On Law, Grace, Bondage, and Dog Collars


This weekend has been a yard work weekend. After ten weeks of volleyball’s regular season, I took two days to clean up my sorely neglected yard. Fences needed to be cleared, bushes trimmed, grass mowed, beds weeded. There was a LOT of work to do.

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For a bit of background for this story, you need to know that, for months now, my puppies, Scout and Atticus, have been on a wireless fence system to keep them from wandering into the road or the neighbor’s yard. The appearance of their being able to roam free is an excellent home security system. The down side to the system is that, in order to limit their access to the neighbor’s yard, they do not have free reign of my entire yard. Rectangle shaped property and circle shaped wireless fences don’t work well together. So Scout and Atticus have experienced several months of being unable to get to the back half of my yard.

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(Meet Scout and Atticus. They like each other.)

Cue this weekend. It was a stinky week, personally, spiritually, and professionally, but it was a glorious weekend, which meant I needed to be outside. Badly. And the puppies followed me all around the yard; until I moved toward the back of the yard. At that point, the puppies quit hanging out with me. When they got to the border of the wireless fence, their collars would beep and they would back up and lie down, getting as close to me as their collars would allow, but never going beyond that limit.

I decided this afternoon that I would let them wander the whole yard since I was going to be out there, so I took off their red fence collars and put Atticus’ regular collar on him. I couldn’t get Scout to sit still long enough to put hers on, so she went collarless. This is the point at which the teachable moment began.

As I walked to the back of the yard, they both followed me to the point that their red collars would have beeped if they had them on, and they stopped and laid down. It didn’t matter how much I called for them, they weren’t coming. They had spent enough time on those red collars that they knew not to go any further or there would be a consequence.

In an attempt to coax them to the back of the yard so that they could run and play, I walked to Atticus, gently held his collar with two fingers, and led him beside me toward the back yard. He was very tentative– until he got several feet past the “shock zone” that he knew should be there. When he got past that part and I was still with him and nothing bad had happened, he wandered around, smelled things, and generally chilled out.

Scout, on the other hand, stayed in the wireless zone, barking endlessly for us to come back to her. Since she didn’t have a collar on, there was nothing for me to hold on to in order to lead her back therewith us, and she would have none of the idea of simply following me out there.

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As I watched this scene unfold, the picture of how the Law, Grace, and bondage to sin work in our lives unfolded in my mind as well.

These are the Law:

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They tell the dogs just how far they can go, and they punish them if they attempt to overstep their boundaries. But the Law is meant to protect them; before the collars, I once chased Atticus across South Moore Road and about two blocks down the street. Barefoot. In my PJs. With Crazy Hair. At 5:30 am. It was special. The Law, in this case, is good. It taught Scout and Atticus right from wrong.

Then one day, the Law was removed. The punishment was no longer a threat. I’d taken that threat and put it on the table on the back porch. Yet the puppies still respected the boundaries the Law had set in their lives. They were free, but still living by the Law. They knew that boundary was there for a reason, and they kept it.

Until I put a new collar on Atticus and led him away. It reminded me of the opening statements of Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia:

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

All I had to do was put a different collar on him, and he followed me right past the boundaries set for him and into an unprotected and dangerous world. This new collar represents bondage in the life of a believer. Atticus could have roamed free within the set boundaries, collarless and without fear, but by taking up a new collar, a new form of bondage, he left the boundaries he knew and didn’t quite know what to do with himself. But take note of the bondage that led him astray, for they are what spoke volumes to my own heart:

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One tag is his name. Oh, can’t our name, our reputation, become an idol and a bondage?

One is his rabies tag. Look, he’s a good dog. He’s done all the right things to be considered good. Maybe for us that’s giving time or money to good causes, or going on mission trips, or attending the right church or small group. He’s checked off his legalistic list of things to look good.

The middle one is his microchip tag. He’s even a “member” of a home. Sometimes church can become an idol of bondage. Do you belong to the “right” church? Listen to the “right” super pastors or worship groups? Ascribe to the “right” doctrine of the the day?

None of the tags on his new collar of bondage are bad things. In fact, in the right circumstances, they are very good things. But in this case, they were use to lead him away, and often, it’s the good things in our lives, done for the wrong reasons, that get us into trouble.

Now, back to Scout. Let’s look at the picture again with the imaginary fence line drawn in:

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Scout is sitting, barking her fool head off at Atticus, begging him to come back. But she refuses to cross the line to come get him, and there is no bondage around her neck for me to lead her astray. She is free. Free enough to roam within the boundaries given to her while still knowing her limits, even without the threat of punishment.

That is the freedom we have in Christ! He said Himself that He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Scout is a picture of a believer free of bondage, trusting the one who knows and loves her. I removed the collar of the Law, yet she continued to trust that those boundaries were still what were best for her. And because she did not allow herself to be put into any other bondage, she could not be led astray. She was even in the position to call for her little brother to please get back in line and come back to the right side of the boundary. Which is exactly what he did.

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For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Be free, friends.

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Some Raw Thoughts on Ministry Formerly Known as Exodus International


Last night I wrote a brief post addressing Exodus International President Alan Chambers’s apology to the LGBTQ community concerning the work of Exodus International.

Literally two minutes after I posted my blog, Exodus issued a press release stating they intended to close their doors and the leadership is establishing a new work known as Reduce Fear.

My initial reaction was simply, “Wow.” And that has been echoed across my social media feeds by people from all perspectives.

But as I watched Alan’s opening statements from the Freedom Conference last night, and I started processing exactly what was happening, I began having very conflicted emotions.

This is a little bit of public processing, but I hope it may start a dialogue about the statements made and the changes occurring. I also hope it gives those who aren’t celebrating the changes at Exodus permission to express their equally real feelings and know they are heard and validated.

Dear Exodus International Board Member Mr. Tony Moore, when you say, “We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, BUT…”
the “but” negates the ways God used Exodus positively.

Yes, there are those who have had horrific experiences in Exodus affiliated ministries. That occurs in EVERY ministry, in every church, b/c we are broken people ministering to broken people.

It’s sort of like saying, “I don’t mean to be hateful, but…” and then unleashing a torrent of vitriol toward a person or organization. Yes, you did mean to be hateful.

And yes, you did imply God’s work was negated by your apology.

There are those of us who met the Jesus of mercy, grace, forgiveness, freedom, and love in the people who ministered with Exodus, and the apologies issued in the last couple of days ring with the implication that our positive experiences were a fluke or a mistake.

Is that what you believe now? Are lives transformed but the Gospel heard through Exodus ministries simply people deceived? If we wait it out, are we going to finally accept we really are gay and God’s ok with it? Do we need to begin embracing who we really are and the “fact” God loves us where and how we are?

You’re caving to those who came to Exodus looking for one thing or were promised something that wasn’t delivered. What about those of us who came to Exodus just looking for Jesus and found Him?

Were there problems? Yes. Did some things need to change? Absolutely. But to shut down 37 years of ministry seems reactionary and short sighted.

Mr. Chambers stated that the purpose of the new work, Reduce Fear, is to “come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

Has that not been the goal of Exodus all along? It has been since my first experience with an Exodus affiliated ministry in 2005.

Sometimes a name can carry so much baggage that a name change is most beneficial to the work being accomplished, but there is more going on here than a simple name change. There is a shift in focus, purpose, and doctrine that saddens me.

There is no hope in surrender to anything other than Christ, and last night’s announcement feels like a cultural surrender for those of us who only found freedom and love in the hard, painful, complete surrender to Christ.

Can joyous freedom and fleshly attraction not co-exist simultaneously in the human heart? Does the presence of temptation negate the Holy Spirit’s strong work in enabling us to resist those temptations?

What exactly are you saying about God, sin and homosexuality, Exodus/Reduce Fear?

An Open Letter to Sinners


I wrote this letter for a friend going through a time of struggle and restoration with the Lord, but with so much being written these days about the experiential, emotionally driven church, I wanted to share it with more people. The church today has been deceived by the feel-good Gospel and with a simple glance at the world around us, we can see that getting people to feel good about themselves is not improving the state of the world around us. Please read this letter prayerfully, and feel free to copy it and pass it along.

Dear Friend,

I am so excited to hear that the Lord has provided a time of solitude for you this weekend. Often times when we have been faced with a crisis of sin in our lives we want to fill our time up with people and noise and work and chaos, with the thinking that being busy will keep us out of trouble. We don’t trust ourselves; and rightly so. Jeremiah 17:5-18 talks about our wicked, untrustworthy hearts and how they can get us into trouble so many times. But in verse 14, Jeremiah remembers who should be trusted—not us, but the Lord: “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, for you are my praise.”

The amazing thing for believers is that He has already healed and saved us! Romans 6 is an amazing testimony to us about our relationship with both Christ and with sin. Paul tells us that we are already dead to sin! There is no battle to fight because Christ has already won the battle. Before we are believers, we have no choice but sin; we think we are free to do what we want, but we really have no choice but to sin. But once we are filled with the Spirit of God, the victory over sin has been won and we now have the choice to live in freedom!

I know from personal experience that we do not always make the right choice. But simply knowing in those deepest, darkest times of temptation that I do not have to give in because Christ has already won the battle for me is enough sometimes to see me through. Peter talks about this when he tells us in 1 Peter that we have everything we need for life and godliness. Paul backs that up in 1 Corinthians when he told the church at Corinth—a group of people familiar with their own sinfulness—that God will never tempt us beyond what we can bear. That is a promise you can take to the bank! Our hearts and our flesh may scream that we must give in to temptation, and that we have no choice, but God has promised that through the Spirit and the Word we have everything we need to resist, even when we feel like we can’t.

When I went through my time of brokenness and restoration with the Lord, I read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, and in that book there is a paragraph that has become dear to me and I return to it often:

“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer topic than our love for Him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” … But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in it determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”

What an amazing God we serve! And the even more amazing thing is that we already know the cost of that love—for us, we must die to self, no matter how painful the process may be. And for God, the cost was His very Son. He died for us; the very least we can do is die for Him.

But how do we do that? Dig into the Word! The Spirit can only work with the tools we give Him. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, so you must arm Him in order for Him to be able to protect you. God told the Israelites through Hosea, “My people die for lack of knowledge.” We stay in a defeated state when we do not arm ourselves with the Scripture. Too often we trust our own love, our own warm fuzzy feelings about God to keep us safe, but that is such a dangerously prideful place to be because it gives us too much credit and doesn’t give our enemy enough credit. If we are in battle against a roaring lion who is seeking whom he may devour, I’m not going to approach him thinking I’m untouchable—I’m going to want a weapon! The Scripture is our weapon—begin this weekend arming yourself with the Word and never let up. The more you know, the more you want to know.

I will be praying for you this weekend as you begin this journey with the Lord. Do not be afraid of the process of brokenness and solitude with the Father. It is gut wrenching, painful, and agonizing at times to really see your sin and deal with it. But the freedom found on the other side is worth it every time. Pray for the Lord to show you the weightiness of your sin and how it impacts your relationship with Him and with those around you. It’s an honest prayer. It’s a painfully humbling prayer. It’s a prayer He will answer every time. And it’s a prayer you will never regret once you reap the fruit of your obedience to Him.

When God allows us to go through times in which we must face our own sinfulness head-on, it’s usually because He has great things in store for us to do for His kingdom. Much like Jesus allowed Peter to be sifted like wheat by Satan, he allows us to be sifted so that the sins we cling to so desperately can be removed from our lives for His glory. Do not be afraid of the sifting process—being a useful weapon for the Father is a blessing I will never understand. That He chooses weak, sinful people like us to do His work will always amaze me.

For His Glory,

Bekah Mason

bekahmae.wordpress.com

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~~ 1 Cor. 10:31 …whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ~~