Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sovereign Grace and Saving Face (Amended Sexual Abuse Lawsuit)

Dear friends,

It's been an interesting and often disheartening week or so in the blogosphere following the recent developments in the (now largely dismissed) sexual abuse lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries, two SGM congregations, and several of its current and former pastors.   It seems to me that Sovereign Grace leaders and their neo-Reformed friends are more interested in saving face and serving themselves than they are for taking responsibility for their actions and serving the victims.  As a mother of 10 and a former long-time member of SGM, I am quite disturbed.  A think we need a lot more light in this darkness.

Short story: a civil lawsuit originally filed against SGM last October and expanded in both January and May alleges that at least 11 children whose families were members of SGM congregations were sexually abused.  I have read the entire lawsuit.  In some cases, the alleged crimes were committed by pastors, teachers, and other ministry leaders on church property during church events, with the knowledge of church leadership, who did nothing to stop it.  In other cases, the alleged crimes were in homes by church members who were either family or babysitters during home group meetings.  According to the lawsuit, when the families reported this to pastors, they were ordered not to go to the police, the young victims were shamed and made to "reconcile" with the perpetrators face to face, and official investigations were impeded.  In one instance, a man who served jail time for incest is still active in the church with free access to children through music ministry and other events. The lawsuit also alleges an on-going interstate conspiracy among the pastors to cover up pedophilia cases in the churches.  Unfortunately, most of the lawsuit was dismissed solely because of the statute of limitations.  The attorneys had hoped for an exception to this based on the conspiracy allegations.  Additional criminal investigations are also taking place.

Isn't that enough to make you vomit?  You'd think that most evangelical leaders would be in a complete outrage!  But here's the rub...  They haven't, at least in the neo-Reformed circles.  By and large, they stayed silent, and when they finally started speaking up this week, their responses were basically, "We stand by our friends.  The lawsuit has been dismissed and nothing has been proved, so we have to assume they are innocent.  Nothing to see here, so let's move along."  Want to see their real words?  See The Gospel Coalition: Why We Have Been Silent statement by Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, and Justin Taylor  and T4G (Together for the Gospel) Statement by Mark Dever (9 Marks), Al Mohler (SBC), and Ligon Duncan.  Note: The latter statement was originally posted on a Facebook page, but due to the moral outrage against SGM and T4G expressed in the comments, the entire thing was pulled rather quickly.  The post on their own site has comments disabled.  Of course, in their side bar they are advertising a new music album from SGM for sale.  Hmmm.

I have written about SGM problems related to sexual abuse in these posts:

I would also like to present you with a whole list of links about what other bloggers are saying...  Please note that I do not endorse everything in these posts or on these blogs.  They are here for you to read with your God-given discernment.  Most of these blogs have other posts and links about SGM; if you want to read more, poke around!

Just two of many secular news reports:

I have also just added a subscription list for this blog.  If you would like to receive it by e-mail, you can either do that in the right hand sidebar or send any message to watchtheshepherd-subscribe@googlegroups.com.  Not all of my posts are on such weighty topics, and some of them are actually rather aesthetic. :-) You may especially like my new inspirational series, Strength In Hymn.  You might also like to visit my other blogs, www.VirginiaKnowles.blogspot.com and www.ComeWearyMoms.blogspot.com, and my three home school blogs linked to them.

For justice,
Virginnia Knowles

P.S. The photo at the top was taken on Memorial Day, a day when we remember brave men and women who have given their lives to protect the innocent.  One of my daughters lit her sparkler off of mine.  I hope this blog post lights a few sparklers, too.  I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me (Strength in Hymn)

“Let the Beauty of Jesus”
Rev. Tom Jones

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
All his wonderful passion and purity
O Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

What is this beauty of JesusMany tend to associate “beauty” with something aesthetically pretty, feminine, and in need of protection. But this kind of beauty has nothing to do with frilly fragility or prissy passivity. The beauty of Jesus is sturdy, forceful, fiercely protective, self-disciplined, faithful, creative, passionate, compassionate, refined, and pure. He is wonderful.

What does it mean to display the beauty of Jesus in our lives? It’s simply being like Jesus and walking in his ways. It means glorifying him instead of ourselves and defending the weak instead of reveling in power. Ironically, it also means we are unique, because the Holy Spirit works different ways in different people. No cookie cutter Christians here! Other believers might be good examples to us, but our goal in life is not to be just like our pastor or Bible study leader or best-selling author or famous preacher on TV. When we are influencing others, our goal should not be to make them just like us. It’s to love them authentically and bring them to the real Jesus.

Some of us have seen ugliness in the name of Jesus. We’ve been burned by those who claim his name but don’t follow his path or grow his fruit. Maybe we've burned others, too. When he has been misrepresented, it takes fresh new eyes to see Jesus as he truly is: beautiful. I try to remember that my troubling experiences with other people on this journey actually serve to refine and purify me in ways I hadn’t expected. Yes, they have brought doubts and resentments up to the surface, like dross to be burned off of the gold. I’m definitely a work in progress. (So are my fellow believers.) But my struggles and disappointments have also given me a new compassion for those who are hurting, a new passion for grace and truth, and a new resolve to be more like Jesus instead of trying to stuff myself into a religious mold. I’ll let him shape me into a useful vessel instead.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

I don’t remember where I first heard it, but this lovely old hymn is one of my favorites. I hadn’t sung it in a while, but found it again on someone’s blog recently with slightly different words.  What memories!  You can listen to the tune and see two more verses here.

This post is the second in my new series Strength in Hymn, for those who need a bit of consolation and renewal after rough patches on the Christian journey. The first one is  
I Dare Not Trust the Sweetest Frame? You might also like Love Lifted Me. 

What hymns are encouraging to you in this season of life?  Do you have any favorites from days gone by that you'd like to dust off and sing again?  Leave a comment!

Virginia Knowles

P.S. The flower pictures were all taken in Baldwin Park, Florida, while I was waiting for three of my kids to get out of Lake Baldwin Church youth group on a recent Sunday evening.  I am thankful for the beauty I have found in this little congregation.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Dare Not Trust the Sweetest Frame? (Strength in Hymn)

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
I trust
 in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.Psalm 52:8

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Psalm 37:3

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Trust.  So many of us have lost trust in other people, and often even our trust in God wavers.  I can't tell you how many times I've been reminded that people will always let you down, but we can trust in God.  And I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to doubt God, too.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand. 
Should we trust other people?  Yes and no, I suppose.  It depends on whether they are trustworthy or not.  You are not obligated to trust someone just because they demand it.  If they've broken your trust, it is up to them to rebuild it.  Sure, give them a chance, but use your God-given caution.  People can be like quicksand, sucking us under.

A wise counselor once gave me this word picture.  If a dirty hobo shows up at your door asking for food, he can't expect to be invited into your fancy dining room for a banquet.  It's too much of a risk that he'll rob you blind or worse!  However, you can pull up a rocking chair for him on the front porch and bring out a nice hoagie sandwich, some chocolate chip cookies and lemonade.   He is receiving the amount of trust that he is due.  This counselor compared this analogy to strained relationships.  If someone has broken your trust and wants to regain it, you bring him or her "a sandwich on the porch" -- allowing basic dignity but no true intimacy.  You can grant them a little more and more trust as you go, as they prove they are able to handle it.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
Many of you have endured broken trust in the form of abuse of authority in the context of your family, your church, or a religious organization.  When the person who has wronged you claims to have God's anointing, it's very natural to feel angry at God, too, projecting the warped misrepresentation of character onto him.  This kind of darkness veils his face.  It's time to remove that barrier so we can gaze directly on the kindness and grace of Jesus and rest in what he has done for us rather than the legalistic demands of others.
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;

When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
Chances are, if you've been wrapping your whole life and relationships around a system instead of our Savior, most of your friends and family members in that particular context are not going to understand your angst.  They will exhort you to get back in line and conform.  It's painful to walk away  from the security you have known, even if it is making you die inside.  Take courage. Find out who the real Jesus is, he who  shed his blood to die so you could live, he who still searches out the broken to restore them to wholeness.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;

Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne. 
Jesus is coming back for the Church, his Beloved Bride.  Though we are individuals, we aren't Lone Rangers.  We are meant for community. It is good to be able to trust people around us: to enjoy a warm and healthy family life, have close friendships, and be knit in with other Christian believers for fellowship, worship, and teaching.  Heaven is going to be a huge party -- and then, in the light of his presence, our relationships will all be perfect, with no disappointment, sorrow or pain!  I can't wait!

"And those who know your name
put their trust
 in you,
for you, O 
have not forsaken
those who seek you."
Psalm 9:10

The pictures in this post were taken outside the office of a Christian therapist.  If you suspect that you have trouble trusting God and other people in a healthy manner, I encourage you to seek out a wise, compassionate, and experienced counselor to help you work through it.

This post is the first in my Strength in Hymn series.  The second is: Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me. 

You might also like these posts:

Virginia Knowles