Archive for April, 2009

Jesus never did in 33 years what I do every day

“Sanctification is the art of getting used to your justification.” (Gerhard Forde)

The flesh is most evident not in what we do but in how we relate.

Satan’s masterpiece is not the skid row drunk but the self-righteous elder.

We need to reframe people’s problems – take them out of the context in which they’re presented and put them into a gospel story far greater.  Someone presents with an eating disorder – that’s not the problem.  That’s the solution.  It’s the solution they’ve chosen to their fleshly struggles for fullness, impact, comfort, self-justification etc.

Lifting denial is key.  The only way our flesh dynamics can survive is through a denial of what’s going on at the deepest level of our being.

Two basic denials:

1) desire – we deny the deepest longings of our heart (see the nature of those longings under the ‘image of God’ stuff in previous post)

2) guilt – we deny the depths of our bloodguiltiness.

Lifting denial about desire makes me feel empty.  But that emptiness becomes an opportunity to thirst for Christ.

Lifting denial of guilt means refocusing on how I am the problem – not circumstances, not others, me.  But as I seek forgiveness in Christ I am filled with gratitude.

Thirst for Christ plus gratitude for His grace will bear much good fruit in our lives.

When true guilt is faced, brokenness and repentance follow.

When true desire is felt, abandonment, confidence and release follow.

Brokenness is not about how bad you hurt but how selfish you are in the midst of that hurt.

On the other hand, when denial remains intact we live according to ‘foolproof’ strategies to make life work.

We deaden pain, kill hope, withdraw, fake it, toughen up, shut down, blame others, etc, etc

We settle for ‘Goodenough Christianity’.

In counselling terms we aim low – healing memories, handling emotional pain, fixing presenting problems.

What we really need to do is aim for goals we have no power in ourselves to accomplish.  We do not aim for the re-arranging or socializing of the flesh.  We are aiming for a person to know Christ in the midst of their struggles and to bear fruit in ways impossible for the flesh to produce.  If we don’t aim for supernatural maturity we will fall into fear and pride and fall back on strategies and paradigms.

We need to be safe enough for people to get honest with us.  If this is the case, then what do I need to repent of:

Flippancy, judgementalism, reserve, guardedness, disinterest, fix-it mentality, know-it-all spirit, projected air of busyness…

We need to think biblically more than speak bible verses.  Though of course the two are not mutually exclusive!





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Some more thoughts from Crabb’s School of Spiritual Direction…

Image of God:

Crabb very strong on ‘male and female’ being integral to image.  The united plurality of humanity imaging the trinity.  But he first unpacks image according to four aspects:

Personal being – longing

Rational being – believing

Volitional being – choosing

Emotional being – feeling

But all four are deeply perverted.


[Must look this up] Female means to be ‘bored through’ in Hebrew.  To be opened. To receive.

The physicality of men and women reflects differences at a deeper level.  Think of the commonest sexual problems between men and women and you’ve already seen the commonest emotional problems.  A woman finds it difficult to open up. Difficult to warmly receive another and come fully to rest in that intimacy.  And yet to do so is to experience her femininity at full strength.  A man  finds it difficult to boldly move out in strength, to enter in and bless.  And/or he enters in with haste and for his own benefit – to serve himself and not others.  Yet when he moves out in strength and service he experiences his masculinity at full strength.

Submission is to fall in line with a larger story.

Submission is not give in to any demand. It’s not true submission to receive ungodly movements.

It invites and calls forth godly movements.

If you’re married to a real woman, you’ve got two choices- be a real man or kill yourself.

A real woman says ‘I’m Christ’s.  You can’t destroy me, you can only hurt me. I can rest.’

Prov 21:9 – contentious/quarrelsome spirit. Word for an ‘umpire’. They blow the whistle.

The temptation for a woman is to constantly play the umpire/referee/judge.  To stop play and cry foul.  And no player is grateful for that.  To give in to a contentious spirit is not to honour a woman – it is to bend to an ungodly power play.  (Keep the play going and involve her in the game, not as umpire, but as player!)

Prov 21:19- contentious and vexing = ‘I’m going to change you and if not I’m going to make you pay.’

Cold, stand-offish, quarrelsome is the very opposite of femininity yet the natural perversion.

True femininity is to reveal the invitational nature of God.

Core terror for women – invisibility.

What grows out of that is a clenched fist.  “I will not feel that terror.”

A deeply feminine woman is so at rest in God’s delight at her undamageable beauty (no matter how many times she’s been abused etc…) that she invites others to enjoy the beauty of God by relating invitationally not controllingly; openly not guardedly; courageously not defensively, with one purpose in mind – to encourage another to be consumed by God’s beauty.

Masculinity – movement.

There’s not a man alive who’s not afraid of women – his wife in particular.

Word for male in Hebrew same as for remember.  A man remembers and moves.   ‘Male’ was the person who reminded the king and moved the king’s agenda forwards. [Again, must look into this]

Man is to move without fear with one purpose – to awaken the appetite for God in another because He remembers the purposes of a loving God. He knows he has the weight to impact the lives of others for good.

– Ex 2:24 – The LORD remembered (literally: “male-d”) them.

Interesting aside:  In Exodus every time the people grumbled, He blessed them. In Numbers, every time the people grumbled, He judged them.  That’s what happens with maturity.  There’s often a honeymoon but after a while God brings consequences!

Adam transmitting LORD’s command to Eve was a masculine thing to do – remember and move.

Greatest fear of men is weightlessness. (The silence of Adam!).

[Larry said] “I think I’m a far better teacher than husband. I have a gift and I’m comfortable. That’s why a lot of Christians marry their ministries.”

So how are men supposed to move?

Men move more comfortably when there’s a code.

Men should have the courage to move when they don’t have a clue what to do. To enter into chaos and move purposefully. You move by faith even if you don’t feel your weight. Felt inadequacy is an opportunity to become more dependent.

Brokenness is realising something is desperately wrong and nothing will fix it without the omnipotent Spirit of God.

But I naturally move towards areas in which I feel more competent. Therefore I shrink my world and retreat from my calling.  I sit on the couch and shut off.  And of course my wife then blows the whistle even louder.  My natural cowardice calls forth her natural controlling.  It’s a vicious circle.  As head, the man must break this.  He is to move out in spite of the controlling pull (and even more so, in spite of his own natural cowardice) and lead.

When you don’t know what to do, do something.  Even if you make a mess, just get involved.

Four metaphors for sin in OT

Genesis 4: City builders.  Cain is cursed as a restless wanderer but he builds a city

(Lewis) God gives us many resting places on the way home but He forbids us to make them home.

City building is our determination to feel now what we can only feel in glory.

Now that I have X I have what I need.

Jeremiah 2:13,14: Well diggers.

The LORD offers us His living waters, we make for ourselves broken wells!

Who or what are you using to fulfil your demands?

Isaiah 50:10-11:  Fire lighters

We are to trust the LORD in darkness, but we find survival strategies.

Ezekiel 13:10f: Wall Whitewashing

God is committed to demolishing our whitewashed walls.


Sorry no responses to comments yet.  I literally have a few minutes before bed…



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I’m at a School of Spiritual Direction run by Larry Crabb (hence blog inactivity). Lapping it up.  Go here for some lengthy and scattered thoughts about his approach to pastoral counselling.

Anyway here are some random notes taken during the teaching sessions.  They may resonate with you – they certainly do with me…

Notes – part one

We have a core terror

Unmet desires become demands.  Such desires fully faced become a crossroads.

Struggle awakens hope that empowers love (Col 1:4-5)

Or we yield to a spirit of entitlement. Demands! Now!

We live between two epiphanies – Tit 2:11,13 – first appearing: grace; second appearing: glory.

Am I looking for an experience of fullness or for Christ?

What’s wrong with me?

– we’ve made our wounds more important than our sins.

– we have a passionate attachment to the wrong thing.

If u think yr prob is PAIN – all u’ll see is RELIEF

If u know yr prob is SIN – You’ll seek forgiveness/redemption

– Hos 7:13-14

That’s true BROKENESS

All of life is repentance.

People don’t have problems to fix – they have journeys to enter

We should always feel out of our depth

We really need a vision for the person

“I’ve been a psychologist for 40 years, and a good one, but I’ve never cured anyone.”

Is it only sufferings that move you to maturity? No both sufferings and blessings will, if rightly received, chip away at our entitlement spirit.  This is what fuels our clenched fist.  Both miraculous catches of fish (Luke 5 and John 21) caused repentance!   They both undercut merit-thinking.  What we really need is a gracious, receiving spirit. Blessings and sufferings both can do a wonderful job of this.

Our problems are not understandable defensive reflexes but sinful responses that need confrontation and forgiveness.

Don’t rearrange the flesh, don’t socialize the flesh, release the Spirit.

When u say sin is at heart of problems ur not blaming the victim. In fact the victim blames themselves because of the flesh! They want to be in control.

If Jesus was abused He would have handled it differently to the way our flesh dynamics respond to pain.  Is it wrong to be a victim?  No.  But our flesh handles that pain in all sorts of wicked ways.

Larry said, “What I was saying to my wife as I made my vows is ‘I’ve been dating u 4 a long time, u make me feel nice, ur pretty, u look at me w appreciation, u want to be w me. Let’s enter a contract whereby u’ll keep me feeling this way for life.’ My wife said, ‘You don’t know but I was abused, but I’m ok now, I’m pretty & personable, u’ve never violated me, I feel safe w u. I like it. Let’s enter a contract…'”  What were we entering into?  Mutual manipulation

A picture of marriage: Two ticks and a dog.  Problem is, most marriages are two ticks & no dog!

Incarnation – He’s with us

Subsitutionary atonement – He’s for us

Res/Ascension – He’s with us

We don’t dispense spiritual disciplines like a pharmacist dispenses pills.

‘If you want your own way you will have it. Hell is the enjoyment of your own way forever.’ Dorothy Sayers

Hell is the suffering of being unable to love.’ Dostoyevski, Brothers Karamazov’

If you just try to untangle the past you get lost. You have to aim for the future. If you go into the past it’s only to reorient you because you’ve gone off course. The goal is the future, not rearranging the flesh for the present.

Somewhere in your soul is a kidney stone. And when you feel kidney stone pain u don’t care about blessing others.

[ My thought] Our hope is not our redeeming features, our hope is our Redeemer. But through Him we have some redeemed features – not fully, but noticibly redeemed features. The Scriptures call this the new heart.  And it’s ok to encourage our brothers and sisters about these redeemed features!  In fact the Lord has put them there to be developed, built upon etc…

If u only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

If yr only tool is proof texts, exhortation, and accountability – u will treat people utterly simplistically.  You’ll bash them.

You get simplicity on the far side of complexity. Don’t settle for premature clarity.

If I haven’t found a problem in you for which Christ is essential – I haven’t found your real problems.

The blood of God had to be shed for the rapist’s sins and for mine.  It’s not that he needs the cross and I need a bible study! But if that’s the case then I won’t be scared off by the most depraved of behaviours and I’ll never settle for ‘good enough Christianity.’

I have a problem with the professionalization of talking. That’s what’s happened with the profession of counselling. As though you need to master a body of knowledge before you can have conversations that matter.

Who is God? Fundamentally He is trinity.  What is His nature?  Answer – to give what is completely Himself for the Other.  To pour all of Himself for the sake of the Other.

Until you relate in a way that requires grace you’re not really relating

– most relating depends on civility or self-protection.

Can we stand on Christ with all our weight?  Our self-protective styles of relating show we don’t really think so.

We’re not going to bring all of us to stand on all of Him until we face our core terror.

The issue is not to heal our memories but to uderstand what’s going on in me now.

Col 3:1-5 – you can’t put to death what you don’t see.

Hearts are deceitful. We’re blind. We’re stubborn

We’ve got to see what’s behind our styles of relating.  What am I scared of?

Matt 21 – Jesus reached through the fig leaves and was angry to find no fruit.  Fig leaves and no fruit describes the majority of Christianity today.

Are we community of pretenders or the community of the broken?

Jesus doesn’t want pretenders.

Augustine has a parable about first things and second things.   Imagine God said ‘Make a list of everything u want.  Write it out, take your time.’ Then God says ‘I’ll give u all of it on one condition – that you never see my face.’ Your horror at that prospect is your love for God.





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Maybe this is well known but I was intrigued by finding this in a second hand bookshop:



Chalke wrote it in 1995.  On the cross he writes this:


“…to complete the rejection, [Jesus] was abandoned by God the Father.  To a large extent, it was this emotional torture which killed Jesus… It shows the completeness with which he was prepared to pay the price of human sin.”

This from a man who in 2003 denied a penal substitutionary view of the cross.  Having quoted John 3:16, Chalke says

“…how then, have we come to believe that at the cross this God of love suddenly decides to vent his anger and wrath on his own Son? The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse – a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith” (The Lost Message of Jesus, p182).

Anyone know if Chalke has ever explained his earlier explanation of the cross in the light of this later one?




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Like coathangers, we own a hundred bibles but have no idea how they came to be ours.  One of them is called a “Life Application Bible.” 

As far as I can tell, it exists in order to footnote every biblical indicative so that a moral imperative may be added.  This is, we are assured, the cure to our spiritual malaise.  Just listen to this endorsement on the back cover:

Evangelical Christianity is suffering from an acute case of spiritual malnutrition.  The symptom is well known – defection in personal standards of living.  The cure – Vitamin A – application of God’s Word.

This remedy is both refreshing and realistic, calculated to change the will.  Not merely satisfying curiosity or making us smarter sinners, the Scriptures were given to make us more like Jesus Christ.


What’s the understanding of the bible here?  The Spirit’s testimony to the Son?  Christ’s love-letter to His bride?  The deposit of faith given to the church for the sake of proclaiming Christ to the world?  No.  At base the bible is, apparently, given for individual piety.

What kind of anthropology is this?  Change the will and you’ll correct the ‘defection in standards of living.’  ! 

What kind of salvation is offered?  Apparently we are not to become merely ‘smarter sinners’ – well what then?  Do we become subtler sinners?  more self-righteous sinners?  self-satisfied sinners?  There’s one option that is assuredly closed to us – that of ceasing to be sinners!  So why not a smarter sinner?

This approach to Scripture and to Christian faith is not good.  And yet, doesn’t this kind of thinking throb away beneath much of what passes for evangelicalism?  Isn’t the majority of ‘evangelical’ preaching informed by just such beliefs?  I’d say our spiritual malnutrition is not because of a lack of this kind of application.  We’re spiritually anaemic precisely because we have turned the Scriptures into moralistic or therapeutic self-help.  No wonder other Christians deride us as simplistic legalists.

For a thought on what good application is, go here.


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