone who loved me.  Some were angry and hurt and confused.  Some were up at arms because the "procedure" for such things didn't unfold.  It wasn't true, but it appeared that way, and they were unhappy.

Years after those events, a family member shocked me too with an "unspeakable" sin.  That time I wasn't confused or even hurt.  Just angry.  And shocked.  Against the wishes of most of the family, I set out to follow "procedure" as I had perceived it done.  I really rocked the family boat.

At this point, it'll be no surprise that several years after that, in Twilight Zone style, it happened again.  A very good family friend for whom we had "a chair" informed us all that he didn't believe that God is good and true anymore, and thus he would no longer be loyal to Him.  I was shocked.  And sad.  Intensely and abidingly sad.  Again, the "procedure" I'd always seen began and he was eventually "marked" and "withdrawn from."

Then Rod Serling came to my house, and I was stuck in the never ending cycle.  It was my turn to be the Prodigal's parent.  Have you known that?  (If so, you can skip this paragraph.)  I was sad.  I wasn't shocked.  I was his mother, and I knew.  I was angry.  Oh very, very angry.  Then I was sad again because his turn in the pit took a sort of permanent downward twist.  I had prayed that God would do whatever necessary to rescue him from the lion's mouth, and when He answered I was in awe.  Never had I (could I) construct such a rescue attempt.  This journey has continued, and the end has not seemed here.  But I have hoped that it will come because I have become the Prodigal's parent.  The ominous "procedure" has not occurred, but its initiation has been entertained, and I have been scared.  And lonely.  And confused.

Well, if I ever did wish for something, it has been that Rod Serling would blow up and die and take his nasty Twilight Zone into perdition with him.  He has proven a stubborn house guest. Another child wandered off.  Into the pit he fell.  And deep.  He has not liked the pit and has attempted to scale up and out.  Yet, I have been uncertain that he's as ready for the Light of day as I had hoped.  Again, the story has not ended, but I am pulling for (read: praying for) the happy sort.  I have doubly become the Prodigal's parent.

These events, stretched over decades, have introduced so many questions about what to do, what to say, what to feel, and on and on.  It has been my deep and earnest desire to know the mind of God in these (and all other) matters.  The more these kinds of tragic events have piled up in sickening mounds of stench laden yuck, the more I love God and long to have rest with Him, just simply worshiping Him.  The more I have seen and suffered from sin, the more I hate sin - in me, in you, in everyone.

These things have combined to drive me to search the Bible for the truth about the fallen and those who know and love them.  In the truth of God have been riven the stays of hope, unchanging and attainable.  It has just been a matter of digging, and digging, and digging, and digging...

To be continued...


Have you ever had those moments when you just wish that you could...
Destroy satan?
Sit Adam and Eve down and 'splain what it really was they were getting into?
Speak instead of clamming up?
Shut up instead of speaking?
Get a postcard from God answering the specific questions you have about *your* life?
Stop crying?
Start laughing?
Start running and not tire until you wanted to stop running?
Memorize the whole Bible?
And understand every single thing in it?
And apply it perfectly?
Love without pain?
Have perfect recall?
At the perfect time?
Be perfect?
Stay awake?
Fall asleep?

Me too!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Deuteronomy 29:6:
You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, in order that you might know that I am the Lord your God.
I have been praying prayers of physical healing for others recently. This morning there was a desperateness about it too. Then I read Deut. 29. I know I posted something similar before about chapter eight, but it is so profound to me that God works in all kinds of ways to generously give us the opportunity to know Him. It is utterly astounding that He seeks us - wants us - at all, but the fact that we can absolutely trust Him is so comforting. When we have to go without the thing(s) we desperately want, it is good. Hard. My heart (yours too?) gets so set on some of the things I long to be true that I am discontented and whiny when they are not. Reality is that the fact I am going without, or watching loved ones go without, is testimony to the GOODNESS of God. He is always providing the very best, even giving us the best of droughts that we might KNOW HIM. There is no (and None) better.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Deuteronomy 7:21-23:
21 You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.
22 The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you.
23 But the LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed.

This struck me. Well it did too. God intended to defeat the inhabitants of the Promised Land absolutely, but He intended to do it slowly so that the wild animals wouldn't take over more quickly than the Israelites could settle the land. What a comforting thought it is that God is never "slow" without purpose. When it seems that deliverance and fulfillment of promises are slow in coming, it can give me cause for peaceful calm and joyful gratitude because I can trust that God is working in just the right way - for the very best outcome in my life. What a beautiful thought!

Monday, May 7, 2012