How to Help Our Kids Stand Secure When Body Image Issues Surface

K-W-3033One recent evening I was sitting in the living room with my laptop doing some research for an upcoming talk. But with all the laughter coming from the backyard, I was having a hard time focusing. From my chair I could see my twelve-year-old son and his friends – another boy and a couple girls – in the pool and became transfixed.

As I watched, they moved from playing Sharks & Minnows to trying to tip each other out of the raft to Categories. When my son jumped out of the pool to take his turn calling out the category, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how cute he looked to me. Unlike his fourteen-year-old muscular brother, his body is still soft and round. And he had on goggles and the biggest, goofiest grin.

I realized then they all had their goggles on, despite face masks not being anyones’ best look.  But at this point my son was totally uninihbited by what he looked like or why his appearance would even matter to his friends.  He was just focused on having fun and from what I could tell the same could be said of the others, too.

But I know this won’t be the case for much longer for these rising middle schoolers. Over the course of this school year, sadly they will become much more body conscience and concerned about what other think about them.

Ironically, the topic of social media’s effect on body image, self-worth and eating disorders was just what I was researching that evening. Maybe having this topic on my mind is the reason I even noticed how refreshing it was to see these kids on the cusp of their teen years being silly and unworried about their appearances. But after having already seen with my older two how quickly things change, I am not naive about what’s coming.

In fact, the teen survey I conducted shed light on just how often alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, cutting, burning, sexual immorality and depression, among other issues, become the coping mechanisms for dealing with insecurities, stress and not measuring up. I don’t say this to scare parents about the teen years but to emphasize the importance of talking to our kids about their true identity and worth.

Telling our kids how great we think they are will only go so far. What they need to hear is how great Jesus is for them! To be told of the One who left his throne in heaven to experience all the suffering, sadness and sin of this world in order to identify with us. But he didn’t stop there. By living the perfect life we can not, he shed his identity and took on ours. He became sin in order to bestow us with His righteousness. Because of this great love we can stand eternally secure as Sons and Daughters of the King.

When this is not the identity our kids know, they will try to find their identity in a million other ways.  Through idols that say they need more “likes” and “followers” on social media. Or, that they must dress a certain way or acquire more material goods so they look better.  Idolatry that lead them to elevate themselves, tear others down or exclude even friends so they get the most attention and therefore feel better about themselves.

In the future when my son realizes he is not as muscular as the next guy or when someone makes fun of him for having acne or for something he says, the only thing that will keep him present – enjoying having fun with this friends and not consumed with how he looks or is perceived by others – will be if he knows his secure standing in the love of Christ. 

The story of Jesus is the gospel applied to all of life and what they must hear to get their story straight. It is the only place to discover the real solution to struggles with body image and worth. Anything else falls short of the true security they are looking for and need.

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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 we are like the SAEs

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The incident last weekend with the SAE’s at the University of Oklahoma has been the subject of much media coverage and debate this week. While absolutely what occurred on the bus to the fraternity party was wrong and deserving of the swift action taken by the university and the national fraternity, what has struck me is how in our condemnation of these boys we have presumed them to be much worse sinners than any of the rest of us.

I am not saying their racist behavior was not horribly offensive, because it was. I am also not saying racism is not a serious problem, because obviously it is still far too prevalent in this country. But for the purpose of this post what I want to draw attention to is how in our shock over what the boys did we seem blind to our own prejudices.

We may not have acted like they did, but in our hearts are there not those we look down upon? Perhaps for a reason other than skin color, but is it not still pride?

Do we think we are better because of what neighborhood we live in… where are kids go to school… where we vacation…what labels we wear… what positions or degrees we hold… what social circles we run in?   

Do we think because of our background: where we are from or where we are not or who are family is we deserve certain privileges others do not?  

Do we think our habits, performances, achievements, appearance or our views make us better than others who are different, not as successful, talented, attractive or intelligent? 

Truth is we take pride in believeing we are somehow more special than others who are also made in the image of God. And in our pride, we judge, exclude and dismiss.

If sin though is not simply outward behavior, but what goes on in our hearts than our prideful thoughts condemn us in the same way the boys’ actions condemned them. We are no better off than these boys and in just as much need of grace and forgiveness.

The good news of the gospel is no sin is beyond God’s loving mercy and compassion for those who know their need of a Savior.  For those who see we can’t and don’t live up to God’s standard of perfection, we are met with Christ’s perfect life for us. He met God’s standard and his perfection is credited to us who believe. Now when God looks at us it is not our sin he sees, but Christ’s righteousness covering us. 

This free gift of grace cannot be earned and is given to sinners. But, you have to see you are a sinner. When you do: Grace. No matter who you are or what you have done.

I hope the truth of the gospel brings hope and comfort to those SAE boys and their families. And, I hope it brings hope and comfort to us, too.

Galatians 6:1-3 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself…” ba4cbc8d2d654bfd6ceb3379abbfbb1e

The Undeserved Gift

Has anyone ever given you a gift or done something for you that you can’t repay? Was it hard to accept? Did you feel underserving? 

What about when someone does a favor for you, do you ensure the gesture is reciprocated and feel guilty if not? 

I’ve recently been on the receiving end of something like this. While it’s not the only time I have been the beneficiary of such generosity, it doesn’t matter how often – big or small – it is hard to freely accept gifts without feeling indebted. As I’ve thought about the feeling of needing/wanting to pay back the blessing just bestowed upon me, I can’t help but think of Christ – the ultimate giver whom we can never repay.

Accepting the forgiveness from the One who knew no sin yet took on all of ours at the cross so we could be declared righteous is the tenet of our Christian faith. We proclaim there is nothing we can do to earn this gift – it is His free grace. But, do we really live in light of this reality? Or, do we act as if  somehow we need to make ourselves more worthy to receive God’s love by “paying back” our failures?

Here is what I mean: Say you’ve just given in to that same old sin for the thousandth time. The one you promised God you wouldn’t do again, but now you did. You think surely He must be mad at your for constantly failing. You feel like a “bad” Christian and deeply unworthy to even be called one. Afterall, continuing in sin and not looking any different than anyone else is what deems Christians to be such hypocrits!

You determine you must clean yourself up to make up for the flaws. Maybe if you went to church more, attended Bible study or remembered to pray that would help. You could volunteer to serve a ministry or give to someone in need. Plus you vow to do everything necessary to raise “good” kids.  So you go to work making yourself and your family “better” in an effort to appease God.  While at the same time condemning youself that you don’t already have it all together and live more victoriously. 

I hope you hear my sarcasm and see the fallacy in this thinking that leads to the disconnect of how we often live and what we say we believe. The problem lies in thinking we need to do something to makeup for our sins, so we fixate on our behavior as if that is what makes us worthy. The more we focus on external behavior and appearances the further we stray from remembering who He is for us – in that while we were still sinners He died for us!

There is nothing we did to deserve this great love and nothing we can do to undo it. When we get this truth, there is great freedom. Freedom to live as broken sinners, fully forgiven and Redeemed!

This is what leads us back to the foot of the cross to praise His great name for the gift we can never repay.8ea79eb51df99d1077e7e8070ecf759f

‘God’s Not Dead’ in an AP High School Class

thHave you heard of (or seen) the film, God’s Not Dead? Our family recently watched it together and not surprisingly my pastor/husband found lots of opportunities to hit the ‘pause’ button to spark extra family discussion.

In the movie, the main character, Josh, is challenged when a college professor insists all the students write “God is Dead” on a sheet of paper. When Josh refuses, the professor says he must then defend God’s existence to the class over a series of debates throughout the semester.  As the subplots develop and the film advances, we see how one guy’s bold stand for Christ affected the lives of many around him. Not just the professor who he was primarily up against, but those bystanders and classmates who God providentially placed in Josh’s path.

I lead with this because when my daughter, who is a junior at a public high school, came home telling me about the discussion in her AP English Language class this film is what I thought of. The scenario was totally different and in no way am I comparing her teacher to the professor nor was she challenging anyone’s views. I want to be clear on that!

The class is studying the Puritans and was taking a look at Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” After reading it a class discussion ensued. And as my daughter has previously discovered through the debates in this class, except for just one like-minded friend, she stands alone in her convictions.

But here’s the deal that I also want to state clearly and is actually my point in writing this: I am thankful for this opportunity and challenge!

She is being exposed to varying view points that attack hers, but instead of shying away not knowing what to say she is being stretched by having to articulate what she knows to be true. As a mom and a believer, this makes me so proud!

It makes me proud to see her understanding why theology matters. If her understanding of Christianity was built falsely on rules and moralism it would be a pretty unappealing case. Because apart from knowing the depth of her own outward and inward sin and great need for a Savior, she may also not see how “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is actually a testimony of His grace.

It makes me proud to see her not staying quiet with what she believes even though she is in the stark minority.  I trust because of these experiences she will be better equipped as she goes out into the world on her own.

It makes me proud to see her passion. Passion for defending the gospel, knowing it is because of God’s great love for His people that He gave His Son! Passion for others to hear the glorious and gracious truths about God.

It makes me proud to see how God is using her as an Instrument in His hands. Like in the forementioned movie, Josh had no idea how the Holy Spirit would use his words to change hearts and neither does she. But God tells us that His Word will not return void.

I have to believe that the exact people who are in this class, who seem like they are all against her, were providentially placed together. And like in the movie when Martin, a foreign exchange student sitting in Josh’s class, converted to Christianity as a result of hearing the Word of God, I believe the heart of someone sitting in AP English Lang could also be turned toward Him.

Whether this happens or not, or she knows it or not, God is not only Alive but He is Life. He sent His Son to experience His wrath so that we could rest in His loving hands. So that we could know His love and grace and find our life in Him. This is what I want most for my kids to know and why seeing it impact her brings me the most joy!

 

 

When Your Child Hurts

  • Your child’s feelings are hurt after being excluded from a sleepover with friends
  • Your child loses an election, doesn’t make the team or a role in the musical
  • Your child sees on social media what he/she wasn’t a part of
  • Your child makes a mistake costing the team a win and feels the weight on his shoulders
  • Your child is sick and lays limpless in bed

As a parent whatever it is that makes your child hurt, hurts you. In fact, to me this hurt is one of the greatest. We want to control, shield and protect. But sometimes it is all out of our control and there is nothing we can do.

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So what do we do?

How can we help our kids cope with hurt, pain and dissappointment? That is the question that consumed my thoughts last night as I tried to go to sleep. And the only thing I got is JESUS.  

  • We say He is enough and that He is all we need, but is He? 
  • In hard situations doesn’t “Jesus is the answer” sound too simple or trite? 
  • When there is real pain and nothing is fixed do we really believe He is all we need? 

This is really where the rubber meets the road in regards to the gospel applying to all of life. If He is all we need and He is the answer and our only hope than He must be the filter through which we shepherd our kids in their hurts. And the filter through which we deal with our own heart and hurts.

So we tell them, for the first time or thousandth time, who Jesus is for them- that He knows what they are going through, that He knows our hurts and that He meets us in the midst of our sadness, struggles and sin. And because He cares for us, not a hair can fall from our head without His ordaining. Nothing is outside of His control. Nothing is beyond His reach. Nothing can separate us from His love.

His opinion is the only one that matters and He is the ultimate resource. The ultimate resource because He understands what it means to be hurt, to be rejected and to be alone. He became like us not just to suffer for us, but with us. Jesus Incarnate experienced everything we do and therefore identifies with us in every way.  

Will our kids still hurt?  

YES.

Will we still experience their pain?   

YES.

Do we dismiss, then, our hurts as if they shouldn’t be a big deal or effect us?  

NO.

But to know and to rest in the One who is FOR us and works in and through all things for the good of those who love Him means I don’t have to have all the answers and I can be okay with things not fixed. I can trust that He will use our hurts to draw us more to Himself. To give us eyes to see outside of ourselves. To make us more compassionate on others who hurt. To reveal our idols and to show us where we fail to believe. To shape and mold us to be transformed more and more in His image and not conformed to the whims of this world.

The gospel never gets old and is always the same story. It is what we need to hear preached weekly and it is what we need to preach to ourselves daily. It is the A to Z of the Christian life and must be the filter through which we view everything. He alone offers true peace, hope and rest… even when we still hurt.

 

Grace to a Foreigner

Having just returned from Spain I have been reminded of all the ways God gives graces every day. It seems though when we are in our own element we often miss these ways He provides, protects and orders. We go about our routines, thinking we are in control, and give little or no thought to the One who holds us in the palm of His hands.

But feeling helpless in a foreign country, unfamiliar with everything and unable to speak the language, it was oh so very clear how God provides. And also so very clear how our unmet desire for control leaves us anxious and stressed. Praise be to God – He draws near to us even so.

A good summazition of our trip!

A good summazition of our trip!

So much so that I listed in my travel journal all the tangible graces we saw while away as a way to remember again His faithfulness. I share some here in hopes we will all be encouraged to look for these daily graces. And no matter how seemingly small or insignificant I hope seeing them leads us to Him with thanksgiving and praise.

God’s Grace to Foreigners in Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and Morocco:

  1. Right off the bat our flight was delayed. Praise God our connecting flight was also delayed or we would’ve lost our whole first day – which happened to be my youngest child’s birthday. 
    We made it just in time for our flight to Madrid.

    We made it just in time for our flight to Madrid.

    Chocolate con Churros for the birthday boy.

    Chocolate con Churros for the birthday boy.

  2. The next morning we went to pick up our rental car and about panicked that our luggage would not fit in the trunk and that it was stick-shift so if anything happened to my husband the rest of us would be stuck!  Praise God our suitcases did fit and though the entire trip was met by stressful driving, bad signs and unending roudabouts we were protected and brought safely back. 

    Back to Madrid in one piece. Good riddance to our little black Leon/"lion".

    Back to Madrid in one piece. Good riddance to our little black Leon/”lion”.

  3. At the time of our first stop in Toledo, Spain we had not yet mastered the parking garage pay stations and mistakenly put our credit card in the slot to discover it only takes cash Euros. Praise God after a couple heart-stopping seconds the machine spit out our main method of payment!

    Happy to be done with the never-ending quest for finding and deailing public parking.

    Happy to be done with the never-ending quest for finding and deailing public parking.

  4. Next on the itinerary – Portugal. With only my Mapquest printouts and no GPS or guarantee we were on the right track, we nearly decided to abandon plans for Portugal. But then the highway sign mentioned in passing by a Toledo museum security officer appeared, confirming we were headed the right way. Praise God the town of Marvao, Portugal that night ended up being one of our very favorite spots of the whole trip and a much needed “oasis” after the long, hot stressful first two days. 

    A view from the enchanting hilltop fortress in Marvao, Portugal.

    A view from the enchanting hilltop fortress in Marvao, Portugal.

  5. Navigating the San Francisco like city of Lisbon is amazing grace in itself. But after not being able to find our hotel and randomly parking just for the sake of not getting ourselves run over we stopped in a shop to ask for help. Praise God we were pointed to a hotel with a name nearly identical directly across the street and the receptionist was able to give us walking directions to ours plus a much needed bathroom!

    Lisbon, the city of seven hills, is truly the San Fran of Europe with the trams, bridge and diversity to go with it.

    Lisbon, the city of seven hills, is truly the San Fran of Europe with the trams, bridge and diversity to go with it.

  6. After all the stress getting into Lisbon we were worried about finding our way out and on to the highway back to Spain. Praise God for the light rain and it being Saturday morning so the streets were much quieter.
  7. The time on our side however was nearly lost when we discovered the parking pay station would not take our larger bills. Needing to make change, we furiously ran out in the empty, shut-down street looking for any passerby. Praise God for the one small open cafe where we were able to buy a coffee, which we desperately needed anyway, and get change. 

    A picture of the typical street scene in Lisbon, Portugal.

    A picture of the typical street scene in Lisbon, Portugal.

  8. Finally thinking we were on our way out we came up on a major traffic jam extending across Lisbon’s big bridge (think Golden Gate Bridge) due to an accident. After 30 minutes of barely inching forward just as we hit the bridge the lanes were cleared and cars flowed freely. Praise God, just in the nick of time, as my husband is totally freaked out by heights and may have had a panic attack if we were stuck indefinitely on it over the river.

    This bridge across the Tagus River leading out of Lisbon.

    This bridge across the Tagus River leading out of Lisbon.

  9. Sevilla, Spain was our next stop and the location for reuniting with good friends living in Spain. Praise God, meeting up with them could not have come at a better time.
    Our kids with our friends' girls in Sevilla, Spain.

    Our kids with our friends’ girls in Sevilla, Spain.

    All the girls ready for the Feria in La Linea, Spain.

    All the girls ready for the Feria in La Linea, Spain.

  10. The wild monkeys on the Rock of Gibraltar are evil. We watched one tear into a lady’s purse almost destroying her passport after biting her arm. Another ran down a lady eating a sandwich and it seemed as if they were going to jump into our friends’ stroller. Praise God they didn’t and we got out of there unscathed.
    Enough said.

    Enough said.

    This is happening! He even bit her!

    This is happening! He even bit her!

  11. For various reasons we felt apprehensive about going down to Morocco. Praise God for the fabulous English-speaking tour guide and the comfortable place we stayed. 

    With our travel guide Aziz outside the Kasbah in Tanger overlooking the Meditteranean Sea.

    With our travel guide Aziz outside the Kasbah in Tanger overlooking the Meditteranean Sea.

  12. After ferrying back to Spain we planned to lunch with our friends in a Spanish beach town before going our separate ways. But the “guys” car and “girls” car got separated from one another with her phone in his car and his phone unbeknowst to the girls uncharged. An hour passed and we worried a wreck had happened. Praise God that was not the case and my son’s iTouch charger fit as the only right cord to recharge the drained phone so when we called again using a stranger’s phone we found each other.

    Lunched in Puerto Banus where $20million + yachts of the wealthiest Europeans lined the dock.

    Lunched in Puerto Banus where $20million + yachts of the wealthiest Europeans lined the dock.

  13. Much anxiety came from driving and parking but we were also worn down from lots of sight-seeing, fast-paced days and the late-night schedules the Spanish keep. Praise God our last few days were met by a nice resort near a Mediterranean beach away from the hustle and bustle of a big city. We were able to sleep well and significantly slow our pace.
    Alicante, Spain

    Alicante, Spain

    Los Arenales Del Sol

    Los Arenales Del Sol

  14. Despite the mishaps, Praise God for the many laughs we shared with each other and the memories of spectacular sights and experiences!

    Marvao, Portugal

    Marvao, Portugal

The more I ponder on these trip snippets and others, the more I am moved to gratitude – amazed by my God who gives graces in abundance all the time, even when they go unnoticed.

Not only that, but in giving abundantly He didn’t even hold back his Son. He gave His greatest gift for our greatest need – the righteous life of our Savior for our sin – changing our status as “foreigner” and the unrest that comes with it to naming us His children with all the blessings of undeserved grace, mercy and peace. 

In front of the Old Bridge in Ronda, Spain.

In front of the Old Bridge in Ronda, Spain.

 

Why Do Christians Fake Holiness?

“What does your husband do?”  A very normal making-small-talk kind of question.

Also very normal for the conversation to halt or change course as soon as I answer. As many of you know, my husband is a pastor which unfortunately often means people act extra “spiritual” around us or better yet keep their “mask” on and a safe distance.

So refreshing though was a recent conversation with someone I had just met. My answer to that question did not all of the sudden cause her to tame her tongue, filter her thoughts or pretend to be anyone other than who she is. Instead she preceeded to empathize with what a hard “job” I have and to tell me why she prefers to avoid the church.

I loved it! Not that she doesn’t see the need to be connected to a church body, but the fact no walls hid her true self and thoughts. I mean, how can you get to know someone if all you see is the facade – and you don’t really know who they are? But she was real – real honest – and therefore we could have a meaningful conversation, instead of the superficial fluff that catagorizes far too many of our relationships.

But, back to her reason for being disinterested in church. A reason Christians need to hear because her experience with Christians and the church is far too often felt by way too many.

In essence she said: WHILE GRACE MAY BE PREACHED, WORKS IS WHAT IS PRACTICED.

Guess what?

She is absolutely right and I want no part of that either!

There is a disconnect between what we claim to be true about the gospel and what we really believe. The good news of the gospel gives us a Savior who died a sacrificial death for our sins, but it doesn’t end there. He also credited his perfect, sinless, holy, righteous life to us and that is how God sees His children!

All of our sin – past, present and future – has been dealt with at the cross so there is nothing we must do to earn His favor. We are free to be deeply loved, broken sinners with a never ending flow of grace. And every one of us is in this same boat.

  • If this is true, why then do we pretend otherwise?  
  • Why do we hide our struggles and sin?
  • Why do we want others to think we have it all together and are “better” than we are? 
  • Why do we insist others must live up to a certain standard we impose?
  • Why do we distance ourselves from those who are “messy” and more visibly broken than us?
  • Why do we think our good works and high morals are what matters?
  • Why aren’t we free to fail?
  • Why aren’t we free to confess our sin and seek forgiveness?
  • Why aren’t we captivated by Jesus but stay so self-absorbed?
  • Why do we not see the idols we are worshipping instead of the One true God?
  • Why do we insist on remaining so guarded to others?
  • Why can’t we be honest about what’s going on in our lives and hearts?
  • Why do we live a lie if we’ve been freed by the gospel?

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These questions for self-examination could go on and on. But here is the point: Jesus came for sinners – the broken and messed up – not for those who think they are holy and righeous or in need of no fix.  

So when we sit in church and in our holy huddles and go about our lives thinking our moral behavior and good deeds make us “good” Christians we speak a lie about the gospel. We are acting as the Pharisees did pointing our judgmental noses down at all those “sinners” not seeing the sin and discrepency in own hearts. Inadvertantly instead of witnessing to the gospel grace and freedom Jesus gives, we give off a ‘holier than Thou’ vibe that makes it seem like measuring up to perfection is what God requires.

This is not the gospel of grace. That is the law, done away with when Jesus came. Is there any wonder people aren’t attracted to the church or believers when this is what we seem to be about? And because deep in our hearts we know we also fail to measure up, we are faking our own spirituality!

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For the sake of His kingdom and to the testimony of His grace, know that “Christ has set you free” so you are free to admit your sin, struggles, and pain without fear of condemnation.  “Do not submit again to this yoke of slavery” that lead Christians to believe having it all together and getting better is required.  That is not the gospel and does more to distance others than to attract. (Galatians 5:1 partially paraphrased). See the beauty in taking off the masks and being known, knowing the greater testimony is that we have a God who loves sinners who see their need for forgiveness and grace!

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Not Ashamed

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16

If you’ve been churched long enough you have probably heard this passage preached with the charge to be bold in your faith – to not be ashamed.

The fact the Bible tells us not to be ashamed implies God knows we will be. And at times we are, right?  Aren’t we just like Peter – denying Him?

Maybe not denouncing Christianity, but not proclaiming Him either.

  • We stay quiet in controversial issues.
  • We ignore those commandments and passages we deem outdated or not that big of deal.
  • We gossip and slander others – others made in His image – just like us.
  • We neglect the necessity of the church and being part of the body.
  • We value independence, negating our vital need for dependence on Him.
  • We pridefully think we can “just do it” so we don’t turn to Him as our only source of strength.
  • We seek to be in control because we don’t like His ways.
  • We turn to idols because He isn’t enough for us.

I could go on and on, but that’s enough to lead to my real point…

“… he is not ashamed to call them brothers…” Hebrews 2:11

HE IS NOT ASHAMED TO CALL US BROTHERS!

Did you catch the irony? In my study of Hebrews this stopped me in my tracks. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

We are ashamed of The King of the Universe and Author of our Salvation. YET He calls us – wretched sinners that we are – His brothers and is not ashamed!

He binds himself to us despite the fact we often act as if we are estranged – as if we have no connection at all.

Wow! What is wrong with this picture?

Obviously, SIN. But that’s what makes this so beautiful!

Our sin does not keep Him from uniting Himself to us and making us part of His family! Not only is He not ashamed, calling us brothers, but Hebrews goes on to say He declares God’s name and sings God’s praises to His brothers.

Hallelujah! This is what we need to hear – what we must hear.

To hear of the One who sent His Son to be made perfect through suffering so that we might be saved. To hear that because of His great love for us, He endured all the pain and suffering of this world and the shame of the cross!

Again, wow! Just stop and let the gospel sink in.

He became sin and shame for those of us who are sinners and ashamed. That is how much He loves us and the extent He went to make us His friends.

Let this gospel truth explode in your heart, for it alone is the power to salvation. It alone brings freedom and gives life. It alone transforms our hearts as we see more of who He is for us despite who we are.

Thank you, Jesus, that you are not ashamed of me!

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Jesus Felt the Same Way

  • Do you ever feel unappreciated or insignificant?
  • Do you ever feel excluded or like you or an outsider?
  • Do you ever wish that others would value what you have to say based on your experience, field of study, background or simply because of your relationship?
  • Do you ever feel dissapointed by a family or friend’s response?
  • Do you ever feel alone even amongst friends?

Maybe it’s just me. But I highly doubt it. Don’t we all want to feel loved, appreciated and/or respected? Afterall, these are normal God-given human desires. Yet, so easily these desire turn into idols when we don’t receive the love we crave and in the manner we want it.

How then do we handle lonliness, disappointment, exclusion and feeling unappreciated without it ruling us? Without demanding or maniputing to get it? Without spiraling down into depression and self-pity?

The short answer: Jesus.

I know that sounds like a simple Sunday school answer that does nothing to assuage our aching hearts. But this is where the rubber meets the road as far as applying the gospel to everyday life and situations.

When I focus on how my needs and desires aren’t being met, I will be disappointed every time. When I see who Jesus is for me and how he meets my every need, my mind will begin to be transformed. I will begin to be okay even when others fail me or don’t love me the way I desire.

And here is why: Jesus knows what I am going through. Jesus felt the same way. He knows what it’s like to be rejected, ignored, dismissed, disappointed – even by friends and family. He knows what it is like to be alone – even forsaken by His Father.

We are told in Hebrews that “He had to be make like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

Jesus had to be made man so that He could identify with us in every way. Though He was always fully God, He was just as fully man and felt deeply all the human pain that we experience.

Not only that – He willingly endured being misunderstood, mocked and mangled, experiencing the ultimate rejection for the “joy set before Him.” The joy of reconciling His children to God!

Because He took our sin to the cross, we were made friends of God. Now we don’t ever have to be separated from His love. And only His love is perfect. Only He will never disappoint or fail us.

This may sound crazy, but just in setting my mind here, on this – the gospel, His love and knowing He knows my every need and desire and meets me in it – brings me out of the pit. These truths saturate my mind and lifts it up to Him in His grace and mercy and off of my own self.

I praise you, Jesus, that because you suffered for me, my salvation was made perfect. That you fulfilled my greatest need and therefore I can rest in your love and be okay even when my other desires are left unmet.

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