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A Story of Betrayal and Forgiveness

I hope this story encourages someone in this time where there is so much anger, division, and selfishness. I’ve never asked for any post of mine to be shared, but I’m going to with this. I questioned my motives for sharing this wanting to make sure I didn’t just want a pat on the back. My hope is it inspires and gives glory to God. My pastor shared this story on Sunday morning, and I think it is time to share it publically.

Almost 10 years ago, toward the end of my first marriage, my x-wife had an affair with one of my closest friends. He was one of my roommates and college, and we became like brothers. There was so much we learned from each other. There are illustrations I use still use in sermons and in counseling sessions that I learned from him. We had countless nights of staying up to the early hours in the morning discussing the things of God, and we encouraged each other’s spiritual walk.

I was more hurt by what he did vs what she did. I’ve had many dreams about this man, and most were about me punching him in the face. I had told him back when it happened that I forgave him, but the hurt remained. I missed him dearly, but was still angry with him all at the same time. I have had many opportunities to tell his wife what happened, but I always thought of David’s example of allowing God to handle it.

This man reached out a few weeks ago wanting to meet face to face. He said he needed to apologize for what he had done. I agreed. He came to my counseling office, and I let him talk. He told me what happened, and how everything transpired. He told me of the multiple affairs he had had during that time with multiple different women. He told me about how he had driven his wife to attempt suicide. He told me about his divorce, losing his children, and 2 bankruptcies. He told me how put himself through celebrate recovery for sex addiction, and how he has worked to regain his relationship with Christ. Then he apologized for playing apart in the death of my marriage, and for splitting up my son’s parents. He showed great remorse and emotion.

Before he arrived. I sought guidance in prayer. And I felt compelled to do something that I’m not a big fan of. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to wash his feet. I thought “Please no!! Anything but that.” I hate feet. I hate my own feet. I hate my wife’s feet. I hate feet!!! But, I obeyed. I prepared a pale of water and some towels, and hid it behind my desk as he talked.

Once he finished talking. I asked a few questions. Told him that he didn’t cause my marriage to end, but it was a decision my x-wife had made before the affair even happened. I told him what he did hurt me more than what my wife did. I told him about the dreams, and told him I’ve missed him at the same time. Then I told him to take off his shoes and socks. He looked at me in confusion, so I had to repeat myself. He complied, and I retrieved the water hiding behind my desk. I got on my knees in front of him, washed both of his feet, and told him “In the words of Joseph, you are my brother. What you meant for evil, God has used for good. I love you and forgive you.” I told him, that this is to represent washing away his guilt. I said I have no right to hold anything against him, because I understand the need for grace and forgiveness.

We both wept. He said he had prayed and hoped we could reconcile our relationship, because he had missed me as well.

God is good. I got my brother back!

Old Testament Message for Today

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Auburn Football fan. You know I’m an Auburn fan, because I have more Auburn shirts than I can count, and I wear one of them at least once a week. My truck has a big Auburn symbol on it. My Facebook cover page is an Auburn emblem. My office is covered with Auburn memorabilia. If I can’t watch the games live, I record them. What if I went around telling people I’m an Auburn fan yet, I wore Alabama T-shirts, had a Bama emblem on my truck, and only watched Bama games? That would confuse people right? How do people know that we are Christians? Do we look different than the world? Whose T-shirt are we wearing? When they look at us, are they confused by our behavior?

I recently finished reading through the Old Testament, and I can’t help but to see a message and/or warning there for us today. Especially for the church itself.

All through the Old Testament, the nation of Israel, God’s people, kept messing things up. Their weakness was the worship of idols. We really see this come out for the first time after God had used Moses to free the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt. Through Moses and Aaron, the Israelite people saw God’s power through the plagues, the Passover, a pillar of fire separating them from the Egyptian army, and the parting of the Red Sea. Have you ever seen a sea parted with a wall of water on both sides of you as you cross? I haven’t. I’d like to think that alone would make me a believer in the Almighty. Ever seen a pillar of fire protecting you from an approaching army. Nope? Me either. But, what did the Israelite people do soon after seeing these things. They made a golden calf with their own hands and worshiped it instead. I find myself shaking my head and saying “What??? Why??”

This kind of thing happened regularly for the next few hundred years. They would push God away to worship man made idols, but the moment they got in trouble they turned back to God. God would save them just to watch them go right back to their idols.

Over and over again, the people of Israel worshipped the man made gods that the world around them idolized only to find themselves in a world of trouble, and the only way they can get out of trouble was to cry out to God for help. God faithfully rescued them repeatedly.

The people of Israel wanted to be like the world around them so badly that they actually became worse. The nations around them even called them vile and disgusting. The Israelites even cooked and burned their children alive to worship gods that didn’t exist.

Over and over again, God tried to get their attention. He tried to warn them of the outcome of their behavior. He sent prophet after prophet to tell them their behavior was going to hurt them. God warned them if they kept pushing him away, he would “hand them over” to their sin and desires, and He would lift His hand of protection off of them.

What was their response to these warnings? How did they treat those prophets? They persecuted them, laughed at them, stoned them, and rejected them. “But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” 2 Chronicles 36:16. ” “The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done-they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline.” Jeremiah 32:32-33. All the while, the people of Israel believed that they were ok with God. “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings loves songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” Ezekiel 33:31-32.

The people of Israel said things like, and I paraphrase, “There is nothing wrong with what we are doing. Surely God will not judge us for this. It’s harmless fun.” They even employed priests and prophets to tell them what they were doing was ok.

God warned his people time and time again that if they didn’t turn from their “wicked” ways, he would lift his hand leaving them open and vulnerable. He warned he would give them over to their sin to let them have what they want and to let them suffer the natural consequences of their choices. So what eventually happened to the people of Judah and Israel? (The reason there were 2 nations at the end is a long discussion for a different time). God was very specific in what would happen. He told them that Babylon would nearly wipe them out. Those that survived the attack would be taken into captivity for 70 years only to return once the hearts of the people turned back to God. The people didn’t listen, and these events happened just as he said they would.

This sounds so much like what we are experiencing in our culture today. I also believe this is why the church in our western culture lacks power to do anything.

I am a 2 time alumni of Southeastern University. I achieved both my BS and MS at this school. This college is known as a Christian school. When I was an undergrad, its main majors were focused on Christian Ministries. I worked various jobs off campus trying to work my way through college. A co-worker who loved to party said to me once, “the drunkest people I’ve ever met were Southeastern students.” These were supposed to be people who were studying to be in full time ministry.

I believe we are living in a Christian culture that so badly wants to be just like the world that they behave worse than the world. Much like the Israelite people, the world is looking at us in disgust.

The New Testament writers faced some of the same issues, and they also give us warnings of the selfishness that is happening in our world. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-HAVING A FORM OF GODLINESS BUT DENYING ITS POWER. Have nothing to do with them.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5. “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myth.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

In both letters to the Corinthian church, Paul addressed a people who thought it was ok to go to church and indulge in the sin of the world they lived in at the same time. The city of Corinth was a seaport, and if you know anything about sea ports, its full of all kinds of opportunities to feed your flesh much like Las Vegas today. The church that Paul had planted there got this idea that they could come to church, speak in tongues and act like “super” Christians. After church, they would visit the Asherah Poles and have sex with temple prostitutes. In 1 Corinthians 5, they also bragged about accepting a man into the church who was sleeping with his “father’s wife.” Paul instructed the church to rebuke him, and if he didn’t change, kick him out of the church. Does this sound a bit harsh based today’s politically correct world? I believe our church’s today are afraid to call sin what it is…sin. People are so easily offended. Paul would have been branded a hater, a racist, and a bigot for suggesting that a man in sin should be asked to leave the church in our modern culture.

We now live in a culture based on situational ethics. “Don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.” If a part of the bible doesn’t fit our politically correct society, we throw it out. No one wants to talk about verses such as 1 Corinthians 6:9, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” It’s ok to talk against the thieves and swindlers, but if we speak against homosexuality, we get boycotted and bakeries get bullied out of business.

We aren’t supposed to judge right? Let me camp here for a moment. People often quote Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” But you need to keep reading this whole chapter. This is a sermon Jesus is preaching and later in this same sermon he tells us we can judge a tree by the fruit it bears, and “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 7:21

The Greek work “judge” here (krino) means to condemn or sentence someone like in court. This has nothing to do with correction. We do not have the power to condemn or sentence anyone. That’s God’s job. However, we are supposed to correct.

Jesus does tell us in this same chapter to be careful trying to correct someone’s behavior when we are just as messed up as they are or worse. “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5.

Often we mislabel correcting as judging. If I correct my child for trying to cross the street without looking for cars, does that mean I don’t love him or I’m judging him? No!!! It means I love him enough that I will correct a behavior that will kill him. I understand that there are Christians and churches that preach a hate message. (That’s a different topic for a different conversation.) I’m talking about genuinely trying to warn someone that their lifestyle and choices lead to hurt, pain, destruction, and/or death.

We as humans can justify anything. If we want it bad enough, we will find a way to justify it. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you want to drink alcohol, you will say Jesus turned water into wine. Again I ask, whose T-shirt are you wearing? I could go into abortion, marijuana, endorsing celebrities who we know live and promote lifestyles contradictory to what is pleasing to God, etc. Let me make one thing clear, God does not hate anyone no matter what they have done. However, just because he loves everyone, doesn’t mean that everyone will go to heaven. I’ve already quoted Matthew 7:21 above.

Do we worship idols like the Israelites? Yes we do. It may not be in the same form, but we certainly do. We at least worship ourselves. As the scripture I shared earlier says, we have become lovers of ourselves. I see abortion like the Israelites sacrificing (killing) their children in worship of their idols. We sacrifice these unborn children, because they somehow inconvenience us. No matter what sob story you want to share to justify this, it doesn’t change what it really is: murder and idolatry. Most abortions are a form of worship of self.

I believe God is warning us. But those who dare to speak up as a mouth peace for God are dismissed and hated. The Israelite people eventually had to face the natural consequences of their behavior. I believe that God will eventually lift his hand and “give us over to our desires” only to realize those desires are destroying us. Revelation states that when these things happen, instead of repenting like the Israelites, the people of the world will curse God.

My church is currently in a series called “You lit?” Our pastor is taking us through the seven churches Jesus is addressed in the book of Revelation. Each church had something great going for them, and each church received a warning and correction. You can view this warning and correction as God’s way of keeping us from having fun or preventing us from being happy, or whatever excuse you want to put in here. But, this correction is out of love. He is our father, and he loves us. If he is in fact God, then he is wiser than we. I as a parent am able to see the world differently than my toddlers. They don’t see potential dangers in some of their behaviors. My job as a parent is to guide them and correct them. If God is in fact wiser than us, then he can see things we can’t. He can see our futures, and how our choices and behaviors will have consequences. As a loving father should, he corrects and warns, because he doesn’t want any of us to “perish.” John 3:16.

I want to share 2 more quotes from Matthew 7, and I will close…maybe. Verses 13 and 14; “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many will enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it.” Verses 21-23. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me evildoers!’”

These passages are probably very offensive to many. They talk about people being left out of the Kingdom “club.” We live in a culture where being offended is the new norm. Lawmakers are trying to force businesses to make transgender accessible bathrooms. We shouldn’t offend .03 percent of the US population. Hollywood is forcibly trying to make homosexuality ok and normal, because those in Hollywood are experts on relationships. What group of people has the highest divorce rate? HOLLYWOOD!! Every TV show and movie now has to have a homosexual couple in it. There is now a diamond commercial featuring a lesbian couple. Girls are offended, because they can’t join Boy Scouts. Christians drink alcohol more than anybody else on the planet, and they get all bent out of shape when you try to take it from them.

God desires an intimate relationship with all of us. However, it is our choice. He will not force us to love him. He will not force us to choose his ways instead of our own selfish ways. It’s been that way from the beginning. Adam and Eve needed to be given a choice. We can’t truly love God with all of our hearts unless we are given a choice to love someone or something else.

Jesus stated in Matthew 7 that he will say to those being condemned that he never knew them. One of my hero’s of the faith, Keith Green, once stated: “People ask me all the time what does it mean to be a Christian? Some think that going to church makes you a Christian. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger. Saying a prayer doesn’t make you a Christian, because people in every religion pray. Even praying to Jesus doesn’t make you a Christian…You want to know what a Christian is? I’ll give you a really good definition of a Christian. Someone who is bananas for Jesus.”

Will you listen to the warnings, or make excuses to hold on to the sin the separates you from God?

Scapegoating – The Blame Game

I went to a very small private school whose sports teams where horrible. I played football and basketball from 7th grade until I was a senior. I only remember winning maybe a couple of games at both of these sports all 6 years except one season in basketball. I’ll get to that season later. When I was in the 9th grade during basketball season, I was a professional bench warmer that year. I was tiny and just a freshman on the varsity team. Our school was so small, that our coach was the coach of everything. Football, basketball, baseball, etc. He was also one of the most negative people I had ever met, and cursed more than anyone I had ever heard. It was toward the end of the season, and we were up against our rival team. As usual, we had lost every game that year so far. We had also already played this team once earlier in the season, and they beat us by only one point. By some miracle, we were winning this game…key word…were.  In the last 2 minutes of the game, the opposing rival team starting catching back up. In last 30 seconds, I yelled out in frustration, “Oh no, they are going to do it to us again!!” My coach looked at me in disgust. We lost…by one point…again. When we got to the locker room, the coach through me under the bus. He told them what I had said at the end of the game. He said, “You lost, because of his negativity.” The whole team looked at me full of anger. I’m thinking, umm, I never even played in the game. I never even touched the ball. I sat on the bench the entire game. How is this my fault? But, I didn’t say anything. I took the blame. There was even a part of me that felt guilty for what I had said, and even thought it was possible that it cost us the game. This is a really good example of scapegoating.

What is Scapegoating? The Psychology Research and Reference website states: “Scapegoat theory refers to the tendency to blame someone else for one’s own problems, a process that often results in feelings of prejudice toward the person or group that one is blaming. Scapegoating serves as an opportunity to explain failure or misdeeds, while maintaining one’s positive self-image.”

We see this often in families. The family as a whole is dysfunctional, but one person, usually a child/sibling gets the blame for all that is wrong with the family. This typically happens when that said child/sibling acts out due to the turmoil happening within the family unit. It is easier to blame this one “black sheep” in the family rather than to admit there is something wrong in the marriage, or whatever the main problem is. The child’s misbehavior is a symptom of a much larger problem. The family; however, will force this individual to bare a burden that isn’t his/hers. Therefore, the misbehavior becomes worse, and the root causes of the family issues remains covered up. As the child grows older, he becomes more and more rebellious. Have you heard this statement before? “Negative attention is better than no attention at all.”

Let’s talk about that one season I mentioned in the first paragraph where we didn’t lose every game. Not only did our basketball team win more often, we won every game that year except the state championship game. Yes, we made it all the way to the state championship game. What was different? We got a new coach that played for Auburn University. He spent time with each player to find out what their strengths and weakness were. Instead of cursing at us when we messed up, he showed great patience, and worked with us to correct what we were doing wrong. Once he fine tuned us individually, he then put us together as a team. He taught us how to be better. He taught us how to see ourselves more positively. He taught us that it was ok to accept that we weren’t good at a specific skill. I don’t care that we lost the championship game. It was an amazing season, and our whole team changed even personally as a result.

As parents, we HAVE to learn to have patience. Not just with your children, but with your spouse also. Take time to find out if there is something else going on. Have confidence in yourself to be able to recognize if you have a weakness or flaw. It doesn’t matter how everyone else responds. You and you alone are responsible for how you respond. Your response can either add to the problem or start to change the climate of your home. If you lash out in anger, nothing gets better. It likely just get worse. Control you!!! Look at the mirror at you!!!. Change you!!!

MAKE THE YELLING STOP!!!

As a marriage counselor, obviously I deal with a lot of conflict. Most of the time, I spend lot of time teaching each couple healthy conflict resolution. I also had to do this a lot in the residential programs I worked in. I often ask the question “when two people are in an argument, why do they both gradually get louder and louder?” They usually respond with the correct answer which is each person wants to be heard. Then I ask, so if each person wants to be heard, what is the best solution to keep it from getting loud? And I almost never get the right answer on this. I either get blank stares, or some comment like “walk away and cool off” or “tell them they are right and apologize for being wrong.” Neither of those answers will solve the conflict or problem. Actually both of these actions will most likely make things worse.
So what is the answer? It’s quite simple. Listen and validate! The book of James says that a wise man is slow to speak and quick to listen. Does listening mean your side isn’t heard? Not at all. That again doesn’t solve the problem. But if you listen AND validate, the other person’s guard will come down, and you will be able to share your side as long as you speak to the other with respect and love.
What is validating? It’s letting the other person know that you are at least trying to understand what they are feeling or saying. Saying something simple like, “I can understand why you would feel that way, and/or I might feel that way too if I were in your shoes.” If you don’t understand. Say that! But respectfully! “I’m trying to understand your point of view, but I’m struggling with it. Help me to understand.” So many times, this will bring the other persons guard down, and if their view is flawed, they will likely recognize it at this point on their own.
In most of these situations, both are right, and both are wrong. Showing some humility could help both parties recognize both.
The problem is that we are all inherently selfish. All of us! And when we have a point that we are sure we are right about, we won’t budge. This is made even worse if we attach morality to it thinking our view is morally superior to the opposing view. So our typical response is to talk down to the other or others we are in a disagreement with. I heard one of my grad school professors say, “the moment you talk down to someone like they are a child, you immediately cut off their ability to hear anything you have to say.” Let that sink in for a moment. Talking down to someone causes them to become defensive which causes them to be unable to hear you. This is what usually happens in any conflict including marriage. We then start jumping to conclusions and/or go to extremes without understanding all the facts or the heart behind the person.

Another huge mistake is completely dismissing what the other is saying or feeling. If you say something like, “get over it” or “you are being dramatic” this further isolates the other, and it communicates to them you don’t value how they feel which ultimately says to them you don’t value them. You may be completely correct in your assessment that the other may be overreacting, but dismissing what they are saying will absolutely destroy your relationship. But if you validate that you can understand why they have come to that conclusion, it will open up their heart to hear your side.
We will also many times respond to conflict out of fear or trauma based on life experiences that have left us scarred. These scars will often cause us to be tunnel visioned and blinds us from having the ability to see things objectively. So in turn, we will respond emotionally. If this is you, get help. Seriously!
I also say to clients so often that you cannot control what someone else may do or say. You can only control your response. Your response can either make things worse, or help to find an objective solution.

People Are Like Jello

As a marriage counselor, I often counsel with couples where one has at least one foot out the door, and the other is desperately trying to stop them from leaving. This scenario is very common. In most of these situations, the individual trying to save the marriage or relationship usually makes major mistakes that produces the opposite results of what they are hoping for.

Imagine for a moment you have a giant bowl of jello in front of you. Now imagine trying to reach into the bowl with your bare hands with the intent to eat some. What is the best way to do this? You will need to cup your hands and scoop it up gently. If you do it any other way, the jello will slip right through your fingers, and very little will actually make it to your mouth. Imagine scooping it up, then suddenly squeezing the jello as hard as you can, most if not all will again slip through your fingers. Your hands will be emptied of the jello.

People are like this jello. In our relationships, we need to remember to hold onto them gently. If we squeeze too hard, they will slip through our fingers. The harder to you try to hold on to someone, the more we push them away.

Let me give you another example that may be a bit gruesome. Several years ago, I knew a little boy and girl who were 6 and 4 years old at the time. Their parents thought it would be a great idea to give them a pair of baby rabbits for Christmas. Both rabbits were dead within a week. Why? The children loved the rabbits to death, literally. They carried and held the rabbits 24/7 and squeezed them until they killed them.

There is a such thing as loving someone too much. Person A loves person B so much, that they have put their whole identity into the relationship. Person B likes and needs to maintain some of their individuality. Person B starts to feel suffocated, and tries to get back some of their independence. Person A panics, because they are losing their identity. The smothering then gets worse. They may start throwing out guilt trips, or become over the top jealous of everything and anything. They may cry, beg, and grovel which is not attractive to anyone. In some cases, person A becomes abusive. These behaviors smother and kill the relationship like the rabbits in the story above.

If you are person A, I understand you are searching for answers. Losing someone you are romantically involved with is not easy. If you want to win back the heart of the one you love, don’t squeeze too hard. Don’t let your desperate attempts to salvage the relationship actually finish it off. Find a way to build your own self-confidence. If you can’t do that on your own, find someone to talk to. Don’t talk to the person’s family or friends. Talk to a counselor, pastor, or your own friends whom you can trust to keep you grounded.

Don’t grovel, don’t beg, and don’t try to restrict the freedom of the one trying to leave. In some cases, the best course of action is to say, “I love you, but I will honor your desire to leave.” Then leave them alone. Don’t call, don’t text, keep the ball in their court. If they leave, you have at least held on to your own dignity and self-worth. However, by giving them a doorway out you have now given them the freedom to love you rather than being forced to love you. No one likes to be forced to do anything.

If you are married, and your spouse wants to leave, the same principle applies. Sure, fight for your marriage, but not in a way that makes them feel trapped. How do you do that? Well, that’s a loaded question. Find a counselor or pastor to talk to. You are also welcome to call me or shoot me an email about your specific situation.

Look me up at http://www.championfamiliesministries.com. You will find my contact information there. Feel free to reach out. I’m here to help.