Spiritual Abuse and Our Brain 

When we are operating out of our fear/shame/survival brain, we are operating out of the most primitive part of our brain. It’s the part of our brain that senses danger and is designed to keep us safe and alive. It is NOT the part of our brain we are designed to live in and operate from in relationships. 

The problem is, when we are in an abusive environment, this is where we get stuck. We can become hypervigilant – always assessing our surroundings or gaging the people around us, our relationships, our community- assessing if we are safe. This is not where we experience life-giving connection and freedom. 

If we pull in spiritual abuse to this understanding of our body and brain, when Scripture, spiritual positions of power/leadership, etc. are misused in ways that cause harm, we experience destructive effects both personally and systemically. 

For example, a common approach is a pastor may use fear to lead his congregation to salvation. This may sound something like, “If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity? Heaven or the eternal separation of God in hell?” What is the operating system of the person in the congregation that doesn’t know? I don’t know about you, but that’s terrifying. Of course, I would throw my hand up in the air because I don’t want to spend eternity in hell!! The problem is, I’m making this decision out of my trauma/survival brain, not the part of my brain that experiences safety, attachment and connection. 

What sets up then, is a faith operating system that continues to use fear and shame to “keep us in line.” When we are operating out of fear and shame, we try to control others. This creates an environment that values conformity to the system’s rules that is often measured by behavior rather than the matters of the heart. We set up a system that values reformation rather than transformation. We try to control behavior, “sin management,” and miss the place of secure attachment and connection to God. 

From a place of secure attachment and connection to God, we experience life and transformation (our behavior naturally changes). This is where we are designed to live from in relationship with Jesus, not an operating system of fear and shame. That is a product of the fall, not our invitation of resurrection and restoration. Jesus came to give us LIFE and LIFE to the full (John 10:10). To restore our connection with God in the way He always designed us to live in relationship with him. God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 2:7). 

An operating system driven by fear, shame and control (we try to control others, rather than self-control which is the spirit God gave us) actually blocks the relationship we are inviting others into with God, creating a real paradox. This is the very thing Jesus confronted with the Pharisees, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matthew 23: 13-14). 

Jesus was deconstructing their system that was actually doing the opposite of what they thought. Does that sound familiar? Jesus was not afraid to deconstruct the religious system. He was motivated by his love for them. He knew it was necessary for people to enter into connection and relationship and experience the kingdom he came to bring, including the Pharisees. 

The question for us as leaders & believers is, do our methods match our message? Does the way we present and live the gospel match the gospel? 

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Spiritual Abuse & Deconstruction

January is spiritual abuse awareness. This is a term that gets quite a bit of pushback. The word abuse causes many to bristle with defensiveness and say… “that is too strong a word. This is not abuse…” By definition, abuse means to use wrongly or improperly; to misuse. To treat in a harmful, injurious or offensive way. To put it the most simply, spiritual abuse is to misuse Scripture, positions of spiritual leadership or other spiritual things. To use in a way that causes harm rather than brings life and healing. 

With that said, it is important to consider the relationship between spiritual abuse and the deconstruction that is happening in the evangelical church. I am increasingly grieved at the response of many leaders to deconstruction. I understand the fear it elicits; yet there is a very real relationship between deconstruction and spiritual abuse. Rather than seeking to understand what is happening, it seems many leaders are only digging their heels in deeper and further creating more of what is actually needing to be addressed. 

I understand deconstruction is happening for many different reasons, but in my experience both personally and in my counseling office, the vast majority of people I sit with are not deconstructing their faith in Jesus. They are deconstructing their faith in the church, its’ systems, cultural influences and examining the way much of Scripture has been used and taught. They are examining the misuse and harm they have experienced from something or someone that is designed to bring life and healing. The fruit doesn’t match; its incongruent. A healthy tree cannot produce unhealthy fruit. 

Many in our culture have had a false version of Jesus as a result of abuse and misuse of power and position by many Christian leaders. There is an experience of Jesus that has been shaped by spiritual trauma. They have been sold a “form of godliness” that lacks the true heart and power of Jesus. It has brought injury and death rather than healing and life. This needs to be acknowledged and not dismissed. In dismissing these very real experiences, leaders are not listening to the experiences that have caused great harm spiritually, often by the ones that were supposed to protect them. This is a misuse of power and position, which is a component of every form of abuse. The result is so much spiritual trauma and devastation. It also results in a faith system that operates out of our trauma brain…fear/shame/survival response. When we relate to God out of fear and shame, it blocks our ability to connect and experience secure attachment with God, where we experience life and life abundantly. 

Humbly I ask that we listen to the cries around us. With every fiber of my being, I believe the deconstruction message is the cry of a generation that is desperately trying to find Jesus.

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Do No Harm

My head has been spinning over the last few months with so many issues of the church mishandling abuse. It is so widespread. In churches, in seminaries, in publishing, in teaching. 

Why is this topic so important to me? Why is this a topic I continue to post about and speak about? This has become one of the most common issues I see in therapy. The most significant cases of trauma and Complex-PTSD I see are in clients that have experienced some of the most heinous abuse in their “Christian” marriages or families. For many, when they have reached for help to those who should be the most trustworthy and safe, the abuses they have experienced have been minimized and dismissed, resulting in further abuse, often the abuse of Scripture. The abuse of power. A total misrepresentation of God. 

According to Diane Langberg, a leading expert in the field of trauma and spiritual abuse, “The word abuse comes from the Latin abuti. It means ‘to misuse or use wrongly,’ and encompasses the ideas of exploiting, causing injury, assaulting, and perpetuating violence and offensive language. When a relationship is abusive in any form, the story being written is twisted and damaging.” [1]

To see the words spiritual and abuse together is a dichotomy. God, who came for the broken to heal and deliver; to bind up, to rescue and save, instead has been portrayed as a God who will protect his power at all costs; impossible to please. An abusive God. And we wonder why there is so much deconstruction happening in our Christian culture? Perhaps we’ve portrayed an image of God that is not God (I have so much more to say about this. Perhaps I’ll save it for another time).

As a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist, I am under two different organizations and their Codes of Ethics. One of the tenants in both organizations is DO NO HARM. This is basic. This is expected. This is our professional responsibility to not misuse the powerful position we have in people’s lives in their places of vulnerability. We have a code of ethics that is set up to keep our clients safe. 

As a therapist, I recognize that my position holds power in the relationship. In stewarding that position, I have to be aware that it is MY responsibility to protect the well-being of my clients. It is NOT my client’s responsibility to protect me in any way, shape or form.  It’s not their responsibility to educate me, to manage my trauma responses, to manage my emotions, to stroke my ego. It is my responsibility to create a safe place for my clients to heal. 

In positions of power, the responsibility of protection always resides on the one that holds the power. The shepherd protects the sheep. It is NOT the responsibility of the sheep to protect the shepherd; that would be absurd. That seems obvious.  And yet…

We find ourselves in an epidemic of abuse in the American Evangelical church. The fever pitch of abuse is screaming loudly. What in the world is happening? From spiritual abuse and cover up, sexual abuse within positions of power, jockeying to protect power, outrageous abuses happening within Christian homes and marriages that have been enabled by various forms of spiritual leadership (including destructive teaching in many Christian books that have indoctrinated an entire generation). There has been a crying out from victims for people within positions of spiritual power to take responsibility for the safety of the sheep. These are the shepherds. And yet instead we are experiencing gross negligence of the welfare of the ones the shepherds have been charged to protect. 

When leaders in positions of power begin to recognize that there is harm being done (even if it was not intentional), there should be an ethical (and moral) obligation to bring correction and repair. It is the responsibility of the one in power to protect safety. It is our ethical and moral duty as leaders to DO NO HARM. 

How much more should we expect our Christian leaders and communities to do no harm? To be safe? To protect the sheep? According Langberg, “Our responses to the vulnerable expose who we are…If those in authority refuse to help others, turn a deaf ear, and harden themselves to the needs of others, then rejection, not care becomes the predominant influence.”[2] When this is the response of Christian leaders, how do these victims experience God?

“Jesus uses his power to protect, expose, and to restore dignity. He calls his people to be in the world using our power under his authority, displaying his character by speaking truth, shedding light, and tending and protecting the vulnerable.”[3] (emphasis added is mine).

In this season in our culture and our faith communities, how will you use your power?

[1] Langberg, D. (2020). Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church. Brazos Press. Grand Rapids, MI. pp. 61-62.

2Langberg, D. (2020). Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church. Brazos Press. Grand Rapids, MI. p. 4-5.

[3] 2Langberg, D. (2020). Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church. Brazos Press. Grand Rapids, MI.

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The Doorway out of Darkness

The darkness was deep; a dense fog seemed to surround me. I couldn’t see. The prison was cold and dark; the isolation was deafening. I was alone. Cut off from relationships; cut off from God. The questions swirling through my mind, “How did I get here? What led me to this place? What happened to my normally upbeat, outgoing, people loving, Jesus loving self?”

hallway with window

Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

Outwardly, it didn’t make sense. I was leading in ministry, teaching, writing, spending time with God, yet there was a block; something I could not move past.

As hard as I tried “doing”everything I knew to do, internally I was living in chains. I could not break free.

God began to speak to me that the only way out of this prison was the road of forgiveness. I had been deeply hurt and was holding on to my pain. The effect of the unforgiveness was it set up a stronghold in my soul.

I had allowed unforgiveness to close off my heart, and it became contaminated with poisonous toxins. I took them in and held onto them. In my desire to self-protect, I built up walls and lost my ability to genuinely love others, a terrifying realization.

God began to speak to me through Luke 6:27-38. In this passage of scripture, Jesus is calling us to operate from a heart process grounded in love, a process of empowerment, not allowing oneself to be used. From the heart, release judgment and extend forgiveness.

Luke 6:37 Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”

The word, forgive literally means to set free; to let go, release. The verse could more descriptively read, “Set it free, let go, release and you will be set free!” Jesus was warning us of the bondage that judgments and unforgiveness create in our soul, setting up an internal prison.

Forgiveness is God’s provision for releasing us from the power and pain of offenses committed against us; it is his provision for freedom. Forgiveness is a two-part process: making the choiceto forgive, and entrusting the Father with the consequences and impact of a person’s behavior, allowing us to begin the healing process.

Jesus took the sins of the entire world on himself including those committed against you.

Forgiveness is not a requirement of a controlling God; it is a gift God gives us so that we can love in the face of real evil. It allows us to be who we are in the midst of difficult situations. Forgiveness is NOT:denial, repression, or being a doormat. Allowing harm to continue is not forgiveness. Rather, forgiveness enables us to set a boundary out of love instead of fear and anger.[1]

The healing that results from forgiveness can be immediate. In many cases, it opens the door to a processof healing. Will you walk through the doorway?

As you begin this New Year, is there pain you are carrying that God is asking you to set free, to release to him?

 Who is He asking you to forgive? What is the specific pain that you experienced?

 Release it to God. Entrust your hurt and pain to him. He sees. He knows. He loves you. Let him begin the healing process in your heart and life.


[1]Bob Hamp, Forgiveness

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Hidden Destroyers

It all happened so fast, relatively unexpected and it seemed to go so smoothly until it didn’t.

The first night in our “new house” my husband couldn’t sleep. It had been an extremely stressful day with some unexpected twists and developments that left us reeling with confusion. It was like a dense fog consuming what had seemed so clear. He had gone down to the basement in the wee hours of the morning, gazing out the window, looking at the deer behind the house. The light was shining just right, in a way that exposed something we had not noticed. The paint on the windowsill looked off, something was not right. He reached down to get a closer look and when his finger touched it, it went right through, exposing damage hidden beneath the surface.

Termites, hidden beneath the surface, sought to devour our beautiful home. Termites go about their destruction in a way that is so hidden, invisible. Things on the outside appear good with no real evidence of the destruction taking place behind the wall…until there are signs, signs that are ignored or touched up. We mask or cover for fear of what we will find.

It reminds me of how we often handle the human soul. We work hard to keep things looking good on the outside. Hidden behind our driven, high performance, beautiful “I’ve got it all together” images. Veiled behind our well-edited social media posts. Our outward appearance seems to mask the deep issues of our soul.

It’s often the things that seem so concealed that do the most damage. Hidden destroyers like unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, fear, anxiety, unhealthy attachments, inner vows and judgments wreak havoc on our souls and distance us from a life giving relationship with Christ. Even something such as hurry can be extremely destructive to our souls. All of these keep our focus on self, outward things or people. Left unattended, will do tremendous damage in our souls as well as our relationship with God and others.

The condition of our soul significantly impacts our ability to connect with God and others.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26

 Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

 Reflect and Respond

 Take a few minutes to quiet your soul. Eliminate the frantic hurry of your day. Take a deep breath. Connect with the heart of God. Allow him to show you what needs to be attended to within your soul. Paying attention to your inner world, write briefly on each of these. Follow God’s leading and let him reveal what needs tending in your soul.

  • What are the hidden destroyers that are causing damage in your soul, your connection to God and others: unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, fear, anxiety, an unhealthy attachment, inner vows, judgments, hurry, etc?

Write down whatever God brings to your mind about these hidden areas.

  • What are you holding that God is asking you to release to him?
  • Release it to him.
  • What is God speaking to you?

Let God speak to you right where you are. In the stillness, know that He is God. “He restores my soul and revives my life.” (Psalm 23:3, Passion)

This blog was originally posted on http://womeninministry.tumblr.com



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The Accident


The doctor came to check on Grant as he made his post-op rounds. “Wiggle your fingers. Wiggle your toes. Move this. Move that.” The doctor was carefully checking his feeling and movements. He was 2 days out from his first spinal surgery and 1 day out from his 2nd. The doctor looked at us and asked if we had any questions. I began to ask a list of questions, but for Grant there was only one question that was pressing on his mind. “Doctor, will I be able to play football?” Football. The love of his life. Grant is the 3rd generation Resler man with aspirations to play beyond high school. His dad a lineman for the Sooners and Pop also played at the college level. A joy to watch him on the field as we all could see the natural talent and abilities that he carried. Three generations of men, bonding around the sport they all love deeply. Watching game film. Discussing plays. A deep connection being forged through their shared passion.

“Doctor, will I be able to play football?” “No! No contact sports. Son, you have a severe spinal injury and you are lucky to be alive, 1 mm away from being a quadriplegic. You have a life and future.” The words seemed to fade into the background as the tangible layers of grief filled the room. I’m not sure that any of us actually heard the rest of what the doctor said in that moment. Deep sobs came from my son’s bed. Jeff and I on each side of him, just sat with him and wept. In an instant, I watched my son’s heart break. His dreams were crushed in an instant. We could not in that moment grasp the reality of the miracle we were experiencing. The grief was so real. It truly is possible to hold deep gratefulness and grief at the same time. Experiencing the miracle of Grant’s life was also held simultaneously with grieving some real dreams. Athletics will look different for Grant. For a boy that has only been drawn to contact sports (because no contact sports are just not exciting enough for him :), this creates a new paradigm. New definitions. New dreams.

In the weeks since we left the hospital, I have watched the miracle unfold. His football coach (a believer), has spent hours at our house pouring into Grant. I have heard deep conversations, processing and prayers. I have heard words of truth speaking into identity, sowing seeds into the fertile soil of Grant’s heart. These truths that most don’t wrestle with quite this young, but we all wrestle with. When what you may have sought your identity in is stripped away, where does that leave you? I am watching my son find his true identity in Christ. I am watching him embrace deep purpose and meaning through this tragedy. He even said to me a few weeks ago as he prepared to share his story at FCA, “Mom, I really don’t even see it as a tragedy. I see it as new opportunities. God’s ways are different from my ways. He has different plans for me.” I watched him talk with confidence and hopeful anticipation of the plans God has for him. Though he doesn’t see or know, he trusts. I’m watching it unfold in him as he wrestles out his story.

Preparing to share his testimony at FCA, he went in his room. He put on his head phones and asked God to speak to him about what He would have him share with his peers. Over and over he heard God speak, “I am the God of miracles.” I watched him embrace the miracle. The miracle of 1mm. The miracle of being alive. “Mom, God is a God of miracles! I am a miracle! God has a purpose for my life. I thought my main purpose was to play football, but it really is so much more than that!” These truths that take many a lifetime to grasp, he is beginning to grab a hold of at 15 years old. What a true gift. In the grief, the loss, the letting go, new life is opening up before him. A joy to watch him step into the purpose and plans God has for him. We are grateful.

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Lavish Love

The uproar of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead proved to be the last straw. Those wanting to kill Jesus rallied with fierce determination. The religious leaders were in Jerusalem a few miles away plotting his downfall. Jesus was reclining at the table, at the home of Simon the leper, with his disciples. No doubt, the atmosphere was somber. Days earlier Jesus explained what lay ahead for him, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:33-35)

 The disciples didn’t quite get it, baffled by what he was saying. Instead of truly hearing him, they jockeyed around about who would sit next to him in the kingdom of heaven. As the atmosphere was shrouded in heaviness, Jesus’ betrayer sat just a few feet away while his disciples were aloof to the intense weight he was carrying. Jesus was on the precipice of the darkest hours in all of history and he was facing it seemingly alone.

Mary (of Bethany) entered the room of men carrying with her an alabaster jar filled with expensive ointment, ointment that would have been worth a year’s wages. Mary had matured as a disciple. Crisis tested her faith as she wrestled through deep pain, mourning and disappointment. What she learned in the classroom was tested in the trials of life. She grappled questions of his goodness, his faithfulness and even his love. She struggled with HIM. Ultimately, she came to the place of believing God in the midst of her crisis. Her suffering deepened her understanding of Jesus, strengthening her trust in him.

She knew exactly what she was doing when she walked in the room that night. She understood what no one else seemed to understand. She saw what no one else seemed to see. Jesus was not alone in his darkest moment. Mary, his disciple, was walking alongside him, preparing him, encouraging him and strengthening his heart.

She would prepare him for the brutal road that lay ahead, preparing his body for burial. Mary broke the jar and poured its’ contents on Jesus, anointing his body. The fragrance filled the room, gaining the attention of the other guests. She let down her hair and began to gently wipe Jesus’ feet, covered in perfume.

As the room likely began to fidget, Judas brought accusations against Mary’s actions, questioning her stewardship of the expensive perfume. Mary knew the one worthy to be lavished with her sacrificial praise, pouring out her love and worship from the deepest places in her heart.

“The deep theology Mary learned from Jesus had been pounded into her heart in the darkest hour of her life, when her brother lay dying and there was still no sign of Jesus. She had seen him in a new light through that excruciating disappointment. What she learned changed everything, including her. Jesus was no longer just a miracle worker to Mary. She now knew that he was Lord of life and of death, that he was, in fact, God in the flesh. He had shown her that he would not be governed by her expectations and opinions. She had wrestled with his character and learned that no matter what happened, how dark things looked, or how depressed she felt, the soundest and safest course of action was to trust him.”[1]

She trusted him. She trusted His word and listened to the gospel he proclaimed. Mary’s actions that night came from her deep understanding of all that Jesus had taught her. Of all the disciples, she was the only one in that moment that truly understood his mission. By anointing his body for burial, Mary was the first of his disciples to proclaim the gospel- that Jesus had indeed come “to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

As Jesus defended Mary, he said, “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13)

Scripture references: John 12:1-7, Matthew 26:6-13


[1] Carolyn Custis James

Posted in crucifixion, faith, gospel, holy week, Jesus, Jesus and women, Mary of Bethany, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Invitation

This blog was originally published on the Fellowship Women’s Blog site, http://womeninministry.tumblr.com.  I wanted to repost it here.

Sitting in my counseling office, years of life written on her face. Weary. Broken. Torn. The light gone from her eyes, dark, desperate, defeated. Tears spilling down her cheeks, screaming of the emptiness, feeling so alone.

Years of life and circumstance each etching a mark. As I listened to her story unfold, subtle lies of “I’m not enough…not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not successful enough, not smart enough…NOT. ENOUGH” seemed to seep out like a slow leak.

Driven to prove she was enough, she threw herself into success, relationships, a career, grasping anything and everything she thought would give her significance and worth. Every broken relationship left her feeling lost, empty, rejected. In her pain, she threw herself passionately into her career, forging her way up the ladder. Success after success, yet even still, she couldn’t shake the subtle drip. She was not enough.

She lost herself in endless activity, relationships and eventually a family of her own. Nothing could fill the void. When her own success wasn’t enough, maybe her husband and children would be. Year after year she searched for meaning and value, something that would tell her she mattered; she was enough. The deep pain and longing threw her deeper and deeper into endless activities and constant busyness. On the outside, she had it all together, while on the inside she was wasting away.

It takes a lot of energy to keep up appearances. The slow, subtle leak eventually left her dry, empty. Wounds of the past guarded intently had been left unhealed. Hurt, pain and betrayals created the need for walls; each experience added its own layer of bricks. Over the years the walls became fortified for her own protection. She could not risk being hurt again. So she sat before me isolated and alone. Her heart closed off from the very things she needed the most. She didn’t even know the walls were there, created for her own survival. They became her prison. Behind the walls, she had forgotten who she was; the woman God created her to be. The life she was designed to live.

As I sat looking into her eyes, I was overcome with God’s deep love for her, calling her out, breaking the chains, opening the prison. He was inviting her on a journey to experience His freedom and healing, beauty for ashes. He was offering her life, the fullness of all He designed for her.

Reflect and Respond:

In what ways do you relate to the experience of this woman?

How have you tried to protect or comfort yourself?

Read Isaiah 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

Ask God to show you any wounds He wants to heal. Where is He inviting you to experience His freedom, comfort and protection? Ask Him to show you.

Tune into His voice. Allow Him to speak to you.


Note: This story is not based on a specific case, rather common themes I encounter in counseling and ministering to women.

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Blurred Lines

My sleep was so restless last night. Tossing and turning and even in my dreams, I felt the inner turmoil that was gripping me. How can this be happening? How can people do this? A sense of justice and vindication gripping my gut. Can they get away with this? I feel sick to my stomach. How do I wrestle with this reality? How do I walk with integrity, yet call out the hypocrisy? I feel like I was with my friend as she was sexually exploited and raped and I watched the whole thing happen, a witness to the violation. What do I do with that?

I have walked with my close friend the last 4 years as God poured out an amazing story into her heart. A story of His love and restoration. A story of being Salvaged. Faithful to what God was giving her, she wrote. One story turned into two which then turned into three. She was faithful to write all that He gave and to pursue every opportunity to steward the message that He had entrusted to her. During this time, she also lost her job. Her husband lost his. It has been a time of walking through poverty and famine, yet she has been faithful to the call. She has walked through every door and pursued every means of getting these books into the hands of teen girls.

God began downloading a bigger vision. Not just books, but a movie, and a video series accompanied by devotionals to be used with teen girls in youth ministry addressing relevant cultural issues these girls are facing. A large Christian publishing house caught wind of what my friend was doing and started dialoguing with her last spring about partnering with her. This was a time of great celebration in a road that has been very long and hard. After a series of “web conferences” discussing in detail the project and submitting specific material to them, she received a generic email that her project had been dropped.

Yesterday, I was shocked to see big name promotional ads on social media that looked strikingly similar to my friend’s; it even used the same name. I clicked on it only to realize it was not her book they were promoting. It was someone else’s using her ideas even under the same name. Looking further, I discovered it was the same Christian publisher that she had been meeting with. The two authors had received a copy of her book two years ago at a large ministry conference. All of this was in the works as the publisher was meeting with my friend asking her to submit her ideas, never telling her about the other project.

This leaves me with some serious questions. Where are our Christian ethics? Where is the integrity in the field of Christian publishing as well as writing? How can you take someone else’s ideas and repackage them as your own for the sake of big sales? My friend is not a big fish. She is a small fish that God has entrusted with big things. Ultimately, I know and trust God is her vindicator, yet I have real questions to our role as believers when we see such blatant violations of integrity in the body. Using someone else for your own selfish gain? This should not be so. We are called to more than this. I expect more than this. God is not fooled.

I woke up this morning with the picture of Jesus in the temple turning tables in his anger. The Priests had taken what was holy and turned it into profit. Jesus said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13).

We have created this “Christian Celebrity” culture that is nothing more than idolatry. We have made ministries, speakers, writers and teachers idols “in the name of Jesus.” In the publishing realm, we are told, “you need to make a name for yourself. Create a platform of recognition, so that we can guarantee sales.” Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are used regularly to create followers, to add to credibility. An amazing tool when used with the right motives. But many times I fear we are doing nothing more than creating a modern day Tower of Babel. We use social media to build up our own names so that we can “further the name of Jesus.” That, in and of itself, is hypocrisy. He doesn’t need any name to make His Name known to the ends of the earth.

So, how does Jesus see these issues of integrity when ideas are stolen and repackaged in His Name? As the question consumes me, this is how Jesus responded to the same kind of breakdown in integrity.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:25-28).

Often the lines get blurred, things become confused, less clear, and vision becomes obscured. Things may outwardly “appear” righteous and for the purpose of ministry, yet be concealing inward greed, hypocrisy and lawlessness. Let’s hold one another to a higher standard. We have been entrusted with a great mission, to make the Name of Christ known in the entire world. It will only happen as the Spirit of Christ fills us with his love and attributes and pours out of us to a lost and hurting world. Let’s hold our Lord in the highest regard and walk in integrity in all that we do.

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For months, I was seeking the Lord, spending time with Him, praying, doing everything I knew to do only to find myself continually hitting a roadblock.   I felt like in every attempt to connect with Him, I was hitting a concrete wall.  I tried everything I knew.  I couldn’t figure out what was blocking me.  Where did He go?  Why could I not get through?  As much as I tried, I couldn’t get over it; I couldn’t go around it; I couldn’t crawl under it.  It was just there, blocking my way!

Finally on a Thursday morning in June (last year), I had a breakthrough.  I broke through the roadblock!  I hit a place that I was at the end of my rope.  I told God, “that’s it, whatever it takes, I surrender!  I need you more than anything in my life.  The one thing I desire above all things is to enjoy sweet fellowship with you.  Above everything, I want your presence in my life.”  I sat in my quiet time crying my eyes out.  I truly hit a place of willing surrender that required laying down more than I ever have had to let go before.   I was so desperate that I was willing to do whatever He asked.  I was willing to let go of everything I was holding onto if it was what was blocking me from Him.

I still couldn’t quite put my finger on what was actually the “roadblock,” I just knew that I was ready to see it and move it out of the way!  I had been sitting in Isaiah 40 for several weeks, but that morning as I read it, God opened my eyes to something I had not seen.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
 and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:1-5)

Over the prior weeks I had been praying for God to make a way in my wilderness.  Asking Him to meet me in my desert place and make a highway for Himself.  I had been desperately asking Him to raise up the low places and make the mountains and hills in my life low, that I would walk on even ground.  I had been begging for him to prepare the way, that I might enter His presence.  That His Glory would be revealed.  This particular morning however, the Lord spoke to me, “Comfort, comfort my daughter.  Speak tenderly to her, that her warfare is ended and her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all of her sin.”   I looked at my study notes on verses 1-2 and read this, “Though their unbelief has brought them low, God still identifies with his people.  Speak tenderly….God aims to win their hearts back to Jerusalem- In Babylonian exile, they are far from Jerusalem, but God dignifies them with their true identity and assures them that he understands their sufferings.”

At that moment, I broke.  I saw right then that my roadblock was unbelief.  I believed God for other people.  I believed Him in certain areas of my life, but I had one big area that was gripped in unbelief.   I sat and wept.  I put on my i-pod and went for a long walk.  I walked for a better part of 2 hours, just me and the Lord.  It was a time of broken repentance.  I wept and cried out before him, confessing my unbelief.  That moment, I surrendered before Him those things that I was trying to do on my own.  I asked him to remove the roadblock of unbelief, completely confessing it before him.  Though my unbelief had brought me to a very low place, I felt his comfort and compassion.  He spoke tenderly to me and he pardoned my iniquity.  He ushered me into His presence, like water in the desert.  There is nothing that satisfies the dryness of my soul or the aching of my heart, but the abundant love of my Savior.  I am so grateful that He loves me in the midst of my sin, even when I can’t see it.  That he is persistent in drawing me to Him.   There is nothing in this life that compares to knowing Him and abiding in His presence.   That morning, I opened up my hands and surrendered everything to God.  I made the choice to trust Him and believe Him with everything.  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Faith requires that we believe Him in circumstances that we can’t always see Him at work.

Oh Lord, I will put my hope in you with full assurance.  I will trust you with what I cannot see.  I believe you.  Please help my unbelief.

Posted in confession, repentance, surrender, unbelief | Leave a comment