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The Louder Things

redtide

We were at a backyard party.  Daddy was playing in the band.  The host had roasted a pig.  It was the highlight of my five year-old summer.  Maybe I was six.  I don’t know exactly.  But I do know what color mom’s shorts were.  I remember her face as she began to cry in front of the whole company of party-goers.  I remember her awkwardly sitting in a chair outside as she sobbed asking no one in particular, “Why is this happening again?”  I remember the ladies gathering ’round to comfort her and taking her inside.  I remember not being allowed to follow.

 I was playing outside with my brother when Daddy told us he had to take Mommy to the hospital.  No one told us why.  Maybe it was the bits of conversation we overheard.  Maybe it was the cloud of disappointment in the air.  Those were the louder things one hears even when no one is talking.  Somehow we just knew.

This was not Mommy’s first miscarriage.  It was her third. The first two happened before I was born, and, even though it was never openly discussed, I still heard of them.

My mother had five pregnancies and only two children to show.  Like a darkness hanging over my womb, I always wondered if I would experience the same.  From the moment I became pregnant the very first time until the baby arrived I worried and wondered if I, too, would lose my baby before I saw her.

God did something else, though.  God gave me a beautiful, healthy baby with no complications.  And then another.  And another.  And another.  Four beautiful, healthy babies.  The thoughts and angst associated with mom’s history was almost nonexistent in my mind.  Nary a worry of what could go wrong or the chance that it would ever even crossed my mind until I saw my first sonogram with baby number five.

The doctor asked how far along I was and with shape to prove it I proudly replied, “Eleven weeks.”  Thirty seconds later an eleven week baby did not pop up on the monitor like the previous four times I had done this, though.  He told me he did not see a baby at all.  He called out the door in decibels that, at that moment, sounded louder than the voice of God to cancel my blood work.  He explained the probability that I had miscarried and sent me for another ultrasound.

I filled the next two hours with busyness.  When I saw my womb on screen for the second time that day, a very positive, childless technician assured me that everything was indeed present, that it all looked fine, and suggested that I had probably just miscalculated my dates.  She said I had a normal six week old fetus.

As much as I struggled to believe her and somehow rearrange what I knew to be the truth, I knew. I knew six weeks was not reasonably possible.  I knew she was wrong.  I knew something was wrong and I knew it was not my dates.  Still, reasoning that God can make the dead alive, I prayed that he would do just that.  I prayed and was prayed for over the week I waited for the next ultrasound.

I arrived expecting the worst and hoping for a miracle.  I watched each measurement with acute intensity.  “Is that the baby?” asked my husband.  I knew it was.  But, silence.  No reply at all from the technician.  I knew it was the baby, I knew there was no heartbeat, and I knew she was neither permitted nor comfortable saying it definitively without consulting the doctor.  But I knew.  She knew.  We all knew.  The silence told the tale without a word.

People tell you a lot of things when they want to help.  Their words are kind and encouraging, generally, but there are other things heard that speak much louder.

The doctor’s voice cancelling my preliminary blood work was louder.  The failure of my husband to continue announcing my obvious pregnancy to people we saw in public was louder.  The cessation of conversations about baby names and future family scenarios was louder.  The silence of the second technician was louder.  The spontaneous dialogue about what will happen if we lose the baby spurred by the passing of a large hospital was louder.  The voice of my gleeful seven year-old skipping down the fishing pier the day after I miscarried saying, “Look!  It’s just the five of us!” because she did not know and was counting the baby was louder.  The confusion of my nine year-old as she picked up the brand new addition to our window cling stick figure family that I bought the week before and never placed was louder.  The feeling that I shouldn’t leave the beach and go back home because I left my youngest baby there alone was louder.

The louder things lie waiting, revealing the truth.  They are the sounds that one hears somewhere between grief and grey matter; between fall out and faith; between denial and acceptance.

Maybe that’s why most who miscarry do not speak much about it.  Maybe they don’t have to.  The louder things speak for themselves.

He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” ~2 Samuel 12:22-23

jersey

Football.  Freedom.  A fan base who fiercely worship both.

These are the gods of our fathers, friends.  But what happens when the gods war?  What happens when what we have made into our masters find themselves fighting against one another?

This is the real issue behind the issue of Colin Kaepernick’s publicity.  I am not here to talk about my personal opinions on his actions or the reasons behind them.  That’s not my arena.  I am here to talk about ours – we Americans who always worship and hate the wrong things and fail to realize who the true God really is.

For that, we must go back.  Think Salem witch hunts; the Spanish Inquisition; the Crusades; Constantine.  These events all have a common thread.  The theme here is misguided zeal on the part of those who would see the masses convert and conform to their ideas and standards of right, wrong, and religion.  Anyone remember what the mob mentality does to those opposed?  Death by decision.  Each of these groups made the mistake of worshiping their own agendas in place of worshiping the One and Only True God.  Not only that, they did so at the expense of those who would not conform to those agendas.  It makes absolutely no difference whether the ideas they were married to and promoting were inherently right or wrong.  The fact that they insisted upon the whole of the world following lest they be publicly humiliated, severely punished, and/or purposefully put to death through intimidation, fear mongering, and forced assimilation of all bystanders by the worshipers of these gods of their own making.

That brings us even farther back.  There was a time when a man came and taught us what to do in this very situation.  His name was Jesus and I happen to believe he knew what he was talking about.

In John chapter 8, Jesus is speaking to his very own people – the Jews.  He is trying to tell them how to be set free.  Surprisingly, it is not through control, forced obedience, mob mentality, public shaming of dissenters, or pointing at their ancestry.  Funny, those are all the things the Jews sought to do when he suggested that they were not yet free, but slaves.  Those are the things they had been doing since Jesus showed up due to their own fear of losing position, power, and authority over other people.  Those are the things we are doing when our false gods fail to deliver and begin to war against one another.  Case in point – Colin’s public statement.

Fortunately, Jesus had the answer for this deeply troubling, spiritual problem.  His advice when we find ourselves enslaved by sin – NOT social injustice or unpatriotic demigods – but SIN was this:

“…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus goes on to correct them.  He tells them who they really are -Satan’s children – not God’s – and he tells them who he really is – God come down from heaven.  He shows them how severe those realities truly are in comparison to the petty nonsense they are fighting over.  Jesus desperately wants them to wake up, repent, and begin valuing the things that God values in place of their own selfish agendas.

Unfortunately the Jews did not listen.  Instead, they accuse Jesus of being demonic and continue to hate him with all their hearts.  They keep right on claiming their elite status, their right to rule, and their arrogant authority over, yes, even God himself as he stands before their very eyes in the flesh.

Fellow Americans, what will you do when the football gods fail to deliver the control you seek?  What will you do when they disagree with your doctrine?  When they stop agreeing with your ideas, your agendas, and the false gods of your fathers?  Do you think perhaps God could use a man-made god to send men in need a startling message?  I don’t know for sure but I do know what to do when true freedom is our end goal.  It is this:

“…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

A Heart’s Desires

heart

It’s that time of year again.  The time to go through clothes and get rid of what doesn’t fit or won’t work for the next season.  It’s time to pack up hand-me-downs to save and pass on the rest to a new home.

I find myself wanting.

 Next season.  Why do those words carry with them so much angst?  I am not worried.  I am wanting.  Me.  One of the sheep who “shall not want” stands, for maybe just a moment, discontent in the eye of a clothing tsunami.

First of all, who needs all this stuff anyway?  And why does none of it fit?  Or match?  Or look anywhere close to decent with my newfound shape?

Ah…the baby bump.  The baby bump is back.  Herein lies the root of all my mumbles and grumbles.  So soon?  Already, Lord?  I feel unprepared, unsuspecting, unfit.  But deep down I know that none of those things are true.  The truth is that I am simply, slightly, unwilling.  This is not part of my plan for this year I fear.

So here I stand sulking in unapproved, unnecessary, unreasonable want.

There are wants and there are needs.  There are desires and there are dreams.  Some race to the foot of the cross on the coat tails of a false gospel – a gospel that promises all one could ever want on his or her own terms.  Some run as far away from the foot of the cross as possible because they know that the opposite is true.  Some try to reconcile their selfish desires with the gospel, squeezing them to make them fit, and pretending God thought of them.  Still others compartmentalize by separating their faith from the rest of their lives.  But what exactly does the Bible mean when it promises our hearts’ desires?  Surely none of these things mentioned are appropriate.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. ~Psalm 37:4

 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ~Matthew 6:33

I’m not sure how these truths have played out in your struggle against selfish plans vs. God’s plans in your life, but I can tell you a little ditty on my own dreams.

I want to be fit.  I want to feel well.  I want a clean house, obedient children, a listening husband, and an encouraging church.  I want time.  I want to write books and climb mountains and run miles and disciple women and teach my children without interruption.

Interruption.  What a sneaky word.  Interruptions are life.  Life without interruption is lifeless; stale; stagnant; boring; bland.  Interruptions are life’s little speed bumps.  They protect us from pride.  They are there to make us humble, to slow us down, to teach us how to wait.

How can one so blessed mumble and grumble when her shirts stop fitting?  Too much interruption for a perpetual speeder, I suppose.  Too much time spent dwelling on what does not fit and not enough on what is most fitting for my life.

Enter: God.  He interrupts me.  He interrupts my sullen sulking with a test.  I suppose it is an emergency broadcast of sorts.  What is going to matter when the storm comes?  Will it be how many shirts fit or how many souls I’ve helped become fit?

Delight yourself in ME.  Seek ME.  Place your peace, your desires, your dreams, your whole life in ME.

The things I think I want become so dull in light of His grace.  I recall my desires and I realize the magnificent ways in which he has given them all to me despite myself and my selfishness.

I have a house to clean and the ability to clean it.  I have children to teach and the knowledge to teach them.  I have a husband who listens a lot more patiently than he did 16 years ago.  I have a church that loves the Lord and loves me.  I can still run, bike, swim, and lift even though I’m pregnant.  I feel better than I ever have in my first trimester. I have more time that most home school moms with four children because I have my mom to help me.

How can I allow a few pieces of ill-fitting clothing to steal my joy?  I cannot.  I will not.  The Lord is my shepherd.  He has reminded me once again that I shall not want.

fear

How could David decide and declare in his darkest days that he would fear no evil?  Surely his valleys were just as deep or even much deeper than our own.  Surely the valley of the shadow of death that he referred to was a terrifying place.  Surely David “felt” afraid when he fought the giant; when his life was so repeatedly threatened by those much stronger than he; when he sinned so grievously; when his darling child died.  Surely David has much to be fearful and worried over.  Yet, David says, “I will fear no evil.

Feeling fear is not wrong.  Letting fear dictate our actions, reactions, and lack of action is what is wrong.  The difference is where David felt afraid, he simultaneously turned his eyes to God, trusted in Him fully, and submitted his own will to faith rather than giving in to his feelings.  In the midst of great fear, discouragement, suffering, and even personal failure, David refused to be led by anything other than the goodness of his great and all-powerful God.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

I will not.

I shall not.

I must not.

I need not.

I ought not.

I should not.

I have not.

These, too, are often just what I do.

Still, God does something different.  He leads me somewhere different.

 He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness…

He cares for me in every way I could possibly need or imagine.  His leading brings me to a place far too few ever find – peace.  When I am faithful to follow his lead, I find myself in abundance, stillness, restoration, and righteousness.  When I choose to put away want and look to Him, I find His peace; the peace that passes all understanding; the peace David was speaking of.

Nothing can take that kind of peace.  I fear nothing when I know that I know that He is with me, fighting for me.  I am comforted in Him despite any and all evil that might surround.  Fear is swallowed up by courage and confidence and it is all done for his name’s sake.  It is not just for me, it is for him, too.  Therefore, I am all the more sure He will bring it to perfect completion.

I know my future.  He awaits me in glory.  Therefore, I know my that neither my past nor the present can cause any want or fear to overcome me.  I know that goodness and mercy are what He intends for each and every day of my life, regardless of what valleys it may bring before me.

Therefore, I shall not want.  

Therefore, I will not fear.

Therefore, I am safe.

I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

“Put fear behind you out of sight and mind, rebuke it as you do other sins –  it is one of the worst of them.  ‘The enemy’ may be a human foe, a bad habit, a false belief, or any peace destroyer.” ~Nora Holm, “The Runner’s Bible”

courage

Sunday school commences and my big kid husband reads the parable of the talents.  Between giggles and coos my thoughts on God suddenly become impeccably clear.

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ~ Matthew 25:24-30

The servant was “afraid.”

As the story was read, the main idea became crystal clear to me.  Fear is not and will not be an acceptable excuse to not invest in the things God has placed in our hands.  Fear does not justify us in sins of omission.

The servant who justified himself by claiming fear was judged wicked and lazy by his master.  R.C. Sproul notes that,  “The third servant was unwilling to do the work of investing the talent for the benefit of another.”

What, then, does that mean for those of us who struggle to use our hands, feet, voices, and abilities for God due to fear, worry, and anxiety?  What does the Bible teach us and how we are to overcome?

It means we must overcome fear.  The Bible teaches us that there is no fear in love.  When we love our Master, we do His will by investing ourselves and our gifts in His priorities – namely His people. We are to do this despite our fears. We are to do this despite our failure.  We are to do it despite our weaknesses, weariness, and worries.  When we love our Master, we do His will by investing ourselves and the gifts he has given to us against all odds.  Christians are called to be courageous.  Cowards, on the other hand, are listed among those who take their places in the second death.

When one fears God or men in an unhealthy way rather than loving Him and them truly, he will fail to serve either rightly.  That one will continually justify and excuse himself on the basis of fear.  Likewise, if we use fear as the reason for our lack of investment in God’s gifts and His people, we will be sorely judged on the basis of disobedience and unfaithfulness in what we were given.

We must overcome fear because we know that while it may indeed be a reason for our stagnancy, it is not and never will be a reasonable excuse for it.  The question we must cease asking immediately is then, “How can I justify my lack of investment?”  We must change our focus from the problem (fear) to the solution (Christ) and begin to ask rather, “How can I overcome my fear through Christ and begin to invest earnestly?”

The answer is found in believing and applying the promises of God and dismissing the reasons and justifications of the world’s wisdom.  Because courage is required of Christians on a daily basis, we must understand what courage looks like and how it feels.  Courage is not the lack of fear or anxiety.  Courage is being afraid and anxious but trusting more in God to do whatever He is instructing me anyway.  God did not place gifts, abilities, opportunities, and, most importantly, people, in our laps for us to hide from and avoid.

Fear is unbelief and distrust of the Master.  Though we may experience fear frequently, He has been faithful to give us the resolution to it.  Consider His many promises and be free from fear:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4

For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:3

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~2 Timothy 1:7

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid? ~Psalm 27:1

 So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” ~Hebrews 13:6

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~John 14:27

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. ~1 John 4:18

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,“Abba! Father!” ~Romans 8:15

When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can flesh do to me? ~Psalm 56:3-4

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident. ~Psalm 27:3

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. ~Matthew 10:29-31

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”~ Joshua 1:9

There are many more examples of our Master giving us hope and courage to overcome fear in the Bible, but I am going to be focusing on each of these particular scriptures  individually  in context over the next few weeks to explore exactly what kind of assurance He has given us despite our fear in this world, what kind of faith He is calling us to live out, and what courage in the face of fear really looks like practically.

hide

It seems that a lot of schooling has been going on lately in a mass effort to indoctrinate us all on introverts – who they are, how they love, what they like, how not to hurt them, and what color t-shirt one should wear each day of the week to appease their code of standard if you ever want to be allowed into their world.

I am no expert on personality.  I am certainly not a psychiatrist or a sociologist.  But I am a person.  I am a person who is at least 50% introvert.  I am a person who knows what the Bible teaches, and because of that, I do know something of how this whole human behavior thing is supposed to play out if we are all seeking to obey the same God, that is.

I would be considered an extrovert by most.  The truth is that I am extremely extroverted and I am extremely introverted depending on my day, my mood, my surroundings, and the cosmic alignment of stars in a galaxy we cannot see.

I do not understand all the reasons for what places or persons trigger which personality traits, but I do know that when I was a little girl I was both the one hiding behind mom’s skirt and the one tirelessly raising my hand to be noticed by the teacher in school.  I do know that when my husband and I talked about getting stick figure tattoos of one another I thought he would get me as a girl lumberjack cutting down trees and he told me he would get me reading a book with my hair pulled back.  I see myself loud, he sees me quiet.  We, together, know my personality best.  Perhaps it indicates the plain truth that I prefer to see myself loud and he prefers to see me quiet.  No surprises there.  I say all that to say I believe I am quite equally extroverted and introverted.

Now, let me tell you what happens to a girl like me when I am around other extroverted people.

If I feel comfortable and accepted, I pick up the banjo I cannot play and join right in there.  If I feel uncomfortable and out of place, I become the quietest wallflower you have ever seen hoping someone calls me so I don’t have to find a cookbook to pretend I am reading.

My biggest problems in relationship have not come at the table of other extroverts, though.  They have come at the table of other introverts.

When two people both feel equally uncomfortable with one another – whether it is because one personality is too strong and the other too timid or because both are too timid, both begin to feel some kind of way about the other.  Not because they have been sinned against per se, but because by nature an introverted person does not let others know him or her in a real way.  Not much good ever comes out of not knowing someone whom God has placed in your backyard.

These are the neighbors living next door to each other for 20 years but who have never had dinner together.  They are the colleagues working together daily for 10 years who still do not know each other’s personal lives and loves.  And, yes, these are the members in your church who assume and presume upon each other without ever allowing real relationship because somewhere along the line they have deemed one another unsafe or impossible.

Pride is an ugly thing.  Pride says that my personality is principle and yours needs to change.  Pride says that my perceived pain is caused by your personality.  Pride says that perfection is paramount if you are unlike me in personality because my comfort and security come from control and calm rather than Christ alone.

People say I am intimidating.  They say it is because I am too blunt, too opinionated, too educated, too put together, and too pretty.  I do not know that any of those things are very true of me, but I have been told them on numerous occasions by numerous people.  So, while it may indeed be uncomfortable and unfamiliar for an intimidated introvert to be around me when I am looking particularly extroverted, I do not believe that alone indicts me as the sinner and they the victim of my insensitivity.  Likewise, try as my flesh may, I have no license to indict those ones as the sinner and take on a victim mentality over things that make you, you.

Hear this: I can no longer apologize for who I am as a person simply because other people do not like their coffee strong.  And you should not have to apologize for feeling uncomfortable about it.  We must stop calling differences sin.  I cannot repent of being me and you cannot repent of being you.  But there are things we can do.  There are things we must do if we are going to grow, mature, for goodness sake, even survive together.

I can study others – if and when they let me – and I can do all I can to meet their needs in Christ – if and when they tell me what those needs are and how I am making them feel.  You can do the same.  But unless and until that happens I do not believe we extroverted introverts deserve to be charged, judged, convicted, and shunned indefinitely on the basis of your misplaced fear or discomfort.  The same goes for you in regards to me.  That way, you don’t get to blame and exclude me because I am me and I don’t get to blame and exclude you because you are you.  God forbid!  The more we feel distance and tension, the more we should feel the Holy Spirit convicting us to seek peace and pursue unity, relationship, and active reconciliation.

Furthermore, I can no longer concede to the accusations that extroverts and those who speak their mind are the only ones dealing out hurt.  Extroverts may unintentionally hurt introverts by saying too much, but the truth that does not get told nearly as often is the one where introverts’ lack of initiation, interaction, response, and reciprocation, albeit also unintentional,  is also severely injurious to others.

Where the former makes others feel fearful and uncomfortable, the latter makes others feel unnecessary, uninvited, unwelcome, and burdensome.  It is true enough that speech may injure when done in ignorance of others’ needs.  So also true it is that silence injures when done in ignorance of others’ needs.  Wrong speech silences.  Silence silences.  Both make God’s people feel discouraged, hurt, insecure, and hopeless.

To that end I say, let me love you like Lori loves and I promise you that I will let you love me like you love.  Let me pray with you and I will resolve to let you pray for me if you’ll just let me know you did.  Talk to me and I will try not to talk to you too much.  Let’s look around and discern one another’s needs and stretch ourselves outside of our preferences and personalities in order to meet them.

This is more than a personality conflict.  Psychology always gives men justification for sin.  This is a bona fide war between God and the Devil and the church is the battleground.  We must fight the good fight together lest we all fall apart on the basis of preference, comfort, complacency, and individualism.

 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. ~Galatians 5:13-15

confess

“Is anyone among you suffering?”

Can any one of us answer this question with anything other than an absolutely overwhelming, “YES!?”  We all personally know many, many people who are suffering every single day.  In chapter 5, James tells us that their comfort is found in prayer.  He gives only one instruction for those suffering: pray.

“Is anyone cheerful?”

What do we do when we experience joy?  James tells us to sing praise to God.  I recently had a miraculous experience wherein joy was poured out upon me.  When we are happy, it is hard to contain.  Should we?  James says no.

“Is anyone sick?” 

There is a prescription for sickness, too.  Those who battle illness are instructed to call for the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.

Do we, the church, go directly to these commands when suffering, or cheerful, or sick?  Do we do these things?  Are these our first lines of defense and reaction?  Do we believe this?  Do we do them?

Because our churches are chock full of sufferers and sickness.  And last time I felt extraordinarily cheerful, I actually felt out of place and insensitive for just being so – even without saying so – among all the downcast hearts.

Why are these things rarely happening on any given Sunday in the church today?  We know we have suffering, cheer, and sickness.  There can be no doubt about that.  But where is prayer?  Where is non-rehearsed, naturally overflowing, honest praise?  Where is leader-led laying on of hands and anointing with oil prayer?

James goes on.  He gives us the means to this end.  Maybe the means are what is truly missing.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Aha.  Confession.  Confession – specifically in community – is the means to these ends.  Confession in community is the remedy for suffering.  Confessing that one is suffering is the first line of defense against that suffering.  When we hide our suffering from one another – whether it is not our fault, sin-related, or otherwise – we fail to ask for and receive prayer.  We often fail to pray because of doubt and discouragement.  We miss healing and wholeness because of the fear of man and pride.  Those who suffer are commanded to confess those things and to pray and be prayed for.  The same instructions pertain to those who are sick.

The cheerful have other confessions to make.  The cheerful are commanded to sing praise.  When God blesses us with good times, we are called to give him glory.  We are instructed to sing praise.  Our good is not just for our benefit.  Our good is meant to give to those around us.  We give him glory by confessing his goodness in community.

So why does the church struggle so with transparent community if that is exactly what we are commanded to do?  Community that laughs together, cries together, confesses together, and learns together?  To know and be known?  To share and to care?  To give and to receive?

I am sure there a too many reasons to count, but I have considered a few.

1. Misplaced Fear

Many in the church fear men over God.  We often fear what someone may think or say of us when and if we are honest about our sin, our doubts, our joy, or our disbelief.  There is a severe lack of willingness to be known within the church for this reason.  Still, failure to confess does not only make us superficial and fake, it proves us painfully dishonest.

2. Pride

Confessing our struggles, our sins, our sickness, and even our joy can become a matter of personal pride and preference.  There is an attitude going on in our world and our church today that says, “I am above others and I will never let them see my imperfections.  I will listen to theirs and judge them but I will never reveal mine.  I cannot look less than because I value my reputation more than God’s Word.  I want respected.”  This kind of prideful pretending is a lie straight from the pit of hell.  God is probably up there saying, “Please, get over yourself and listen to me.”

3. Ignorance

There are those who see everyone’s sin except their own.  They are completely ignorant of their own offenses and even when enlightened by well-meaning brothers and sisters, they refuse to acknowledge the truth that would set them free.  These are the religious – perhaps the most difficult group to preach the gospel to.

4. Love of sin

No one likes to suffer or remain sick but many love the sin that holds them in those bondages.  Everyone wants help as long as they do not have to change.  The church must not enable this kind of attitude by failing to call people to repentance and confession.  We cannot pretend there is no problem when it is clear that rebuke is in order.

These are just a few examples that I believe shed light upon why our churches are full of people who are suffering, sick, and fail to honestly confess to and pray with one another. Brian T. Anderson puts it this way in his book, Six Habits of Highly Effective Christians:

Many of the healing miracles Jesus performed involved physical healings.  But Jesus also healed broken hearts, broken relationships, broken dreams, and broken identities.  These are just some types of healing we can experience when we confess our sins to each others and pray for each other. 

Community is one place where is is fully safe for us to take off our masks and know the healing power of being known and loved.  Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were naked and not ashamed.  The idea behind this is there were no secrets.  They were fully known and loved.  Everything about them was revealed.

What happens in many churches is that people attend every week, but no one knows them, and they are dying inside.  Nobody knows their fears, their dreams, or their problems. That’s not Jesus’ plan for his community.  The only way to receive healing is to make the choice to begin living in community with other people.” 

Amen.  Amen, amen, amen, amen.  It does not get any truer than that.  If we want to be healed and set free, we must be honest.  We must confess to one another.  We must work to know Him and one another and be known by Him and by one another.

Satan loves pretense.  He loves to masquerade.  Stop acting like him, church.  You belong to Christ.