Random Blog Clay Feet: December 09, 2007
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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Abusive Discipling

I have learned that there is a very big difference between true discipline and abuse. Discipline comes from the word “disciple”, which has much more to do with mentoring and showing by example a way of living and responding to all sorts of situations. That is exactly the way the right brain is trained, by example, not by explicit and cognitive teaching.

Jesus had perfect balance in His ways of discipling His followers. He used verbal teaching to convey concepts and principles to their left brain intellect while having them watch Him and live with Him to observe what those principles and ideals looked like when met with real-life situations. But even much of His verbal teaching was designed to appeal more toward the right brain than most of what is done today, for storytelling and singing are methods of communication that can be understood much more readily by the right brain as well as the left.

Much of what passes as discipline today (and throughout history) could be more accurately described as “abusive discipline” or more likely punishment. Because the person “administering” the discipline is not governed by proper self-discipline, especially at the heart level, the effects of their punishments on others conveys the opposite of the effect they may have intended. When you stop to think about it the concept of abusive discipline is really an oxymoron. A correct understanding of the idea of discipline or discipling implies working to mentor someone relationally so they can learn in all aspects how to live a certain way, how to act like themselves under any circumstances or in any emotion. To introduce any abuse into that kind of relationship, especially in the Christian arena, is to counter the very purpose of discipling.

I know that in my own upbringing as well as what I in turn practiced with my own children that most of the so-called discipline was nothing much more than abusive outbursts of partially restrained temper. In my case it involved my father whipping me with an army belt until his own anger was vented and he was satisfied that I was somehow brought under his control or at least intimidated enough to be afraid to ever disobey again. However, though it may have brought about external compliance by me to avoid further beatings, my heart became increasingly filled with rage and rebellion and hatred from the injustice and lack of real love demonstrated by his attitude and actions. It created a great chasm between us emotionally that took the rest of our life to try to repair.

In my own family though I often managed to keep my external composure to a great degree, I used the occasions, just like my father had done, to inflict pain and suffering as a means of forcing my will on the children under my control without having a spirit in sync with the ways and Spirit of God. I am now reaping the same results of estrangement and lack of bonding with my children in later years that I experienced with my own father. The sins of the fathers really do go on to the third and fourth generation just as God predicted and the resultant pain and regrets live on to haunt me. I knew even at the time that something was terribly wrong but I did not know what else to do; I had no one to mentor or disciple me to show me a better way of life. Whenever I listened to the pop song by Harry Chapin called The Cat's in the Cradle, the lyrics painfully described exactly what I was living even in the early stages. I felt as if I were being forced to live out a scripted tragedy with little to no control to change the outcome and that is exactly what ended up happening. As the words of the song so aptly predicted I ended up repeating the very mistakes that my own father did with me.

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon Little Boy Blue and the Man on the Moon "When you comin' home, Son?" "I don't know when, but we'll get together then" "You know we'll have a good time then"

The Jews, though deeply mired in misconceptions about God, were not as ignorant of God as the rest of the world in the days of Jesus. Intellectually they had within their possession the Law and the Prophets – the Old Testament Scriptures – which God had given as a revelation of Himself. Though it was very misunderstood as it still is today, it still contained much truth about God that did not need to be misinterpreted as badly as it usually was. But viewed through the filters of the twisted pictures of God heavily skewed by sin and selfishness and fear, even the chosen people of God had come to the point where their beliefs about religion mostly centered in the externals and related to God as an angry, self-serving, arbitrary deity eager to punish and needing to be appeased not unlike many of the heathen gods of the cultures around them.

Although the Jews believed very strongly that they were far superior to every other people on earth because of their “chosenness” by God, in fact they were quickly becoming the greatest liability to God's reputation on earth. The truth about reality was far from their entrenched beliefs, but they were unwilling in large to accept the revelation of their true condition when their true attitudes became exposed. They clung fiercely to their external, carefully worked out system of Scripture-based religion and their association traceable by birth to the people clearly chosen and led by God in the past. They refused repeatedly to accept any notions that the condition of their hearts had anything to do with their standing before God.

So it is yet today. How very easy it is to rest firmly but complacently on a system of beliefs and doctrines and association with “the remnant” that can be carefully proved from the Word of God. How easy it is to trace back the history of our particular church and show how God led our forefathers into reforms and enlightened revelations of truth and conclude that we need to cling firmly to the traditions handed down to us by them. But all the while we are oblivious to the fact that we ourselves are not following the lead by God's Spirit to search deeply and aggressively ourselves into the Word to see if those things are really true. Somehow we may think that would be an insult to what they already searched out and handed down to us, or maybe we are just too lazy.

But being the chosen of God is not determined by association with the right group of people any more than being saved was assured by being a good Jew in the days of Jesus. There is an enormous amount of self-deception going on in our churches today that is unchallenged and unnoticed. The vast majority are satisfied to let someone else do their thinking and digging for them and hand it to them pre-packaged at church or on television. How many people can be found who actually are willing to question and research and really study for themselves what is presented to them by religious leaders and teachers? How many have any hunger at all to increase their personal passion for God and challenge their own assumptions or those of their church by regularly mining the Word of God to discover new and fresh truths to apply to their own lives?

From my very limited perspective I see only a rare few on occasion that have any interest whatsoever in doing any of these things. It is very disappointing to look for others with which to study or share insights from study and realize that there simply is no interest at best or open resistance and hostility by those who profess to be loyal followers of Jesus Christ. Something seems very wrong with this picture. Something very fundamental is missing from this kind of religion. There is plenty of discussing and arguing and so-called teaching going on in churches and religious activities, but there is very little personal and small group genuine pursuit into the storehouse of truth at a meaningful, life-changing level.

I am very tired of most of what is labeled “Bible study” that goes on today. It is very much like the problem that is seen in most so-called “prayer meetings” that similarly have very little prayer and almost non-existent passion for God found in them. Nearly every so-called “Bible study” that I have seen is nothing more than a pre-packaged routine of pre-digested conclusions where a string of questions and carefully placed texts are arranged in a certain order to force the recipient to arrive at a foregone conclusion. Typically there are blanks to be filled in by the person “studying” the Bible that suppose that once the “correct” answers are written in that the person now believes the “truth” that was predetermined by the person or organization that produced the “study guides”. The exact same format is generally used in what passes as “study” during Sabbath or Sunday schools in churches everywhere.

It nearly makes me want to gag when I hear people calling this kind of thing “Bible study”. How can that be construed as study? But I suppose given that similar methods are often used in much of our educational system today to train people to be clones of certain traditional lines of thinking, then the subverted meaning of the word “study” can equally be misapplied here as well as elsewhere. But to me it looks much closer to the term brainwashing than it is real study. Really I think this can be seen as an abuse of the privilege of authority.

The real meaning of the idea of study and research is far more involved and life-changing than most of what passes off for study seen today. But that is far too frightening for the modern overseers of religion, as it has been throughout all the centuries before us. To teach people how to really think and apply principles of real study and stretch their minds to the limit repeatedly and learn how to make their study a means of deepening a relationship with the Author of what they are studying as the real object of their study – now that is far too liberating, maybe even reckless, to be safe in the hands of people who might end up with different conclusions than what has been predetermined by organized religion. Teaching people how to think instead of what to think is a very risky business when one of the goals of teaching is to bring others under our own influence and control. That is why every religion by and large has always eventually, if not immediately, opted for the much more regulated approach to dogmatic study and pre-approved outcomes and needs to carefully screen and control all materials used to induct others into their group and carefully guarded beliefs.

I believe this is a very sad state of affairs and has tragically hindered the work of God on earth for centuries. Organized religion always tends to settle more and more firmly into entrenched and rigid systems of belief that finally become so dogmatic and controlling that some finally tire of the emptiness of real heart-food and move on to rediscover truths of God for themselves. Often these small groups of entrepreneurs become the core of a whole new denomination and they are looked upon as heroes of the faith and revered as founders of advanced ways of understanding truth. That is often true of the first generation or two as they are willing to think outside the box that they found themselves in and were hungry to rediscover the real meaning of study. But over and over we see the sad trail in history where the people who come to accept these advanced teachings and insights fail to engage in the very activities and mindset that caused these discoveries to be made in the first place. The result is that yet another denomination of rigid exclusive followers is spawned who are happy to cling to the research and efforts of their founders who challenged the status quo but are unwilling to exercise the same kind of efforts and cultivate the same hunger for discovery of even more advanced truth as did their acclaimed mentors.

We are so easily satisfied to let others dictate our own relationship with God. How absurd can this get? It is very much like a married person allowing their immature, codependent attachment to a controlling parent to regulate every aspect of their own marriage. They can do nothing in their relationship with their spouse that is not approved by a doting, meddling mother or a domineering father. That is so obviously unhealthy to most people and is viewed as disgusting. But yet most churches today have a very similar setup for controlling the intimate relationship that each person should be enjoying with God individually. And people are all too willing to depend on church authorities or religious “experts” to tell them every detail of how they should conduct their personal life and affairs of the heart in their relationship with God.

I believe that this state of affairs comes out of a sick but very real hunger for control of others. It is so appealing to want to play the role of the Holy Spirit in other people's lives. It is really our desire to usurp God's place in the lives of others that is reflective of Lucifer's desire to capture God's throne. We are afraid of letting people go free of our control and encouraging their unique intimacy in a dynamic love relationship with God because their experience might look too different from our own and we would not be able to control their behavior or conclusions. So we have developed our systematized Bible study programs and our unique versions of the Catholic church's use of catechism and rob millions of the intimacy with their Lover that God so longs for them to enjoy.

I am not saying that we should not have any teaching or educational programs or try to explain truth and expose error in our church work. But what I do believe is that we have allowed these things to become tools of control that have come to interfere or even obliterate the place of personal intimacy and education that the Holy Spirit desires to have with every single person. The reality of the situation is that most of the time we are afraid to teach people to be “thinkers” for themselves. It is much more appealing to carefully teach them to be reflectors of the thoughts of others – ours most likely – while subtly leading them to believe that they are thinking for themselves.

I realize that there are real dangers involved in releasing people to think for themselves. It can be reall messy at times. Teaching one to really think involves training them in various ways to discipline their mind, to restrict their imagination from running amok in the many diversions provided by sin to divert the affections and thoughts. But teaching a person to really think and study for themselves does not mean simply turning them loose to come up with whatever their mind may produce without any training. Unfortunately I have seen almost no real training and certainly no classes offered in how to really think and study except for maybe the training that I took in inductive Bible study.

I believe there is a great need for coming up with much more effective and valid training in how to really think and study and deepen a person's relationship with God that takes into account a correct understanding of the proper workings of both the left and right brain. I would love to see a method of real mentoring and education that respected the need for the restoration of the proper role of the emotions, attachment bonds, self awareness of one's real identity and the other primary functions of the right brain. These are areas of heart work that was demonstrated in the way Jesus related to people. Then when coupled with facts and left brain intellectual concepts not divorced from the relational aspects of training so crucial to the right brain training, we would begin to see amazing results in the growth of real spirituality and the spread of the gospel like we never imagined possible. This is the reality of true discipling, a restoration of the proper balance of the soul passed on from the more mature to the less experienced. This would be the opposite of the oxymoron of abusive discipline.

Of course Satan is afraid of exactly that and will stop at nothing to prevent it from happening. He is determined to keep all religion firmly in the grip of intellectual dominance and control over others or the feel-good but mindless emotionalism that makes up most of the religious world today. But God is not going to lose in this battle for the hearts of His children. He is working quietly but effectively behind the scenes preparing in place people in strategic positions and with unique insights and gifts whom He is going to bond together soon that will create something very much like a nuclear reaction. Very soon His glory is going to fill the whole earth like runaway radiation and then Jesus will return to initiate the transition to the next phase in the Great War.

God is preparing a people who are individually learning to listen to His Spirit with their hearts as well as stretching their minds in strenuous efforts to know Him better. His Spirit is synchronizing all these preparations so that there will be perfect harmony and unity among the real children of God, not because they are being controlled and manipulated by religious leaders or complying with formulas and traditions but because they are all listening to the same drummer, being led by the same Spirit.

My prayer is that God will awaken an intense hunger for finding real food in the Word of God to satisfy the hidden malnutrition of our souls. We are too satisfied being fed junk food and empty calories and all sorts of things purported to satisfy our appetite for real life. But our dysfunctional relationships and our suppressed pain and hidden sins betray the fact that we are in reality terribly malnourished and in desperate need of massive transfusions of grace and truth. Our hearts are aching from strained and broken attachments, false promises of love and pervasive suppression of our real-life problems by left brain dogmas and systematic theology. Humanity is dying from a lack of genuine love and the life that that love would bring into our bodies and souls. We are living in a stupor like being drugged under heavy sedation and need an antidote to wake us up and make us more alive. We need to be delivered from the heavy distortions of deception, both from the enchanting effects of modern entertainment and from the depressing effects of modern religion. We need a fresh revelation of the real truth about God in ways that will empower us with His glory and transform us into His character.

Our imaginations, originally intended by God to be the equipment entrusted to us to communicate with Him and grasp the exciting things He wants to share with us, have been subverted or repressed by the many devices of Satan to thwart God's place in our lives. We are either very willing to surrender our imaginations for the use of movies, music or any other number of means of entertainment that will occupy and swallow up our creative energies while silently filling our hearts full of lies about God, or we try to repress and discount this part of our mind believing it to only be an agent of evil and try to live our lives strictly from logic, facts and reason. All of this leads to mental ill-health and imbalance which is just what the enemy of our souls desires the most. Jesus said, The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NKJV)

God, send the fire. But this time it needs to fall in our hearts and melt our hardness and ignite a passion for you. When Elijah received the fire from heaven it impressed the people externally but made little lasting change in their hearts. Now we need to experience the fire at the heart level so that we can come into sympathy with Your heart and share Your feelings and speak Your words. Consume the offering of our lives to you with the passionate fire of Your love that burns away all the lies and deception lodged in our hearts. God, bring Your Word to life as we plunge deeper into digging for ourselves, dissatisfied to simply live on the husks of other people's study. Get us hooked on the addiction of feeding on the real food and drinking the water of life so that we will not return to being thirsty and empty once again. Give us a passion for You that reflects Your passion for us.