Category Archives: Anonymity Anonymous

The Sins of Community

Tuesday Re-mix –

“Go to Bethel and sin;
go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three years.
Burn leavened bread as a thank offering
and brag about your freewill offerings—
boast about them, you Israelites,
for this is what you love to do,”
declares the Sovereign LORD.  
Amos 4:4-5

In the category of “there’s nothing new under the sun”, many of the problems we see today in the church have been with God’s people a long, long time.  Near the top of that list of problems is that people with hardened hearts which are cold toward God are still showing up at all the traditional times and in all the conventional ways for “church”.  It has been this way for a long, long time…God’s people are often pretty different on the inside than they are on the outside.  We are capable of going through the motions of spiritual things even while our hearts are not turned toward God.  Furthermore, even knowing this about ourselves, we continue to foster a form of “church” which quite intentionally avoids any system or structure that might actually fix this problem. Sadly, we do not really want the kind of genuine community to which scripture calls us, because that would mean accountability and intimacy and giving over some level of control in our lives to the community at large…or, worse, to God.

What I am saying is this: if hypocrisy and lack of integrity are our problems, then genuine Spirit-filled Christian community is the solution.  But it is a solution we are not altogether sure we want…and we have structured most of our gathered church experiences so as to downplay the importance of that very type of community.

Don’t we tend to wrap our “church” experience all …

…So That We Can Comfort Those in Trouble

Tuesday Re-mix –

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry this message to other addicts and practice these principles in all our affairs.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

There’s a story we tell in the support group ministry I help lead:

A guy is stuck in the bottom of a hole, with no hope of getting out on his own.  The hole is just too deep.  A businessman walks by and looks down in the hole.  From the bottom, the guy yells, “Can you help me out?  I’m stuck down here.”  The businessman reaches into his pocket and finds a couple of dollar bills and drops them down into the hole and walks off.  The guy in the hole just looks up, bewildered.  Then a minister walks by and looks down into the hole.  From the bottom, the guy yells up, “Can you help me?  I’m stuck!”  The minister yells back, “I’ll pray for you!” and walks off.  The guy in the hole is quickly losing hope.  Then another man walks up and looks down into the hole.  Growing desperate now, the guy in the hole yells up, “Please!  Don’t leave!  I’m stuck and need help.”  Upon hearing this, the guy up top puts down his things and jumps …

Seeing Our Addiction Through God’s Eyes

Tuesday Re-mix –

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Step 11: We seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

About 18 months ago, my pastor started us on a new prayer journey.  For the first several months, every morning, he wrote a meditation on the model prayer (those morning meditations have since become meditations on our current Bible study and can be found at theeverydayprayer.com).  I have continued that practice, still praying the model prayer every morning.  This journey has been revealing to me.

The most convicting revelation for me thus far has been this: you and I do not really believe in prayer.  Not really.  Not the way Jesus did.  It only stands to reason that, if we really thought that prayer would change big, important things like cancer or sex trafficking or genocide or war, you and I would never stop praying.  We would be praying all day and all night, because there are issues in this world which would warrant that kind of prayer…if we really thought it would make a difference, that is.  But we don’t.  Not really.  That is why work and school and soccer games and American Idol all get larger chunks of our time and energy than does prayer.  Very sad, but very true, I …

Promptly Admitting When We Are Wrong

Tuesday Re-mix –

Step 10: We continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong, we promptly admit it.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

I have had more than a little bit of trouble knowing what to write here about admitting when I am wrong (my wife is having a good laugh now…and she can stop now, because it’s not that hilarious).  So, with your permission, I am injecting a little humor into our Tuesday group today…because you and I both need a good laugh sometimes in our recovery journey.  Here is an illustration about owning up to our mistakes and admitting when we are wrong.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kLdO3EsECs?rel=0&w=640&h=390]

Happy Tuesday, everybody.  Good luck with Step 10!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com

Step 8: Owning the Damage I Have Done

Tuesday Re-mix –

Step 8: We made a list of all persons we have harmed and we are willing to make amends to them all.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

I’ve been working on Step 8 this week.  I am suddenly feeling a little bit like the guy who casually tossed a cigarette butt onto the ground and burned down an entire forest and didn’t find out about it until long afterwards.  A friend of mine who knows these 12 steps much better than I do once told me that an addict can spend a lifetime on step 8 alone.  Once you start making a list of the people who have been harmed by your addiction, the floodgates open up and it can actually become pretty overwhelming.  That has been my experience as I have considered the ramifications, both known and suspected, of my obsessive self-reliance and its impact on others.

So, in order to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed, I am starting with categories rather than with names.  It doesn’t diminish the scope of the damage, but it helps me at least begin to get my brain wrapped around the depth and the breadth of the damage.  This list is only a start.  But it does get me a few steps further down the long process of considering all those I have hurt.  So, here we go…

1.  My family – How much spiritual damage have I caused each time my wife or daughters came to me needing Godly wisdom and I gave them my own wisdom instead?  Rather than prayerfully discerning the wisdom God had waiting …

I Have a Dream…

Tuesday Re-mix –

…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:13-15

Step 7: We humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

I have a dream…

…of breaking free from the shackles of self-reliance and resting instead in the sure hands of Christ and His Holy Spirit, looking to Him alone for my daily bread and for my affirmation and for my validation as a man and a father and a husband and a teacher and a vessel of His Spirit.

I have a dream…

…of escaping from the complexities I have created in order to preserve the lie that I have my life under control and that I am the perfect manager of my soul, a lie I have convinced myself to maintain in order to enjoy the approval of men, a lie I have obliged myself to tell in order to prevent anyone around me from having to deal with my true ugliness.

I have a dream…

…of tearing down the walls which divide my work life from my church life and my family life …

“Do You Want to Get Well?”

Tuesday Re-mix –

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:6

Step 6: We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

So, in our 12-step program to recover from our addiction to self-reliance, step 6 is that we are “entirely ready to have God remove” this character defect.  Well, that really is the question, isn’t it?  Are we entirely ready to give up our addiction to self-reliance?  Are we entirely ready to start opening our lives up to God and to God’s people and to start leaning into community?

When I was in college, I blew my knee out messing around in the gym.  It was my first serious injury of my life.  I waited a week or so before going to the doctor, because my addiction to self-reliance was already well-developed by then.  When I did finally go to the doctor, it was still pretty swollen.  He told me that he could not diagnose it with all that fluid on it.  He would need to aspirate it in order to check it out.  That meant he would need to stick a long needle into my knee joint and draw out the fluid.  I grabbed my things and left.  Self-reliance was looking like a pretty good option to me at that point.

Several weeks later, the swelling had all but gone and the pain had subsided pretty well too.  I decided it was healthy enough …

When Confession to God is Not Enough

Tuesday Re-mix –

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Step 5: We admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

I grew up feeling sorry for my Catholic friends because they had to confess their sins to a priest.  It seemed to me that such a thing would be the most awful experience in the world.  My particular faith community taught me that, when it came to confession, I did not need an intermediary…I could confess my sins straight to God.  To be honest, I liked that a lot more, because it was easier to fool myself into believing I had actually confessed to God than it would ever have been to fool a priest.  I could go and spend a few moments thinking about my various wrong-doings and thinking about God, and maybe even whisper a few words to God about it all, and then leave feeling like I had done the whole confession thing.  Problem solved.  Easy to fool myself!

But it’s not that easy when there is a human being on the other end of the confession who can ask you questions for clarification and can make you say the actual words…out loud…describing what you did and who can tell you when they think you’re not “owning” your fault.  That, to me, is a less flexible and less manipulatable process.  It is very much like the difference …

Dealing with Secret Sin…In Community

Tuesday Re-mix –

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

Step 4: We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

It was several years ago when a back injury made me finally give up my yardwork.  That was a difficult thing for me.  I actually enjoy yardwork…in my own yard, anyway.  So it was difficult for me to let someone else do it.  It is MY yard, and I know all of its nooks and crannies and secrets, and I certainly did not want some stranger coming in and caring for my yard.  But the biggest adjustment for me in giving up that little area of self-reliance was the fact that somebody else was going to get very familiar with all of the embarrassing hidden messes in my yard…all of those corners and hidden spots which were not well-groomed and which hid some not-so-nice things.

If you have ever had someone come in and clean your house, you have felt that same feeling.  They see everything…that junk drawer in the kitchen, that cabinet which hides stuff you haven’t seen in years, and that horrible, cluttered closet.  It is embarrassing!

Thinking about Step 4 in our recovery from the addiction to self-reliance, taking an honest moral inventory of our inner-most life is revealing.  Just like that secret cluttered closet in the house and that hidden ugly corner in the yard, our lives have secret areas of …

The Problem with “Letting Go and Letting God”

Tuesday Re-mix –

Step 3: We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

Applying step 3 to our particular addiction (the addiction to self-reliance), feels a little bit like comedian Steve Martin’s simple process for becoming a millionaire…Step 1: go and get a million dollars.

For those of us who are addicted to self-reliance and independence, “turning your life over to God” has always been a bit of a troublesome concept.  Oh, it’s easy enough to say…and it was easy enough to do when we were 7 years old at children’s camp and our “life” consisted of  a bike, a broken G.I. Joe and an annoying little brother, all of which we would gladly “turn over to God” in exchange for Heaven.  Moreover, even the concept of turning our “will” over to God seemed like a small price to pay at the time, given the reward of spending eternity in Heaven with all the donuts and sports we could ever want (what? you didn’t get that promise in your package?).

But it didn’t take long to start growing up and watching our “stuff” and our wills expand to cover a great deal more territory.  Then, the desire for the applause of men and the insecurities which were beginning to haunt us caused us to turn more and more inward and to take more short-cuts and to work harder to control the environment around us in order to survive.  The more we strove to control our environment, the harder it became and the deeper …