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Welcome to readingremy.com

Glad you stopped by!

I’m a pastor and author, plus I consult in an addiction treatment center where I help people consider how God might join them in their recovery.

My goal is to help people overcome everyday problems in practical ways with God’s help. I purposefully write and speak in a way that makes God approachable and understandable.

I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog and “like” my Facebook page in the margin. As my way of saying “thanks,” please download the Kindle version of my book, “Out of Exile” for free right now.

Feel free to send me a question. I promise to read it and reply. Thanks for spending some time on my site!- F. Remy Diederich

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Unconditional Forgiveness: Is it Biblical?

unconditional forgivenessI was surprised to be asked by Moody Radio to debate another pastor on the topic of Unconditional Forgiveness. Is it biblical or not? The debate was last Saturday. You can listen to the podcast by clicking this link. 

What is Unconditional Forgiveness?

Unconditional forgiveness is the belief that God calls us to forgive people whether they change their behavior or not. There are plenty of scriptures to support this. I’ve listed a few of them below. But there are some people who believe we should only forgive people if they repent, that is, ask for forgiveness and change their behavior. They say that God requires repentance, and so we should too.

The strongest case for this view is from something Jesus said:

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:3,4

Forgiveness 101

If you read Luke 17 in its most literal sense, you might conclude that Jesus is saying the opposite as well, “If they don’t repent then don’t forgive them.” But it doesn’t say that. In fact, in context, Jesus is teaching on Forgiveness 101, entry level forgiveness. His disciples can’t believe you should forgive people for an offense, even if they repent. Their reply to Jesus was, “Increase our faith!” In other words, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

Little did they know that Jesus would call them to even deeper forgiveness. He would call them to forgive, not only people who repented, but people who did not.

…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:28-31

Forgiveness 201

Forgiveness 201 is when you choose to not retaliate. You give up the right to get even. The Bible calls this “mercy.” There are two Greek words that speak to this: aphiemi and apoluo. Look them up. They mean to release, pardon, separate or divorce. The idea being that you let go of what you were previously attached to, that is, retaliation. No conditions are implied here.

Forgiveness 301

Forgiveness 301 is when you give to people what they don’t deserve. This is called, “blessing.” This idea is rooted in the word charizomai. It’s the word for “grace” that Christians like to use so much. It means to give freely. To give without reserve. That sounds pretty unconditional to me. This is the word used in Ephesians 4:30:

Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ has forgiven you.

How has Christ forgiven us? Paul stated this throughout his letter to the Ephesians. But he states it explicitly here:

…in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,… Ephesians 3:13-15

What drew us to God? Jesus’ sacrifice and his setting aside the law (or conditions) of God that condemned us. His love was shown first. In the same way, we are called to forgive others without condition.

Forgiveness is NOT:

Just to be clear, forgiveness is NOT:

  • Forgetting. You forgive what you CAN’T forget.
  • Excusing. You only forgive what you have accused someone of doing.
  • Trusting. You can forgive immediately. Trust takes time.
  • Reunion. This can only happen when trust is restored.
  • An Emotion. It’s the refusal to retaliate and/or the willingness to bless.

What’s Wrong with Conditional Forgiveness?

A big downside to thinking that forgiveness is conditional (beyond the fact that I don’t see the Bible supporting it) is that, knowing humanity, we will always find a reason to NOT forgive, right? We will always think that someone hasn’t repented enough, thereby justifying our not forgiving. How convenient. How human. We are called to something higher.

Plus, conditional forgiveness encourages us to carry lists against all the people that have offended us over the years. Rather than being seen as a gracious child of God, people avoid us for being a rigid legalist who carries grudges.

It’s worth studying on your own. Here are a few scripture to look up:

  • Matthew 5:43-47
  • Luke 6:32-36
  • Romans 12:17-20

My book STUCK deals with the power of unconditional forgiveness and how it empowers you to live a new life, as well as the person you forgive.

Welsh poet and priest, George Herbert, said: Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet, which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it.

This is a beautiful image of unconditional forgiveness. The fragrance stays with the person no matter what they do, and it’s a constant reminder of God’s love for them.

Please share this with someone who is struggling with an offense.

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Lose Your Christian Cliches and Jargon

I recently spoke in church about seven ways to share your faith without Christian clicheticking people off. (Download: Road Trip- Sharing Your Faith.) One of my seven points was to “Lose your clichés, jargon and spiritual innuendos.” Christian clichés, etc. are so easy to fall into, but they undermine your credibility causing people to question your sincerity.

Here’s an excerpt from my message:

Christian clichés

Christian clichés are when you over simplify complex matters with a pat answer. Rather than offering a thoughtful response, you quote a Bible verse, or say something like, “You just gotta let go and let God,” as if that is the end of  the discussion. No more needs to be said. 

The truth is, we should learn to speak intelligently about the concerns that people have about faith without resorting to a cliché. 

Clichés are often true. But that’s not the problem. The problem with clichés is that they trivialize what’s important by making it sound like once you know God you don’t have to think any more. You just have to pull out your list of Top 20 Christian clichés or Bible verses to answer any hard question that comes your way. The truth is, we should learn to speak intelligently about the concerns that people have about faith without resorting to a cliché. 

Jargon

Jargon is the words or terminology that are unique to a subculture. A subculture is any smaller group of people, like medical workers, or athletes, or motorcycle riders, etc. You have medical jargon, and sports jargon. You’ve got biker jargon. Every hobby has its unique jargon. Churches are a subculture.

But jargon only makes sense to people in that subculture. For example, if a doctor uses medical jargon on me, I’m clueless. It’s not helpful. And it’s the same when you use Christian jargon with your friends and family. People don’t know what you are talking about. Church people say things like:

  • “I feel led to do this.”
  • “I feel a check in my spirit.”
  • “We need to bathe this in prayer.”
  • “Those are works of the flesh.”
  • “You need to be born again.”
  • “The blood of Jesus covers that.”

If you’ve been in the church a long time, you probably know what these mean. But if you aren’t a church person these phrases just sound silly, if not scary. Plus it’s rude to talk in code around people who don’t know the code.

I am careful not to use jargon in church on Sunday. It’s tempting because it’s like shorthand for people in the know. But I understand that many people come to our church who didn’t grow up in church. Using jargon is confusing at best and offensive at worst.

Spiritual Innuendo

You probably know what sexual innuendo is. That’s when no matter what you say someone reads something sexual into it. They always find a sexual connotation. They think it’s funny and clever.

It’s not clever. It’s awkward. And it’s just as intellectually insulting as sexual innuendo.

Personally, I find it insulting to reduce everything to sex. I don’t mean it’s morally insulting (although that is true as well). I think it’s intellectually insulting. God gave us a creative brain to talk about interesting things, yet some people want to use that brain to talk about sex and they assume I want to do the same. That’s insulting to me.

People do that with faith. They turn everything into an opportunity to work God into the conversation. You might say, “Man, I love these French fries.” And then I say, “That’s interesting you should say that because I was just thinking about how much God loves us.” And you are thinking, “Really, that’s where you want to take this conversation? I can’t even mention French fries without you bringing God into the conversation?”

It’s not clever. It’s awkward. And it’s just as intellectually insulting as sexual innuendo.

If you want people to treat you seriously, hear what you have to say, and not get mad at you, then please… lose your Christian clichés, jargon, and the innuendos. It’s hard at first because it’s a strong habit. But people will relate to you better if your faith doesn’t drip from every word you speak.

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toxic pastors

Toxic Pastors and Why They Are Not Confronted

Why is it so hard to confront toxic pastors? If they are clearly in the wrong, it seems like it would be the obvious thing to do. But if you’ve ever been in a toxic church, you know how hard it can be.

Here are ten reasons why people don’t confront toxic pastors.

Ten Reasons People Don’t Confront Toxic Pastors:

  1. You don’t want to be accused of being rebellious. Toxic pastors make you feel like disagreeing with them is equal to questioning God. And we all know that bad things happen to people who question God, right? The Old Testament has more than enough stories to give you pause. You don’t want the ground to open up and swallow you, and you don’t want to be labeled a rebel, or God forbid, having a “rebellious spirit.”
  2. You get filled with self-doubt. Toxic pastors make you feel like YOU are the problem. They say things like, “The reason you disagree with me is because you aren’t as spiritually mature as I am. You need to trust my leadership and submit to my authority like the Bible tells you too.” That can mess with your mind. They turn things around and before you know it, you are asking for THEIR forgiveness when it should be the other way around.
  3. You fear losing your circle of friends. Sometimes we tolerate a toxic church simply because that’s where our friends are. When I left a church, after being there for seven years, I lost my entire network of friends.
  4. You don’t want to lose your equity investment. If you have a home mortgage, you have an equity investment. Each month that you make a payment, your equity, or ownership of the house, grows. But if the bank foreclosed on you, you lose your equity. All that investment would be lost. That happens in relationships too. You feel that you’ve invested so much time and energy into the relationship/church that you don’t want to lose your investment. So you try a little harder, a little longer, hoping it will work. You even tell yourself that God will reward you for persevering. So you invest another year, but the system doesn’t get any better. Now you’ve lost another year and your equity has increased which makes you feel even MORE obligated to stay.
  5. You like to be liked/needed. If you are a good performer, the toxic system can be very rewarding. You feed off of the praise. Or, maybe you simply can’t handle the thought of the church people not liking you if you leave. Your low self-worth keeps you trapped.
  6. You fear losing your salvation. They had you convinced that their way was the only way to God. Even though you know they are wrong, you fear falling away from God without their strong input into your life. You’re not sure you can make it on your own.
  7. You fear exposure/humiliation for leaving. You know if you leave that your name and reputation will be trashed by those in the church. You’ve seen it happen to others who left the church and you don’t want it to happen to you.
  8. You fear being wrong. What if they ARE right? After all, what do you know? You don’t know the Bible like they do. And the pastor and his/her followers seem so convinced.
  9. You lack boundaries. You were raised to believe that people had the right to impose their thoughts/beliefs/will upon you. You don’t feel like it’s your right to question others. You are used to being violated. You think that’s your lot in life, so you let it continue.
  10. It’s not worth your time. You are so sick of the craziness that you are just done. You don’t think talking to the pastor will change anything, just aggravate you more. So you up and leave. End of story.

As you can see, confronting toxic pastors isn’t so easy. There are lots of reasons people fail to follow through on their intentions. It takes maturity to stand tall and confront the madness. Someone has to do it. Why not you?

Can you think of other reasons that people don’t confront toxic pastors? Leave a comment below.

If you need help in confronting church leadership, see my post on how to confront a toxic pastor here.

If you have encountered a toxic pastor, let me know about your experience. I am in the process of writing a new book on how to handle a toxic church experience and your insight would be helpful to me. Email me here. Thanks.

 

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toxic church

Toxic Church, Toxic Faith… a new book in the works

People often ask me what my next book will be. My answer has been that I’ve got nothing in the works. But then I noticed that my blog series last year on toxic church and toxic pastors has gotten a lot of reads. In fact, they are always in the top ten of my years of posts.

I wondered why that was and so I googled some of the topics I covered on toxic church and saw that my posts are near the top of the list. Hmmm… maybe there is an interest out there that I didn’t realize existed.

Checking Amazon.com there is only one book on the subject. So…I have a new answer to the question about my next book. I just started a new book to help people discern a toxic church and know what steps to take with it.

Would you contribute your thoughts on toxic church?

I’m letting you know about this because if you had an experience in a toxic church, I’d like to hear about it. You can email me your thoughts by clicking the link in the margin. I may or may not include your story/thoughts in the book but whatever is included will be anonymous with some details changed so no one could trace the story to you. Whatever you send will broaden my understanding and make for a more helpful book.

It’s a sad statement…

It’s really a sad statement that a book like this is even needed. “Toxic” and “church” should never be two words that are linked. But when it happens, people need to know what to do, so I’ll do my best to offer advice so believers can discover the true church that Jesus had in mind for us: a gathering of people that encourages people to know God and find freedom.

Let others know

Please share this post with your friends who may have interest in contributing their experience with a toxic church. I’d love to hear from them. Thanks so much.

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Forgotten God: Remembering the Spirit

Francis Chan wrote a book called Forgotten God. I used his title for the name of a recent five-part series to talk about how the church somehow forgot about the Holy Spirit. Forgotten God

Chan opened his book with this:

From my perspective, the Holy Spirit is tragically neglected and, for all practical purposes, forgotten. While no evangelical would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can.

The benchmark of success in church services has become more about attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit. If I was Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit. Forgotten God

My series didn’t follow Chan’s book, but his words drove me to try to help my church rediscover the Spirit for their own lives.

Ignorant of the Spirit

I was surprised how many people, even long time believers, told me that they knew very little about the Spirit. They were taught growing up who Jesus was and what he did. But they were rarely taught who the Spirit is and what he wants to do in and through us.

Think about it: we dedicate 40 days to preparing for Christmas and Easter. But most people don’t even know when Pentecost is.

Think about it: we dedicate 40 days to preparing for Christmas and Easter. But most people don’t even know when Pentecost is (It’s this Sunday, by the way). That should tell us something about our focus. It’s in the past, on what Jesus did, not on the present and what the Spirit is doing.

A Five-Part Series on the Forgotten God

I wish I had more time to write books. Maybe someday. In the meantime, I decided to turn my sermon series into PDF files and offer them here from time to time. You can download the full series here.This is the outline for it:

  • Part One: From Creation to Pentecost. An overview of the Spirit.
  • Part Two: Jesus Promises the Spirit. What did Jesus say about his Spirit?
  • Part Three: WE are the Temple. The meaning of Pentecost and the Church.
  • Part Four: God’s Moral Guide. God guides us from within.
  • Part Five: Filled with the Spirit. What does it mean? How does it happen?

I hope you’ll give Forgotten God a read. I’ve studied the Spirit for many years and from many perspectives, having participated in a variety of churches. So I hope my words offer you some insight. Part Three seemed to open people’s eyes. I got a lot of good feedback from that message in particular. Let me know what you think if you give it a read.

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The Gift of Cancer, An Unexpected Guest

the gift of cancerCan cancer be an unexpected gift? In my book, Out of Exile, I help people reframe their loss by showing how God might use it to broaden them as a person. When you are able to believe that good can come from evil you are able to return from “exile” and live a fuller life that blesses others. With this in mind, I’d like to share with you what my sister has come to call “the gift of cancer.”

Last year my sister was diagnosed with colon cancer and has been receiving chemotherapy for the last several months with very positive results.

One Qualifier

Before I share her thoughts on the gift of cancer, it’s important to admit that, if your life, or the life of a loved one, was ravaged by cancer, hearing it called a “gift” might be offensive. I understand and appreciate that. Everyone’s experience is different.

If my sister’s treatment hadn’t gone so well, maybe she’d have a different perspective. But I’m happy to know that she’s gained something from her cancer experience and not let it steal from her. I hope her words might encourage you. This is what she wrote:

The Gift of Cancer

In reading other blogs, I have seen that maintaining a positive attitude through our journeys is common of the bloggers and their followers.  On that note, I have rewritten a common saying on what cancer cannot do to what it can do for us.

This saying has been sent to me a couple of times over the past 8 months and they are posted in my office.
Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot steal eternal life,
It cannot conquer the spirit. – Author unknown

There’s More To It Than That

I believe all these statements are true, but I also see that cancer has been a gift in my life.  I have chosen not to fight it, and be angry with it, but to recognize its gifts, be grateful for them, and then encourage it to leave my body.  So far, it’s been a good approach.

We are parting ways each day and I honestly feel it has left my body.  I am hopeful that the gifts it showered on me will remain with me the rest of my life and the cancer will not return.  I have chosen to rewrite the common cancer phrases in a more positive light.  I hope you can understand my position on why I choose to follow this journey:

Cancer can be a gift…
It can expand your love,
It can encourage hope,
It can enhance faith,
It can bring peace,
It can build friendships,
It can make new memories,
It can develop courage,
It can blossom the soul,
It can help me face eternal life,
It can inspire the spirit. – author – Diedre Kaye

No matter what journey we are following, whether it’s a loss of a loved one, a concern for a child, a tragic occurrence, depression, or any disease, we all need to keep the spirit of joy, love and gratitude in our hearts.  May we all look for those gifts every day that make us happy. Diedre Kaye

Good Can Come From Even Cancer

Back to Remy here. From my perspective, you can trust God to make good out of anything, even cancer. It’s the ultimate act of worship. Rather than focus and lament over what’s been lost, why not focus on what’s been gained?

Too often I hear people speak as if God owes them a pain-free life. Any pain is fought with bitterness and they resent God for allowing it to visit them.

But I never read that guarantee anywhere. I’m grateful that God is willing to walk with me through my pain and give me eyes to see the silver lining that exists if I look for it.

Bitterness will shut you down and close you off to all that’s good, even the healing you might be longing for. Gratefulness does just the opposite. I hope you might see the gifts in your life today.

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Seven Steps To Help The Hurting

hurting peopleI’ve been sharing the highlights from a recent series  on RelationSLIPS. In my last message I talked about how we often slip up with people who are hurting. Rather than offering words of healing, we often put our foot in mouths. So, I’d like to give you a brief recap of the advice I gave in this message.

When Bad News Happens

Imagine that a friend drops some big news on you. Bad news. They are getting divorced. They’ve got cancer. Their mother just died. Their teenager was just arrested for drugs. They lost their job.

…let your friend know that you will stand with them through their pain.

It’s going to happen. Are you prepared? Do you know what to say?

Seven Steps to Help the Hurting

Here are seven ideas to help you know what to do and say (and not say):

  1. Listen without any distractions. Turn off the tv and your phone. Don’t let your kids interrupt. If you can’t avoid being interrupted, then tell your friend that you want to give them your full attention so you need to schedule a better time.
  2. Dial into their emotion. Bad news strikes at our fear of losing control. It might also undermine our sense of worth if the loss has to do with being rejected (divorce, fired from job, etc.). Dialing into those emotions will give you empathy for what your friend is experiencing. The pain isn’t just from the loss itself but from what the loss means for their future.
  3. Don’t share clichés, even if they are from the Bible. This is harder than it sounds. Profound truths will pop into your mind and so you might be tempted to think that God gave you wisdom for the moment! Probably not. Wisdom just listens. So don’t say any of the following: It’s all a part of God’s plan, God won’t give you any more than you can handle, There’s a reason for everything, You need to just let go and let God. When someone dies, don’t say; God takes the people he loves the most, or God needed another angel, or They are in a better place now.
  4. Don’t correct them, even if they need correcting. Sometimes your friends’ bad news is a direct result of their poor choices. Bite your tongue. That’s not the time to show cause and effect. It’s not a teachable moment, so don’t try. If you do, you might lose a friend. They will be waiting to see if you seize the moment to preach at them or love them. So love them. You might get a chance later to share your wisdom…if they ask for it.
  5. Ask people what kind of space they need to process their pain. Everyone’s different. What comforts one person, offends another. I’ve learned this as a pastor. It’s frustrating. I’ve found the best thing is to just ask people: How can I help you right now? Would you like to meet to talk or would you just like some space to process this on your own?
  6. Affirm your commitment to stand with them. One of the most powerful verses in the Bible is when God tells us that he will never leave us or forsake us. You see, one of our greatest fears is that we’ll be alone. Abandoned. Left to face the world by ourselves. So let your friend know that you will stand with them through their pain. It doesn’t mean you will agree with everything they do, but you will stand with them.
  7. Offer to help in a specific way. People often tell a hurting person; If you need anything, just call. Odds are, they won’t. They don’t know what they need. Having to think of something and then call you is just work. So identify a need and just do it, like, mow their lawn. If you know them well, offer to pick up their kids or shop for them. This will be a huge relief.

Hurting people are an opportunity for you to show God’s love in a powerful way. Don’t run from it. But don’t run to them unprepared either, causing a relationSLIP.

What are some other tips you might offer to help a hurting friend. Scroll to the bottom of this page to leave your comment.

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