Tag Archives: church life

Toxic Tuesday: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

3 Ways To Spot A Wolf In Sheep ‘s Clothing 

Leslie Vernick 

“One of the ways bank tellers and merchants learn to distinguish real money from counterfeit is by examining genuine $100 bills over and over again so that they are more wolf 4likely to spot the counterfeit bills when they see them. In the same way we can learn to recognize destructive people by knowing what to look for.

Some may object to any attempt to identify wolves among us because it sounds uncharitable and judgmental to call someone a wolf. Only Jesus knows a person’s heart so who are we to judge? Yet, Jesus himself warns us that there are those who claim to be believers, they may even be leaders in the church, but they are vicious or ravenous wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).

The apostle Paul warns Timothy that there will be people who act religious, but are puffed up with pride, who are unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, and cruel (2 Timothy 3:2-9). Part of spiritual maturity is gaining the ability to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Why is this necessary? Because Paul reminds us that even Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Evil pretends to be good.

wolf 3Sometimes we make a naive assumption and it gets us into terrible trouble. We assume that if someone claims to be a Christian and talks like a Christian, that means he or she is a Christian. That’s not true.

Just like there are counterfeit $100 bills that attempt to pass for the real thing, there are those among us who attempt to pass for Christians but underneath they are ravenous wolves. How do we tell the difference?

Jesus said by their fruit you will know them. A wolf can be an expert at talking like a Christian but when you observe his or her behaviors over time, they look more wolfish (aggressive). As the saying goes, the sweetest tongue often has the sharpest tooth. Here are three things to watch out for.

1. Wolves live for the love of power rather than the power of love. Wolves refuse accountability and resist submission to authority. You’ve heard the phrase lone wolf? Wolves in sheep’s clothing have themselves as their highest point of reference. They often use charisma and charm to “win” people over but they do not have mutual or reciprocal relationships. People are to be used, possessed, exploited or controlled rather than loved.

2. Wolves look like sheep and talk like sheep but they bite like wolves, especially when the sheep are disagreeing or dissenting. Winning and being right are their highest values and they do whatever they need to in order to stay “on top”. wolf

When operating in church or religious settings their methods are often underhanded and cunning to seem less obvious or aggressive. They don’t want to look like wolves, that’s why they pretend to be sheep.

3. Wolves are experts at deceit. That’s why they are so successful at making us think they are true sheep. Jesus tells us that Satan, too, is an expert at deceit. That’s why he doesn’t go around with horns and a tail but as an angel of light.

Wolves pretend to be good and to care about the sheep but those closest to them (especially their family) know the truth. They’ve been bitten again and again and again.

But the wolf’s ability to maintain his cover is one reason why it’s so difficult for church people to believe the person who has been wounded by the wolf. They fail to see him as a wolf and assume that the problem is two sheep biting one another.

That’s not true. Wolves have much sharper teeth and stronger jaws than sheep do. A sheep cannot harm a wolf. A wolf kills sheep.

It’s interesting that God chose a wolf as a word picture to portray this type of problem person. A wolf is a predator. It has a strong jaw and 42 sharp teeth designed to stab its prey to death.

As Christian counselors and leaders, let’s not naively close our eyes and think that there are no wolves among us. They are everywhere and we must learn to recognize and stop them from wounding and killing the sheep.”

“The Church has been rather slow to acknowledge the validity of emotional abuse, especially in marriage – and real change can only start if pastors, lay leaders and other counselors start to see the reality that many people face.” ~Leslie Vernick

Counselor Leslie Vernick has made it her “mission to bravely stand up for those who suffer in the shadows.” Her “heart is more and more heavy to help churches know how to competently and compassionately help those in destructive marriages.”

I believe Leslie to be the best of the best in the field of ministering to spouses in abusive marriages. She recognizes abusers and helps the person on the receiving end of the abuse set boundaries, maintain safety, stay committed to truth, remain open to the Holy Spirit, be responsible for their self and respectful toward others without dishonoring their self, and practice empathy and compassion while setting boundaries.

With this in mind Leslie has started a web-based ministry to counselors, pastors, and church leaders. This makes the task of learning about marital abuse/domestic violence reachable for anyone who wants to learn. Because…there are wolves in every congregation.  Almost all counseling centers on communication issues between two people; when in some cases the problem is abuse. Abuse is not a marriage problem. Abuse is an abuse problem—a character problem, and the abuser needs individual help; not marriage counseling. (This applies for marriage, extended family relationships, or non-family relationships. Abuse is abuse; not a communication problem.)

Leslie has numerous free articles and video resources available; as well as, the opportunity to sign up for more resources. If you are in ministry this is a must have area of continued education you should consider. I highly recommend in today’s culture that anyone who works in church leadership should have training in this area.  Click here to check out Leslie’s web-site: Leslie Vernick: Training Church Leaders and Counselors in Abuse.

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Weebles Wobble But They Don’t Fall Down

Saturday, as I prayed about what God wanted me to share in my next blog I realized I had not spent any time reading the Bible that day and had not given God an invitation to speak to me about it. I woke early and immediately began the task of purging our school room of games, puzzles, manipulatives and curriculum that my children had outgrown combined with thirteen years of Riley’s school work which I had kept on file. Okay, that was putting a spin on the situation. Thirteen years of papers were piled in the bottom of the closet. I did not mean to keep all her work, it was just that by the beginning of her second grade I was pregnant, sick from pregnancy, recovering from pregnancy and then began the entire pregnancy thing over again. Add in moving a couple of times plus extreme stress brought on by an unstable neighbor which lead to another move for our family… followed by my son A.J.’s severe traumatic brain injury and therapy… all while teaching Riley, A.J. and Colson at home and well, there you have it…a closet floor ‘file-pile’ of school work.

Before bed that night I sat down with a little bit of chocolate and worked through my Bible study allowing God to impress upon my heart scriptures and ideas to encourage women struggling through tough hard-hitting seasons.

My heart goes out to women feeling hopeless while living through difficult circumstances. Some sweet women may wonder if there is something painfully wrong with them. They may desire to figure out what so they can change it, seek healing for it, or attempt to make their circumstances better. The difficulty could include a spouse, loved one, neighbor, co-worker or boss. Do you feel hopeless?  This blog sight is really for you. There is always hope. No one can steal hope from you because your hope is in God and no one can take Him away from you. Likewise no one can take your soul from you for it belongs to God alone once you accept His Son as your Savior. So grab on to hope…it is yours! Take your difficult situations and shine God’s word on it knowing He will use it for purpose if you allow Him to do so.  Do you find yourself constantly thinking, “There is nothing normal or healthy about this circumstance or relationship. Is it me, is it them, or is it both of us?” God knows. Inquire.

God’s word, Bible study, and prayer always see me through. Make no mistake; Satan wants to steal my testimony, my marriage, my children, my sanity and my daily walk with the Lord. This means that I must invite God into all areas of my heart, soul, mind and strength and seek protection over those I love. I have never had a day in my existence when I spent time with the Lord that I thought, “That was time wasted.” Never! I love Him more every single time. More and more and more.

I prayed over scriptures I read Saturday night and asked God for confirmation that this was indeed His idea and not mine.

The next morning at church during praise and worship a member of the worship team read scripture from 1 Samuel 30 of the Amalekites taking captive women, sons and daughters, both young and old who were the family members of David and his men. David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” “Pursue them,” the LORD answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

Confirmation. I knew the Lord wanted me to share about one of my battles during which I inquired of the Lord. A deeply personal battle which God has not given me liberty regarding details being revealed at this time. In my mind I was thinking, “No way. Really? Must I?” I can be such a whiner. I need to reframe it as, “May I?”

My testimony revolves around prayer. I cannot pray better than anyone else. I do not pray more than most and God does not listen to my prayers above anyone else’s prayers. I just simply pray and my favorite way to pray is recalling to God His own words. I have fun submitting to Him any and all precedence’s I can find that could be applied to my need, my thankful heart, or my victory. In this way the burden of effective prayer does not depend on my ability, or lack thereof, to communicate with God. It rests on His word and Him alone. The best part is that God loves to answer me, thrill me, grow me and pull me closer to His heart. He will do the same for you although not necessarily in the same way. Just as parents respond to their children who have different personalities, different love languages and different needs; God responds to us individually.

This particular ‘battle’ conversation with God was a few years ago, around the midnight hour after my children were fast asleep and my husband was working, covering for another manager, on the late shift at work. I had been fighting a deep spiritual battle for years which goes back to Satan trying to kill, steal and destroy everything dear to me. The fight that day had taken every ounce of my strength and I was humbly lying sprawled out on my floor face down in reverence, praying and crying so hard…so long. I could not stop thinking about this battle, praying over this situation, begging for God’s help because years of prayer were not helping the problem. Instead it kept growing worse. I told God I trusted Him and wanted to obey Him more than anything but for the second time in a couple of months I thought I would have to call an ambulance to come and get me because I just could not come out of this despair and stop my crying. I told God that I could not do this anymore. I was tired of being the only person fighting for this. I was the only one who cared about a victory; besides God himself. I told God that it was over. I was finished fighting for something I thought God had given me. I felt the need to remind Him that I was in this exact predicament out of obedience to Him. I told God that I knew He could see the entire plan and the outcome, but I could not and I was not taking another step in that direction unless He clearly showed me that I must. As in tomorrow…or I am finished. This praying, crying and wrestling with God lasted over an hour before I finally sang Him a song. I could barely get the words out but I had to refocus my problem through His viewpoint and not my own. I sobbed as I sang Him a love song, You Are My All in All, and allowed Him to calm my weary heart and tend to my raw nerves. He is so good at this. He always picks me up, puts me back together, dusts me off, and sends me on my way. God keeps me from staying down when I fall over…its like being a Weeble Wobble.

I went in the bathroom to wash my face and found that I had once again cried so hard that I broke a blood vessel in my eye. Half of my eye ball was shrouded in fresh blood.

The next morning I woke up mindful of my conversation with God hours earlier when I told Him I was finished fighting this battle unless He showed me otherwise. I rolled over, picked up and opened a devotional book I had just begun the day before.

Next week I will share the devotion I read that morning and you can decide if God answered me.

“Prayer is not preparation for the work; prayer is the work.”

-Oswald Chambers

Breaking Free from Abuse: Part 3

These are a few notes taken from Pastor Rick Warren’s lesson regarding abuse:

Hurt people hurt people. Abusers have typically have been abused. We have all learned unhealthy ways in some area of life and we are all broken so nobody is holier than anybody else. If you are abused or know someone being abused you can’t pretend it’s not happening. Christians have to stand up and protect the helpless, the offended, the defenseless, and the victims wherever they are.

Don’t confront an abuser by yourself. This is not wise or safe at home, at your office in the work environment or anywhere. In the Bible, Solomon talks about doing the difficult together. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12. This is to be done in a spirit of love, restoration and gentleness…in truth. You turn on the light of truth in that area of darkness where things have been hidden. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11. Healing takes place in the light. Then all your troubles will fade from your memory.

Begin the healing process. It takes courage to speak out and reveal the abuse; reach out to God…Jesus is your Savior. He came to save you from your sins and from your abuse, in every area of your life.  Put away any evil and wrong in your home: You may have to clean house relationally – emotionally. Get away from the abuse and get help then you have hope. There is no reason to suffer in silence.

Let God settle the score. Don’t get even or try to hurt them back. You have three places you can be in relation to the abuser: Beneath them morally, on the same plane morally or on higher ground morally. Be better than them. Getting even makes you no better than the abuser. You’re just even, but when you forgive them you are better than them. Jesus said, “Forgive.” I Peter 3:9 “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” Never repay one wrong with another, one abusive word with another. Repay with a blessing. If you want God’s blessing you have to be different.  Maybe you are being abused physically, sexually or verbally. There is one person in this universe who understands abuse. He understands it more than anybody else. His name is Jesus Christ. See Isaiah 53. He was wounded and crushed (that’s abuse) for our sins. He was beaten and bruised so that we could have peace (that’s called abuse). He was mocked and whipped so we could be healed (that’s abuse).

If you’ve never met Jesus, your healing starts here.  Let me introduce you to your healer, His name is Jesus Christ. Nobody has been abused more than Jesus.  He knows the pain because He took the sin of the entire world including the guilt for the abuse that was done to you. That guilt He took on Himself and died for. He took every abuse ever done and took it on Himself and He died for that so that you could be forgiven, so that we could be forgiven, so that we could have peace, that we could be healed. You have to meet the Healer to be healed. There are examples of people who carried the pain all their lives and there are examples of people who let Jesus Christ heal them of that verbal, emotional, sexual or physical abuse. He understands, He knows, He feels the pain. Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the broken hearted, those who have been crushed.” Nothing crushes your spirit more than abuse.

We have to deal with abuse because it is contagious and gets passed on from generation to generation.

Somebody has to break the chain. It is going to be you, today, now, with the power of the Holy Spirit. If you are the abused or the abuser know there is a way out. There is healing available for both abused and abuser.

No situation is hopeless.  See John 3:16 God sent Jesus to bring you home to Him. Even if no one else had been born on the earth except you, Jesus still would have come to earth so that you could come to know God.

Do you want to learn how to accept this Jesus as your Savior? Please click the Know God tab at rickwarren.org.

Listen to the link below to hear Rick Warren’s lesson on Breaking Free from Abuse: Part 3.

Be healed!

Breaking Free from Abuse: Part 3