Freedom to walk away

I used to work with offenders.

That’s a terrible way of saying it. Really, I worked in treatment with those who came to me with notes written on their file, like sex offender and domestic violence offender. We used fancy terminology like recidivism and compulsion, but mostly we were concerned with the recurring nature of the problems, the abuse.

I thought, going into it, that I would teach people skills and I would uncover lies; I would advocate for voices that had been silenced. I did, but mostly I learned a lot about others, about myself, and about grace; about what is dirty and clean, what is conceivable, and what is forgivable.

I had to look in a mirror in that work and come face to face with this Truth:

I am capable.

I am not better.

I am not above.

Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.

See, I have a slightly shady past. At this point in my life, I like to follow that up with, “don’t most of us?!” because it’s true. Most of us have struggled at one point or another with one big, bold question and it is robbing freedom right and left, for me, for you, for those who have rebelled, offended, abused, and every person in the middle of all of that-

Am I forgivable?

Until we answer this question our sins will haunt us and our offenses will remain the same. That was a giant lesson I learned. Mental capacity, family structure, employability – all were important, but slightly irrelevant in recidivism, that fancy word that means “Will they do it again?”

Galatians 5:17-21 tells us we have a flesh-and-Spirit war going on inside of us and around us, as believers or unbelievers. Satan wants our souls. The best way he can figure getting them is through the entanglement of shame:

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul lists all of these deep and difficult things that separate us from God, quickly, or slowly over time as they are practiced. When we hate, when we have fits of rage, when we envy, when we act out in sexual immorality, we turn away from God just enough so that we can’t see Truth and then Satan uses shame to keep us turned, believing a lie that this thing, this sin cannot be forgiven.

A funny thing happens, we keep at it. Without a place to turn, we just keep walking straight into the desires of the flesh, into sexual immorality, into jealousy, into discord.

Jump ahead to Galatians 6:1 –

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

In hearing the Word of Truth, in another person opening our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work, we can walk away…

walk away from shame

walk away from unforgiveness

walk into Light

walk into redemption.

God forgives. He forgives division, He forgives dissension, He forgives sorcery. He forgives orgies, he forgives idolatry. He forgives every dark thing we could encounter and He breathes life into broken hearts who have been abused, used, and tossed aside.

He also gives us one another to fight the good fight and walk away.

Whether your past looks like sexual impurity and selfishness or that of someone else’s, whether you did pretty darn good and avoided rebellion altogether…

You are forgivable.

You are forgiven in Christ Jesus.

You are loved.

He restores. Walk to Him in the Spirit and away from all the junk of life.

Forgiven, Restored, Set Free.

Live free.

Discussion questions:

What sins do you think people label as “worse sins”?

How do labels for “worse sins” rob all of us of the freedom found in Christ Jesus? What part do you see shame playing?

What darkness have you seen Christ overcome in your past or around you that shines His Freedom into your life?

 

Finding Help and Healing:

If you need help and healing for sexual abuse or assault go to https://www.rainn.org/

If you need help and healing for domestic violence go to http://www.thehotline.org/

Find help and healing for porn addiction and sexual compulsivity at https://www.xxxchurch.com/

Find help and healing for violent behaviors in a specialized local treatment program. You pastor can help you find a local one, pray with you, and offer ongoing spiritual care and confession.

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior: Addressing our desire, our value and our worth


I’ll be honest, middle school was not my finest.

It was so difficult for me that when I started coaching a very fine group of 5-8th grade cheerleaders on a whim, I felt like I was stepping back into my 8th grade year and my internal anxiety was through the roof.

Who really wants to walk back into middle school?

No one, ever.

I have a theory that middle school is hard because we desperately want one of two things:

To be noticed or to be not noticed. Or the third option…a little bit of both.

In middle school we don’t know our desires, as girls, as budding women, or as people, but as we grow we begin to identify them more clearly.

We want to be loved.

We want to know we’re valued, worthwhile.

We want to feel safe, physically, emotionally, and relationally.

There’s probably more, but I think those are the big three, particularly for girls.

Some thing weird happens too, sometimes we have no idea where to find them. We start searching, searching, and searching some more…we look every where, but we mostly look at men to tell us, what only God can –

We are loved.

We are valued.

We are safely held by Him for eternity.

A few months ago, I wrote this article for Concordia Publishing House –

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior

It’s about our deepest desires, the problem of sin, the struggle of Satan trying to hide what is good from us, and the weight of expectations in relationships.

As the months passed, I wanted to hash all this out a bit more; to understand why my wild, young, and rebellious heart looked everywhere but to God for fulfillment in this life, and why it’s a struggle still today.

Why do I so often want a man to fill me, when I know good and well that only God can?

You’ll find a few of the answers I found here, in this new podcast episode: Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior.

It present 5 things I think we’re searching for, a few good questions for evaluating our expectations in our relationships, and also offers encouragement, whether you’re single, married, young, old, wild, or tame – to run to God, run. He’s already got you anyway.

You are loved by Him.

You are valued by Him.

You are safe in His arms.

I’d love to hear from you. Tell me your experiences, your thoughts, or send your questions. We’re all figuring our this life together, led, and fully filled up by our Savior.

We’re more similar than different – Haiti, ministry life, and encouragement

Sue Matzke teaches us how a little Haiti can change a lot of life…
About first or second grade we had to fill in a worksheet that asked “When I grow up, I want to be a ____________.”
 
I answered missionary.
 

Besides the Holy Spirit, I’m not certain what prompted me to write that. 

Enter my high school science teacher,Mr. Britten, who was once a long-term missionary in Swaziland, Africa. A scheduling glitch gave my section of Chemistry an extra twenty minutes with Mr Britten three days a week, which he dubbed “family time.” He spoke candidly about most everything we needed to hear and he often told us tales about his mission work. I soaked in every single word. It is not surprising that my high school produced numerous short and long term missionaries, but one of them was not me. I became a parochial school teacher and librarian before marrying a pastor and homeschooling our son. 

And then, one day I became one.

 

In December of 2016, I went with Ministry in Mission to Haiti. Mr. Britten always emphasized the relationships he built in mission work, and he was right.

I had been asked to facilitate some Bible studies through a translator with the Haitian women. I was nervous!  I used Heidi’s Think on These Bible Study and focused on the lovely chapter. There was so much laughter. We all shared different things that our husbands find lovely. And of course, what God thinks of as lovely. The women I worked with in Jacmel had many questions for me and seemed very surprised that my husband and son were in the church’s choir but not me! The women love to share songs. We gathered in a circle, held hands, and they sang Creole Advent hymns to me. It’s one of my favorite memories.

The second half of my trip was spent in the eastern portion of Haiti where Hurricane Matthew had done the most damage. One thing we did was to spend two days traveling to very remote churches to follow up on grants that had been given to rebuild roofs on pastor’s homes. Upon our arrival, I was always introduced as “Madame Pasteur” – pastor’s wife. When I was introduced this way, the Haitian pastors’s wives would always get a big smile on their faces and give me the most giant hug. The translators would then go off and do official business, leaving us two pastors’ wives alone. The language barrier kept us from speaking many words to each other, so more often than not, we’d just hold hands and smile. The Haitian pastor’s wife would sometimes walk around with her husband, holding my hand for dear life. I’ve been there too. Sharing a hand with one another may be just the encouragement that woman needs for their ministry. We would say goodbye with that same giant hug. 
 
I simply cannot wait to return to Haiti in January and hug those beautiful women again!
It’s a sisterhood. We women need one another. Church life, ministry, and family life look strikingly similar, no matter our nationality, ethnicity, poverty or wealth, family structure or size, ministry situation, job, gifts or abilities.
We’d love for you to come with us to encourage and receive encouragement from our sisters in Haiti. For more information on the I Love My Shepherd trip to Haiti January 18-25, see this info sheet and registration forms at Ministry in Mission .