When You’re Hard on Yourself

feetHere is an encouraging thought: God might be showing us more grace than we are accepting.

I used to think that most humans’ only mistake was denying the sins they committed, or their need for forgiveness.

Then I grew up, learned to be hard on myself, and realized that we also fail to fully accept the grace God is offering.

When I mess up, it’s a hard battle to not let it wreck my day. Many of us, whether parents or single, pastors or congregants, inhabitants of any job, could say the same. Our competitive world rewards perfection. We’re competing for scraps of success, love, and security. We intuitively sense that any flaw will get us lapped, so we drive ourselves. Hard.

It spills over into our relationship with God. We never think we’re good enough to enter his presence. (And by ourselves, we’re not.)

But…

And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil.

When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him — she’s a sinner! ” (Luke 7:37-39)

Even before we go any further into this rich passage, we get a stunning lesson in God’s grace from the simple fact that Jesus does not drive this woman away.

It’s established that she’s a sinner. The obvious Jewish expectation is that Jesus would repel her for her past. He does not.

The feet of Jesus are exactly where we belong after we have sinned.

I briefly had a Muslim housemate in college. During a conversation, he admitted that he had no way of knowing whether his fastidious adherence to the Five Pillars of Islam was getting him anywhere with God. Every time he sinned, or even forgot an observance, he feared eternal destruction. Zero assurance.

We can strut about how awful that existence sounds, but are we any different? Do we “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time” (Hebrews 4:16)? Typically, no. I think we hold off until we’ve “shaped up” (itself an unreliable assessment) before we feel God is near.

But the Cross and the Empty Tomb were given so that we could approach him. Relying on our own effort would preempt his credit. Jesus’ sojourn in the Pharisees’ house is meant to foreshadow this new and living way.

If you’re “in” with Christ, yet being hard on yourself today, remember the torture and effort God went through so that you needn’t. His grace is greater.

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

 

No More Apologizing for the Faith

miracleSomething stunning has happened at our church.

The story has been rising towards climax for months as our congregation wearied itself in prayer. This month, it was finally confirmed.

Until I’m given blessing to share more, I’ll limit the facts to two: it is unquestionably miraculous, and many have come to a powerful, swiftly mature faith in Jesus Christ through it – such that our firmly grounded Baptist pastor has compared it to “something out of the book of Acts”.

Sorry to be a tease.

But one thing on which I can confidently speak is what this miracle has done in my life: thrown into a sharp relief a wall in my heart. One built of a composite of materials, one that I let block me every time I consider sharing my faith in Christ. A wall of apologizing.

Apologizing for bad churches.

Apologizing for cosmically tough questions.

Apologizing for the idea of sin.

Apologizing for the ugliness of certain corners of my political party.

Apologizing for the cliches we throw around.

Apologizing for difficult doctrines that require great objectivity and surrender to consider.

Apologizing for others’ suffering and unanswered prayer.

Apologizing for the way God hasn’t made himself as evident as he could.

Apologizing for my flaws, which I fear disqualify me.

Apologizing, apologizing.

And so rarely sharing.

I do believe God is patient and has answers for these things – or comfort when answers cannot come.

But if I allow these considerations to suppress my witness of the very Jesus who claims victory over these things, to leave me walking on others’ eggshells, then something is off.

I’m afraid of what others will think.

It’s no more complicated than that. I fear reprisal. The loss of friends. The assault of a world that won’t abide the Gospel’s aroma. That unspoken instinct is really what’s at the bottom.

So I tiptoe. I trade in a mincing, eggshell-treading testimony that’s trying to placate rather than confidently proclaim.

There’s nothing like a miracle to jolt your faith. Jesus has taken a running start, lowered his head, and smashed through my hesitation like the Hulk through a twenty-foot clay bulkhead. Where is your boldness? he’s asking. In light of this incredible happening, why do you hesitate?

To those who do not yet know Jesus, bring your doubts and questions and worst mistakes if you must, but Jesus is real. He moves. He delivers. There is no difficulty to which he cannot respond with power, wisdom, and comfort. There is no sin you can mention that he is not willing to forgive.

So…you will be hearing from me. I’m now further than ever in my life from being able to keep silent. Even if I never get to share more about this particular miracle, I have others to tell of. He is real.

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Don’t Let Satan Win Twice

Brandon J. Adams

desertI love the entire Scripture, but I’ve always been especially partial to the book of Hebrews. It’s partially because I long for a close, approachable relationship with the Father, and it’s (in part) the book of Hebrews that taught me to seek that, taught me that God himself seeks it.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way opened for us through the curtain of His body, and since we have a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold resolutely to the hope we confess, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19-23)

Let us draw near.

And if you know God wants something, it’s…

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Why Churches Should Have Graveyards Again

cemetery

Russell Moore wrote this blog post for me. I could never in an eternity have put it better. (Hope you don’t mind a post in the form of a tweetstorm.)

We Must Stop Living Like We’re Home

tentFolks are binge-watching multiple seasons of “Game of Thrones” while Satan does his best Night King impression on the hearts of everyone around us.

That show is less of a fiction than we think. Imagine Jon Snow sitting in a castle somewhere, endlessly munching mutton by a roaring fire, perusing books of philosophy as Westeros falls apart around him. I’m afraid that picture is all too close to our daily lives. (I hope my GoT metaphors aren’t too far off – I’ve never seen the show.)

Last night, my students spoke keenly of the ease of staying “on task” on the mission field versus at home, about how easy it is to tell others about Jesus, spot service opportunities, or just take time out of the day to sit with a lonely person, when you’re on a mission field – compared to being back “home” doing our everyday lives.

I’ve run into this. I love mission trips, and one reason I love them is because you’re in an altered frame. Distractions are refreshingly absent. When you’re at home, that’s not the case. Schedules, classes, work projects, home projects, and family life rush back onto center stage.

It was my students’ words that helped me put my finger on my problem.

We’re not at home.

Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. And the One who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.

So, we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:4-6)

It’s when we reach God for good that we’ll finally be home. Until then…

Being “in the field” – in another city or country, or perhaps simply a local mission for the evening – is a refreshing exercise in focus. You’re removed from television, chores, work, maybe even your phone, free to just do what God calls us to do.

But get back to whatever earthly tent we’re paying rent for, and it’s back to the distractions.

The United States is one of the world’s biggest mission fields now. We get into political bickerings to fight for our comfort zone and forget that we’re not home yet in the first place.

Given that our true destiny awaits at Jesus’ side, how much of our sense of “being at home” is just an illusion? How much of it can be cast aside simply by treating our technology and hobbies as we would if we were across the ocean? It might be as simple as a mental exercise.

Paul tells us that our current address is a tent. Perhaps we’d do well to live as restlessly as one would in a tent. May we do so for the sake of those around us.

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Being a Goody Two Shoes in a Wrong-Footed World

Brandon J. Adams

shoes“Hey, Brandon,” she said, bouncing up to the counter – not a coworker, but the girlfriend of one, whom I didn’t know from Adam – “Do you know the difference between a cheeseburger and a [sexual reference]?”

I groaned.

No. I don’t know the difference between those things, and I’ve as much desire to find out as to go dumpster-diving on Main Street during rush hour.

I looked at them with what I hoped was a world-weary half-grin.

“C’mon. Enough for one night,” I said.

They relented good-naturedly.

I’m trying to be gracious. I don’t want to be THAT Christian, the one who clutches his pearls because unbelievers act like unbelievers. You have to let this stuff slide off your back in environments like this.

Plus, I actually enjoy this particular coworker. He’s got solid character (albeit a one-track mind) and I consider him a friend. Burning bridges over this…

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You Matter

Just the other day, Neil deGrasse Tyson dropped this pearl of morbid nihilism in his Twitter feed:

Well, thank you, Neil. You have a singular talent for brightening everyone’s day.

The greatest tragedy, though, might be how many likes that tweet got. If you read enough (forgive me, Lord) internet comments from the agnostic, scientifically curious types, you almost see a perverse delight in their rejection of anything significant about man. To hear them talk, we’re just another species adrift in the dark, clinging to a pale blue dot in its dance across the blackness, one that’s quite indifferent to whether we maintain our grip. Nothing special about us.

Anything to reject God, I suppose.

God is another matter.

You matter to God.

“I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints” (Ephesians 1:18)

We studied this last night and marveled. Our teens shared a bemusement: “Gee, God, couldn’t you have picked someone slightly better to gift with an inheritance?”

Perhaps. But he chose us.

When I observe Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You set in place,
what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?
You made him little less than God
and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5)

Unbelievable. He cares.

…casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)

You are not an accident or a leftover; you were planned.

That thing that happened to you in high school, the one you’ve never told anyone? He saw. He is furious. And he has plans to make it right.

The trial you’re undergoing now that’s lasted years with no end in sight? He is the God who produces solutions out of nowhere long after hope has surrendered.

Those sins you committed? God wants to forgive. He arranged for it, through the blood of his son, if only it is accepted.

Behold the black hole, one of which was first finally imaged by mankind yesterday:

hole

Amazing, is it not? I’ve waited my whole life for such a vista.

You are more than this.

You are more than just a failed star, more than just a void surrounded by cosmic detritus. That weird phenomenon, that collision of the most exotic, bizarre properties of our universe, endowed with power to anchor galaxies…God has done far more intricate work on you. Your body, your life, all stamped with his seal, bound up as a testimony to his love and care.

Amidst the energy and matter that collide hourly across the universe, you matter to God. Will you not accept this?

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!