Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Here is my response to this ridiculousness.
1. I'm not even convinced this comment is from Gary in the first place, but I will offer the benefit of the doubt for now. The phrase "church leadership" doesn't sound like Gary, IMO, and I find it unlikely that he would ask his followers to suddenly read through thousands of comment that he says are false or libelous. But that's just me. Nevertheless, in the spirit of love and good faith, the offer has always stood here to correct the record--either privately or in an open dialogue. There are a number of ways to facilitate that. Call or email me, brother.
2. If true, you realize that, although articles are my own, and are fact-based and as well-reasoned as I can make them--comments here are unmoderated. In good faith, I do make attempts to police name-calling from time to time, and other unloving attacks on individuals, but I do not have the time to read every comment. It is not my legal obligation to do so, but if you point out any factual error or libelous post, I will still do my best to correct the record, because that's what brothers do. I have no desire to defame you or any other leader of the church. I have always and only wanted to deal in facts and scriptural reasoning. Anyone who has read my articles knows this. It doesn't take much reading to see that I have never attempted to get into personal attacks, and have done my best to weed comments out by individuals who engage in them.
3. I've had an open invitation for you or any other leader in the church to correct facts and discuss differences of opinion on scripture. My email address is plainly listed on this site. Not one person in the church, except for my mom, has corrected anything, and the fact that she corrected was how old I was when my dad was withdrawn from. I thought I was 10 or 11, my mom says I was 6 1/2. I corrected it immediately. Neither you nor any of the church leadership have reached out to correct anything--in fact, teachers in the church have highly discouraged people from visiting this blog. So how do you know what's here if you haven't read it yourself and discouraged others from doing so?
4. I've tried to make contact with you for years, Gary, merely to discuss scriptural questions about Stanton, long before I ever got the idea of creating a blog to record the factual history of this sect. I found your email address from a forum you had posted in of Church of Christ preachers many years ago, and tried contacting you (two different emails, actually, both starting with "b4man"). I received no response. Not that you owe me one--but you have had plenty of opportunity to engage in a real conversation. I have even offered on these pages to have a private conversation over coffee sometimes, but have never been taken up on that.
5. Last I checked, brothers are not to take brothers to court. As noted above, I am perfectly open to removing factually incorrect information, and that has been the case since day one of this blog. As always, just send me a list of the exact comments and URLs by email privately so I can search and find them on the Blogger back end.
6. Not having read all the comments, let me just state generally that I do not give my approval to comments, but I would never seek to harm someone's reputation with false information. Ever.
7. If your post is real, Gary, and you do create a lawsuit, understand that you'll lose, and by losing, you'll most likely have to pay my attorney's fees. It's called an "equitable remedy," particularly in a frivolous lawsuit, which this would be. And let me just be clear that if I had wanted to organize legal opposition to the church, I have had plenty of people cheering me on. I avoided that, because this site has never been about attacking personalities, but about trying to lead people who have been oppressed by Stanton's teachings out of the wilderness and into a loving relationship with their Creator. In addition, if I wanted to put out a call for people who have been wronged by the church as a result of following teacher's counsel, I have no doubt I could assemble a list within a few days. That's not who I am--and I certainly hope that's not who you are.
Monday, October 12, 2015
"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." ~Mark TwainI have to apologize to readers (again) for being absent from responding and moderating the blog for so long. I know there are some things I need to clean up, and inappropriate comments to delete. I intended to do that this past weekend, but here it is my lunch hour on Monday and it's still not done.
I started a new job last Spring and had a daughter get married over the summer, so family time has become a lot more scarce, and therefore a bit more precious. I have some reading to do to catch up, but I'm looking forward to reengaging with the conversation.
P.s. - Just as a reminder to newbies, the articles on this blog are the ONLY things that can be attributed to me personally. The articles express my own opinions in as accurate and kind a way as I know how, but I don't have control over the commenting, nor the time to moderate inappropriate material in real-time.
To those who have helped with this by emailing me specific items that need to be deleted, thank you!
1. Deleted some profanity, please send me links to specifics and I'll delete others.
2. Reminder: Keep it classy and conversational, people, or I'll have to shut comments down. I want to provide a forum for intelligent conversation, not a gutter to throw mud around.
3. Ronnie: Asking "If Stanton isn't the right church, which one is?" is the wrong question and you'll get the wrong answer every time, because there is no perfect, infallible church. Not Stanton, not the Christian Churches, not any of them. That is the point.
A scriptural local church is a body of believers, not a specific denomination or sect meeting in a specific address. See my article This one little problem with the One True Church claim. Even the churches in Revelation within the lifespan of the apostles had strayed. If Stanton truly had been on the right track by dividing from mainline CoCs (which they weren't, but go with me here), they would be beset by the same problems as the churches described in Revelation: human error.
A better question is "Where can I worship and grow in knowledge and grace and love and generosity and all the other fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5?"
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Rules of the road for this exercise:
- Questions must be sincere.
- Questions must be able to be answered from the Bible.
- I'm not afraid of hard questions.
- I'm not an authority. I will simply give my honest opinion based on my understanding of scripture.
- Don't expect 24/7 responses. It might take me awhile to respond to more detailed questions. I work full time and have a big family I kind of like to spend time with. ;-)
Friday, June 5, 2015
I'm really glad that Debby Stevens found the blog recently. There are a lot of good people who love God who have left Stanton's ranks, and I'm thrilled that some of them have found this blog to share their story. My prayer is that by uncovering more voices from Stanton's past, we can show current members that (a) they're not alone in their secret doubts about Stanton's presumptuous "authority;" and (b) there is such a thing as a relationship with God outside of Stanton's walls.
Debby, thanks adding your voice to the discussion here.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Full disclosure: Matthew is my brother-in-law, and currently "withdrawn from" by the Anchorage, Alaska congregation. Jill is my sister, whom I love very much in spite of our disagreement over the church. They have an awesome family, and I've respected that they've been able to maintain a loving relationship.
Here is a link to my own study on Stanton's mistaken understanding of withdrawal. It does not necessarily represent Matthew's opinions.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
I want to encourage you to find a church family who will take the time to get to know you, and with whom you can share your struggles freely without fear of retribution.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
EDIT #1 - In the spirit of clearing up confusion about the purpose of posting this letter, I think it should be clear by my history on this blog that it was not to defame anyone or slander K.F.'s ex-wife. K.F., I am going to redact a few lines that appear to be attacks on your ex-wife. They may or may not be true, but I don't want the purpose of this blog to be questioned in any manner. The purpose is to expose Stanton's history, give voice to people who have been hurt, and to show a way out of that hurt in a Christlike manner. To those who think I exercised bad judgment by posting the letter in its previous form, I apologize. It was a tough judgment call, and I'm doing my best to seek a wise course on things like this.
FYI, I did make edits for clarity, and later cut out some references that I didn't feel were helpful or necessary. It is painful to click "Publish," but I believe it's necessary to hear KF's perspective and experiences.
K.F., I hope these edits are OK with you, if not let me know and I'll remove the post. I'm praying for you that God will bring people into your life to speak about God using a different language--the language of love and radical forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ.
If we look at how Jesus handled being treated unjustly, we have a pretty clear model for how we should react--with love and grace.
grace - n. - unmerited favorKF...I'm sorry you went through all this.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
What a shame, either way. The dysfunction that has arisen in so many families as a result of Stanton has been written about extensively in these pages and in readers' comments. It's truly an awful legacy, considering that the family unit was designed by God to be a beautiful thing, something that protects and nurtures children's and spouses' faith in God.
Nevertheless, many find themselves on the outside of Stanton for a multitude of reasons, and wonder if there is any hope to patch up relationships with those who remain on the inside. Is it possible? Is it worth it? I hold the view that all relationships are worth it, but if so, how does one go about it? Many have written me expressing how hopeless it all seems.
Hopeless may seem accurate if the only goal is to get the person who is still in, out. While I make no pretense that that is a worthy goal in most cases (because those "in" will see and relate to God so much better from outside of Stanton's darkened view of God), that is the wrong objective to measure success from a relationship point of view. We can't hold the relationship hostage until they leave.
So the real question is how can we relate to those still inside? How do we deal with strong differences of opinion, especially at family gatherings like meals (particularly when there are withdrawn-from family members present) and weddings (where alcohol might be served).
Is it possible for people who strongly disagree with each other to not just be cordial, but to genuinely love each another as Jesus loved? If Jesus' kind of love is truly a command, not just some sort of warm fuzzy feeling, then yes, we can. If love is a command, it's something we have complete control over. God can't command something that is impossible for us to do.
This means disapproval can coexist in a loving relationship. We know this to be true from life experiences. Can't siblings love each other in spite of their different choices in life? Can't parents and adult children love each other in spite of differences in their opinions and choices with regard to church, faith, or anything else? Can't spouses do the same?
I know some of you will shake your heads in disbelief. "Well, that may be a good theory, but I've never seen it happen in real life--at least not in my family." My point exactly. Maybe the real problem is that you haven't actually seen Jesus' love preached or lived out in real life, but I'm here to tell you, it can be done. Whether you are currently a believer or not, you have the ability to model the way forward for your family. Become a believer, set your life on fire for Jesus Christ, and the task at hand will become much more clear.
The scriptures command this kind of love for those we don't understand, or that we have conflicts with, and we are to follow this command above all else. It is our highest calling, above even going to church. If love demands you help someone stuck on the side of the road next Sunday on your way to church, that's what you should do, even it makes you late. Or, you can be the priest with your nose in the air who walks by on the other side of the road, driving right past a golden opportunity to demonstrate love in action.
The Greatest Commands are to Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor--and by extension, your father, or daughter, or son, or mother, or husband, or wife--as yourself. That's not a theory, it's a life-altering call to action--an deliberate reinvention of each relationship from the ground up. It is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest thing you will ever do. Love comes easy because we're made in the image of a God whose nature is love. But it's hard because we want to make all kinds of excuses why we can't, or shouldn't, or don't need to really love THIS person THAT much.
I may not like someone's behavior, or opinions, or choices, or church, but I can still love them deeply, and display that love genuinely through my actions, words, and demeanor. It doesn't mean I approve of all of the above. It means I love them in spite of it. Wasn't that what Jesus did while associating with the publicans, sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes--those outside the outer circles of the spiritual in-crowd?
Jesus didn't give his stamp of approval to the "riffraff" of society when he socialized with them. He got to know them as real people, with real hurts, habits, and hangups. He didn't wring his hands in fear that eating and drinking with them would be seen as an endorsement of their messed up lives, although the Pharisees dutifully accused him of exactly that. No, man-fearing was definitely not top-of-mind. Instead, the "riffraff" felt Jesus' love for them, not his judgement. In fact, his most fiery judgment was reserved for the most hypocritical teachers of the law, the upper echelon of the religious hierarchy of his day. Things haven't changed much, have they?
Are there times when we may need to show some righteous indignation, or at least put some firm boundaries down about what will or won't happen in our own family unit? Sure, but remember that Jesus had the confidence of knowing everyone's heart. We don't. We should always assume good motives, and that will tend to soften our words a bit. A little humility goes a long way.
Jesus' kind of love--the kind that forgives old hurts, recognizes failures, and loves anyway--is the kind that fathers and daughters can tap into to rebuild a strained relationship, or mothers and daughters can use to heal old wounds. Sons can tap into this Jesus-kind-of-love, even after years of drifting away from their fathers, whether that was because of the natural forces of their teen quest for independence, matched up against a father's need for authority and respect in his home, or because of hardened, unloving church teaching and discipline. Love conquers all, and yes, it covers--overlooks--a multitude of sins. It is not our role to mete out justice to those who have wronged us. That's above our pay grade.
1 Peter 4:8 - Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.And everyone has them, don't they? Father, son, mother, daughter, in the church, or out of the church, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
You want to know the secret to reconciling sinful people in messed up families? The humility to recognize that we're all in the same boat. We all stand condemned, and thus are all equally in need of God's grace, from those who get all spiritual to those who rarely set foot in a church building. The minute I start demanding that you be held accountable for all you've done wrong, I have to see clearly before me how I've done wrong and need just as much grace and forgiveness as you do. The humility that washes over us when we realize our own shortcomings is the beginning of rebuilding a relationship on mutual love and understanding.
If you have a relationship with someone in Stanton, take heart and don't throw it away just because they may not agree with your decision not to attend. Even if they don't treat you very lovingly when you express your disagreement, that's OK. Love them anyway. Show them Jesus' love in action. Model the right way to live a life of love for those we disagree with, and show them a better way.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
It was rather lengthy, and I recalled having started listening to it before, but never made it to the end. After awhile, I remembered why. It took some time to get up to speed, wandering a bit aimlessly for the first 40 minutes. Eventually, though, there were some valuable points made.
Most it was charming prose, though maybe a bit too self-conscious. From one story to another, the first 40 minutes of the talk were about the speaker's ailments, how rough it is to be a preacher, how important his work is, how much influence he's had on younger preachers, and how difficult it is to give a 4 hour lesson.
Jesus Take The Wheel
What really stuck out to me, though, was when he launched into a piece about his doctor's "Jesus Take The Wheel" kind of faith, and how laughable it was that his doctor admonished him to trust God as a way to deal with his stress before standing up behind the pulpit. I guess we can't have someone who's not a member of "The Church" giving meaningful spiritual advice to a preacher.
You can listen to this 5 minute segment I'll call "The Preacher and the Doctor" that starts at about 29:45 in the full audio version. In it, he mocked the doctor's Biblical advice to trust God (to the chuckles of the audience). A perusal of scripture suggest that we go with the good doctor on this one:
Psalm 37:5 - Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
Psalm 55:22 - Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
Psalm 56:3-4 - When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
Psalm 94:19 - When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.
Proverbs 16:3 - Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
Isaiah 40:31 - But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
John 14:27 - Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.To me, the doctor's advice actually displays a genuine, real-world kind of faith--a faith that is not ivory tower kind of stuff, but practical, where the rubber meets the road of our Christian walk. Let go and let God. Jesus, take the wheel.
I know, this is just bumper sticker theology, you say--a trite saying finessed by Nashville into a recording contract. Perhaps, but there's some powerful, life-changing, Biblical admonition in there. I'd be careful about mocking it just because you first heard it on a country station.
He acknowledges that the doctor has a deep faith (with the obligatory "of sorts" caveat), but it struck me that the doctor's faith was perhaps deeper and more practical than his own. In fact, I'd say the doctor's "Jesus Take The Wheel" kind of faith was the same kind that caused Paul to go into the tent-making business to support his ministry to convert the Roman Empire. Kind of a crazy plan, but he entrusted his plans to the Lord, and guess what? They succeeded, just as the scriptures promise. It's the same kind of faith that prompted Paul to criss-cross the known world without fear, go to Macedonia despite warnings of impending imprisonment, and eventually die in Rome for the cause of Christ. Yet the doctor's Paul-style faith was played up for laughs.
I mean no disrespect by pointing this out. This analysis is not about the preacher. I don't know him at all, but I honestly think I'd like him if I met him. So as far as the person goes, I will chalk this up to an off-day behind the podium.
For that reason, I'd prefer that names be kept out of this, simply because it's not about him, or questioning his motives, which I assume are wonderful, but about underscoring a dangerous theology that seeks to cheapen the value of trust in God in everyday life.
I'm here to say loudly and clearly that our God who made the universe, and who made you and me, can and does help those who trust in Him in everyday life--whether that is preaching an effective sermon, overcoming stress and physical ailments, or guiding the hands of a surgeon. We have an all-powerful God who cares deeply about our everyday lives.
After listening to this talk, I was honestly left a little confused. On one hand, he acknowledged the importance of faith, and that it provides victory over the weakness of the flesh, but on the other, appears to mock this whole idea that we can actually cast our burdens on Him. There is a disconnect here that's hard to put my finger on, but it's as if he's saying the idea of absolutely trusting in God is too good to be true. This is accentuated by the doubts he expresses in the face of his struggles, thinking that maybe God has left him somehow. This reminds me of Peter's lack of faith walking on the sea. It was not that Jesus left Peter to sink, it was that Peter's faith wavered when the going got tough. He didn't fully "let Jesus take the wheel."
This disconnect seems to turn all that Christian talk of the importance of faith into a sort of lip service--something that may sound good in theory, but in real life, when you actually get up to give a sermon--you just can't put your stress about that into God's hands. We, after all, are the tip of the spear, God's partner to get this done.
It also struck me as odd that he is glad to not have to rely on a surgeon who prays for God's guidance for his hands. I, for one, would happily put myself into the care of a surgeon who commits his work to the Lord in prayer, believing in faith that God will help him accomplish his task successfully. Do I want him to have some great surgery experience under his belt, too? Yeah, there is that. :-)
I don't want to be too negative, and I don't want to be flippant about this man's ailments or the contradictions of faith I heard. In fairness, I did find some sound exhortation in the latter half of the talk. There was some good encouragement about avoiding fearfulness, avoiding excessive negativity, and being committed to the cause of Christ to the death. All good stuff, and delivered charmingly.
Overall, there was some worthwhile exhortation. But that "Jesus Take The Wheel" segment...yikes!
Here is the snippet again, and here's the full audio if you'd like to listen to the entire talk.
Note: A part of me is really hesitant to post this, because I don't want anyone to think this blog is about tearing down people. I hope you can see that that's not what this is about. I've been behind the podium before, and I've not always been happy with myself afterward. In fact, sometimes embarrassingly so. The golden rule applies here, and while I wouldn't necessarily like someone dissecting my sermon on a blog, if I was speaking unbiblically, I would honestly want someone to correct me so I could deepen my faith. I hope that my analysis here can be received in that light.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Do you want to see more stories like this? Submit them to me using the contact information in the sidebar. Thanks for your patience and readership as the blog evolves, and thank you Donna for submitting your inspiring story!
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 - But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.