The Scapegoat’s “Whatever” Prayer

I had the honor and privilege of sitting down and talking with Crawford Loritts a week ago at a conference. I shared with him about my book and my struggle to stay married.

There were many things he shared with me but the one I want to pass on to you is this.

Your husband’s issue, is not really with you. It’s with God.

How often do I forget this when the enemy attacks? Whether it is an attack from an acquaintance or family member, or yes, even my spouse.

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Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

His issue isn’t really with me. He’s angry with God and I’m the convenient scapegoat for his anger.

Jesus was the scapegoat too.  In Hebrew theology, the scapegoat was heaped up with the sins of the people – and driven away from the camp. The goat never did anything to deserve the sins heaped up on it. The poor animal was a vehicle to absolve the people of their transgressions before God. Jesus was the same way. HE took on the sins of us all. Sins he never committed and was driven to death. (what do you think happened to that goat, all alone in the wilderness? Um, yeah, it was killed.)

Only the wild animals that killed Jesus, were us. You and me. We laid our sin on his shoulders and he willingly took it.

Now I’m not saying that my role in my marriage is to be the scapegoat for my husbands sins. What sins? Sins of failure to live up to what God calls him to do. Sins of unbelief in the God he may verbally profess to follow.

I may have a lot in common with a goat though. Let’s be honest here. They are mischievous little animals that will eat almost anything. They butt heads. Yeah. I’ve been there done that with my spouse. And they are cute. Can I claim that without being vain? I can get into trouble on my own and have been known to play pranks. My kids know me as being pretty goofy.  Part of this is just our human nature. I’m reminding myself (and you) that none of us are without sin.

But God does not say anywhere in the Old or New Testament that I am to be the scapegoat for my husband’s failures. Nope. Nada.

So this is what Crawford Loritts, wise man that he is, reminded me of.  Sometimes we need to get out of the way and let God deal with our spouse. We have to pray that dangerous “whatever” prayer. Do you know that one? It’s the one where we lay our husband before the holy, just, loving and faithful God of the universe and ask our Lord to do whatever it takes to bring our husband to Him.

That’s hard prayer to pray because as women we do have a sense of self-preservation. God’s dealing with our husband could jeopardize what tiny bit of security we may have in our marriage. Yeah, it’s false anyway, isn’t it? Our true security is only found in Christ.

The “whatever” prayer is a prayer of deep dependence and faith on God and no one else. Not even ourselves. But it removes us from the position of scapegoat which isn’t a fun spot to be in anyway. God doesn’t leave use to the dangers of the wild. He comes along side us in our trials and pain and is faithful and true. Even when we can’t see how He could possibly meet our needs, he does.

Have you prayed the “whatever” prayer and stepped out of God’s way? It can be a daily thing, but oh, so necessary.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Shoot the Wounded

It is so like us to think we know better than everyone else, isn’t it? After all we make our choices based on the best information we have and are convinced that what’s best for us is best for everyone.

The best car to drive, the best school for our kids to attend (or to home school), the best doctor and medical treatment to pursue, the best political party to vote for, whether or not to vaccinate your kids or not, or to stay married, separate or divorce.

Say what?

I listened to the hurting heart of a woman the other day who had divorced and she was upset because other would say things to her kids about the “why” of the divorce. A “why” that the gossipers didn’t even know. Saying she had an affair (not true). Her kids knew the truth but hearing others cast false aspersions on their mother without knowing the facts of the divorce, was painful for them and her.

Oh, and these were “Christians”.

She said “If someone wants to know why I divorced, they should just ask me, but no one does.”

I told her, “In my opinion, it’s none of my business. If you want to share it with me, great, but I don’t need to know what happened and I have no right to judge you because I didn’t walk in your shoes.”

Got that? I didn’t live in her house, in her marriage, and face the challenges she did. I am not the one responsible before God for her choices (or that of her spouse) either. She and her ex-husband are. I can pray for them in their hurt, that God can somehow be glorified in the midst of the pain and brokenness and maybe even bring about reconciliation if that’s his will. But I have no right to judge her or treat her with disrespect because of her divorced status.

If she had come to me before the breakup and we had talked I might have been able to encourage her to stay. I’m pro-marriage. But I’ve done that before with women and listened and prayed and still watched them walk away. I still don’t judge because I knew the depth of the pain and suffering they had endured. I also know that divorce brings its own ugly set of problems. It is not a path to be undertaken lightly.

The irony is how quickly some Christians will recommend divorce to people in difficult marriages (and look down on them for staying). So we tell people to divorce but then we condemn them when they do.  Bi-polar Christianity? Lord, please save us from well-intentioned Christians!

And gossip. Let’s not forget that ALL sin is detestable to God. ALL SIN. Gossip being one of them. And slander. Telling others that someone had an affair when you don’t know that for a fact – well it’s slander. Gossip is as much a sin in God’s eyes as divorce is.

If we are to be brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to have compassion. Yes, call out sin but do it to that person, one on one (Matthew 18 anyone?), you don’t blab it to all and sundry. Beyond that, pray for them. Support them as human beings who need to know and understand God’s love in the midst of their pain. Be Christ to them.

Now, if they are persisting in sin and are unrepentant about what’s happening, then don’t be a party to that. If you see someone hurting, be careful not to judge them. If you want to know the story, ask, but be prepared then to extend Christ’s love even if you don’t agree with their choices. If necessary speak the truth in love. In spite of what they may tell you, you still didn’t live in that house, in that marriage and I suspect much will be left unsaid.

What about you? Any thoughts on this? Have you felt the weight of condemnation from well intentioned “Christians?” I know I have.

Lilly Grace

Be Jesus to Me

Scripture tells me that God loves me. He died for me. He chose me before the beginning of time. Zephaniah 3:17 states he even delights in me.

I realized though that right now my relationship with God is a bit stale. I’ve been wounded to be sure and while those wounds were not from God they make me a bit hesitant to engage with Him. When words and actions of those who were supposed to love me have been anything but loving and kind, it’s hard to know that God is not like them.

I struggle. I know God is good. He has been very good to me. I know He loves me. He’s faithful. I struggle to grasp the depth of his delight in me. His unconditional regard and love for me even in my distance.

It’s not that I want to be distant. I don’t. Certain people who swore they loved God and said they loved me have proven to be false. It’s an unfortunate reality of life in a sinful world.  I’m amazed that God still speaks to me, uses me, works in and through me in spite of my perceived failure in drawing as close to Him as I feel I should be.

I know. I shouldn’t should myself. It’s a nasty habit.

I’m being honest. When day after day my husband abuses or ignores me, it feels like God is too. My husband is not God but in a biblical sense a husband is to be Jesus to his wife. He is to love her as Christ loved the church. That’s a tall order.

I long to be loved like that. I long to have a man love me as an extension, albeit flawed, of Jesus’ love for me. I long to be cherished as God cherishes me. I long to be sacrificed for, considered worthy of being protected and served.

Instead I get abuse and neglect. The wounds cut deep because the longing is huge.

Maybe someday God will send me a man who is worthy of that task who will be willing to bridge the hurt and help me to trust again. Maybe he won’t so I don’t make that man an idol. I long to be loved like that. I long to be led by that. I can barely fathom what it would be like to be in a relationship like that.

So maybe it’s unrealistic? I’m married to a man entrenched in his own self-importance and blames me for his own sins and failures. I become hopeless that he will ever change although  God is perfectly capable of doing it. However, if a man refuses to even admit his need for God and his need to change, God leaves him to his own devices. As a result I’m left with nothing but a shell of a marriage, in name only, and that hurts.

I wish I had an answer to my dilemma. I will continue to pray. I will be faithful to my vows and will not seek solace in another man’s arms. I will keep pursuing God with my wounded heart and pray He will continue to lovingly and gently woo me to himself in spite of the roadblocks humans have erected in my path.

God will hold those who hurt me accountable and I can take solace in that fact. The hurtful words and actions have consequences for me now but for them in eternity if they fail to bend their knee. Someday, my Prince will come and all will be made right because Jesus will be Jesus to me even if my husband refuses to.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Dirty Underwear?!

During my quiet time a few months back, I was reading through a chapter of an Old Testament book as well other portions of Scripture and found myself in Jeremiah which I hadn’t read in a long time. I found it interesting and encouraging. Especially when I got to Jeremiah 13. Then I laughed a bit before I sobered up and really dug into the truth of what God was saying to me.

Let me paraphrase some of what happens at the beginning of this chapter. God tells Jeremiah to go buy a linen loincloth (underwear), wear it and not get it wet. Then he had to take it off and bury it near a river.  Later, Jeremiah was instructed to go dig it up.

This is what Jeremiah wrote:  “Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.”  (Jer 13:7 ESV)

God then said to Jeremiah, “This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing.”  (Jer 13:10 ESV)

I was amazed at how creative our God is in describing sin. Any parent knows first-hand the joys of “dirty underwear” or diapers. And God describes sin with that imagery (timeless truth!). When God looks at those of us who refuse to listen and obey His word, worship other things with our time and money, well, our pride is like dirty underwear to God.

Sin is like dirty underwear. Ewwwww!

I don’t want to be like dirty underwear before the Most High God! I wouldn even want anyone to suspect I might have dirty underwear that’s hidden. But this underwear that God is talking about is soiled beyond belief. There is no hiding the sin in our hearts before Him. It stinks. It reeks. It’s a colorful and yet repulsive image. I don’t like the idea of myself in my sin being on par with that kind of image. I don’t want to wear dirty underwear – physically or spiritually!

How about you?

For personal hygiene, I change my underwear every day. How much more do I need to take off the soiled underwear of my heart (confession of my sin) and exchange it at the cross for a fresh heart, forgiven and ready to move forward into a day, clean and pure in Christ.

Yes, my heart (underwear) will get dirty again. Hence the importance of daily confessing my sin to God and repenting before Him. I’m not good at this and yet here is where there is freedom and power. Jesus does the laundry, I just need to drop it in His laundry basket.

So as I continue to challenge myself in changing my “underwear” I hope you will do the same. God is ready to cleanse and wash us free of our sins and give us a fresh start every day!

Blessings,
LGB

Rob Bell Takes on Hell

I normally wouldn’t weigh in on any debate about an author without having done him the curtsey of reading his book.   However, I viewed the trailer for Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived and found it, well, disturbing.

Bell is a master communicator. He sells a lot of books and has a wide following. When I teach theology, I tell my students (all adults) that they need to be more careful about the books they buy from Christian booksellers, because not all those books contain biblical truth. We need to be discerning in everything we read.  I will admit that I get tweaked when I hear statements designed to provoke and titillate and question basic tenants of the Christian faith, like Mr. Bell does.

In the promo piece, Bell states that “Jesus rescues you from God [who would send us to hell].” Whoa. Did you really mean that, Rob? I mean, Jesus and God the Father are ONE with the Holy Spirit. Is Rob saying that Jesus saves us from himself? This seems to be just off enough to cause some serious concerns about his theology.  Granted, I have not read the book and I’m going off a trailer. But like I said – Rob Bell doesn’t make statements like this without meaning them.

There has been a lot of death and destruction in our world in recent weeks. Yes, it has gone on since Adam and Eve first sinned. . . but lately it seems worse. Hell is a timely issue, and an important one to pursue. But to indicate that no one is going to hell as Bell does in his promotion of the book, raises red flags. Rob is right though, “what we believe about heaven and hell is vitally important.”

I like what Chip Ingram states about the issue of hell.  In his book “God: As He Longs for You to See Him,” Mr. Ingram writes:

“It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27 NASB). Death and hell may be unpleasant subjects, but that shouldn’t stop us from talking about them. They are unavoidable. In fact, death and hell are not even negative subjects when properly understood. Hell is the clearest evidence that God is serious about preserving the dignity and freedom of humanity. Because he respects our will, he has reserved a place for all who say, “I am the captain of my own ship, I will live my own life, and no one can tell me what to do.” We can’t love someone unless we choose to accept him or reject him. God treats us as free moral agents and  will honor our rejection of him for all eternity. C. S. Lewis was right when he described only two basic views of life—those who say to God, “My will be done!” and those who say to God “Thy will be done!” One of those statements represents your life. Hell preserves the dignity and the freedom of people who stiff-arm God. God’s justice says, “I’ll create a place of retribution so anyone who wishes to stay away from me can do so.” Hell is serious, and it’s as real as heaven.

Those who end up in hell know the answer to the question that’s often asked: “How could a good God send anyone to hell?” A good God doesn’t send anybody to hell. A good God sent his Son so that no one would have to go to hell. Anyone who goes to hell has said, “God, I don’t want your will or your Son. I want my will.” God honors that heartfelt desire. Those in hell have chosen to be there.” 1

Did Jesus save us from God? Not really. Jesus saves us from the wrath of God that we deserve because of our sin. Jesus died to save us from ourselves!

Will you go to hell? That ultimately is a choice you make. It’s between you and God. There are many people who claim to be “Christians” but continue to live by their own will and not God’s. It’s not my place to determine if they are going to hell or not. God knows and will make that determination Himself.

I need to know that God is not only a good and loving God, (He is!) but also that He is holy and just and that He will take care of my enemies. I’m not praying for destruction of those who hurt me. God can show mercy and grace (He has to me), but for those who are unrepentant, who sin and hurt others, I want to know that God will take care of judging them rightly. Goodness weigh with justice. Love protects His own children. If there is no accountability or consequences for our sin, then what good is the Gospel? Why would Jesus need to die such a horrific death if that was not what WE first deserved for our own sins. THAT is the good news.

In the meantime, you have a choice to make. “My will” or “Thy will.”  Serve yourself, or submit your entire life to Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord of Creation who says He is THE way, THE truth and THE life – the ONLY way to get to heaven. 

Blessings,

LGB

1 Chip Ingram,  God as He Longs for You to See Him. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books 2004) pp 164-165.

For a good analysis from someone who has actually read Rob Bell’s book, I encourage you to check out this review by Tim Challis.

Toxic

I was told a few years back, by a very well meaning Christian psychotherapist, that I should leave my husband because the environment was “toxic.”

I didn’t leave my husband but I did stop seeing that man. It’s not always wise to seek divorce as your first “go to” option.

I was thinking about this lately as it seems that there keeps coming up in the news things that have ‘unacceptable” levels of toxicity. Like baby food. Or lead in toys. Nothing in this world is pure as much as we would love to have it be so.

In essence, everything is toxic, simply because of sin.  I’m toxic.  I sin.

Our home has mold which makes me sick. It’s toxic. However we don’t have the money to move right now (short of burning it down there’s not much you can do about the mold inside the walls).  We did bring in an air filter which has significantly helped with my health issues that the mold was causing. Is the house still toxic? Yes, but we have minimized the effects.

Our food is toxic, and we’ve tried to go to more organic stuff, but again finances have made that difficult.  We can however avoid things that are more ‘top of the list” as we understand them: aspartame is particularly nasty and I had to do a detox for that as it was hobbling my memory. For different people, there are different things.

So my husband’ behavior and attitudes are toxic. The same can at times be said of my special needs son.  I can’t avoid them and short of putting duct tape over their mouths (probably some legal issues with that), there isn’t always much I can do to avoid being contaminated. But maybe that is not totally true.  I can immerse myself in God’s word.  He says He will be a shield:

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psa 18:2  HCSB)

I think that there are always levels of ‘toxicity’ we will face in this sinful world. Whether it is in food, mold, or maybe even the words or actions of others around us that are not easily avoided.  Only you can truly know what pushes that toxicity to a deadly level for you. However, in the meantime, take the antidote, the detox, the preventative; immerse yourself in God’s truth and in His church. And trust God to be your shield.

Blessings to you,

LGB