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Monday, March 26, 2012


I am both brokenhearted and a heartbreaker.

No, I am not a heartbreaker in the Hollywood sense, nor have I ever had a broken heart in the Hollywood sense.  (In fact, I have never been through a break up at all since Kristian is the only person I have ever dated.)  Still, like any married couple, Kristian and I have broken each other’s hearts many times by our sin against each other.  And in addition to breaking his heart,  I am also sad to say that I have broken many other hearts by my own sin (such as pride, selfishness, selfish ambition, fear of man, lack of love, bitterness, ignorance, apathy, judgmental-ness, overbearingness, laziness, etc. and etc.)  And like everyone else, I have also had my heart broken by others in this way.  

In addition to causing heartbreak to ourselves and others, our sin against one another and the resulting damage also grieves the God who loves us! 

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:30-32 ESV)

In recent years, a major source of heartbreak in my life has been from brokenness in the Body of Christ.   This type of heartbreak in the Body of Christ is hard to handle because it seems that we should know better in that we have witnessed and experienced the most profound, amazing, other-worldly love—the love of God demonstrated in Christ!!   

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35 ESV)

From this verse, we see that:

1) God calls us to love one another;

2) God has loved us;  

3) God’s love for us in Jesus is the model for how we are to love each other; and

4) The way that everyone will know that we belong to Jesus is by our Christ-like love for one another.

This an easily overlooked, but very profound and vital truth.  God calls us to love, not as the world loves, but in the way that He loves us—sincerely, effacaciously, affectionately, sacrificially and scandalously!  He demonstrated His love for us through great sacrifice even while we were His enemies!  He stood up for us against our accuser (and still does)!  And when we love with THIS kind of lavish other-worldly love, people will know that we are His!!

In recent years, I have witnessed and experienced conflict in the Body of Christ unlike what I have ever experienced before and it has caused my heart to ache in ways it has never done before—both because of my own sin and the sin of others.  I have seen and experienced abandonment, slander, false accusations, and friendships that have ended in angry lashing out or fizzled out in quiet indifference.  These things are caused by pride, selfish ambition, selfishness, apathy, fear of man, and a plain old lack of love—the kind of love that pursues, engages, forgives, blesses and sacrifices.   I know that this shouldn’t surprises us as we look at our hearts that still struggle with sin and as we consider that God is still patiently opening all of our eyes and gradually transforming all of us.  Yet, the more and more we see and experience the amazing ways that God loves us and calls us to love one another, the more we ache when we do not see this kind of love in ourselves and in other believers.   "For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling..."
(2 Corinthians 5:2 ESV)
My heart is so raw and heavy right now.  If there is anyone out there in cyberspace reading this, will you pray with me?

Heavenly Father, Have mercy on us!   Father, we have not been good image bearers of you.  We have not loved you or others as we ought.  We have forgotten the way that you have loved us when we were your enemy, and accordingly we have not loved others with this kind of love!  Please convict us—convict your Church that we may see our folly!!  Open our eyes to the ways you are calling us to love with sincerity, with truth, with compassion, and with action!  Help us to see your love more and more—help us to be rooted in your love more and more deeply.  May loving others in this way flow out of us as we behold your love for us in your Word.  Bring healing and reconciliation to brothers and sisters in Christ, just as you brought us healing and reconciliation when our sin separated us from you!!  Our hearts are broken over this sin and disunity.  Bind up our broken hearts.  Be near to us.  Bring us comfort and help, we plead with you.  You alone are good!!!  In Jesus Name, Amen

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I love the C.S. Lewis book, “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”.  Outside of the Bible, it may be the book that best illustrated to me what the gospel really means.  When Edmund betrays Aslan and the “deep magic from the dawn of time,” the price of that treason must be paid in order to preserve justice and goodness.  And yet out of goodness, love, and a heart to be in unhindered relationship with Edmund, the powerful, majestic, perfectly good Aslan, although innocent, humbles himself and willingly pays the high price of Edmund’s treason.  Aslan’s painful and perfect sacrifice defeats death itself and makes a way for Edmund to live and to be in relationship with Aslan.  Edmund and Aslan are reconciled.  This brings great joy and peace to Edmund.

The gospel is all about the fact that we, through the death of Jesus, are reconciled to our perfect and good God—in whom is our every delight! 
In light of this gospel, as Christians we should live with a heart towards reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.  Yet over and over again as Christians and as churches, how many times do we take the path of least resistance when conflict arises---allowing relationships to fizzle out, breaking off relationships altogether, self-righteously judging from afar, aligning ourselves with the popular majority, building walls around our hearts…rather than doing the hard work of love.  These are our instincts.  These are my instincts (most especially in marriage).  How this dishonors the gospel that saved me!
Love pursues, love engages, love acts, and love hopes…even if it requires great sacrifice (and it usually does).

Dear Lord, convict our stubborn hearts!  Open our eyes where we are blind.  Help us to see where we are dishonoring the gospel of love!  Fill us with the Spirit that we would have your eyes and your love for others, even those we find difficult to love and even when it costs us greatly to love.  Give us the power, courage and conviction to do the hard work of love.  May we be so rooted in your sacrificial and grace filled love that loving others in the same way becomes more and more natural to us.  In Jesus name, Amen

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sin in the Church

I am a Christian, and my husband can tell you with confidence that I still sin regularly!  By this I mean that I live, believe, and act outside of my identity in Christ and outside of the way I learned in Him.  Sometimes I do this unknowingly and in accordance with my natural instincts, and other times I do this consciously—quite aware that my thoughts and behaviors conflict with Christ’s character.  Our life (our thoughts, actions, inaction, etc.) flows out from our heart.  Yes, because I have sought refuge—acknowledged my sin and helplessness apart from Jesus, believed in Jesus and the penalty He paid on the cross for my sin, and I have given my life to Him—I am free from the eternal consequences of my sin (i.e. I am no longer separated from God, but rather I joyfully get to live as a daughter of the Almighty, Holy, Good, Loving God forever).  But still, as I walk on this earth, there are places in my heart that are still plagued with all sorts of things that have nothing to do with Jesus’ way--doubt, fear, bitterness, selfish ambition, pride, etc.   And yet, every day that I walk with Jesus, He is transforming my heart—setting it free day by day.  I still regularly go to God in prayer, confessing my sin, and confessing my struggles and the areas of my life that I find it so difficult to change.  I ask for forgiveness, I ask for God’s power—for His love to change me.  I look at the life of Jesus in the Word.  I seek prayer and counsel from my brothers and sisters in Christ who love Jesus and His Word.   I listen (not always well admittedly) to trusted friends who see destructive patterns in my life that I do not always see, and I seek help.  And God patiently and lovingly is changing me.  I love this verse:  “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
I write all of this publicly because I have been set free from shame.  It does not matter if others find me foolish and weak.   I stand and fall before God not men.  And I am able to stand before God because Jesus is good and perfect and He paid for my sin. I do not want to pretend to be better than I am for many reasons—it is exhausting, I will fail, it is not truthful or real, it produces despair in the lives of others around me who are aware of their own struggles, and I will be exposed for my hypocrisy when I do fail.  Most importantly, I want the gospel to shine through me.  The gospel is the good news about God—that He is good and that He rescues!  The gospel assumes sin—we need rescuing!  As others see my sin and failure, may they also see the God on whom I rely!  May they also see the God who forgives greatly!  May they also see the changes that He is graciously making in me!  May they also see love that is not of this world—the love I have seen and experienced in Him, the love that has changed every fiber of my life!!!!  This is not “be nice to those who are nice to you” kind of love.  This is the kind of love that does not returning evil for evil.  This is the kind of love that forgives big and small things.  This is the kind of love that fights for the lost and for the oppressed.  This is the kind of love that sacrifices greatly in the interest of another.  This is the kind of love that gives even when there is no ability to return.  This is the kind of love that pursues.  This is the kind of love that makes a way for reconciliation.  This is the kind of love that humbles itself.  This is the kind of love that would drive the God of the Universe to pursue His wayward creation in love, to make a way to live in relationship with His Beloved but wayward creation that would not compromise His perfect justice and goodness!  This is the kind of love that would drive the God of the universe to pay the price of sin and rebellion Himself, by stooping down to come to this earth in the frailty of human flesh and to endure the penalty of sin—death and separation from God!

We need only open the newspaper to see that Christians and churches still sin in pretty horrific ways.  We are not called to hide our sin from the world, to lie about it, or cover it up (the effects of that can be ghastly and tragic—look at the sexual abuse in the churches that has been perpetuated by sinful cover ups!).  We are called to live out the gospel!!!  We are called to live in the light and in truth and in love, not to cower or throw stones from afar!  We are called to humbly confess our sin and to go to God and to each other for help!!  We are called to help our brothers and sisters who are in sin.  We are called to faithfully pray, to lovingly pursue, and to sacrificially act.  We are called to protect anyone who is being harmed or abused by another person’s sin.  We are called to live in the light so that the darkness, hiding, secrets, and cover-ups do not beget more sin!!  In this process, the gospel does its work!  In this process, the world can see the love that won us to our Savior. 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Walking in the Light and Getting Dirty

I recently read this terrific blogpost by my friend, Wendy:

To those who do not understand the gospel, the story of Hosea and Gomer in the Bible makes no sense. In it, God tells a faithful, godly, man to marry a faithless prostitute who continues to cheat on him throughout their marriage.  As the painful faithlessness continues, God continually instructs Hosea to pursue and forgive his wayward bride.  It is a pretty strange story if you think of it.  And yet, it is a powerful illustration of what God has done for His Bride, the Church.  Yes, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ, the Church---we are the prostitute in this story.  We rebelled against God.  God pursued and redeemed us while we were faithless.  And we continue to sin against Him in this life…we have tasted His grace and mercy, we (I) still rebel against His Holy ways in lots of ways, and yet He has paid the price of justice for my sins—past, present, and future.  He continually forgives me as I continually struggle with sin, and He continually changes me so that I am gradually being transformed by His grace!  That is the gospel—or good news!  Though I have been a Christian for over 2 decades, I need this good news still today!!! 

The gospel assumes sin.  The good news is that God pursues us in our sin and rescues us from our sin.  The Church is a mess.  We are a mess.  And yet, we are a beloved mess—beloved by the God of the Universe who paid such a costly price to save us!
As Christians, we are called to live out the gospel.  We are called to live in light of the good news that our God so sacrificially and lovingly stooped down to meet us in our sin against Him and pursued and rescued us—He forgave us and covered our sins.  I see two big ways that the Bible calls Christians to live out the gospel:
1)      Walking in the light—in other words, we are called to be humble, honest, and real.  We are called to confess that we sin.  We are called to confess our sin to one another.  We (Christians as individuals and also collectively as the Church) are not to walk around hiding the fact that we sin (often in big ways...anyone need only open a newspaper to see this!) or that we are weak and in need of a Savior.  If we do not  live like this, we are hypocritical, self-righteous, deluded pharisees (Jesus  actually called them white-washed tombs!)! Again, the gospel assumes our sin.  We allow the good news to shine when we admit that still, despite our sin and weakness, God has done and continues to do a good work in us and through us and despite us.

2)      Getting dirty—Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.  In His day, you can imagine the type of filth that was on the feet of people who walked around on dirt roads in open shoes in the heat without the benefits of modern sanitation and plumbing.  Jesus stooped down and got dirty.  He met these disciples in their filth and He lovingly washed them clean.  Jesus meets us in our sin and shame.  He meets us in the pain of our own sin and weakness and in the pain of the sin that has been done against us.  Scandalously, He even washed the feet of the one whom He knew would betray Him—Judas, a close friend until that time, one in whom He invested and loved and who would sell Jesus to His enemies for a cheap 30 pieces of silver.  Wow.  And then Jesus tells the disciples to go and do likewise!  We are called to get dirty—to meet one another in the messiness of life, to love one another in costly and sacrificial ways, and to even show sincere and scandalous love to those who hurt and betray us!  Are we willing to pay the price??  Are we willing to take up our cross? 

Oh, Jesus, help us to live like this!!  Give us this kind of love that is not natural to us!!  Give us this kind of humility that is not natural to us!!!  Help us to be honest and real.  Give us hearts that are willing to pursue those who are broken and hurting and even those who have sinned against us--depsite the price we often must pay to our pride, our reputation, etc.