Archives For Confession


1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
    and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh
    because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
    because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
    like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester
    because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
    all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
    and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
    I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you;
    my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
    and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
    and my nearest kin stand far off.

12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
    those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
    and meditate treachery all day long.

13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
    like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear,
    and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
    it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
    who boast against me when my foot slips!”

17 For I am ready to fall,
    and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
    I am sorry for my sin.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
    and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
    accuse me because I follow after good.

21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
    O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
    O Lord, my salvation!

There is a lot to unpack here but this Psalm is a beautiful example of an Individual Lament that may be categorized as a prayer song of a sinner. Sin (or iniquity) is mentioned four times. If we are careful with our interpretation we will note that he has his complaint against his enemies but the enemies is not the problem but only a hint at the problem.  It’s like the smell of something bad but not the bad thing itself. For David, clearly the root of the problem is his sin. Smarter people than I am tell me that this is a common theme in the Ancient Near East. People do bad things so bad things happen to them (retribution). God surely warned them of the blessings and curses that would come from their obedience or disobedience (see Deuteronomy 28). So David’s symptoms are not the problem.

But that’s just it. The lament is real and the pain is real but it comes from somewhere else. Notice the physical symptoms:

  • no health in his bones – v. 3
  • sides are filled with burning – v. 7
  • he is feeble -v. 8
  • his heart throbs – v.10

You get the picture. There is an association with physical pain and mental anguish for David. Makes sense though when one considers times of anguish in their own lives. I remember a season in my life when I was going through a tough time and there were serious physical ramifications. I could not eat and I remember experiencing severe heartburn. My body ached over the anguish I was experiencing and it was gut-wrenching. The solution for David to all of this anguish seems to be in verse 18: his confession of sin and remorse for wrong-doing. There was no grey-area for David as the pain (both internal and external) he was experiencing was directly correlated to his own spiritual brokenness. You and I can sit down over a cup of coffee and smirk at his rather “unlearned” theology but David was a staunch warrior for God. He was in the trenches.

Discussion Questions

  1. Talk about a time where you experienced physical pain from spiritual anguish. What was it like? Describe the circumstances.
  2. Do you think it is right to say that many of our difficult times is due to our sinfulness? Explain.
  3. How is David’s resolve to confess his sin a helpful solution for our laments?

God, give us grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

 

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

 

Amen.

 


I have attended many youth conferences where the speaker offers an invitation at the end of a lesson. At some of the conferences the speaker is really effective and it seems a combination of life circumstances and the Spirit of God ripping people’s hearts out causes people to go forward during the invitation and confess their sin asking for prayers. Now I think this is a good opportunity but I also believe this has been abused and turned into a completely different entity than what it started out as (I may blog on the origin and nature of the invitation at some other point). After the students and adults pour forward there usually is a person who will read their responses. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this said:

“I have not been the right person God wants me to be and I just need prayers.”

I applaud their effort to go forward which takes a lot of courage but on the other side I can make the above statement any second of the day. I have not been and never will be the right person God wants me to be. That is what sanctification is for. We will never arrive and say, “I am the right person and I am done” this side of eternity. So what is really occurring in that confession is that there is something else they are struggling with that they are not willing to share. This is an issue because, in my opinion, there is this pervasive thought pattern that all one has to do is “go forward” and confess a general sin to the church and suddenly God has wiped their slate clean. The colloquial term in the tradition I minister in is that this person has been “restored.”

I think what has happened is that we are confusing confession and repentance. Confession is the declaration that we have deviated from God’s path and are incapable of earning our salvation and therefore we desire to place our complete faith and hope in God who, through the gospel and work of the Holy Spirit, will forgive us our sins (see Ps. 51:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10; 1 John 1:9). Repentance is the process in which we reorient ourselves to the good news God has offered to/for us. Peter demanded the Jews at Pentecost to turn (repenance; μετάνοια metanoia) from their old ways and be baptized (Acts 2:38). In the Old Testament the idea of repentance is represented by two verbs: שוב shuv (to return) and נחם nicham (to feel sorrow). In Amos 4 God sent all kinds of disasters to the people of God but was amazed because they did not return (shuv) to him.

What’s the point? True biblical repentance is not centered only in the act of confession. An alcoholic can confess that they are drunks every single Sunday but until they stop picking up that bottle they will never understand repentance.

I believe confession and repentance are two different animals. Confession is important but let’s not forget the dirty work of coming clean and sanctification.


© articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Let me start with my story so that you can understand where I am coming from. First, I have to give a disclaimer. I was taught to be careful when disclosing information about my past as it might give license for people to justify their actions. Sort of a “Well Robbie went through it so can I” mentality. I think the readers of this post know better than that so please do not misinterpret my story as license. Secondly, I am not sure why I am telling all of you this now as many of you are finding this out for the first time. I guess because I have seen a few of my own youth struggle and have heard of so many others that I feel it is probably time to share my story. I have been ashamed of my past and have told very few people but now I am no longer ashamed because the past is what has made me into the man I am right now. In the words of Paul:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. (1 Cor. 15:9-10).

I hope this post (albeit long) will help you if your child is using drugs or if you are using drugs and are reading this. I certainly did not get mixed-up heavy into drugs but nonetheless…

My Story

I was in the sixth grade when I first tried marijuana.

Let that sink in a bit.

I was 12 years old. Some neighborhood buddies and I had skipped school and we had gone into the woods when a guy pulled out this little bag filled with what looked like grass clippings to me. I remember he pulled out this weird looking pipe and put the “grass clippings” into this pipe and inhaled as he lit it. The stuff smelled like body odor with a hint of the smell when one burns leaves. It was my turn to take a “hit” from the pipe. I inhaled and coughed my brains out. I felt nothing… My friends were acting like idiots while I felt nothing.

The next time I tried it was when I was in the 8th grade. My buddy and I went to the top of a hill by the elementary school I attended and I tried it again. Only this time I felt something. I felt good. I felt relaxed. It was amazing. They tell you “Nothing beats the feeling of your first high” and you really don’t understand what that means until you experience it. From that moment on, I was hooked.

I would smoke on and off maybe once or twice a week but I remember longing for the moments where I would be able to smoke weed the next time. After my 8th grade year I moved to Chattanooga and I thought maybe my bad times were behind me but sometimes your past catches up with you and you find the same people just in a different context. I continued smoking on and off. I started attending a Christian high-school and I thought my past was behind me.

I met some Christians who smoked weed as well and my past was not behind me.

The last time I smoked weed was the fall of 1998. I met this girl whose father was a youth minister and I became a Christian and suddenly weed was not important to me. I am not sure if I was addicted to it because I usually did it with other people and it was more social for me. But I did like it. I could share countless stories of staying up at night, running from the police, my parents finding out and all sorts of other stories. I tried LSD once and drank some alcohol but weed was my drug of choice. I did it to escape. I did it because it felt good. I did it because my friends did it.

Shortly after that, I received the news that one of my best friends growing up (who I smoked with) overdosed and died from drug use. I never got to say goodbye.

I was walking in San Francisco this past weekend leaving a Giants-Braves game and I caught a whiff of weed someone was smoking among the crowd. Even almost 15 years without touching the stuff my body had tingles and my mind traced back to those many days.

So why this post? Why my story? I hope to give you advice on what to do based on experience with what my parents did but also watching and learning from others.

HOW TO HELP YOUR TEEN…OR HOW HOW TO HELP YOU.

First off, don’t panic. I saw a stat that said that teen marijuana use is actually more than teen cigarette use. I know that your child using drugs is difficult and somewhat hard to fathom but your child needs your careful, objective and loving guidance and that takes some discernment and patience. I knew of a guy whose parents sent him off to rehab because he had tried some weed. Maybe there was more to the story but it seems it would have been better for them to discern then to panic and make rash decisions.  That does not mean minimize what they have done but don’t maximize it either.

Secondly, understand this could be a long road. Depending on their drug (mine was small in comparison) they could be in for a long road to recovery. Especially if meth, heroine, crack, cocaine and other highly addictive drugs are involved. It takes some patience, love and support to walk them through this. Remember, you are wrestling against evil and dark forces and every part of them does not want you to win. Seek the Lord’s counsel and help.

Thirdly, trust has to be earned. They broke trust when they started using drugs and it has to be earned and gained in order for them to have certain privileges. So the questioning of who they are talking to, where they are going, what are the text messages, let me see the Facebook, what did you do at school, and others are legitimate exercises to learn and earn trust.

Fourth, context is key to help. What I mean by that is what helped me was finding the right friends and purging myself of old ones. As harsh as that sounds I knew that if I was going to be clean I had to remove the unclean context. They were close friends but I knew that they would find new ones and maybe down the road when I was more mature and the time was right we could be friends again. I don’t understand why people who struggle with drugs go back to their druggie friends. That’s like saying you hate cold weather and want to rid yourself of it so you buy a house in Fairbanks, Alaska. Makes no sense. Context is key.

Fifth, find a support group, specifically one that is Christian. Ideally your home church network should be that support group but you also need to network among those parents who are struggling in a similar manner. Nobody wants to be alone and it helps to have fellow travelers who have been there and done that and can share the wounds and the victories.

Sixth, love your child unconditionally. They may scream at you. They may run away. They may struggle for years. They may cost you thousands of dollars. They may do unthinkable amounts of evil. But you love them. Unconditionally as Christ loved you. That doesn’t mean they go undisciplined or that they drain your savings but it means you relentlessly pursue them until they live a life of glorification to God. Sometimes we lose the ones we love the most but more often than not teenagers find healing and sobriety from relentless parents and a relentless God.

I hope this helps and has encouraged and strengthened you. What would you add?


shadowness.com

I am three days into reading the bible through in 90 days and I have to admit one thing: Nobody’s Perfect. Adam and Eve disappointed me by doing the only thing they were not supposed to do. Abraham disappointed me by lying about his wife…twice. Sarah disappointed me by laughing at God doubting his ability to deliver her a son. Rebekah and Jacob disappointed me by deliberately deceiving Isaac to steal Esau’s blessing. Esau disappointed me by giving up his birthright. Jacob disappointed me by neglecting Leah (albeit he married her under horrible circumstances) and focusing on Rachel. Speaking of Rachel, she disappointed me by lying about the household gods she stole (deception is a major motif in Abraham’s lineage). Jacob’s sons disappointed me by selling their brother Joseph to the Ishmaelites but who could blame them since Joseph bragged about his superior status in a dream he had. Judah disappointed me by sleeping with a prostitute who actually was not a prostitute but only his daughter-in-law (indicates Judah desired prostitutes on a regular basis).

Sheesh.

Nobody’s perfect…

At all…

But…

Joseph will restore his relationship with his brothers. Jacob will be blessed. Isaac’s heritage will live on and Abraham will once again be the father of many nations. We will all remember Adam because he was the first but also a predecessor for the Second Adam (Christ). Nobody’s perfect. You want to pick and prod at the bible because of its flawless characters then you will have more than you can handle. Scripture is full of them.

So is the church.

You want to point out the church’s hypocrisy…it’s apparent inconsistencies…it’s faulure to act…it’s unresponsive nature to critical issues while focusing on minor issues. You’re right. But nobody’s perfect.

Nobody.

We all fall short and we all fail at glorifying God which, last time I checked, is a daily reminder of our need to repent and ask and seek forgiveness.

Anything to add?


I am afraid we have missed the boat on a lot of key things and as a result, our young people (teens and twenty-somethings) have become disenchanted with organized religion. Keep in mind that this is not indicative of every church context (I know…your church is always the exception right?) but ever since I became a member of the Church of Christ I have seen some growing tension between organized church activities (including worship) and participation from younger generations. I do not have any hard data to prove this within the Churches of Christ (if there is such please comment below) nor do I think there is any specific causative reasons but what I do find fascinating is that there seems to be this trend among other Christian wings like the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me shows the trend of younger generations who are leaving organized religion. They are not leaving the faith as they still hold a high value on personal spirituality but they simply do not accept many of the different things their organized church stood for (Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus but not the Church is important here). But I wish there were data for the Churches of Christ to show the downward trending as all I have is experience which is limited in geography, theological leaning and other factors. 

So what I say cannot be authoritative because the Churches of Christ have no headquarters unless you count the various universities and preaching schools as different headquarters for different theological leanings (I digress).  I wonder what twenty-somethings long for in a church? Whatever it is I am not sure we are offering that to them. We think that we can have announcements, a few songs, a prayer, a quiet Lord’s Supper where nobody talks, a sermon, an invitation and a closing prayer and somehow that is supposed to spiritually feed them. Well you say, “Robbie, it is not our job to feed them as they are supposed to grow spiritually themselves.” That’s my issue!!! I think where we are failing can be summed-up in a few words: LACK OF INTIMACY.  

Somehow we feel that the teenagers and twenty-somethings are just supposed to “get it” by listening to sermons, attending a bible class and maybe the odd retreat thrown in there. Listen carefully: we need to get away from thinking that spiritual formation happens, or is even formed, from the church building. I have spent almost 8 years in youth ministry and the twenty somethings who were in my youth group would quickly tell you that they serve God not because of an event, sermon or bible class that happened inside the church building but it was the intentional, intimate relationships geared towards accountability, service and discipleship OUTSIDE OF THE BUILDING that changed their lives. 

That does not mean they are anti-church services or anti-preaching but it does mean that we have become too personal-salvation oriented to the neglect of inviting others to join in the conversation of spiritual formation. To illustrate this I wonder how many of your churches have poor, broken, drug and alcohol addicted people in your midst. Now church is not all about reaching poor people or those in the inner-city but nor does it mean churches are all about middle to upper-class people either. Why can’t we have both in the same building (some do…I know…but not many)? I think the issue is a lack of intimacy. We do not want to share their brokenness with them because it is ugly. Instead, we offer them to come to the building, hear a sermon, walk down forward and confess their sins and then we will pray for them. Good intentions but not enough. 

So here it is. Me and some friends of mine got together a few weekends ago to talk about this generation and what the church needs to do and what we came up with was nothing short of the Holy Spirit. We all admitted that we have failed to be intimate. Our marriages, our relationships with other men and women, our discipleship, our evangelism, our worship and our service. 

Here’s the problem…I don’t know how to solve it. How do you ask a church to become more intimate and change the way they do church in order to reach this generation? Also, how do you reach a church with intimacy issues who are in denial and say that they are ok? 

I don’t know but I am going to blog about it. These blogs are pro-Church and they are pro-Jesus (as if the two can be separated). I think we are just missing the boat somewhere and people are leaving and going elsewhere. So will the real church please stand up?    

***If you are from another denomination feel free to comment as I think the experience is normative across the evangelical board. 


In my morning reading I came across a familiar passage and wanted to share it with you and some of the thoughts I wrote down in my journal.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good. Psalm 14:1 (ESV)

Perhaps your experience is similar to mine in that when this verse is read, quoted or used it is within the context of atheists. I have heard many Christians say, “How could someone not believe in God? The Scripture says ________.” They will quote Psalm 14:1. I think people do not believe in God for a variety of reasons (hypocritical Christians?) but I wonder if we could go a different direction with the interpretation of this Psalm. Let me ask the question, “Who is the fool in Psalm 14?” They are those, contextually, who God looks down and sees that the people are 1) not understanding, 2) not seeking after him, 3) they have turned aside, and 4) become corrupt (14:2-3). Now surely this broadens our interpretation of simply atheists. Surely you know some folks at church that fit the bill there right?

Look at how Eugene Peterson words the Psalm in The Message

1 Bilious and bloated, they gas, “God is gone.”
Their words are poison gas,
fouling the air; they poison
Rivers and skies;
thistles are their cash crop.

2 God sticks his head out of heaven.
He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
one man, even, God-expectant,
just one God-ready woman.

3 He comes up empty. A string
of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
follow their fellow.

I wonder then, who is the fool? I find it interesting that Psalms 14:1-3 is quoted nearly verbatim in Romans 3:10-12. The context there is that we are all sinners in need of the justification of God by faith. So then is it a stretch to say that the fool in Psalm 14 who says “there is no God” might be us? The immediate context for David are the enemies of his kingdom but the larger implication is that sometimes we are fools. Consider the following:

  • We are fools when we do not believe God will deliver us in a difficult situation.
  • We are fools when we try to conduct ministry, spiritual formation and kingdom-work on our own without the guidance of our Father.
  • We are fools when we do not lead our families spiritually.
  • We are fools when we try to bind things in Scripture that God never intended to be bound.
  • We are fools when we make it our goal to “correct” every person’s theology whom we have contentions with as if we can come up with a perfect theology on our own.
  • We are fools when we neglect the poor and build massive buildings (does Babel ring a bell?) and have big-screen TV’s, elaborate pulpits complete with techno-savvy ways to make ministry “easier.”
  • We are fools when we do not evangelize and disciple others.
  • We are fools when we judge people, as if we are the perfect standard.
  • We are fools when we say God can’t do something, as if our existence were not evidence for God being able to do something.
  • We are fools when we keep sin to ourselves.
  • We are fools when we spend too much time at work and forget our families.
  • We are fools when we do not take care of ourselves physically.
  • We are fools when we isolate ourselves in our Christian bubble, forgetting that God actually came in the flesh.
  • We are fools to think God does not care about us (how many hairs do you have on your head again? God knows).
  • We are fools not to learn from the past, redeem the present and wait, with hope, for the future.
  • Finally, we are fools when we think it is up to us to become righteous.

Tough list. I look at it and mourn. Because I want to be honest with you, I am a fool. At times, my actions and thoughts reveal the claim that there is no God even thought intuitively I know there is. Sad. Christ, forgive me.

Who is the fool?

 

 


Thought provoking video to start your weekend off right.  What are your thoughts from this?


A break from the series…I decided to write a poem.

The Mask

Sitting in the lobby I am moved by your existence.

How could you love me, a sinner, broken in your presence?

I am not the man I should be for I am filled with mediocrity.

I am weak, timid, inconsistent and filled with so much hypocrisy.

Scripture tells me that a man came to die, giving me his grace.

But all I can do right now is turn and hide, covering my ugly face.

The solution is so easy, but to me it comes with a hefty price.

A debt I cannot pay, for I am not willing to sacrifice.

But you, O God, are all that I could possibly need.

So right now, to your divine decrees, I hesitantly now heed.

For I lift up to you a monumental task,

that you take away my sin, and take off my foolish mask.


Admittedly the first four lessons of this study is rich in theology but it is always important to have an exegetical framework before you make a biblical assertion.  One could say, “God is gracious” but if they do not understand why or how God is gracious then they are making a blind assertion.

Forgiveness in the New Testament might be a bit more familiar to us but it seems there is not much change in meaning from Old to New Testaments.  The Greek verb meaning to forgive is aphiēmi and has the general meaning of letting go or releasing (BDAG 156-57).  The imagery with the word is that there is a deep hold on to something (sin) or someone and the person holding on to this simply lets it go.  When our sins are forgiven we are released from moral obligation or consequence (ibid., 156).  In other words sin causes a separation of sorts and instead of God holding us in his hands it is our sin that is being held but forgiveness is the release of that sin and the grasping of our very souls.  Here is a brief (embarassingly so) summary of the New Testament and forgiveness…

  • Forgiveness comes from God but through the blood of the cross. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding” (Eph. 1:6-7; cf. Matt. 9:6 [Christ has the authority]; 26:28; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 9:11-28).
  • Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable (Matt. 12:30-32).
  • Forgiveness is required (commanded) between our brothers and sisters to the point that we cannot be forgiven by God unless we forgive others. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15; cf. Matt. 18:21-35; Mark 11:25; Luke 7:47; 2 Cor. 2:5-7; Col. 3:13).
  • Like the Old Testament, there is totality in forgiveness. “Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’  And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary” (Heb. 10:17-18; 1 John 2:12).
  • Confession (public or private) is a precursor to forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • Baptism and forgiveness seems to have a dependent relationship much like confession. ““Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for theforgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; cf. Mark 1:4)
  • There is a release not only from the charge of guilty between man and God but there is an emotional release when our sins are forgiven. “The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake,  in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:6-11; cf. Rom. 4:7).

Take a deep breath…whew!!!  That is a lot to sift through isn’t it?  But…and this is a big but (don’t laugh at the pun)…the point is that the cross restores/creates our relationship with God and declares us not-guilty so that late at night when we are counting the ceiling tiles or staring at the fan we do not have to worry about where we will go if we do not wake up.