Category Archives: sin

There’s a Plank In Your Eye, Miss!

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Matthew 7:1-3 ESV

Ah…this scripture. I love it and yet…I find that it drives a stake right into my heart every time I read it. Yes, it kills the monster in me that just want to scream “You’re a fool!” to some random person. You see, I can’t do that because I’m a fool, too.

We all are going to make mistakes daily. We’re all struggling in some way to do something right all the time, but we’re never going to reach perfection. We’re not God. We are called to sharpen our brothers and sisters by gently rebuking them, redirecting their attention to the scriptures and by praying for them, but we are never called to monitor their every move in order to harshly judge them or call them a fool. Search your hearts, brothers and sisters. You may not be doing exactly that, but there may be something similar going on in your life right now and you…as well as I, need to stop it right now.

We are not loving our neighbor when we’re people watching only to create websites that display the foolishness of humanity. ( Yes, I’m talking to you, People of Wal-Mart.) We are not loving our neighbor when we call out their insecurities and make fun of them for it. We are not loving our neighbor when we feign friendship only to gain insight for scholarly gain. (Term papers, social studies, etc.) And we are certainly not loving our neighbor when we’re consistently, without love, calling out our neighbor for mistakes they’ve made in life. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all done some variation of this. We have to check our hearts, folks. If we’re not correcting out of love and concern for their souls, we’re judging harshly and inappropriately. Check your heart and then lead your heart.

Most of us will naturally become annoyed with anyone with whom we’ve spent too much time. We’ll step on each others’ toes and make silly mistakes that don’t feel silly. They’ll hurt feelings. We’ll intimately get to know our neighbor and yes, we’ll discover hot buttons that when pressed, will create deep wounds. We are not to take advantage of this, or even use this to “correct” our neighbor when we finally find out “what’s wrong with them.” Chances are that whatever “issue” you are finding fault with in your neighbor is more your problem than theirs. We will see our own issues and insecurities manifest themselves in others when that is what we’re placing our focus on. Regain focus. Look to Jesus and pray for your own heart, then look back to your neighbor with a heart full of Grace and love. What do you see? If it’s not a person made righteous by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, then you’re going to need to look away again and refocus your eyes and your heart on Jesus before you can safely (without sin) look at your neighbor again.

I am speaking to you, too…self. I am having such a problem with this issue as well. I really struggle with making harsh judgments towards those with whom I am spending too much time. God has placed my family in an interesting and sometimes extremely uncomfortable situation right now. I’m learning that God doesn’t care too much about my own comfort as He sets my heart right.I am very grateful for this and that He checks my motives before giving me the desires of my heart!

Jesus has already died to set you free. You are no longer a sinner, but a saint. (read: 1 Corinthians 1:2) You are made perfect in God’s eyes because Jesus absorbed all of your punishment on the cross. (read: 2 Corinthians 5:21) We are not called to obey the law in order to retain our salvation. (read: Matthew 5:17) We’re called to obey the law out of love. (read: Romans 13:10) We need to live this out every day, to the best of our ability. When we can’t or don’t, there is grace. Please don’t abuse that! (read: Romans 6) We are all in need of grace. None of us are in competition with anyone else for our salvation. We already have it. Just look to Christ to grow you and mature you more each day. You can do this! God has equipped you with everything you need.

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, we come to You boldly, in the name of Your son, Jesus. We thank You for the Holy Spirit that loves us and guides us. We ask that You would make us sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Help us to hear it more clearly and know when we’re making harsh judgements and when we’re truly seeking to correct or rebuke a brother or sister out of love. Help us to focus first on You, Lord and correct our behaviors, thoughts and attitudes before we even dare to look to others. Thank You for growing us and for fulfilling Your word that You began a good work in us and You will see it to completion. We confess that sometimes we don’t trust that. Sometimes we also try to do things on our own and that leads to burnout. We get frustrated with ourselves and become critical of others. Our focus is lost and we sin against You by sinning against Your children. We are sorry and we humbly repent, admitting that all sin is against You and Your will for our lives. Thank You for Jesus who has borne our sin and those of our neighbors as well. Fill our hearts with Your love as we reset our focus back onto You and away from idols and sin. In Jesus’ Holy and perfect name we pray. Amen.

 

Prayer: Let Love Shine

Lord, we lift up to You all who are hurting and desperate for relief. Clear their minds of all their sins and fill their hearts with Your love. You promise to keep in perfect peace all whose minds are focused on You. We ask that You would fill our minds with good, pure and pleasing thoughts of You. You have done so much for us and You never give up on us, never leave us. Let Your light shine and your love transform us. In Jesus Holy Name we pray. Amen.

Victim and Survivor Shaming Must Stop

Victim and survivor shaming must stop. It’s imperative to the health and welfare of all victims past and current of any type of abuse, domestic, emotional, spiritual and sexual, for the shaming to stop immediately. We must be allowed to tell our stories. We must be allowed to tell them accurately and as honestly as possible. We must be allowed to tell them as often as we feel called to. We must be allowed to tell them in public, online, in books, in stories, in private and to friends and family. We must be allowed to be heard, whether our abuser is a celebrity, family member, friend or stranger. We must not be continually questioned as to the validity of our statements. Even when something is remembered only partway, there is a valid reason for that – the event was traumatic and as a result, the formations in our brains were changed dramatically. Our brains may not want to retain the information, so it attempts to lock it away in a deep dark corner, like stuffing something revolting into the bottom of the trash in order to dispose of it entirely. There is no way to completely dispose of trauma, except to heal from it and move forward. Otherwise, we are stuck in a never-ending cycle of running from it only to find we’re actually running in circles, gaining no actual ground. There is no road behind us except that which is well worn by our own souls – the same sights, smells, tastes, memories on repeat.

When we’re allowed to tell our stories, we take the power away from the event little by little. We effectively state that we are no longer stuck in the past but are actively moving towards a brighter future. We build in our community, hope. For each survivor that speaks out, another victim is listening, gaining strength to someday break free from their own hell and begin to tell their own story. The path to healing is paved by the bravery of the freed survivors – those who were not silenced by hatred and shaming but spoke up anyway. I will be one of those that help pave the road for the next generation. I will be one of the brave and you who hate what I have to say will not stop me. My God gives me strength and in Christ, all things are possible. I will speak up for those who are too weak to speak for themselves. I will inspire the next generation to stand up and tell their story. I will no longer sit in shame, but will look you in the eyes and tell you my story. I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. You cannot take that from me.

Over the years, I have been told that I should not give pearls to swine and that by telling my story openly, I am giving pearls to swine. I respectfully disagree. By keeping my story secret and protecting the identity of my abuser, I am giving pearls to swine. I choose to take my pearls back. My abuser was not only my step-father, but several of his friends as well. Most of the abuse occurred while my mother was out of the home, tending to work or to my severely handicapped sister, Melissa. My step-father was very manipulative and found many avenues for gaining control over me. It seems that one of his favorites was to nurture me. Often times he’d turn children’s shows on the television – shows like Disney on Ice that were meant to fascinate me and hold my attention. He’d then call me onto his lap and proceed to molest me, his hands between my legs and my hands often between his, at his insistence. If I rejected him, I’d often be punished severely. I remember being cornered in a narrow hallway on a few occasions, his leather belt in hand. I’d refused him. He didn’t care for that too much. I learned my lesson. The next time I focused on the television show and did not resist him. I pretended I was somewhere else and that it was not me who has touching him, but someone else. This is how I coped. This is also how the abuse was allowed to go on for so long. My memories were deeply repressed and this abusive behavior became a way of life for me, like waking up and eating breakfast before going off to school. It was habit and I was overpowered, my choices removed from me before I even realized I had a choice to make. I’d also refer to this as brain washing.

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Luke 17:2 (NIV)

I fully believe my step-father will answer to God for all of his sins against me. The Bible makes it clear that my step-father not only sinned against me, but against God Himself as well. That is a strong statement with lasting repercussions, and it’s one I believe whole-heartedly. If he doesn’t repent fully, I believe my step-father will burn in hell. I see him suffering now in his personal life with work, health, his continued marriage to my Mother, and his fractured relationships with family (his only son, my younger brother) and with friendships. There is a large part of me that finds satisfaction in his suffering, though I am aware that Christ is not pleased with my satisfaction. I pray daily for His Light to overcome the darkness in my heart. If Christ can forgive those who crucified Him, I too can forgive my abuser. I’m finding it’s a daily, if not hourly process. Each time I think I’ve fully forgiven him, my heart finds more bitterness and I lash out. It’s my intent to forgive but never forget.

Out of the pain of the past, it’s become difficult to trust others. In my own personal life, there are precious few who are allowed intimate glances into my daily life, and fewer still who are allowed to remain in my life for long periods of time. The time of abuse from my step-father and his friends has taught me to trust no one, and to keep no one around for long periods of time. Habits form when people are allowed to be near you. It gives people time to manipulate and brain wash you, therefore, relationships must be considered disposable in order to remain safe. This has been the most difficult thought process to overcome. I understand intellectually that it’s flawed and needs to be revised in order to live a full life, but it is one of the hardest for me to address on a consistent, daily basis. It is simply too painful. I will continue praying for Christ’s Light to overcome this darkness in my heart. Could you, reader, pray for me as well? This is a hard battle, and I’m not the only survivor walking it. This battle has threatened my marriage multiple times. I will not allow it to overtake me or my marriage, but I can’t do it alone. Neither can you. I continue seeking help.

Seeking help is another area I want to address in regards to victim and survivor shaming. Over the years, I’ve sought help from many different avenues. Some of them have been entirely appropriate – talk therapy, behavior modification counseling, psychiatry, Christian Bible-based counseling, support groups and prayer. Other avenues haven’t been nearly as successful, especially within friend groups, but they did often lead to other, more helpful solutions. I also gained a better understanding of who my true friends are, and who I am in Christ. The most painful avenues I took were speaking to close and personal friends, entrusting them with information, and then being told that I was too broken to formulate a lasting relationship with. I understand their point of view to an extent; however, the delivery was painful. We are all a broken people in one way or another. This is why we must live in community. We complete the beautiful picture that Christ has painted.

I’ve written many times on the struggles that I’ve overcome – homosexual tendencies, adultery, depression, suicide, addiction…these are nothing new within the sexual abuse survivor community. These are prevalent themes. They’re sins and they need to be addressed as such, but they’re also causes for deep concern. Why are these things happening to our youth? Why are so many survivors turning to harmful avenues as a way of healing from the pain of the past? I have a theory, but you probably won’t like it.
We’re being silenced, shamed, told to keep it quiet and move on, but we can’t. Our stories are banging on the walls, begging to be let out. We can’t move on until we can heal. We can’t do that until we can talk about it, explore the depths of what happened to us and be allowed to move on in our own time. I’ve been told by several professionals that for every year of trauma a survivor has endured, it takes an equal amount of years to heal from that. We can’t even begin to heal until we’ve been effectively heard.

In the news, we’re reading about celebrities abusing youth and we turn our heads and scoff at the victims and the abusers. We make jokes about it and quote famous lines from movies, TV and commercials. It becomes funny to us, but it’s deeply harmful to the victims. I’ve been on both sides of this, and it’s disgusting no matter where you stand.

Satan has twisted scripture for so long and has whispered lies into so many ears. He’s using sexual sins, among others, to rampantly overtake the world. He’s started with the innocent children, molding them into confused, scared little people who grow up to pray on the children they’re entrusted to protect. It’s a rabid hamster running around in the same wheel, in the same putrid cage, breeding and killing it’s own off-spring. We have to treat that rabid hamster, no matter how disgusting he really is on the inside. We have to do it without killing the off-spring and without silencing their cries for help. Each person needs their own space to heal, their own space to tell their stories and their own space to carve out a life for themselves. We cannot continue to group survivors in with the abusers, nor can we continue to ignore either’s cry for help. I know, this is a controversial statement, but it’s one that needs to be made. Perhaps if my step-father had received the help he desperately needed, he would not have abused me, my handicapped sister and my younger brother. Perhaps if we have been removed from the home, we could’ve healed sooner and more effectively. Perhaps if more victims and survivors’ voices were heard, there would be less abuse and more action towards ending it.

I do not propose that simply hearing our stories will end all abuses, but I do propose that it will end for us, the cycle of abuse and begin the path to effective healing. We need more success stories and more survivors to find their voices and call out for action. We need more bravery and less cowardice. Join me now in sharing your stories. Stop protecting your abuser. Speak out and speak up!

My simple prayer for you: May God bless you in your endeavors to tell your story and heal from the horrors of your past. In Christ’s Name. Amen.

Race Wars in the U.S. {Children’s Sermon for Sunday}

On Sunday, I’m teaching the children’s sermon at my church. Anthony and I are both youth leaders, working on building a sustainable youth program. On Sundays, we take turns with several other church members teaching a short lesson to the wonderful kids in our church. This Sunday, our topic will be social justice, but more to the point – segregation and reintegration. I want the kids to be thinking about how Jesus would like us to react to this issue today. As I’m doing my research for this sermon topic, I came across an article* that caused me to catch my breath. In 2001, the fight to end segregation in schools was still happening in the south, brothers and sisters! The article states that “A study by Harvard’s Civil Rights Project finds that schools were more segregated in 2000 than in 1970 when busing for desegregation began.”

For us to be fighting this issue nearly 50 years later is an embarrassment to this great nation. How can we call America “God’s Country” if we are not doing His work?

Last night on the HMong for Life radio show** it was revealed that the Del Norte California school district has had money for a HMong teacher since 2009, but has not yet taken any steps toward hiring one. How is 5 years not enough time to locate and hire a qualified candidate? 10% of our local population is HMong, brothers and sisters. That is significant!

We are far past being able to stay silent about these issues. We must stand with our HMong brothers and sisters and fight for social justice.

I haven’t even begun to reintroduce the facts and sad (true) stories of the lives of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. I’ll get to that later. For now, I’d just like us to consider this one point. Most asian immigrants can never “return home” and for many, the U.S.A is their home, as they were born here. This is their land just as much as it is yours and mine. Laotian blood was spilled for our freedom, brothers and sisters. If you’re not aware of the secret wars during Vietnam, please take some time and acquaint yourselves with it now. I’ll place some links below.

As I consider the deep impact of race wars in the United States, I’m reminded of a certain story from the Bible about the Good Samaritan.

Luke 10:25-37 Living Bible (TLB)

25 One day an expert on Moses’ laws came to test Jesus’ orthodoxy by asking him this question: “Teacher, what does a man need to do to live forever in heaven?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does Moses’ law say about it?”

27 “It says,” he replied, “that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.”

28 “Right!” Jesus told him. Do this and you shall live!”

29 The man wanted to justify his lack of love for some kinds of people, so he asked, “Which neighbors?”

30 Jesus replied with an illustration: “A Jew going on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, and beat him up and left him lying half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a Jewish priest came along; and when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Jewish Temple-assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but then went on.

33 “But a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw him, he felt deep pity.34 Kneeling beside him the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his donkey and walked along beside him till they came to an inn, where he nursed him through the night.  35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two twenty-dollar bills and told him to take care of the man. ‘If his bill runs higher than that,’ he said, ‘I’ll pay the difference the next time I am here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the bandits’ victim?”

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him some pity.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

It is not the oppressed, brothers and sisters, that are causing this great nation harm. It is the silent – those who see injustice but turn a blind eye to it. It is the oppressor – those who hate because of nationality and skin color. It is the bystander who watches, but can’t be bothered to help.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

 

* BROWN V. BOARD: Timeline of School Integration in the U.S.:  http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-25-spring-2004/feature/brown-v-board-timeline-school-integration-us

**HMong for Life radio broadcast is easily tuned into every Thursday evening from 5-7 pm Pacific Standard Time by visiting http://kfugradio.org 

The Secret Wars

  • Legacies of War: Secret War in Laos: http://legaciesofwar.org/about-laos/secret-war-laos/
  • Laos is Still Under Attack from the Secret War: http://www.vice.com/read/laos-is-still-under-attack-from-its-secret-war
  • A Desperate Life for Survivors of the Secret War in Laos: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/world/asia/16iht-laos.1.8763976.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  • Hmong Story 40 Laos and the Secret War (interactive map):  http://www.hmongstory40.org/laos-the-secret-war/

 

Falsely Accused

These are just some quick thoughts and encouragement for anyone currently undergoing persecution due to false allegations brought against them. I know it can be tough Brothers and Sisters. I have been falsely accused of many things and each time God has brought me through the trial stronger and better equipped to stand tall the next time someone gets a bee up their bonnet about something. False accusations are never fun and it’s easy to become angry and outraged. The world tells us we should become so! But the Lord has other plans for us.

We cannot be concerned with what others think about us. When we do that, we become the worst versions of ourselves even though we’re attempting to please others.

If you have a problem with someone, take it up with God. I do this often in my own life, as there are many aspects of my own personality I know need God’s cleansing. Abrasive people in our lives are doing God’s work, even though it may not seem that way sometimes.

False testimony against your neighbor will not achieve the desired effect. Liars will be found out. When this happens to you, remember: you don’t need to defend yourself. There is One who has already promised to do that. Just ignore them and walk away.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. + Romans 12:19 (NIV)

It can be hard to love our neighbor or even know how to in the face of persecution. This is why we must rely on Jesus and trust in Him to guide us. Sometimes we just need to ignore our neighbor and act as though they are not there. Sometimes we need to embrace our neighbor and love them with kindness and respect. Sometimes we need to move. But always, Brothers and Sisters, we need to follow Jesus and never allow others to dictate the strength of our faith.

Let’s pray.

Dear Jesus. Love us to do good. Love us to do no harm. Love us to love our neighbors even when they persecute and revile against us. Silence the lips of those who seek to silence us when we ask for Justice and Mercy. In Jesus’ Name we boldly pray. Amen.

Bullying From Both Sides {Homosexuality Debate}

It is possible to disagree with someone and still respect them. The “homosexuality is OK” camp is really deep into bullying anyone who disagrees with them, slinging names like “bigot” and “ignorant”. Conversely, the “homosexuality is a sin camp” tends to do the same.

Folks:  no one can hear you if you’re screaming and bullying. It defeats the purpose of the discussion. In the end, what does it really teach our kids anyway? That they no longer have to mind their manners and be respectful of others because their personal agenda is too important? How sad.

We can separate all sin from the individual person and love them anyway. My kids have told lies to me and I hate the lies, but I love my children. God feels the same about sin. We don’t need to bash each other for our beliefs.

If you’re placing your identity in your sexuality, think about this: have you ever told a lie? Well, then you’re a Liar. Do you want to go around with that label hanging over you your entire life? No? Then why would you walk around with the label of homosexual hanging over you? You don’t need to carry that sin on your shoulders.

Labeling ourselves by our sin is dangerous. Even Christ does not do that. He has taken our punishment and in turn He calls us Beloved. That is our identity. Turn from your sins and repent. There is One who is waiting to receive you.