Categories
Christian Living

unFrozen

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:6-10, The Message

There’s a joke told about church people– they are referred to as “the frozen chosen.”

In some very real ways that description is sadly true.

I know too many people frozen. They are stuck and can’t move forward. In the guilt of their sin they know with their heads that they are forgiven but struggle with moving forward… They are frozen in their regret. They quiet, honest corners they cry, “How could God love me when I’ve _____.” They are frozen in fear that if they somehow move forward– forgiving themselves a little– the same temptation will befall them again. They are frozen from dreaming.

They are frozen from living.

From imagining with wonder the possibilities of what God could do through them.

They are frozen spiritually, going through the daily motions of life.

And they live life to the least as a result

If you are frozen, John 10:10 is for you.

The frozen feeling is real. Under your own power you are frozen. You aren’t free. You are bound by the penalties of the messes you’ve caused. The thief is winning and will continue to win. You feel powerless in the weight of your failures. You can’t move forward, backwards, or to the side because you really, truly, are frozen.

Yet, Jesus came so you could be unfrozen. Whether today is the first day you’ve put your trust in Christ or your 20,000th, you are in the same position. Paul (and the Holy Spirit) captured your psychobabble pretty well, didn’t he?

I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. Romans 7:14-20, The Message

The reality is that only you, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and with the freedom paid for by Jesus, can get unfrozen. Going to church won’t unfreeze you. Listening to a million sermons won’t unfreeze you. Tithing won’t unfreeze you. Serving at the church won’t unfreeze you. Giving the poor won’t unfreeze you. Nothing you can do externally will unfreeze you.

The heat and power to unfreeze you can only come from within.

Somewhere, near that place where you aren’t quite sure if it’s your own self-talk or the Holy Spirit speaking to you, you need to conspire against yourself and get unfrozen. The source of the heat lives inside of you. You need to trust it and boldly allow it to work.

And when you do? In Jesus’ words, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”

(John 10:10, NASB, personalized the “they” for “you.”)

Categories
Church Leadership

What does restoration look like?

Here is our old youth pastor, Adam. Photo by Ann Larie Valentine via Flickr (Creative Commons)

My heart breaks for those hurt by the church. Specifically, for people called to full-time ministry, but gravely injured by the people they were called to serve.

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t interact with a youth pastor or former youth pastor who was deeply wounded by their church.

The church treated them like a couch. One day they are the centerpiece of the metaphorical living room and the next day they were moved to the curb and left for the garbage truck to pick them up.

When you are called to a church you are applauded publicly. People pray for you. You are brought up front to acknowledge that the leadership feels you have been called to be a central figure in the church. But when they no longer need you? They basically kick you out of community, shame you, and write a small check for your private pain, and pretend you never existed.

While I recognize that there is always another side to their story– it nonetheless paints a vivid picture of what that church really believes.

  • You have to behave a certain way or perform to a certain expectation level or we will kick you out.
  • When we wrong someone, we cover it up with hush money, and we never ask for forgiveness, even when we are clearly wrong.
  • When we wrong someone, we never restore either them or the relationship privately or publicly.

It just leaves me to wonder about the state of the church. We reach less than 10% of the population on a weekly basis. And we don’t think our private institutional sins impact that at all!

It leaves me with three questions to ponder as I begin my work week:

  • What does it look like for the institution to seek forgiveness?
  • What would it look like if we restored people?
  • What do I need to do to seek forgiveness and restoration of both relationship and position in my life?

May we become a church who loves its staff as fellow men and women on the journey.