Not Alone in the Wasteland

For those of you who know me pretty well personally, you know I am normally even-keeled, not particularly emotional or too easily rattled. Well, three times over the last week I have spilled tears in public places.

The first time happened while sitting at a bar with my husband. We were talking about all the upcoming graduation parties when tears started streaming down my face just thinking about our daughter graduating this time next May.

A few days later as I was driving away from the gym I saw the man who flies battery-operated planes in the park and started to cry. That is a story in itself that I will explain in a future post so stay tuned!

The third time was during the Compadres concert this past Thursday night. We were having a great time, enjoying our friends and the incredible performance by my new favorite artists when the words to the NEEDTOBREATHE song, Wasteland, perked my ears.IMG_7698_2

“All of these people I meet
It seems like they’re fine
Yeah in some ways I hope that they’re not
And their hearts are like mine
Yeah it’s wrong when it seems like work
To belong all I feel is hurt”

The anguish in these lines resonated well as we live life with teenagers and see so clearly how the struggles we think are unique to us are true of those all around us. They may look perfectly put together so we have no idea they are barely holding on, thinking the world is against them too.

And then the chorus came: 

“Oh if God is on my side
Yeah if God is on my side
Oh if God is on my side
Who can be against me”

I had just posted earlier in the day my last blog When God Seems Against You and quoted the same verse from Romans 8:30. These words echoing through my head felt like God affirming what I had written. 

Yes. Kristen. I AM with you. I know intimately everything going on and have you in the palm of My hands.

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Then the music broke back in through my thoughts and with these next lines I started to weep:

“Yeah in this wasteland where I’m livin’
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it’s all that I need to get by
Yeah in this wasteland where I’m livin’
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it’s all that I need to shine.”

Yes, Lord. You are the Light and only hope for this sinful broken 
wasteland we call home. Help us to see you even in just a sliver 
coming through the cracks. Illuminate the darkness so we know you 
are here. So we know you are on our side.

I love how music can speak so deeply to our souls and in that moment standing by my husband, the words became a prayer and the tears my surrender. Only God can burst through the darkness to expose and change hearts. But even so in the midst of my own wasteland He shines His truth through the words of a song and I know He is drawing near.  

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When God Seems Against You

I remember as a high schooler trying out for cheer, which I had no business doing considering I had never taken gymnastics in my life! Back then though kids didn’t have to choose an activity from such an early age and at my high school the cheerleading squad was a privledge just for seniors. I’m sure my soccer coach was so annoyed, but the status of being a cheerleader carried great appeal with me at the time.

Needless to say I didn’t make the squad. I did continue playing soccer. Initially though I was bitter that God didn’t give me what I wanted. In my mind as a “good” Christian, I deserved it. So why did he “bless” others and not me?

This example seems trivial and silly now. But, do you ever think this way?

Perhaps, you have been passed over for a position or promotion. Maybe you’ve been trying for months, years even, to get pregnant. Or, you can’t ever seem to get ahead with your finances because something is always breaking down or needing repair. For us, it’s God not working according to our timetable with the church we are planting. Regardles of what it is, do you sometimes feel like you are doing everything “right” so why isn’t God coming through?!

The part that is hard to admit is this mindset points to a works-based religion, a theological persepective that most Protestants would deny. Yet functionally we are believing our “performance” should determine God’s response. If we hold up our end by doing “good” and acting obediently, we deserve God’s blessing. On the flip side, when something bad happens we assume it was deserved because of a lack of commitment to Christ. When it doesn’t work out this way, our prevading reaction: God failed us.

Image by hauntedbymymemories.deviantart.com

Image by hauntedbymymemories.deviantart.com

Does He though? 

His Word says He is for us and “if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?” It sure doesn’t feel this way when at times it seems everything and everyone is against us – including, and maybe even especially, God!

Continuing to the next verse we read: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?”

Giving us all things? Really?

Certainly it isn’t the all things that we want! Nor all things we think would be best. Could it be all things is actually something greater than we imagine – something more?

I think the key to this verse is found in “how will He not also with Him graciously give.” ALSO WITH HIM refers to Jesus.

In Jesus, God graciously gives us all things. All things being His perfect perfomance record credited to us, His righteousness replacing our filthy rags, and his sacrificial, atoning death so that we might live. In a nutshell, God gives us Himself!

Because of all these things when we fail, God still views us as perfect. We won’t ever get what we really deserve because He became sin for us. So, instead of judgment – we receive His grace and mercy and unending love.

The problem is in the midst of our here and now and not getting what we want, we forget these things. We believe He is against us becaue it looks like He is withholding “good.” We charge Him for not coming through according to our plans. We rebuke Him because what we really want is for Him to hand over His reigns. We think certainly we would do a better job of ordering all things.

What we fail to see in this is how He could possibly be using (even allowing) our sin, struggles, disappointments, rejections, hurts, heartaches and hardships for our good. A good that is better than what the world views as “good.” Good in the sense of bringing us to the end of ourselves so we land at the foot of the cross.  

I know that may not sound better than the “good” we want, but to the degree we see our need and dependence on the One who took our sin and gave us His life is to the degree we will be overwhelmed by His love for us. 

When I know His unfailing love for me and see the all things God has bestowed upon me through His Son, it may not take away the pain or make life easier, but it does give me hope to hang on to. And it gives me the reassurance I need to know He is not only not against me, but He is for me. My ultimate good and His glory is always, without fail on His mind.

Finally Coming: My Book for Teens…BOOKS, that is!

For a few weeks I’ve been sitting on some news. Not sure why or what I’ve been waiting for, but today I thought I would fill you in on some happenings at the House of Hatton.

Many of you know I have been in the book writing and publishing process for awhile now. For those who don’t know – I’ve written a teen devotional book, for both girls and guys, being published by New Growth Press, called Get Your Story Straight: A Guide to Learning and Living the Gospel! If you click the link you’ll see its already up on Amazon and can be PRE-ORDERED!FullSizeRender

Though the journey of waiting, writing and editing has been long, seeing it on Amazon and finally having a release date is amazing! October 12th is the day!

Since this whole process is new to me, I continue to learn alot as I go.  What is very clear though is the truth of the gospel I so passionately want teens to hear can’t happen without your help!  

As a first-time author, I especially need people who will spread the news of this book through social media, sharing my blog posts, writing Amazon reviews and asking your church or youth ministries to pre-order books in bulk, host book signings or speaking engagement for me. And starting now is not too early.

Will you partner with me in this way? For the sake of our teens?

Teens need to understand how the gospel applies to all of life. They need to see how Jesus is life. There is a disconnect between believing the gospel and really believing what that means practically in very specific situations. There is also a void in books for teenagers focused on deep issues of the heart. Most simply skim the surface of topics teens face, but don’t adequately apply the gospel as the only true and lasting solution.

This is the reason for this book and you can be certain you will hear lots more about it in the coming months. Hand in hand with this is the other part of my exciting news… In February I submitted a new book proposal and have recently been offered a contract on it!

This second book will be specific to teen girls and related to the Teen Survey some of you may have helped circulate or remember reading about in my post: Behind the Scenes of a Selfie Society for a Teen.  Actually, I still need your help getting it out. I need hundreds more surveys back. Would you please share the link below with teens and/or youth pastors/leaders who can send this out to more teens? 

This will be so helpful in collecting research to be used in my next manuscript. The purpose for it is to help teen girls find their true worth and identity in Jesus. In our social media age, the struggle for acceptance, approval, of measuring up, performing well, popularity and the like has only intesified.  And, issues such as eating disorders, stress and depression among teens is at an all-time high. Parents often don’t know how to deal with the problems or even know what is going on in the mind of their teen who may be secretly comparing themselves to everyone around them while sinking into a dark emotional and spiritual place.

The only answer is Jesus.

I don’t mean this in a Sunday school answer kind of way, but truly unless our identity is found in Christ, we will continue turning to other things to give us worth or make us feel okay. This is true of all of us, not just teens. But how much better life will be for our teen girls if they come to know and rest in their identity, firmly rooted in Him, nowI wish this book was out on the market currently, but by God’s grace He will give me the time and the words as I work to get it submitted by August.

I could not be more excited about the opportunity to author two books – something I never even would’ve dreamt of. But both of these have been born out of a growing passion for teens, my personal experience as a mom and Bible study teacher for teens and the void in gospel-centered teaching and material available to them.

Thank you for following me and reading what I have to say. Thank you for encouraging me and thank you in advance for helping me any way you can to share the word of these books and circulate the survey! Look forward to hearing from you!

Survey link to share with any teen you know: http://www.surveyface.com/study/Behind-the-Scenes-of-a-Selfie-Society-for-a-Teen-15022.php?l=y

Parenting Upstream Stinks!

Parenting is an exhaustive job, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of the ages of your kids. Though the physical demand dissipates as they grow, the emotional and mental energy only intensifies.  As our pre-teens and teens face a range of issues, we become increasingly burdened with tough decisions requiring much guidance, thought and prayer.  At least we should. But over the years what I’ve discovered in various situations is parents tend to respond by either-

  1. Abdicating their authority and allowing their teen to run with whatever plans they wish.
  2. Abstaining from speaking out against/changing plans they don’t agree with so as not to be the “party pooper” or for their teen to miss out.
  3. Aiding their kids with the plans but failing to prevent or address red flags out of naiveté.

Now I know this post runs the risk of sounding judgmental or stepping on toes, but to be honest, I am tired of feeling judged and dismissed for putting my foot down. Some may presume because my husband is a minister we are stricter, though I don’t think so.  As we’ve told our daughter countless times, “This has nothing to do with Daddy being a pastor, our decisions come from our core convictions as Believers!”

Thankfully, even when she hasn’t initially seen eye to eye with us, she has accepted our stance without too much argument. It hurts me though that she often feels alone in having restrictions and it angers me to feel as if we are swimming upstream alone in an increasingly permissive “Christian” culture.

imagesHaving ministered to college students for nearly eight years my eyes were opened wide to the effects of hidden sin and struggles in the world of teens. And still today being behind-the-scenes in ministry exposes us daily to the reality of the sinful, brokenness that is in all of us. So, while my daughter has never given us reason not to trust her, why would I hand her over to opportunities of extra temptation and lack of protection?

The truth is none of us are above doing things we never thought we would do. We can have pure intentions and absolute resolve yet still fall to temptation. The deceitfulness of our own hearts and Satan’s relentless pursuit make us easy prey. Don’t you know this to be true from your own heart and experience? Whether we love Jesus or not, we are all prone to wander and at any given moment something other than Christ becomes more desirable.

The answer, however, is not to shelter our kids from everything of the world since sin comes from within us and not outside of us. Instead, allowing our teens to learn through things like experiencing formals or navigating social media can lead to opportunities for deeper dialogue, growth and learning while under our roof… and with the loving protection of boundaries.

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Though boundaries restrict they are designed for our flourishing by providing and protecting. Author Paul Tripp in his devotional New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel DevotionalNew Morning Mercies describes boundaries well by saying, “It may seem constricting that the train always has to ride on those track, but try driving it in a meadow and all motion stops.” 

We, too, are most free when we are within the boundaries of God’s grace and provision! Anything outside of that (appealing as the freedom of doing whatever we want seems) will actually enslave us to our own desires and expose us to Satan’s snares.

Jesus says in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Let’s prepare kids who can swim upstream by shephering them in awareness and wisdom of the lurking evil – not just in the world – but in their hearts, while simultaneously setting perimeters to help them remain pure. To do so, we must also be willing to swim upstream from popular opinion, new cultural norms and fear of man.

Having to parent upstream stinks, but by God’s grace I intend to keep going that direction. Will you join me in swimming against the tide?

The Blur Between a Well-meaning Mom and a Nag

What is it about being female that makes us nag? I’m sure there must be some men who do it, too, but they aren’t the ones the Bible compares to “a continual dripping on a rainy day” and as more difficult “to restrain than the wind.” As if that isn’t bad enough, we also read in Proverbs that men would be better off living in a desert or on the corner of the roof than sharing a house with a nag!

In the early years of our marriage I think my husband may have agreed :). Of course, I put it back on him, fully believing that if he would just pick up his clothes and put bascially everything else back in its “home” after use, I wouldn’t have to nag. The problem is: things left out not only don’t bother him, but he actually likes it so he can always see where things are.

No matter there are empty drawers and cabinet space, if he can't see it plainly it might as well not even be there!

You’ld never know he has empty drawers and cabinet space in his office! But, even with the clutter he knows exactly where everything is.

I finally realized I could either be the constant “dripping,” or for the betterment of our marriage, adapt.  So, I’ve learned to make convenient easy-to-use “homes” for his commonly left-out items or to just pick up for him when I get tired of items sprawling across the countertop.  There is no point in nagging or drawing attention to what I’ve done to “help” him because honestly it’s all God’s grace to me.

This antique copper plate is perfect for his keys, phone, wallet and other misc smalls. And, the canister? Perfect for hiding phone chargers and cords:)

This antique copper plate is perfect for his keys, phone, wallet and other misc smalls. While the canister hides phone chargers and cords:)

This cute little box from Anthro? Great for his eye glasses, pens and other need-to-be-near the couch items.

The cute little box from Anthro? Great for his eye glasses, pens and other need-to-be-near the couch items. Love pretty solutions!

But now I need that grace as a mom because somewhere along the way I redirected my nagging toward my daughter! 

Like with my husband, I didn’t think nagging is what I was doing. I thought I had well-meaning motives and was just trying to help. But in trying to help, I have been trying to control and in trying to control, it just may be this is my area of helocopter hovering.

At some point (a point rather soon considering she is almost a senior) she will have to take full responsibility for herself. I won’t be there to remind her of deadlines, to help her plan ahead, to make things easier, to manage her time, to put her clothes away or to clean her tub!

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But while she is still here under my roof and since her life is full with many demands (as it will forever more be) and I just happen to be organized and a good time-manager :), I have made it my mission to “help” her.  And so the lines have become blurred between well-meaning and nag!

After a recent honest conversation, I see how my nagging has contributed to her feeling like she doesn’t measure up not just to my expectations, but to me. And by me trying to “better” prepare her for college and beyond, it has actually led her to feel like I think she is incapable, a failure even.

Wow- how’s that for a wake-up call to the drip-drip!

The only thing I want to be dripping is grace and compassion and love. So even though I considered myself to be “loving” her by “helping” her get things done or turned in, what I have really been doing is trying to control and keep her from failing. Perhaps I can better love her by trusting God’s control over her, even if this means something doesn’t get done according to my timetable. In fact, maybe that is loving her by allowing her to learn on her own?!

So, Moms…

  • What if we asked God to show us where we are failing to love because what we love better is our own way?
  • What would happen if we held our tongue and just accepted those we love as they are?
  • Do you think the lack of control would kill us or might we actually find more peace in letting go?

If Helicopter Parents Switched Gears…

Unknown-2By now we’ve all heard about the negative effects of “helicopter parenting” though it sure hasn’t it stopped it from happening. Probably because the driving force behind it is control and one thing is for sure: giving up control and trusting God with our kids is one of the hardest things.

But for a majority of helicopter parents the control is about doing everything in their power to ensure their kids get into the best college and the brightest future of opportunities. To secure this end-all be-all of ultimate parenting success, parents relentlessly go to bat to help their kids secure straight A’s, a spot on the most competitive teams and involved in as many resume-building, extra-curricular activities and charitable organizations, even at the expense of the family. But it doesn’t stop there.

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Parents also want to control their kids’ social status because somehow, like their college acceptances and future careers, we think their popularity is a reflection on us.  So if they hang out with the right people, get invited to the right parties and make the right choices than we must be “good” parents.

Really? Is that what quantifies doing a “good” job? Certainly, if we are basing it on the world’s standards. 

But, what about in parenting the things that really matter – our kids’ hearts, character and love for others?  What if we turned our helicopter tendencies to shaping their core, who they are on the inside, instead of trying to make them stand out on the outside?

I write this post quite simply out of sadness in thinking about a few stories I’ve heard just this week. Situations that may have gone differently if parents were more involved in this aspect of kids’ lives instead of leading them to entitlement and self-focus.

Take just these three samplings to see what I mean…

  1. Teenagers being asked by the teacher to read a paragraph out loud in class refused to do so because they didn’t feel like it. The same class in which they chose not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. What does this communicate to the teacher? To the other students in class, perhaps even some who have family members serving our country?                                                                                                                  
  2. Then there is the teen who was deleted out of a group text as a supposed joke without any friend standing up to add them back in for days. Though it may seem trivial, how is being “kicked out” of a group text any different from other types of bullying? For the ones who are still in the group – not a thought, but for the one left out – devastating.                                                          
  3. And there was a student feeling down after losing an election.  Only the seeming rejection was intensified when only one person even reached out to her via text. Everyone else ignored it. Probably because they didn’t know what to say, but quite possibly because it didn’t happen to them so it was just a blip on their radar screen with no further care.

Things like this happen everyday, everywhere. At some point your kid is likely being hurt in this way and in other situations they may be the ones disprespecting, dismissing and ignoring. But largely these things pass, even the helicopter parents, right on by. 

Unfortanetly I’m afraid the lack of concern our kids have for others is because we as helicopter parents have inadvertantly taugh them to think the world revolves around them. 

Well, what if helicopter parents switched gears?

  • What if we focused as much energy as we have on the external on shepherding their hearts?
  • What if they understood manners to be a sign of respect to those they are with?
  • What if they turned off their cell phones when they were hanging out with a friend?
  • What if they were taught to extend grace instead of spreading gossip?
  • What if they worked to build others up instead of doing whatever it takes to make themselves great?

(What if we did this too?)images

How would school and community environments change? How would our kids’ self-worth and security be affected? How would relationships benefit? How better prepared for the world would they be?

Seems like they would be set up for success no matter where they go to college or what they pursue, because they would’ve learned to put others above themselves instead of only seeking things to the benefit of self.images-1

Would love to hear your thoughts on how switching gears would change our kids and maybe change you too:)

 

A Needed Perspective when your Child Faces Try-outs or Election

‘Tis the season for many middle school and high school kids to try out or run for next year’s squad, Student Council or the like. It’s agonizing – and not just for them!

This was our week this week, times two.

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During the first part of the week, my daughter ran for a school-wide Student Council officer position that she did not win. Because of the loss, she had to turn around and run for a Senior Senator spot the following days. This made for one long, stressful week with lots of talk, analyzing and prayer. 

Both races I wanted badly for her – something good, something to look forward to, something to reassure her and give her purpose. Yet at the same time I knew neither position could ultimately fulfill or make all things right. Only – it sure is alot easier to keep that in perspective after (or when) things go the way we want. FullSizeRender

The truth is even if our kids get what they try out or run for, we must help them see “life” is not found in these things and their identity is tied to something so much greater.  (For that matter, we must see this for oursevles, as many parents try to find their identity wrapped up in who their kids are!)

Whether are kids are on a varsity squad, any squad or no squad, a Student Council officer, represenative or not involved, popular or could care less, straight-A student or barely hanging on, turn heads with their beauty or just blend in, none of this is who they are at their core.  And none of this makes anyone more or less important than others.  

If we live as if these things are “life,” we will constantly be striving to measure up and looking for something to make us okay. We will be crushed in defeat and prideful in our accomplishments. But, if our true identity and unchanging value is found in Jesus, nothing can shake our security.

Jesus bore the suffering, humiliation and pain of death on a cross and thought it nothing in comparison to the joy of reconciling his children to the Father. He literally became sin, so we could have his righteousness. We therefore live under the smile of God and not his condemnation.  He views us as perfect, because Jesus was perfect for us.

This is how great his love for his children is and this is where our most true and secure identity lies. This is the doctrine of justification and why theology matters.

When we know our standing before God does not change, when we know his love and acceptance, when we know he is “life,” than we can stand secure when things don’t turn out how we want, when we face disappointments and rejection. 

So when my child loses an election, she finds assurance knowing because God has accepted her and declared her perfect, she is not a loser or failure. And, when my child wins an election, she can take no pride in her own performance or view herself as better than those who didn’t succeed because it is Jesus’ perfect performance for us that defines us.

Who he says we are – treasured, loved, accepted, included, significant, wonderfully and fearfully made – is who we are.

We need to understand the everyday implications of this truth and by God’s grace live out of its reality. This is the foundation and comfort as parents we need to give our children. This is how we help them be okay with who they are and where God has them.

It’s not easy to rest in his truth and love when other things seem so much more tangible. But, nothing else can give as secure an identity as knowing the God of the universe who created us and cast his love upon us sings his praises over us! Only in our titles as “Sons and Daughters of the King” do we have a stable and secure identity that will not shatter, no matter what. images-1

Why Good Friday gets lost on those who think they are ‘Good’

And Jesus went on with his disciples… And on the way he asked (them), “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. Mark 8:27-30

Why would Jesus tell his disciple Peter not to tell anyone that he is the Christ? I mean, if the disciples’ job was to spread word of the Messiah than staying silent doesn’t make sense. 

Thankfully my confusion on this was cleared up by one of my husband’s recent sermons and today, as we celebrate Easter weekend, I want to share with you what I learned.

First, the passage continues with…

“And he (Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mark 8:31-33

So now we see Peter rebuking Jesus! Can you imagine? But the reason behind his admonition is key to understanding why Jesus wants him silent.  

You see, Peter thinks he is “good.” He does not see his need of rescuing and  therefore doesn’t see why the Messiah had to die. But what Peter doesn’t get is that a messiah without the cross is no Messiah at all.  And Peter’s sinful heart is in need of the sacrificial atonement of the Messiah, just as we all are, no matter how “good” we think we are.

His problem in thinking he is “good” is actually the problem of some others in this text: the elders, the chief priests and the scribes. The ones who were the respected religious teachers and moral leaders. The ones who ‘perfectly’ followed the law (on the outside at least). The Pharisees.

These same “good” men happen to be the ones who crucified Jesus!

images-1Interesting, huh?!

Because of their “goodness” in following the law and upholding moral values, they didn’t see their need for rescuing.  They were blind to their sinful pride and their internal sin put them in steep opposition to Jesus. They are the only ones in Scripture He condemns, whereas all other sinners He welcomes gladly!

Now if Peter’s problem was also not seeing his need for a Savior because of his goodness, could it be Jesus wanted to distance Himself from his own disciple? Could it be this is why Jesus told Peter to not tell anyone?

What I find most fascinating is the one who is “good,” in and of himself, is who Jesus’ doesn’t want witnessing about Him. Yet throughout the New Testament after Jesus has spoken to known sinners and outcasts they have gone off to proclaim His name and never once did He stop them! Those “bad” people knew their sin and need and in their own weakness found His grace amazing. And, He was never embarassed by them!

Jesus’ mission on earth was not simply to teach and to serve as an example to follow, but to rescue.  But when we think we are good, we don’t see Him correctly nor our need of His rescue.  

This Easter may we see how desperately we really need a Messiah who went to the cross AND rose again. He accomplished everything He came to do – which is to save those who know they need saving. And for those who know they are not good, He takes everything good about Himself and credits it to us!

Now His identity is ours. Hallelujah!Unknown

How Church Gimmicks are Detracting from the Gospel and Distracting Its People

This post will most likely ruffle some feathers. But after hesitating to post these thoughts last Easter, I’ve decided perhaps the church could stand to have their feathers ruffled. Being in ministry and seeing the effects of the lack of gospel coming to bear on people’s lives daily, what I have to say is something I think about often. However, it is the various church postcards in my mailbox and the newspaper adverstisements I have seen for Easter that have put it on the forefront of my mind.

The bottom line and my question is this: If His Glory and the Gospel are enough… If His Word is True… If all we need is Jesus, Why the gimmicks and all the distractions?

The church in its attempt to be relevant has sold the gospel short and replaced it with slick marketing of entertainment. It seems the goal is to be the biggest, the best and the most fun so people want to come back. But, I’m afraid this has left our churches full of malnurished Christians feasting on everything but the Bread of Life.

We wonder why the mass exodus from the church is happening among college students and young adults who have been raised in the church, this is why. (If you haven’t heard the statistics, it is staggering and I’ve written about it once before here.)

As churches strive to entertain with high-tech productions, entice with gimmicks, and proclaim moral values and law, the one thing needed most and that makes church unique is missing.  Though Jesus may be talked about, who He is for us is not fully taught leading to a growing disconnect about what the gospel is and how it applies to everything has invaded the church. 

What we need to hear and know is of His unfailing, perfect love and obedience on our behalf. We need to hear and know that even in our sin, He looks at us as righteous because He was perfectly righteous for us. We need to hear and know how He identifies with us in every way. We need to hear these things so we know we can go to Him without shame. We need to know He is for us and He did everything necessary to secure our right standing before Him. He is where our identity is found. This is our hope to hold on to and only solution to all of our struggles and doubts. 

But if the church elevates law over gospel and fun over truth, His glory for us is unseen and the church is no longer a divine and necessary distraction from the rest of our week.

Churches: instead of setting out thousands of Easter eggs on Easter Sunday to create an experience, give these children Christ. No, they may not “get it” completely, but teaching proceeds understanding and the repetiton of the gospel is what we all need all the time. 

Just as we eat breakfast and then become hungry a few hours later, if we aren’t fed a steady diet of Christ, we will turn to other things to fill us. And soon that won’t do it for us, so we will look to something else.  Only by feasting on the Bread of Life will we ever be satisfied.

Christ is enough and the good news of His gospel needs no help in being applicable. “…It is the power of God that brings salvation to all who believe…” Nothing needs to be added or taken away. Ironically, when we do the church ceases to be relevant and often those who grow up in it leave because they don’t see it as life-giving.

What we need this Easter and on every other day is not an…

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But, for His words “It is Finished!” to bring healing and hope to our hearts.

How Seeing Faith as a Gift Has Given Me Eyes of Compassion

I am currently reading a favorite book for the third time. Since it has already been heavily underlined this time around I am adding asterisks for extra emphasis. But what hit me yesterday is something altogether new; something I don’t even remember reading or thinking about before.

Isn’t God just like that keeping certain truths hidden until just the right time?

I must have read it before, but until this read through I had missed the significance. But, now- this time- God knew what my heart needed to see.

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(According to recent studies, if we were still in a university setting depression would be the #1 issue we would being dealing with. Perhaps more on that in a future post.)

Before I explain more, I will give you a little background. My husband has been an ordained minister for about fourteen years. For about half that time we ministered to college students and over the years encountered several who were severly depressed, even suicidal. 

I couldn’t understand this kind of desperation. It just didn’t seem congruent for a believer in Christ to be struggling so deeply with a lack of faith, doubt or depression. It’s not that I didn’t feel badly for them, but in my ignorance it seemed they either weren’t doing something needed to help or not believing the way they should.  Before you judge me as insensitive, I will say it myself – because I did not identify with those struggles I was not compassionate and did not see how my pride made me as equally in need of a Savior.

Now fast-forward to this year. Some of these relate to the struggles my daughter is experiencing. I know she loves Jesus, she has the head knowledge to know He loves her, she has a family who loves and supports her, she hates her struggles and is getting help for them, yet they are still there.

She would never choose it like this, but it is outside of her control. God created her perfectly according to his plan, which means the ways she struggles, the fears, the doubts, the at times mustard-seed faith is how he wanted her to be – for her good and his glory.

I believe this with all my heart – in his goodness he has left her to struggle in the ways that she is for her good and for his glory. It doesn’t make dealing with it easier, but it does give purpose and meaning and hope!

The fact I can say this with full assurance, doesn’t make me a better Christian than someone who struggles with weaker faith.  This is the light bulb realization I’ve come to see: Faith is a gift! There is nothing in us that can conjure up a strong faith.

UnknownJust “getting” this has led to greater compassion, not just for my daughter, but for others who struggle with doubting, depression or mental illness.  I see the sometimes dibilitating and desperate enslavement of it. The hopeless that pushes out truth.

Some of you may know this scenario all too well. For me, it may not be first-hand, but God is using other’s struggles to shape and change me, too. And in them I am thankful: He is helping me see where I have lacked compassion and helping me see my need of His grace and compassion. Because whether our faith is strong or weak, it is He who holds us. It is He who covers us with His perfect obedience and righteousness and views us accordingly!

For those with little, mustard-seed faith you may gain the deeper understanding of this reality. But I pray each of us, by his grace, find hope in these words of pastor Tullian Tchividjian:

“Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak. Because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose. Becaue Jesus was Someone, I am free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.”

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