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The Emotionally Healthy Church: Principal 2

Posted on Saturday, January 31st, 2015 by Sanctuary staff

The Emotionally Healthy Church

PRINCIPLE 2: Break the Power of the Past

In his book Emotionally Healthy Church, Peter Scazzero suggests seven principles that will create a culture of real discipleship in our churches. Today we’ll explore his second principle: “Unless we grasp the power of the past on who we are in the present, we will inevitably replicate those patterns in relationships inside and outside the church” (p. 96).

Scazzero explores the families of Abraham and King David to invite us to a deeper look at the blessings and challenges we’ve inherited from our own families. Our great hope in looking at these issues is the reality that Christ wants to enter and transform every aspect of our lives, especially of the lives of Christian leaders.

Scazerro offers six steps for this principle, Break the Power of the Past:

1. Identify how your family shaped you – drawing a genogram that shows family members and relationships is a great tool for this honest inventory.

2. Discern the major influences in your life – what makes you tick?

3. Become reparented through the church – “Following Jesus is a process that takes time” (p. 103).

4. Lead a church family like my own family – Scazzero humbly shares how he learned about his family’s influence on his pastoring, for better or worse.

5. Remember how many people are at the table – as we relate to one another at church, we are wise to remember that every person brings their own family legacy to their church participation. “It can be overwhelming to think of the church as a place where all these individuals are bringing their entire family histories with them. This is, however, a fairly accurate picture. It also helps us understand the enormous complexity of leading a church” (p. 110).

6. We never finish going back – In my opinion, this is the most important point of this chapter. Because character growth is humbling and often painful, we are tempted to view it as a one-time process and something we’re glad to put behind us. The truth is that the wisest saints are those who continue to welcome God into new places in their stories and souls. This entire life is meant to be a journey of becoming more whole in Christ.

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Love Well

Posted on Saturday, January 31st, 2015 by Sanctuary staff

We are delighted to welcome Caroline Timmins, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, to our team at Sanctuary!

Love Well, Jamie George (2014)
A book review by Caroline Timmins, LMFT

A few years ago I participated in a small home group study of the book of 1 Peter. Determined to create a place of fellowship, we banded together, all of us friends, married, and in various stages of the parenting process. Each of us desired connection and to know more of God. We were eager, as well, to gain practical truth we could apply to the harder sides of family life.

One night as we read the passage aloud, we stumbled upon a small but profound phrase embedded within the text. It was pure and simple, but not simplistic. Meaty, but not quickly digested.

Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22).

What does it mean to love deeply? To love well? We spent the better part of the night chewing on the meaning. I still ponder this phrase, years later, as I struggle to live selflessly amid the constant pull of narcissistic flesh.

Recently I heard of someone asking that same question and since that someone was the brother of a dear friend from Buffalo, New York, and since that brother was from Nashville, and interesting things seem to be happening in Nashville, (beyond the catchy, messy, television drama) I was intrigued and bought the newly released book, Love Well, (2014), by Pastor Jamie George of The Journey Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

As I opened the book and began to unpack his thoughts on the idea of loving well, I found it similar to our little scripture phrase….pure and simple, but not simplistic, an easy read but not an easy task. Loving well is no simple thing.

I discovered the book to be not so much a “how to” love well as it is a “how to” think well… which is okay since it could be argued one cannot love well, until one thinks well.

C.S. Lewis said “to fools and weaklings one writes soft things” and George must believe his reader to be neither, for he offers challenges that run counter culture as well as counter nature. Love Well is not a soft book. But it is also not intellectual treatise. Written much like a journal, it is formatted with intentional spaces, full of meaningful quotes, and transparent. The reader becomes privy to the very personal thoughts of a man who is wrestling with the idea of loving well and has formulated some simple yet profound nuggets on what that really means.

In my work as a counselor, I feel compelled to stay abreast of the current literature on love and marriage. Out of this sense of obligation, I browse the new books table at Barnes and Noble every month or so, debating which one is worth the time and money. Honestly, I rarely leave the store with a purchase. Generally this genre leaves me feeling sickened or bored or both. People seem to enjoy making love into either a trite formula, or a heady science. But few will share their own struggle in the vulnerable way that George has chosen to do….in a way that hangs raw and unresolved while at the same time addressing deep questions.

Take for example, the question of ‘where is God amid marital pain?” While George introduces a God who cares deeply about meeting us in our stuck places, at the same time, he shares a radical insight he had during his own struggle:

”He (God) seemed….unaffected by our inability to thrive as a married couple” (page 47)…a bit shocking amid the “God wants you to be happy” philosophy of our time. It raises the possibility that perhaps our marital happiness is not God’s highest priority….that God can at the same time, care deeply for our pain while remaining unaffected by it. Is it possible He desires us to remain open and available to Him despite that pain? To refrain from making our little corner of pain the monopoly of our lives and instead, serve, and honor and, love each other well, in the midst of it? Nothing “soft” about this concept.

As I turn the pages of Love Well, I get a glimpse of a couple doing just that…forging ahead in their on-going battle to love well, without neglecting the work of ministry. The book tells candidly of a man and woman building a new church, learning to fully engage and listen to people’s stories as a means of loving others well, trying to remain authentic, despite and amid their own personal pain. They did not, however, use the busyness of ministry as a distraction from their own problems. Rather they faced their own dysfunction head on. They went to a marriage therapist. As a therapist, I have great admiration for that approach. Marriage is hard work and often requires the help of an outside resource, and they found a good one. George openly shares the winsome and wise tidbits gained from his own experiences with marriage counselor, Doyle, and how he and his wife did the hard work of applying this wisdom. I admired that as well. Many folks deceptively think the hour of therapy is what heals marriage. But they have it wrong. One hour of therapy a week offers no more healing for a marriage than one hour with a physical therapist will heal a broken leg. It is what happens outside of therapy…the exercises at home, building new habits of communication and practicing new emotional awareness…that shift a marriage from a place of brokenness toward one of wholeness. I appreciated the vulnerable and realistic view of how this worked in his life.

George also shares little incidents that happened along the way to challenge his thinking. Stories that move the reader to say to themselves…”hmmm…maybe I should re-think my perspective on that.” For instance, he brings the reader along on walk in the woods for a bit of a “come to Jesus” talk. One sees George standing in the forest gazing up through the sunlit branches, questioning his Creator in one of those intimate moments so characteristic of the privileged relationship believers have with their Maker. There he queries God about the wisdom of being led to start yet another church in Nashville, smack in the middle of the southern Bible belt where churches are like Starbucks in the Northwest, one on every corner. In response to his lengthy debate the Lord responds simply: “get over yourself” (pg. 141). I had to smile. How many times have I had a similar discourse with God, only to receive a similar response? Yet, George writes not in judgment but rather as invitation, suggesting through his own self deprecating style, that joining in on God’s agenda and setting our own aside might possibly be key to loving well: less stress, more peace, less strife, more love. It makes sense….pure and simple, but not soft… and not easy.

There is much more within the pages like questions at the end of each chapter to help the reader become “unstuck” and snippets of insights from the Bible, encouragement around building better boundaries, and an urging to risk sharing vulnerabilities as a way of connecting to others. He ends with an amazing chapter on living a Joy-filled life, suggesting wholehearted TRUST in the Lord is a main and necessary ingredient of joy.

By trusting God, doing the hard work of personal growth, and opening up to others in vulnerable, authentic ways a person can be liberated from the need to control and freed to enjoy life and love well. I would say that is a pretty good summary of what it means to “love one another deeply and from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

Although there is much to “do” in order to love others well, it starts with thinking well, which starts with exposure to good and deep thoughts…and if you are looking for a pure and simple way to start that journey, Love Well is not a bad place to start.

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The Emotionally Healthy Church: Principal 1

Posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 by Sanctuary staff

The Emotionally Healthy Church

PRINCIPLE 1: Look Beneath the Surface

In his book Emotionally Healthy Church, Peter Scazzero suggests seven principles that will create a culture of real discipleship in our churches. Today I’ll summarize the first principle, which is that becoming truly Christ-like requires coming to know ourselves in truth. Experiences of failure or disappointment sometimes provide the prompt to look deeper within and trust God more fully to make us whole. Scazzero gives us four ways we can look deeper to become emotionally healthy Christ-followers who can help form an emotionally healthy church body:

1. Awareness of what I am feeling and doing.

“Most Christians, I’m afraid, are self-conscious but not self-aware” (p. 79). Maturity comes when we shift our energy from trying to look right to ourselves and others, and honestly look at ourselves in the light of God’s mercy.

2. Asking “Why?” “What’s going on?”

God made us intricate and complex, and maturity comes when we wonder about the meaning of our own feelings, reactions, and wishes. I’ve seen huge growth unleashed in the lives of those who take a break from defensiveness or self-criticsim and take a look with genuine curiosity.

3. Linking the gospel and emotional health

I can’t overstate the difference it makes to see ourselves with Christ. Apart from His mercy we’re prone to hide and dread an honest peek at ourselves. But when we receive the gift of His righteousness and let His mercy into our eyes, we can bear to see ourselves as loved people who have more growing to do.

4. Getting rid of the ‘Glittering Image’

Learning to look within ourselves as those accepted in Christ delivers us from the need to win everyone’s liking and approval. This yields a huge return of energy and effort that can now be spent on loving God, receiving from Him, and loving others as ourselves.

Click here to read more about how we can see ourselves with more honesty and compassion.

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We need to have a little talk… about Satan.

Posted on Saturday, April 30th, 2011 by Sanctuary staff

Could it be... Satan?I know, Satan is an awkward topic for most folks these days. We’re enlightened, educated, modern thinkers – we don’t believe in a nasty guy with a pitchfork and a red suit, right? You might remember Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character from Saturday Night Live. This is the kind of person I imagine likes to talk about Satan.

But the truth is, we need to acknowledge Satan’s existence. When we don’t , we are unable to keep our sanity about the destructive things that happen in our lives and the world around us. I was recently reading a great book titled I Believe in Satan’s Downfall (Green, 1981) (an excellent primer on how we as Christians are to understand Satan, by the way). An observant nine year-old friend of mine saw the book in my hand and out of his mouth came a profound truth: “There has to be Satan. Otherwise all the sin and bad stuff is God’s fault.” As Green puts it, “If there were no Satan, it would be hard to resist the conclusion that God is a fiend both because of what he does, in nature, and what he allows, in human wickedness” (p. 19).

I so often talk with folks who are struggling because it does seem to them that the suffering in their life is God’s fault and God’s desire for them. When our worldview is missing an acknowledgement of Satan and his evil work, we’re hopelessly vulnerable to misunderstanding God. Allow me to share some basic truths about Satan, and then we’ll quickly move on to the reality of Christ’s victory.

Who is Satan? “One of God’s creatures – a spirit of great ability, who became consumed by pride, rebelled, lost his position, and set up in opposition and in implacable hatred against God, the source of his existence” (Green, 1981, p. 34). Satan is part of the supernatural realm of created beings that includes the angels who do God’s bidding. He is violent, powerful, highly intelligent, a liar, and persistent. Much of the difficulty and pain we experience in life is devised and implemented by him. But he is also bound, nothing more than a usurper with no rightful authority over us, and cowardly, afraid of anyone who stands up to him in the name of Jesus Christ.

Satan would prefer that we are blind to his existence and work; our denial of his presence adds greatly to his power. I see this all too often when believing Christians are alienated from God by the assumption that the darkness in their life is God’s desire and doing. C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters is a valuable read for helping restore to us a healthy recognition of the work of Satan. Let’s listen in on this dialog between Screwtape and Wormwood: “My dear Wormwood, I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics… I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you” (Lewis, 2001, p. 7).

My main goal in this short article is to remind you, or tell you if you’ve never heard it before, that we mustn’t deny, forget about, or ignore Satan. Let me close, however, with the very good, wonderful, hopeful, and life-giving news: Jesus has defeated him! Satan has no rightful authority in your life. You can have confidence in the cross of Jesus, in the presence of the Holy Spirit with you, and in the living word of God. I can’t encourage you enough to seek God’s presence in prayer, to engage in deep relationship with other believers, and to seek Godly counsel and support for whatever battle is underway in your life – one excellent guide in this process is Restoring the Christian Soul Through Healing Prayer (Payne, 1991).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Do you find it awkward to think or talk about Satan? Have you been hurt by the ways others have talked to you about evil, or punishment, or Satan? Have you found ways of paying attention to this dimension of reality that help you?

Recommended reading:
Green, M. (1981). I Believe in Satan’s Downfall. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Lewis, C. S. (2001). The Screwtape Letters. New York: HarperCollins.
Payne, L. (1991). Restoring the Christian Soul Through Healing Prayer. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.