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June 4, 2018, 9:49 AM

June 2018 Letter from our Pastor


The Bible describes shame as the core consequence of the fall. Adam and Eve were not satisfied with their own being. They wanted to be more than they were, to be more than human.  Before Adam and Eve ate the fruit they were naked before God and one another and were unashamed. In other words they felt worthy of respect and beheld the other as being worthy of respect.  But tempted by the desire to be like God,  they disobeyed God’s word,  rejected communion with God, and rejected the great worth given to him by God.  The penalty for the sin of wanting to be like God was debilitating shame, a deep feeling of unworthiness. They became ashamed and hid from God before they attacked each other and were cast from the garden of God’s presence.  

We all like Adam and Eve fall short of expectations at times and are disappointed in ourselves.  In these moments we feel guilt, shame, unworthiness.  These feelings are healthy if they last only a moment and they motivate us to learn.   But, instead of the momentary feeling shame, a person can come to believe that his whole self is fundamentally flawed and defective. A person says, “I am a mistake— everything I do is flawed and defective.” This type of shame psychologist John Bradshaw calls toxic shame.  Toxic shame could also be called toxic unworthiness. In the bible there are different words to describe shame.  Healthy shame turns us from error and sin back to the love and truth of God but toxic shame that makes us feel condemned and hopeless as they did in the garden. Healthy shame is of God but toxic shame is of Satan  

Life lessons begin at birth. In a healthy family life lessons are taught with love and acceptance.  The harmony of a healthy family is at least somewhat similar to the garden when they were naked and felt no shame.  The difficulties of life do not drive a healthy family apart. Instead they deal with the difficulties of life together without shame.

In an unhealthy family, however toxic shame is constant. The problems of life cause resentment that drives the members apart.  Even newborns receive the message “I  am a mistake” if caregivers withhold or are unable to provide effective nurture.  Toxic shame therefore begins to form in early life and becomes a greater and greater force in life.

Toxic Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of being fundamentally flawed, defective, unworthy, and “deficient in some vital way as a human being.”  Toxic shame drives people apart, causing loneliness.  Shamed and lonely people must find a way to dull the pain. 

Even young children learn it is possible to work to earn approval and thereby fight the toxic shame they feel. Young and old think, if I get over this next hill though work, then I’ll feel better about myself and how things are going to step back and relax. But for now I can’t stop. When motivated by toxic shame a person’s  value ultimately fuses with his own act or performance. He becomes a “human doing” without any real sense of his true God given value.. Such a person feels emptiness, hopelessness and futility of toxic shame.

Toxically shamed people tend to become more and more stagnant as life goes on. They live in isolated, guarded, rigid, secretive and defensive ways in order to protect their vulnerable shame filled hearts.  Once they find a way to stop the pain of toxic shame they become addicted. Toxically shamed people use work, adrenaline, drugs, alcohol, sex, and more to deal with shame, but all earthly ways lead to death.

Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kauffman says,

“The affect of (toxic) shame is important.  No other affect is more disturbing to the self. In the context of normal development shame is the source of low self esteem, diminished self image, poor self concept and deficient body image. Shame itself seeds doubt and disrupts both security and confidence. It can become an impediment to the experience of belonging and shared intimacy. Shame always alerts us to any affront to human dignity. It is the experiential ground from which the confined and identity inevitably derive. In the context of pathological development, shame is the emergence of alienation, loneliness, inferiority and perfectionism. It plays the central role many psychological disorders as well, including depression, paranoia, addiction and borderline conditions. Sexual disorders are largely disorders of shame.”

Healthy shame turns us to the God of love and truth.  Healthy shame brings eternal life. Toxic shame ends in condemnation and death. The good news is that we can be saved from toxic shame.   The good news of the gospel is that Jesus is the true and eternal antidote to toxic shame.

Recovery from toxic shame begins with preaching the gospel to your toxic shame.  The gospel transforms toxic shame into healthy shame.  God’s love is the only power that can conquer the shame of unworthiness and return us to the unashamed conditions of the garden. The Gospel quenches shame and returns you more and more into secure attachment to God and others. Secure attachments with God and others allow you to develop a renewed sense of worth.  Love of God and the security He provides allow your true self to come out of hiding. Feeling loved , you will in turn want to love others. Receiving the gift of God’s love seems to be the hardest task for all for humankind. God’s love is the only foundation for happiness.  When you receive God’s love you are able to love yourself and others.

A person who is secure in God’s love is capable of connecting with another in an committed, intimate relationship. Giving and receiving of gospel based, genuine love is the most effective and powerful way to personal wholeness and happiness. As trust grows, spiritual and emotional bonds are formed. These bonds become an interpersonal bridge between members of the family or group(church). The bridge is the foundation for mutual growth and understanding. The interpersonal bridge is strengthened by certain experiences we have come to accept and depend on. 

People become significant in the sense that love, respect and care for others really matters. They allow ourselves to be vulnerable and accept the love others. Preaching the gospel to our shame and loving others will breath new life into individuals first, then families, the church and the community just like it did at the first Pentecost.

Christian life and ministry is a battle against shame/unworthiness. In order to be saved and live fruitful lives people must continuously receive the love of God that is the antidote to their shame.

I pray that this summer, we will all preach the Gospel to our shame and learn the power of God’s love in our lives more and more.  You are beloved and you are not a mistake!!

God bless your summer!!

In Christ’s love, Jon

Sources

Bradshaw, John. Healing the Shame that Binds You . Health Communications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World (p. 70). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.




May 2, 2018, 10:16 AM

Letter from the Pastor for May 2018


The sad reality of our lives is that hopelessly broken relationships are all around us. In 2014 a study published in the American Sociological Review found that one in four people— said that they have no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles or triumphs. If family members are not counted, the number doubles to more than half of Americans who have no one outside their immediate family with whom they can share confidences.” Loneliness therefore is a huge problem in our culture.

We crave relationship and work hard for approval of others in order to have closer relationships. Inability to win approval creates shame that deepens loneliness that that defies human effort to repair the brokenness. Guilt is the feeling you have done wrong but shame goes beyond guilt because you feel wrong and cannot ever be right. A shamed person craves relationship but is scared, humiliated and angry because so many of their relationships have failed. A shamed and lonely person has virtually given up hope that things can ever improve.

The disciples were lonely and ashamed when Jesus was arrested and killed. The disciples were filled with shame because their Lord was humiliated and they failed him. Whatever hope the disciples had in Jesus before his death was destroyed by the cross. Even after the resurrection the relationship between Jesus and his disciples was certainly broken. Could the disciples ever really trust Jesus again. Why would they follow him again, even after the resurrection? From their point of view it was not right for Jesus to leave them, it was not right that he was killed, it may not seem right or comprehensible that he was resurrected from the tomb. It would have been right to them if none of these things had happened, how could the lonely and shamed disciples accept it was right to follow the resurrected Lord??

The wonderful truth is that Jesus went to them to resurrect their lives through relationship with him. Jesus loved them and he loves us enough to heal our loneliness and shame. The father poured life into Jesus and in turn Jesus poured new life into the disciples so that they in turn would pour life into others. The Lord bids us to trust His love and seek Him;

Psa. 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

 

Whenever you do not seek the Lord you will wrong others, you will bite and devour them until your your relationship with them is destroyed. If you keep on you will ultimately destroy each other. A power greater than human power is required to stop the biting and devouring. Only God gives life so abundantly that when you receive life from him you have plenty to give to others.

 

In order to receive the life He offers, we must simply seek Him out and trust that He loves us fully will not live us alone and ashamed. This is a glorious reality that we must simply embrace every day. I pray the resurrecting love of God will heal our loneliness and shame so that we can have fuller lives with Him and show others how to follow him too. As you follow Him your loneliness will be healed more and more and you will bear the fruit of the Spirit to bless others.

 

May the Joy of the Lord fill you this Spring!




April 2, 2018, 9:24 AM

Easter Message from Pastor Jon


      Happy Easter!!  Spring and particularly Easter is a time to receive and celebrate new life and new vitality!!  My prayer for our church is that this spring 2018 will be particularly important!  In the 1970’s there was a lay renewal in which the Holy Spirit moved powerfully and created new spiritual life in  many members.  On April 20, 21, and 22 we are planning a weekend that has the potential to bless this body again! 

     The Gospel Reset Weekend will begin with dinner at 6:30 on Friday April 20.  There will be a total of four sessions; Friday evening, Saturday morning, combined Sunday School, and finally Sunday worship. Dr. Bill Senyard from the EPC will be our facilitator for each session and will preach on Sunday morning.

    The cornerstone of the weekend will be the simple uncluttered gospel, that is, in Christ God cannot love you more and cannot love you less.  Christians know that Jesus paid for all our sins with His blood, but it is so easy to live as if we must earn God’s love and blessing.  Christians celebrate the grace of God in worship but too often trust themselves rather than God when the stresses of life hit.  Instead turning to God and coping with the tribulations of life with Him, we choose to turn away and rely on our the strength of the flesh to solve our problems.  If you try solve your problems alone, is there any wonder that you feel so alone so often?  Lonely people become depressed and bitter. They are simply unable to love anyone, even themselves.

     The church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus every Easter, but do we truly understand that God’s love for us is a resurrecting, life renewing love?  God sent Jesus to die so that broken, lonely, sinful can new life with Him.  The grace could not hold him because of Jesus faith and faithfulness. Because of Christ nothing can separate you from the love of God if you receive His love by faith. It is always sinful to live life alone because in your aloneness you turn away from the God who loves you so much that he sent Jesus to save you and the Holy Spirit to give you new life in an easy yoke with Him.

   The goal of the  Gospel Renewal weekend is to revitalize your relationship with God, your relationship with yourself, and your relationships with all those you are called to love.  Everyone is invited to drink the living water that Jesus gives in abundance to all who come to Him. 

    Everyone is welcome to attend the weekend. We only need to know how many we need to feed at dinner on Friday and lunch on Saturday. Please sign up in the Narthex beginning April 8th.  We will also do a fellowship dinner Sunday April 22nd after worship.

 

           God bless you as you celebrate new life at Easter and this spring and may God bless The Gospel Renewal Weekend!!




March 5, 2018, 2:38 PM

Invite a Friend


Are you troubled, burdened, tired, ready for Jesus to come and take you away from this life? Most of us would say yes! We would eagerly jump at any kind of relief from the strains of life and would consider it to be pure perfection if Jesus took all of our stress away. Many people today are looking forward to the second coming because they believe the promises that their struggles will end when he comes. This is a great and true promise from the word of God and it will come to pass and we will live with Him in paradise.

But isn’t the rest we seek from Christ already there for us? We know The truth is that Jesus has already come to us to ease our burdens. He invites you to come to him in faith so that you can be relieved of stresses of life.

Jesus came from heaven over 2000 years ago to save you. In your lifetime He has called you many times to come to him. He has done miracle after miracle in your life in order to bring you to faith in Him. The Holy Spirit is working in you to bring you to faith make you into the person he means for you to be. He gently calls you into a continuous relationship with him through which he promises to ease your burdens.

You know that you should be thankful to receive his grace, yet you still have a hard time fully living by faith in Him. You know you should come to him and rely on him always, but you have a hard time doing it enough? Why do you think that is?

It’s because your brain is not wired to rest in Jesus. You inherited a relationship with God that is broken by sin. Your heart of flesh does not want to trust anyone but itself or something it can control. You have lived your whole life not depending on him. One miracle, or a series of miracles, will not change the fact that you are physically handicapped in your ability to trust him. You certainly know that miracles have been done for you, and you know God calls you to let him carry your burdens but when you are under stress; but when you are stressed, your new knowledge will be easily overcome by old experience. You will not act

in faith, but in accordance with the dominant programming of your brain. The answer is that He calls you into a continuous abiding relationship with Him so that He can renew your mind by grace so that you will thrive in life with Him.

This calling is for you and for people around you to know the grace of God in their lives. Holy Week gives us the opportunity to reflect on the humiliation and agony that Christ suffered for us, so that our burden of sin would be lifted and we can know the love and salvation of God.

Maundy (Holy) Thursday March 29th events will be a little different this year. We will hold a meal and meditation time with the theme of the last supper at 6:00pm and then view the movie The Passion of the Christ in the sanctuary starting at 7pm. Please invite your friends and family to join us for this special event! 




February 1, 2018, 10:26 AM

From the Heart


We all know the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. The second is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is emotion, love is action, but love is most complete as a relationship. God so loved the world. He was in such a committed relationship to the world that includes you and me; that He sent his only son to seek and save lost sinful people. Their relationship with Him was broken by human sin so God took action to recreate the love relationship. God lavishes unconditional love on His children. He bids us to receive His love and live with Him by faith in His love.

This is a strange thing for us. We do not understand unconditional love. Humanity places all kinds of conditions on love. We are capable of loving someone if we expect them to perform well, and we are definitely capable loving those that perform well for us. It is easy to stay in relationship when a partner performs well. Whenever performance is lost, too many human relationships get strained; and then broken if performance is not corrected. Unconditional love seems wasteful and futile because we do not believe it inspires better performance.

Most relationships, including marriages, parent-child relationships, friendships, and all professional relationships have a powerful per- formance dependency.

If someone does not maintain a certain performance level, the relationships become strained and broken. Even usually loving, committed re- lationships involve threats, coercion, and manipulation of various forms to motivate the partners to perform as expected. Without unconditional love these relationships are weaker and there is less life in them than should be.

Wouldn’t it be great to find a high performing and loving relationship partner? One who could always be relied upon to deliver both performance and love reliably? As technology advances there are some who believe that the reliable love we need can come from a robot. David Hanson, the founder of Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, says “We are building the AI architecture for genuine love”. The willingness to invest millions in technology to achieve genuine love exposes both the great human need for love and our willingness to pursue love in futile and misguided ways. The eternal love that heals our brokenness will never come from technology.

The nurturing, tender and inspirational love we need and crave comes only from God. Despite all your sins and failures, God continues to believe the best about you and invests in you so that your best can become a reality. He sees you were you are and loves you as you are. That said, he loves you too much to leave you as you are so he shapes you into the glorious being that you were created to be. God loves you and blesses you every day in accordance with His truth. It is His love that you crave. He feeds you with his love and will do so the more you ask. In performance based relationships there is little interest in investing time or effort in order to help someone develop. God’s unconditional love meets you where you are, heals you, and enables you to become the person you were meant to be. He calls you to come to Him for rest, for peace, for love and to become all you can be with Him.

The problem is that there is a human tendency not to ask out of a desire to achieve love on our own merit. We want to perform to earn love instead of receive it unconditionally. This is our natural unfaithful state, but if you truly want more love in your life the way is open for you to come to him and ask him every day. Please seek the unconditional love of God and learn what it means to trust Him more and more. 


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