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20 Quotes from Mark Baker’s book on Guilt and Shame

Don’t be ashamed. But do feel some guilt.

Are you guilt-ridden or shame-prone?  Do you struggle to forgive yourself and hold on to your fails too long? Isn’t there a godly sorrow that leads to repentanceIs that the same as guilt? And is guilt the same as shame?  More important still, is any of these good?

Dr. Mark Baker’s new book, Overcoming Shame: Let Go of Others’ Expectations and Embrace God’s Acceptance, takes these issues head-on and explains how healing for soul-crippling shame comes through courage, vulnerability and grace.

These quotes caught my eye. I hope they encourage your heart.

20 Quotes From Overcoming Shame

1. Guilt and shame are not the same. Guilt is the bad feeling you have for having gone too far. You did something you should not have done, and now you regret it. Shame is the feeling you get for not going far enough. You feel regret for being inadequate.  (12-13)

2. Healthy guilt is the capacity to feel bad when you have hurt someone else, God, or even yourself. Healthy guilt is motivated by love…Guilt comes from doing something wrong, so it is corrected by doing something right. Healthy guilt comes from having a conscience, and that in itself is a good thing. God created guilt to guide us toward restoring our relationships with him, but it works as a guide for restoring relationships with one another too (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). (13)

3. Neurotic guilt is not about making amends or figuring out the loving thing to do to make things right in your relationships. Neurotic guilt is about self-preservation and the fear of getting caught. If your guilt is focused on you taking care of yourself, it rarely produces anything good. (13)

4. Shame motivates us to want to keep secrets. And the toxic power of shame only grows stronger in the dark. (16)

5. It is only when we are most vulnerable that we can experience the connection with God and others that we were designed for, but is also exactly when we are most vulnerable that we can get hurt the most. Vulnerability is a two edged sword that can cut both ways. It can surgically heal you of your deepest shame or cut out your heart. (42)

6. Jesus taught a lot about joy and love, but he never taught his followers to avoid pain. Quite the opposite, it was central to Jesus’s teachings that facing suffering well is a crucial element in developing a mature character and that our vulnerability to suffering is not only not a bad thing but is the best path to finding a clear picture of who God really is. To Jesus, vulnerability was certainly not a weakness but was actually a sign of spiritual strength. (44-45)

7. Shame is a painful feeling that directs your attention onto yourself in ways that make it difficult for you to care about what other people are feeling around you…Shame-prone people tend to respond to fear by either trying to hide or trying forcefully to overcome it. The best response to fear is to face it, with vulnerability. (47)

8. The solution to the fear of vulnerability is healthy dependence. Psychologists call it secure attachment. People who live with secure attachments view vulnerability as a powerful means for connection, and they experience their dependence on others as a natural part of the give-and-take of healthy interdependence…People with secure attachments are generally grateful people. (54)

9. People with secure attachments are not looking for the easy way out…If you are comfortable, you probably aren’t learning anything. Growth stretches us, and that means we need to believe discomfort is simply a part of a normal life. (55)

10. The best life isn’t about getting onto easy street, it’s about being connected to God and others no matter where you live. The goal isn’t to be better than everyone else by invulnerably rising about them; it’s to figure out how to have a healthy dependence on God and others to find joy. (55)

11. [S]hame-free guilt…actually helps people to be more empathic, to deal with their anger in more constructive ways, and to have more benevolent interpersonal relationships…Shame on the other hand, causes people to focus on their worthlessness, which makes them defensive and more likely to fly off the handle in destructive ways. (68-69)

12. Shame-free guilt produces humility. Feeling bad about what you did motivates you to restore any broken relationship that resulted from it…You don’t have to be defensive because you don’t have anything to hide, as you would if you felt shame. (69)

13. [T]he truly confident person who has a secure sense of love and belonging is free to be humble; and all those who live this way are the ones that have a lasting impact on others. They will be the ones that others respect and look up to because they are living the the way God created us to be. (72)

14. Envy is the hatred you feel toward another person who reminds you of what you are not. This is a two-person dynamic between you and one other person. With envy, you see qualities in someone else that trigger feelings of shame in you. (107)

15. An attitude of scarcity fuels envy and jealousy because scarcity is the enemy of connection and belonging. It is based on the notion that you must defeat competitors to survive. Scarcity cause you to feel that losing means you are a loser, because the attitude of scarcity is motivated by shame. (118)

16. An attitude of scarcity is often a spiritual problem. If it is rooted in the belief that you are not enough, it will cause you to compete with others for what you believe are limited resources for your survival. But to thrive in life, you must see others as a needed resource for your survival, not a threat to it. This comes through the spiritual attitude of plenty (Matthew 10:29-31). (118)

17. Shame doesn’t make us want to be good; love does…[W]e have the most effective delivery system on the planet for the prevention of crime in even the most crime-ridden areas of society. Do you know what that delivery system is? The Christian church. (136)

18. Perfectionism is the attempt to hide your fear that you are not enough by getting everything just right. If you are good at it, you will only succeed at covering over your fear, never dispelling it. As soon as you have completed whatever it is that you are doing, you have to start over again immediately trying to do things perfectly to avoid your shame. (139)

19. To overcome shame a person must experience acceptance at a time when they don’t deserve it but need it more than anything else. Shame-proneness can be healed only by the renewing of your mind, and that can happen only by experiencing acceptance of the unacceptable…The grace we extend toward one another has the power to heal shame. (179)

20 The point is, grace heals shame. Whether grace knocked you down and blinded you with its impact or snuck up on you over time, the experience of acceptance changes you. If you are willing to live a life of courage, vulnerability, and grace, you will be healing shame in your life and the lives of those around you. Jesus has paved the way before us. (188)

“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1b-2

Related:

Access John Piper’s “Battling Misplaced Shame” sermon here. (Instead of guilt and shame, Piper uses the terms well-placed shame and misplaced shame, and explains that biblically, the criterion well-placed shame versus misplaced shame is not how foolish or how bad you look to men, but whether you in fact bring honor to God.)

Listen to Dr. Baker’s hour-long interview with Janet Parshall here

Read how purging these 4 words can strangle misplaced shame here.

 

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On Influence, Inferiority & The Goodness of a Well-timed Word

Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.

George M. Adams

Do you know the joy of a well-timed word? The sweetness of an apt reply?

Those sort of words met me this morning. Some timely words caught me by surprise before I even left my bed. But before I share those words, I’ll quick explain the season.

We’ll make it short and start last night. I spent a good part of the night in fighting the sulks. The triggers were clear: low blood sugar, the time of month, and a visit with a friend enrolled in a degree program in which I’d love to be.

Even though that credential could open more ministry doors and lend influence and credibility to current ministry, for now that door is closed.  This opportunity is not knocking. But hearing the joy behind my friend’s open door at once exposed an old idol and scraped up feelings of inferiority.

Inferiority. Influence. Idol?

My idols are familiar to me. I’m on to my influence idol.

Influence in itself isn’t bad.  In fact, we should seek to have influence, provided it’s focused on making God in Christ- not ourselves- look grand. Jesus explained influence like this: “Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Influence is light. Christian influence is living  in ways that reflect God’s glory and have a positive effect on the character of those around us. We’re mirrors and our words and our blogs and our giving and good works can help others worship God.

I like to be influential. I like to know I’m building the kingdom of heaven and making God look good. But influence turns idol when craving it means I’m ungrateful for the gifts he’s given and discontent with my lot in life- which God alone holds. (See Psalm 16)-

Good Thing Or Ultimate Thing?

There is a holy ambition. Romans 2:7 is about “seeking glory, honor and immortality.” A while back, I shared 9 Quotes For Glory-Seekers and #3 was an oldie-but-goodie from Matthew Henry:

There is a holy ambition which is at the bottom of all practical religion. This is seeking the kingdom of God, looking in our desires and aims as high as heaven, and resolved to take up with nothing short of it. Those that seek for the vain glory and honor of this world…are disappointed, but those that seek for immortal glory and honor shall have them.” (Commentary on Romans 2:7)

For the record, the things we turn to idols aren’t necessarily in and of themselves bad things. They can, and usually are good things: food, children, nature, influence. Good things.

But, like Tim Keller says, idolatry is turning a good thing into an ultimate thing.

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

And so my influence idol was exposed. I know: UG-LY.

Wield Faith’s Weapon

But God’s grace teaches me. So I wielded the weapons, preached truth to myself and did the next thing. 

Translated: I unloaded the dishwasher, wrote out a birthday card, chopped some kohlrabi and snipped yellow wax beans, all the while reminding myself to give thanks and DIGLI.

I reminded myself that God arranges the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (1 Corinthians 12:18) and that He scatters grace and mercy as he wishes on whom he wills. That God loves inequality and dispenses his gifts and open doors as he wishes and that it’s for me not to envy and wallow in inferiority, but give thanks and keep on.

Because gratitude drives out self-pity and thanks trump grumps.

Friday was my early morning, the only day woke at 6:00. So I got into bed, set the alarm, and-with a mix of success and lingering sulks- I turned out the light.

How The Well-Timed Word Came

Beep-beep-beep-beep. I hit the button and let the radio talk. Here’s what I heard:

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a funny story.

Not long ago at a conference, I was introduced as “Dr. Joni Tada.” When I wheeled up to speak, I confessed to the audience, I said: “Friends, I may have been given a couple of honorary doctorates from seminaries, but hey, look, I’m only a high school graduate. I’ve never even been to Bible College!” Most in the audience looked a little surprised, and there was a time that fact used to embarrass me, I wouldn’t have told anybody that I had no real scholastic degrees. If a person’s wisdom and expertise were measured by their M.Div.’s or their PhD’s or even their bachelor degrees, my goodness, then I’m not competent to speak alongside Christian leaders who have actually earned those degrees…

Did Joni see last night? It was as if she was sitting beside my bed, speaking straight to me. As if she knew comparison and inferiority and envy were on the march to cripple me.  Because I didn’t have the right degree.

The Word from Joni, and God

Then Joni told how someone had shared timely words from 2 Corinthians 3:5-6:

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The 4- minute spot continued. By now I was on the edge of my bed lacing my running shoes, letting these delightful, timely words land.

No, I haven’t spent 4 years in Bible school. But I have spent over 50 years in a wheelchair, most of those years studying the same books and scholars as my friends who graduated from The Masters University or Wheaton College…Look, I’m just a quadriplegic! But that’s just it! God delights in teaching us powerful lessons through our weaknesses and limitations…

Plus, it’s my weaknesses that keep pointing me to the source of all authority and ability, God and God alone. Praise the Lord; He is the one who makes us competent as ambassadors of the new covenant! God takes our inadequacies and, as we lean on him and learn from the trials he sends, he makes us competent.

Now you may think, ‘who am I that anyone should listen to me? Why should anyone care what I have to say?’ Oh friend, don’t fool yourself; in Christ, you are completely competent. 

That was the how the well-timed word came to me, On the only day last week I woke to the radio, after the only night I had a fight like that, here was Joni, giving an apt answer, the perfect truth to address my immediate need. Here was Joni, speaking a timely word to me.

And friends, degree or no degree or three degrees, be encouraged to know: Your competence comes from God. 

But more, I hope that in every good and well-timed word, you hear a loving Lord.

A man has joy in an apt answer,
And how delightful is a timely word!

Proverbs 15:23

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Saints in the Land?

As for the saints who are in the land, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.
Psalm 16:3

What delights your soul? Is it the saints you know? Do you even know any saints? And, if you do, do they make you glad?

Or does this sound like silly talk? Like such words about saints could only come from a  super-spiritual poet living long ago in a faraway land?

(Saint) Friends Who Stick Closer Than Brothers

It’s not silly talk. It’s real and daily- this saints-are-so-lovely talk. I know this because in the last week I’ve had- not one, not two, not three- but four different friends tell me, as it were, that sometimes blood isn’t thicker.  That it depends on whose blood; specifically, if it’s saints’ blood.

All four confided to me big hurts inflicted by blood. A sister whose words are sword thrusts, a brother whose whose aloofness wounds, another brother whose lifestyle choices take him to a distant land (my friend misses him), and a father who waited until my friend was 42  to tell her, “I love you.” 

All four also shared how a Christian friend- a saint- had helped them through. How, for example, when a blood-brother wound was raw, my friend texted a saint-friend to pray and then her friend not only prayed but showed up 30 minutes later to whisk my friend away to a happier place. 

Christian friends may be more loyal than an  unbelieving brother. Since brotherhood is one of the tightest relationships we know, a  friend who sticks closer than a brother is a life-giving gift, indeed. (David and Jonathan’s friendship is a great biblical example of this type of closer-than-a-brother friendship.)

Proverbs 18:4 says, There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And if the friendship is between saints, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that water’s sometimes thicker.

Just who are these saints?

Saints literally means, “holy ones.”

But if the term’s still a bit murky, don’t worry. You’re not alone. One source says the word “saints” has almost completely lost its original meaning,

[T]hat is, of being set aside for the exclusive ownership and use of the Triune God. Very few people in the Christian Church today would consider themselves to be “saints”…Unfortunately the original meaning of the word “saints” has largely fallen into disuse.

But if the term’s still a little fuzzy, a quick survey of Scripture makes it clear: saints are simply believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. And all believers are called saints, even when their character is “dubiously holy.”

Paul uses the term “saints” – the plural- to refer to a group of Christians about 40 times. In fact, Paul addresses almost all of his letters to “the saints” in that particular place. (See 2 Thess. 1:10, 1 Cor. 1:2, Romans 1:7, Eph. 1:1, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:2.) Only once does Paul refer to a solo “saint.” That’s at the end of Philippians where he writes, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.”

So saints are not a special class of Christian. They are all those called by God’s grace and sanctified by His Spirit. Saints are in Christ Jesus.

Saints-R-Us. Saints are believers. Saints are “just” Christians, running the race by grace through faith, in Christ Jesus.

Saints-R-Us

Still, we’re prone to put people like Mother Teresa and Apostle Paul on pedestals and think they’re super-human. We ought not.

C.H. Spurgeon explains, 

Their holiness is attainable even by us. We are “called to be saints” by that same voice which constrained them to their high vocation…They lived with Jesus, they lived for Jesus, therefore they grew like Jesus. Let us live by the same Spirit as they did, “looking unto Jesus,” and our saintship will soon be apparent.

I crossed paths with some saints last week. Their names were Holly and Hannah, Jim and Jen, Christin and Cindy and Shari and Stan. They live with Jesus, they live for Jesus, therefore they are growing like Jesus. 

The saints in my land are doing this. They are growing more like Jesus.

They’re growing to:

Saints in my land are growing thicker skins and softer hearts. They set their hearts to seek God.

That’s why the saints in my land make me glad. Saints remind me of Jesus. 

Those nearest him are nearest one another.

Believers like this are closer to us in our thoughts and affections than even our non-believing families. That’s the oneness of the body of Christ. That’s the intimate, eternal relationship that we have with the saints.

That’s why the Psalmist cannot help but say, “As for the saints who are in the land, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.”

Or as S. L. Johnson said, God’s the center. Those that are nearest him are nearest to one another.  Saints take joy in saints.

David did this too. He took delight in the saints he knew. “I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me,”  (101:6), he said. And “I am a companion of all who fear you,” (Psalm 119:63). The saints were David’s delight.

Saints make saints glad.

Do the saints make you glad?

David says that there’s one type of person who gets him stoked and fired-up and makes him really, really glad. It’s saints. It’s the holy ones who treasure God.

So I repeat, do the saints make you glad? Do you cherish God’s people?  And do you delight in them or merely endure them?

If your honest answer is merely endure, I have two questions for you.  They’re from this sermon by Pastor John Piper.

  1. Do you know any Christians?  I mean radical people who lay down their lives for Jesus because Jesus means everything to them and they are servants of the world and God has broken them free from their love affair with the world and their ego and power and comfort.
  2. Why would it be that you, a professing Christian, would find more joy in people who find no joy in what is your primary joy?

Hard hitting, those. But it makes sense: If we treasure God, we treasure those who treasure God.

These are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.

The “Sweetness of the Saints” Test

Piper explains how this can be,

When it comes to people, he says, the ones who give him pleasure are godly people. “As for the saints in the land (the holy ones, godly ones — the ones who treasure God and live for God), they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” All his delight, his joy, his pleasure. He doesn’t mean that he has delight in God’s people instead of God or above God. He means that godless people don’t give him delight in their godless ways; only the godly do. What delights him about people is how they treasure God and exalt God. This is the sweetness of his relationships.

Saints are sweet to us because God is sweet to them. That’s why this saint stuff matters. Because it is one way we can measure our relationship to the Lord. It’s a simple test, really. James Boice explains, “Those who love the Lord will love the company of those who also love him.”

So  I’ll ask again: Do you love other Christians? Do you cherish the people of God and seek to be near those who treasure your Lord?

Do you delight in the saints in the land?

The new men are already here, dotting the earth- recognisable if you know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’ which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. (We must get over wanting to be NEEDED: in some goodish people, specially women, that is the hardest of all temptations to resist.) They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognised one of them, you will recognise the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect that they recognise one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Freedom and Love and Raspberries Aren’t Free

Some say love is spelled T-I-M-E. I say it’s spelled R-A-S-P-B-E-R-R-I-E-S and it’s measured in mosquito bites and thornbush scratches.

It’s funny how they grow together- isn’t it? – the mosquitos and the berries, the stinging and the sweet, the bramble and the rose.

And picking that bucket of raspberries tonight- with mosquitoes buzzing and sweat dripping and thorns scratching and practically hyperventilating as I blew the pesky critters off my nose- reminded me of a fabled 50 year-old tale.

A tale without which there might not be me.

Once Upon A Time…

A fair maiden named Darlene met a strapping young man named Mitchell on the high school debate bus.  At once Mitchell knew he’d found his mate. It took the cheery, sunshine Darlene just a little longer.

Soon high school let out for the summer. And you know how the field looks different come summer.

Mitchell must have know too, about teenage summers and how other fellas work the fields. So one July day a lot like today, along came young Mitchell.

But Mitchell was wise. He wasn’t empty-handed when he came courting fair Darlene.

Oh no. Mitchell came bearing the crown jewel of summer treasures. For it, the smitten young man had endured fierce summer sun, fought many a thorn and nearly been borne by mosquitoes.

Mitchell was so taken with Darlene that those hours in the bramble seemed like seconds at the junior prom. Such was Mitchell’s love for the sunny and smiling Darlene.

The Cost of Love

So now, with the fields ripening fast in the middle of a Mukwonago summer, along came Mitchell, bearing the costliest of gifts for his princess Darlene.

When came the knock, Darlene opened the door. She saw Mitchell’s scratches and welts and his strong juice-stained, thorn-scratched hands.

Then those bright hazel eyes locked on the pail. Oh, that pail!- glistening on top, laden with the finest of July. 

And with just one look at the amethyst gems in that brimming-full pail, Mitchell and Darlene’s deal was sealed.

Mom and Dad have been married 48 years this July 17th.

Freedom and Love and Raspberries Aren’t Free

All that to say on this raspberry picking day after the Fourth of July, freedom’s not free. Our founders pledged their lives, their fortune and their sacred honor when they declared us free. Brave men and women give their lives to preserve our liberty. And it’s effortful, still, holding freedom up with virtuous, tolerant lives.

Our spiritual freedom came at a high cost too. The cost of one perfect life. For Jesus, in love, gave his life to redeem us. His blood-stained, nail-pieced hands bought us out of sin’s bramble. A high price was paid to bring us to him.

So no, love is not without cost and freedom’s not free.

But neither is a bucket of black raspberries.

You are not your own, you were bought at a price.

Therefore honor God with your bodies. 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20