NO SECRETS (The Challenge and Power of Transparency)

NO SECRETS (The Challenge and Power of Transparency)
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We all hide. At times, we all live behind a veil of secrecy.

We pretend to know more than we know.

We act like we are better than we are.

We present only the presentable parts of our lives and feign a perfection that we do not possess.

Not yet. Not here. Not now.

So we fake it.

And from the beginning of humanity, our secrecy has been our ruin and our disgrace. Adam and Eve miserably failed and what’s the first thing they thought to do? Hide.

It’s in our nature to cover, to deny, to fake it with the hope that we might eventually succeed. We hide our sin. We conceal our struggles. We conceal our inadequacies behind a mask of perfection.

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Why do we hide?

  • We are too proud to admit our defeats. Too arrogant to own our failures. Too stubborn to confess our weaknesses and our sins. Too egotistical to acknowledge the reality of our shortcomings. What would others think if they knew the real me?

  • We are too afraid of potential rejection or too fearful of wrathful punishment if we were ever caught.

  • Besides pride and fear, sadly, we sometimes hide because we find sordid and bizarre pleasure within the shadows. It’s fun (for a season). We enjoy our sin more than we imagined we might. It feels good. It satisfies a dark and perverse longing of the person we used to be before Christ. But our love of self and our delight in sin is the fruit of putting our needs and our desires above the needs of others and a desire for God. Tragically, if we choose to stay in the shadows, this shameful self-satisfaction never ends well.

So what’s the answer? Is there any value in living a humble, contrite, and transparent life?

Recently, I posted a guest blog by Dr. James Emery White. It was about sin, weakness, and the reality of human depravity.

James wrote, “As Christians, we are redeemed by Christ and engaged in the ongoing process of transformation; but we are sinners nonetheless. So what we do with our sin becomes the pivotal issue. This is where spiritual growth is won or lost. I don’t say this lightly, as if attempting to avoid sin is not significant. It is significant. But in our weakness and depravity we will fail, and it is at the moment of failure that we encounter one of life’s most defining moments—not simply moving past sin, but moving through it.”

I genuinely appreciate White’s transparency in admitting to his struggles as a human and as a pastor. Few leaders are secure enough in their identity in Christ to admit that they are still a work in progress.

And I would suggest that the path to “moving through sin” is discovered and experienced through transparency.

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We must stop hiding.

Transparency is humbling (and humility is a good thing), but it is also comforting because you find out you are not alone in your struggle. For the record, being transparent with others doesn’t hinder your relationships, it enhances them.

Transparency is challenging, but as you confess your sins and struggles great things happen, and God begins to heal your soul.

Transparency is difficult, but that is where your freedom is found. Walking in the light is liberating.

If transparency is good (and it is), and if we all fail (and we do), then why hide? Why do we insist on pretending to be something we are not? Why do we waste so much energy on propping up a false image of ourselves? Why do we attempt to cover up our physical, emotional, and spiritual illnesses?

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Wouldn’t it be better to admit that . . .

  • I am broken, but I am also being transformed, and my brokenness is not the end of the story when God is in the mix.

  • I am far from perfect, but I am loved by the Father, and no thing, no one, and no physical, emotional, or spiritual imperfection can change the unending reality of His love.

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I suggest that the more we know who we are in Christ and the deeper we understand His unquenchable love for us, the freer we are to admit to one another how puny we are and how great God is.

It’s okay to be authentic. It’s good to be honest. It’s always best to be real. Always.

Are you struggling with mental illness or a physical affliction? Welcome to planet earth.

Are you wrestling with sin and temptation? Welcome to the human race.

Are you afraid to admit to your past or present failures? Welcome to the club, and you are not alone. The Church is full of imperfect people.

Nevertheless, though transparency is sometimes terrifying and rarely easy, it is worth it. In fact, the only way to become the man or woman God wants you to become is to stop hiding.

A transparent soul has no secrets.

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May I pray for you?

“Father, thank you for knowing every thought, every word, every deed, and everything about everything in our lives—and still loving us the way You do. It is simply amazing. Help us to walk in the light together, unashamed and free. Our confidence is not in our performance, but our hope is in Your commitment to fulfill Your purposes in and through us. Let us band together as the community of the broken and yet redeemed so that the world is drawn to You and Your goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

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Like what you’ve read here? Looking for your next read? Check out my books on Amazon.

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8 Responses to NO SECRETS (The Challenge and Power of Transparency)

  1. Thank you, Kurt, for this good word. Praise God, no matter what imperfections we have or mistakes we’ve made, our Most Holy God accepts us, loves us, and forgives us as we confess, thereby redeeming us and making us perfect in Jesus’ Name. This doesn’t just happen once in a lifetime, but every time!

  2. Thank you my friend for speaking the truth. Sometimes it is hard for me as God has been moving me into an area of total honesty of my past failures in ministry

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Five Things That Will Help You Survive a Crazy Family

Five Things That Will Help You Survive a Crazy Family
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Maybe you have a normal family. Perhaps your family gatherings are filled with laughter, joy, and peace. You might be counting down the days until your next birthday gathering or Christmas celebration with great expectation.

If so, I’m happy for you.

If not, welcome to the my-family-drives-me-crazy club.

Sometimes surviving family gatherings can be tough.

Family Tom_SelleckOne of my favorite TV programs is Blue Bloods. It’s a cop show about a New York City Police family. Every Sunday Grandpa and Dad (Tom Selleck) sits around a beautiful table with the entire family. The food is perfect, and no one ever misses the meal.

Occasionally, the conversation gets a bit heated, but it always ends well. Nobody gets up from the table and storms away in disgust. The young wait with bated breath to hear the sage wisdom of their elders. Even when they disagree, they do so with relative civility.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

But it’s not very true to life for most of us.

Trying to schedule a regular family dinner is nearly impossible in our busy world.

When we do get together, it’s more like controlled chaos than contemplative conversing. (Have you ever tried to carry on an adult conversation with multiple preadolescent children in the same room?)

Pet P Demo RepubThe young typically have little respect for the old, and the old often are baffled by the generations after them.

We may have come from the same genetic pool, but we frequently have extremely different views about everything from religion to politics. The reality of our differences lends itself to a good deal of conflict and some heated debates.

Family Survival 101 ought to be a prerequisite for graduation from high school or college!

But for now, what can you do to at least survive and maybe even thrive in your family situation?

  1. Accept your differences and adjust your expectations. At the heart of almost all conflict is an unmet expectation, and this is especially true when it comes to family. Different isn’t always bad. Certainly, there are core, biblical values that should matter to everyone (like honesty and humility), but just because grandma doesn’t have any body piercings or tattoos doesn’t mean she has the right to hold her grandchildren to the same standard. If you simplify your expectations to only what matters absolutely to God, conflict will be significantly reduced.TATTOO Woman Cup of Coffee

  1. Focus on what you have in common. Blood truly is thicker than water. Family is always important. I understand the dysfunctionality of some families and how easy it is to value friends over family. However, God takes the family bond very seriously, and so should you. Frankly, friends will come and go, but you’re stuck with family, so find something (anything) positive that you can emphasize, and celebrate that reality.

  1. Critic Are-you-listening-to-meEndeavor to understand more than to be understood. Listening is a lost art in our culture. Everybody has something to say, and most of us (myself included) work harder at being heard than hearing others. You will be surprised at how your relationships with your family are vastly improved when you do your best to be a great listener. “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.”

  1. Remember that it’s always more important to be relational than right. Yes, I’ve written this before. Yes, I will write it again. How “right” you might be doesn’t matter if you bulldoze someone emotionally from a position of your supposed superiority. Okay, so your son is a liberal Democrat, or your daughter is a redneck Republican. Don’t destroy your relationship over something as temporary as politics. Do whatever it takes to seek peace and to pursue unity.

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  1. Forgive as you have been (and would like to be) forgiven. Forgiveness is the glue that holds families together. When you wound a parent, sibling, or child (and you will), practicing a lifestyle of walking in forgiveness is imperative. When family members hurt you (and they will), your forgiveness is crucial to your health and the offender’s well-being. The bad news: humans hurt each other on a regular basis. The good news: God put you in your family to teach you how to walk in forgiveness.

Rejection is never the best method of overcoming your family struggles. It’s not okay to sever your relationship with a family member regardless of the extent of your disappointment.

Work hard to love your crazy Uncle Bob or your maniacal sister Bertha. Do the best you can to embrace both the normal and the not-so-normal in your family.

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Why?

Because they’re family and because someday you might be the whacky one needing unconditional love and acceptance. And if that’s not a good enough reason, do it because Jesus commanded us to do so.

Like what you’ve read here? Looking for your next read? Check out my books on Amazon.

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13 Responses to Five Things That Will Help You Survive a Crazy Family

  1. Praise God for families! I love mine and Blue Bloods too, but when Tom Selleck was most known for Magnum, I remember his saying something about family keeping him grounded – or maybe he said “humbled.” Family can do that so well! They also help us to see what a terrible idea expectations can be. 🙂

  2. Well Cousin I have always said we are very normal until you get to know us. You words are so true. Are you sure you were using you and your kids as an example or was it me and my kids? The blog definitely speaks to me and my immediate family.

    Jeff

  3. Amen, Kurt! My father modeled such family behavior for us beautifully, keeping my dear, but opinionated, mom from inciting political discourse during mealtime. Yes, my family is all over the political spectrum, and it’s best if we talk about the weather. Lol!
    Blessings!

  4. thank you for the reminder…I need this for my in-laws..they are definitely different breed that the way i was raised…

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Moving Through Sin ~ A Guest Post by Pastor James Emery White

Moving Through Sin ~ A Guest Post by Pastor James Emery White

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We all sin. Real, honest, hard-core moral rebellion.

From addictions to pornography; from an uncontrolled temper, a critical spirit and uncontrolled tongue to greed and ambition; from cut-loose pride to adulterous thoughts and even actions.

 Broken Figure LegWe are sinners.

 Present tense. Today. Multiple times.

 I know I am. The stench of my sin, the shame of it, the demoralizing dynamic it plays in my life – particularly as a leader – are among the deepest of my spiritual challenges.

 And I hate my sin.

 But it’s very real.

 One of the most honest statements I have ever read was from a French thinker named Joseph de Maistre who said, “I do not know what the heart of a rascal may be; I know what is in the heart of an honest man; it is horrible.” Or as the nineteenth-century Christian leader Alexander Whyte said to a woman who showered praise on his life, “Madam, if you knew the man I really was, you would spit in my face.”

 He wasn’t talking about hypocrisy. He was referring to the reality of human depravity in people’s lives.

 Even leader’s lives.

 Like mine.

As Christians, we are redeemed by Christ and engaged in the ongoing process of transformation; but we are sinners nonetheless. So what we do with our sin becomes the pivotal issue. This is where spiritual growth is won or lost. I don’t say this lightly, as if attempting to avoid sin is not significant. It is significant. But in our weakness and depravity we will fail, and it is at the moment of failure that we encounter one of life’s most defining moments – not simply moving past sin, but moving through it.

Here comes the rub: the typical person of faith has no idea how to react – deeply and biblically – to the sin in their life. Much less how to walk through the four stages critical to addressing it, which begins with the simple task of “realization.”

Rejection Girl

 Realization

In the midst of sin, it’s often difficult to see the sin. Or perhaps more honestly, we have made the choice not to see it. The first step toward dealing with sin is to realize that we have, indeed, sinned. Faithful to our soul development, God will always bring that conviction to bear. Yet if we ignore the earliest pangs of conviction and instead purpose in our hearts to turn away from God, we dampen the sensitivity within our spiritual system to our choice. The more we turn away, the more calloused and deadened we become.

Regret

Right on the heels of realization should flow regret. This is wishing you hadn’t done what you did. Unfortunately, regret – by itself – is rarely penetrating. It has more to do with the fact that you are having to pay for what you did (or got caught) than anything else. You’re emotionally distraught, but it’s because of the consequences you face, not really for the act itself, which speaks to the importance of moving into third stage, “remorse.”

Remorse

When you move beyond regret into remorse, you experience spiritual sorrow. This is not anguish over what your actions have brought to bear on your life as much as it is agony that you did a wrong thing in the eyes of God. This is the essence of spiritual remorse: having your heart break because you’ve broken the heart of God.

Mary at His feet

In my own life, I know how easy it is to admit I’ve taken a “less than best” course of action. In other words, I am quick to express regret. What is missing is any sense of anguish that I have done something wrong. When this refusal to be remorseful is allowed to take full reign in someone’s life, there can be an almost militant spirit that seeks to justify their course of action as both understandable and unavoidable. Albert Camus, in his novel The Fall, observed that, “Each man insists on being innocent, even if it means accusing the whole human race, even heaven.” But even a healthy sense of sin that brings remorse isn’t the highest or deepest place a soul can travel.

Repentance

The final destination of the soul when responding to sin should always be repentance. This is when you realize what you’ve done, regret it, experience authentic remorse over it, and then seek to turn from it. This is the literal meaning of the word “repentance.” To repent is to be heading in one direction, come to the realization that it is the wrong way, and with regret and remorse, turn around and head where you should have been going all along.

One of the easiest habits to fall into is the repetitive cycle of confession that seeks forgiveness, over and over again, without ever moving into repentance. You commit a sin, so you confess it and ask God to forgive you. Again and again. This can’t be all you do to address the sin in your life. You must move on to repentance. To truly repent isn’t simply the seeking of forgiveness, it’s turning around. It’s stopping, replacing, moving, ending, giving, correcting, quitting, fixing, returning…

…in a word, changing.

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Lingering Guilt

Once you seek forgiveness and repent, what then? You are forgiven. And you need to walk in that forgiveness. Accept and apply the grace you have been given. As Corrie ten Boom once said, when God forgives us, he takes our sins to the deepest part of the ocean, attaches a large weight, drops them overboard and puts up a “No Fishing” sign.

But that’s often easier said than done. The feelings of guilt and shame rarely just vaporize. They linger on like a bad odor, impacting every facet of our lives, making us question the degree and extent of God’s acceptance.

I once read of a medical report that told how amputees will experience the sensation of a phantom limb. They will have lost their arm, or lost their leg, but somewhere, locked in their brains, a memory lingers of that limb, a memory so strong that they can feel their toes curl or their hand grasp, but it’s not really there. God doesn’t want that for our lives. The Bible tells us that: “This is how we shall know that we are children of the truth and can reassure ourselves in the sight of God, even if our own conscience makes us feel guilty. For God is greater than our conscience, and he knows everything.” (I John 3:19-20)

But what if we sin again? No matter how authentic the repentance, we may fall prey to the temptation again, and wonder what this means for our relationship with God.

Give up b & w guy

Repeated Sin

There are two extremes to avoid. The first is presumption. We should never wink at our sins, and say: “Oops, sorry, God. I guess I kind of blew it this time. I sure am glad you’re aaalll llloooovve” and then think of God chuckling a bit saying, “Oh well, boys will be boys.” God is not mocked, and grace must never be cheapened. Paying for our sin cost Jesus His very life, and the call on life is plain: “You must be Holy, for I am Holy.” (I Peter 1:16)

Equally distorted would be to forget the scandalously inexhaustible depth of grace that God is only too willing to bestow upon authentically repentant men and women. The wonder and joy of this can be found in the 32nd Psalm. It’s worth a read:

Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be – you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. Count yourself lucky – God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.  Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone – my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. (Psalm 32:1-5, Msg)

Yet throughout this journey, it would be wise to remember that Satan is not exactly sitting on the sidelines cheering this process on. He despises a repentant life, so he will do what he can to muddy the waters. He will try and have you resist realization, resent regret, reject remorse, and refuse repentance.

And even if he’s not successful at any of those junctures, he will then earn his reputation as the great accuser.

Here’s what will happen:

The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin in your life. You will handle it in a God-honoring way, moving through realization and regret, remorse and repentance. After that process has come to fruition, Satan will move in and accuse you of that sin.

“Who do you think you are?” 

“You call yourself a Christian?”

“No Christian would ever do what you did.”

“You don’t really think you and God are just going to be ‘okay’ after that, do you?”

We must learn to discern the difference between the voice of the evil one and the voice of the Holy Spirit. When it comes to sin, the Holy Spirit will convict, but never accuse. Satan has only one note to sing, and he uses it for the monotone chant of indictment. 

Anything but the new lease on life repentance brings.

Anything but moving through sin as part of the journey

…to moving past it.

James Emery White

Broken Woman Healed

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.
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What to Do When Being a Good Mom Doesn’t Seem Good Enough

What to Do When Being a Good Mom Doesn’t Seem Good Enough
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Nobody intentionally sets out to fail as a parent. No one plans on raising an axe murderer. I’ve never met a mom who lies in bed at night envisioning how to mess up her kids.

I have, however, met many parents who can’t sleep at night because they worry—a lot—about the fruit of their loins.

Where did I go wrong?

How could my son make such a terrible choice?

What’s up with my daughter? Seriously, what does she see in that guy?

I raised him “in the Lord,” and today he doesn’t want anything to do with God or church.

The struggle is real.

The doubts are crippling.

The personal agony is devastating.

My mom experienced distress and misery on my behalf. Once upon a time, I was a prodigal son. I walked away from God, the Church, my family, and my faith. It wasn’t pretty. I broke a lot of hearts, including my mom’s. Gratefully, she never gave up on me even though no one would have blamed her if she had.

Motherhood is one of the toughest jobs on the planet.

sfondo festivo con cuoricini

So what can a mother do when she has a wild, out-of-control child?

First, remember that you are responsible for how you raise your children, but not always to blame for the way your kid turns out. You have great influence and a great duty. Ultimately, however, you are not responsible for the choices of your teen or adult child.

Do your best to pass the torch of faith and to raise your child in the training and instruction of the Lord. But if your child wanders, don’t assume you are a terrible parent.

Every son or daughter is born with a sin nature. Every child has a propensity for self-centered and sinful behavior. We all are prone to wander because of that frustrating thing called “free will.”

You can do everything right, and your child can still go terribly wrong.

That being said, some moms have good reason to feel responsible. Perhaps they consistently were a poor role model or demonstrated uncontrolled anger. Maybe mom was hyper-controlling or the opposite—completely absent as a parent. Obviously, a lousy mother has a negative impact on her offspring.

So what should you do if you feel like you’ve failed miserably as a parent?

Own it if you’ve blown it, but don’t get stuck under a cloud of shame. Failure as a parent does not disqualify you as a mom, but refusal to own your failure and to repent only makes matters worse.

Ask God to forgive you. Ask your children to forgive you. Confess your sin and then move forward. By the way, remember that there is no such thing as a perfect mom or a perfect family! Don’t deny your failings, but don’t live with unrealistic expectations either.

One of the great lessons you can always teach your children through personal example is the value of humble confession and a contrite heart. You fail. They fail. We all fail. But failure doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

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One final thing . . .

Building or repairing and maintaining a relational bridge to your wandering child is paramount. As I have written many times before, it doesn’t matter how right you are if you’re not relational. Above all, do everything you can to live at peace with your child.

If you have a son or daughter who is far from God and maybe even far from you, don’t:

  • attempt to shame your child into change.

  • attempt to control or force good choices on your child.

  • attempt to argue your child into better behavior.

It won’t work. Trust me; I was that child, so I know.

The best thing you can do is to pray your guts out and stay the course as you model love and godliness in the following ways:

  • Practice a lifestyle of mercy and forgiveness. When your child hurts you and strikes out at you in bitterness and vileness, forgive as you are forgiven. In fact, forgive in advance of the offense.

  • Decide to speak well of your children and to bless them with your words of affirmation. Even the most messed up person in the world still is made in the image of God and is always of great value to Him. Treat your children as if they are special even when they don’t act like it. When they lash out at you, return a blessing instead of a reaction and pray for them even more.

Raising kids in a godly home does not guarantee godly children, so do the best you can, and stop beating yourself up. Focus more—a lot more—on being a godly and caring mom that your children are drawn to because of your example and undying love.

Most of all, never give up on the prodigals. They need you and your prayers more than they know.

May I pray for you?

Father, I know you are close to the brokenhearted. I know you hear the cry of every mom. And I know you love every child beyond measure. Please wrap Your arms around each mom and each of their children today in a way that will bring both comfort and change. In the name of Your Son, Amen.

Like what you’ve read here? Looking for your next read? Check out my books on Amazon.

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18 Responses to What to Do When Being a Good Mom Doesn’t Seem Good Enough

  1. I needed that. We have a 46 year old protocol son who was raised in a Christian home.God recently told me”He is in my hand”.I do have comfort in that. Thanks Kurt

  2. Love this, Kurt. I had the privilege of teaching a weekend parenting workshop at my church last month, and right out the gate I emphasized the same thing you said … it’s ultimately between the child and God as far as their faith goes. It’s good news that we have a huge influence, though, and that the attitude of forgiveness you mentioned makes all the difference in quality of relationship!

  3. I love my prodigal so much. More and more I realize it’s God’s way of teaching me that he is more God’s child than mine. I used to hold my title of “Mom” in a bit of a prideful way so thought I had more to do with how my kids turn out than I actually do. God has made me humble & given me compassion for others in similar situations. I am giving it my best (failings included) but they are each such individuals who have a need for God whether they see it or not yet. Thanks for this post, I read it tearfully, but am so encouraged to hear that you were running from God at a time in your life too & now serve Him. Bless your precious mama!

  4. My son, the prodigal, has yet to come home. I will continue to pray for him and love him unconditionally.
    Thanks for these wise words of encouragement, Kurt. This mom really needed to hear them today.
    Blessings!

  5. Great encouragement. This “mom-stuff” is complicated messiness riddled with landmines. Sometimes I’m not sure where to step. I got the diaper-thingy down pat. It’s the parenting adults with kids of their own that is the truly HARD part of being a mother (or father). And no one tells ya that until, bam, you’ve hit one of those landmines. 🙂

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