No Darkness Too Dark: No More Games

I wrote this a few years ago and had it published on two websites, Dropping Keys and Key Life. It’s a weird little tale and the style I wrote it in was the best way I knew how to get it on “paper.” It helped me understand that there is no darkness too dark in your life that the light of Christ can’t illuminate. There are no hiding places from forgiveness, mercy and grace.     

Let me tell you story about a young boy.

This boy, at a very young age was sexually abused by two separate family members, one male and one female. Both were old enough to know they were doing something wrong, but young enough to not be considered adults. This young boy was made to think that he was playing a game and it never dawned on him that there was anything wrong. Though it stopped short of anything occurring that might be considered medically harmful, it was emotionally and psychologically damaging for him as you can imagine. “It was a game and people liked him”, thought the boy. They wanted to spend time with him. In some weird sense of innocence, it made the boy happy. Then, it stopped. The boy doesn’t remember the exact details of it, but he just knew that it stopped and it left him with a weird feeling inside. For sure, it was good that it stopped, but this boy being so young, didn’t know how to process that. From here on in, like a curse, the boy and his view of intimacy would be forever slanted by his experience.

Well, the boy grew older and with age comes autonomy. This means the boy was, for long periods of time, without supervision. He hung out with friends that like to play the kind of games he remembers, though maybe the rules changed a bit. And that’s just what the boy did. He played and played those games. They were hidden secret games and no one ever found out about them, because by then, he knew these weren’t the kind of games you bragged about openly. Unfortunately for him, those games stopped too. The boy again felt confused and lonely. He became somewhat focused on these kinds of games as a result. But, for some time, the desire to play these games lay dormant, mostly out of necessity because he had no one to play with.

Well, the boy grew older still and became a young man and this young man began playing these games again and did so quite a bit. Because of the confusion brought on by the initial abuse, this game was played with any kind of partner. The only thing that mattered was that the young man had an outlet for his game again and thanks to the wonders of the inner city and a new messenger job that took him on occasion to the more seedy parts of town, it wasn’t hard to find players. By now though, he was well aware of how wrong he was in what he was doing, how dangerous it was and how sinful it was. He grew up in a faith, though I wouldn’t say he had a faith at that time, but as a result of his upbringing, he certainly knew enough to know right from wrong. He was never one to play around with absolutes, he just didn’t live a life that cared for them.

Though much older now, this boy, now a man with forty plus years behind him, recognizes that the struggle not to play these games has never gone away completely and probably never will. Though his primary outlet on occasion is regulated to a computer screen, the struggle is there just as much now as it was all those years ago. This man now calls himself a child of God, with a shaky faith in Christ, but a faith for sure. He often feels like Peter perpetually stepping out of the boat, walking on the water towards Jesus and then sinking in some sin and needing Christ’s rescue. The man has confessed his struggles with mixed emotions and reactions and has heard for the longest time that sin loses all its power when its brought into the light and he wish it were true, as he wrestles again and again. He can claim more victories, but it doesn’t negate the losses, even if it’s just one. As a Christian, this man has been taught that victory over struggles–like drugs alcohol, pornography–are a guarantee if you just grab a firm hold of them. Again, he wishes for that reality to be true.

The man, now older, realizes the losses are not simply what he clicks on with a mouse, but how that struggle has affected his entire life. The confusion and attention that came with his abuse at such a young age, makes it tough to form solid relationships with family and friends. In addition, all the rules in the world won’t, and right outward behavior can’t, change the most difficult struggle that occurs in the mind. The struggle is against condemnation that unceasingly says, “You’re filthy and unworthy of anyone…You have nothing important or helpful to offer anyone…Just hope for death, everyone would be better off.”

Despite the constant battle to silence those voices, there is another voice that beckons. A voice that carries over the others. A voice that is a comfort to this man, and tells him, despite his struggles, you are not this un-lovable, disfigured creature.

This voice says you are a sinner and you will struggle, but it is in this struggle where you can cry out like Paul when he said, “who will deliver me from this body of death?” “Who will rescue me from drowning?” Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, there IS no more condemnation for Paul and there IS no more condemnation for this abused boy, now struggling man…this man, who has been able to forgive his abusers, this man who has been able to see more victories. This man who can say to his family, despite their reactions, “I am a sinner but I am forgiven and stand no longer condemned.” This man can now say, “I have failed” and then trust that when he comes to God in those tears of repentance, he is not only restored, but was never cast out in the first place and never will be. This is always the hope this man has. Not that he won’t sin anymore but that he is forgiven forever and that is my hope as well.

It is in that hope that the game he has been playing all these years, begins to lose its allure…


The CHF Articles: Secure In His Righteousness

Allow me to paint a picture for you:

I knew a man in my old neighborhood. He was an old leathery-faced balding biker with facial tattoos. He was the kind of guy that when you saw him, and his scowl heading in your direction, you thought about crossing the street, just in case. I met him at my old church’s neighborhood food pantry. Once you got to know him, you found out his wasn’t that bad. He was headstrong and had a temper sometimes, but he could also be quite sweet in some ways. He was also drunk or high around us too many of those times to count.

Including on Sundays.

Continue reading “The CHF Articles: Secure In His Righteousness”

The CHF Articles: Come And See

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” -John 1:43-46

I know it’s hard for some people to put aside old ideas and notions about Christianity, Christians, and church in general. It’s a dug-in skepticism that’s born from a life of bad experiences, and even worse Christian jargon and teachings. It’s pushing back against all of it.

Continue reading “The CHF Articles: Come And See”

Church Plant Memoirs: Come and See

This is less a memoir and more an event, but it fits with the theme. Along with so many new things I’ve learned about church, church planting, God and how he might encourage me towards serving in different areas, this was a bold and scary step for me.

This was my first sermon ever.

Come and see…

Church Plant Memoirs: A Plea for Prayer

With the new year fast approaching, I wanted to give you one more article from the church plant memoirs. This is less an article, and more a plea. A month ago, my pastor encouraged me to take the pulpit from him one Sunday evening this coming January. I’m reluctantly agreeing, with the caveat that he have a sermon prepared just in case. Though I’ve spoken briefly at men’s ministry events, this will be the first time I’ll be preparing and preaching a sermon on a Sunday. Everyone has their first time, and at 48 years old, this will be mine. When I started helping with this church plant, preaching was the furthest from my mind. Of course, I never thought I’d be driving into the city on a weekly(sometimes more than weekly) basis to help out with a church plant. The plans of man versus the plans of God and all that jazz. Right? Continue reading “Church Plant Memoirs: A Plea for Prayer”

Consider This Christmas Eve…

Consider This Christmas Eve…

Before the festivities start tonight, consider:

Consider your failings. Consider your doubts and struggles to be good parents, spouses and even adult children. Consider how you feel in those moments when you wonder if you haven’t screwed it up beyond repair. Continue reading “Consider This Christmas Eve…”

Church Plant Memoirs: Terror and Vulnerability

As of this writing, New York City has once again become the target of a terrorist attack. By God’s great mercy, no one was hurt severely. With that thought in mind, New Yorkers, in a kind of defiance to those who would seek to strike fear into this great metropolitan city, got back to being about their business rather quickly. This attack, unlike others, will end up as nothing more than a historical footnote, but we also know this probably won’t be the last attack. Still, we move on, living our lives, going to work, shopping, etc… Continue reading “Church Plant Memoirs: Terror and Vulnerability”

The CHF Articles: Hope Within The Shadows

The Sixth Sense is a suspenseful and scary movie where a little boy is born with the strange gift of seeing dead people. He gets some unusual help, but with that help, determines that these dead people aren’t there to terrorize him, but want his assistance. They know he can see them, and they want him to right wrongs in their past lives, or wish a loved one goodbye. Eventually, the unusual help he gets comes to understand the child is there to help him move on as well. This is an excellent movie, and I highly recommend it.

Now, why am I talking about this?

Continue reading “The CHF Articles: Hope Within The Shadows”

Church Plant Memoirs: In The Beginning…

Though I didn’t publish it until now, this was the first article I ever wrote about our church plant. As I reviewed it, I’m astonished at how much has changed in just a few short months. We have tweaked and re-tweaked our service during that time to what flows best, and we’ve settled on a worship leader who’s helped us put in place a solid team of musicians. Most of all, the church has been growing slowly but steadily, and we can say that as of September 2017, we have a solid stream of consistent attendees that have, either by verbal proclamation, or by their weekly appearance, made Epiphany their home church. Because of that, relationships have blossomed, and are continuing to grow. We even have more weekly community groups popping up. Finally, the Gospel continues to be poured out to all, in word, song, and sacrament. I am extremely thankful to be a part of this mission, and look forward to the future. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into our recent past, and that it encourages you to see that God still builds His church:

It was utterly glorious. Continue reading “Church Plant Memoirs: In The Beginning…”