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Brokenness Redeemed

We’re all broken. We all have flaws. We all know those places in our lives we’d rather forget.

The recurring sin we can’t seem to break.
The heartbreak we endured at the hand of a friend.
The nagging insecurity, fear, or doubt.
The deep, dark secret we’re convinced no one could handle knowing about.
The broken relationship, broken dream, broken hope.

We’re all flawed, broken, and riddled with scars.
It’s part of the human experience.

It can be easy to look at our brokenness and feel disqualified to do, well, anything. We think if people know how we were broken, if they knew our flaws, if they knew the areas we continue to stumble in, they wouldn’t trust us. Or like us. Or allow us to speak into their lives.

So we hide our faults.
Bury our shame.
And convince ourselves we’ve messed up too much to be of any value to the kingdom of God.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

God has a habit of redeeming our mistakes – of taking those areas in our lives where we’ve messed up, stumbled, ran away from Him to follow our own path, and turning them into something beautiful.

He takes our weakness and turns it into our greatest strength.

The very thing we’re ashamed of, the sin we beat ourselves up over, the mistakes we’ve made, brokenness we try to conceal, and heartbreak we endure have the potential to become something beautiful in the hands of our redeemer.

To break someone else out of the same struggle.
To help those struggling with the same insecurities.
To boldly proclaim that sin, death, and shame cannot hold down the one who trusts in the Lord.

Every mistake. Every flaw. Every scar.
God redeems them all into something more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Where has God taken your weakness and made it into a strength?

Heavens and Depths

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
Psalm 139:7-8

David had a deep understanding about what it meant to be loved by God.

Here was a man who accomplished great things for God. He stood up to and defeated the Philistine champion. He honored Saul even though he was trying to kill David. He killed tens of thousands of the enemies of God. He established the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. He drew up plans for the temple of God. He was even called a man after God’s heart.

David had a dark side as well. He committed adultery with the wife of one of his trusted generals. He tried to cover up his sin, devised a plan, and ordered Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed. He lied to the prophet of God, tried to vindicate himself before God, and allowed pride to control his heart.

David had his ups and downs.
His times of passionately pursuing God, and times where he deliberately disobeyed.

And yet, he knew he was loved.

Before David accomplished anything, before he performed great exploits, before he sinned and fell and had to face the consequences of his choices, he had a revelation about God’s love.

No matter where he went, no matter what he did, God was still there.

Whether David found himself in the heavens, pursuing God with all he had, obeying His commands, growing his relationship, and doing everything a good God-follower is meant to do, or whether he turned his back, made his bed in the depths of sin, despair, and darkness, God was there.

God wasn’t going to leave David.
He wasn’t going to abandon him.
He wouldn’t love David any more or any less based on what he did.

And it changed David’s life.

God’s love transcends our actions.
Goes beyond our choices.
And pursues us whether we pursue Him or not.

We are loved and we are accepted by the God of the universe.
Whether we go up to the heavens, or make our bed in the depths.

He will pursue us, He will find us, and He will love and accept us no matter what we’ve done.

So, my brothers and sisters, as you journey towards the cross this Lenten season, may you find the overwhelming love of God pursuing you. May you realize you are loved and accepted no matter what you have done. And may you, as you embrace that love, find the strength to cast off every sin and passionately pursue Him in return.

Where in your life do you need to be reminded that you are loved and accepted?

A Crouching Enemy

“But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Genesis 4:7

Sin. We all do it.

We all have those areas in our lives where we fail to live up to God’s standard. Where we put our own desires and cravings before the needs of others. Where we allow the lusts of the flesh to take over and do things we wish we hadn’t.

It’s part of our inherent nature.

We stumble.
Fall.
Struggle with those sinful temptations that assault our minds.

Sin is seen as nothing more than failing to do what is right.
A lack of good judgement and a promise to do better next time.

But God paints a different image of this beast.

After refusing Cain’s offering, God warns him about the dangers of not doing what is right – that it unleashes a force in our lives ready to destroy us.

Sin isn’t some bad behavior, mistake, poor judgment, or temptation we struggle with. It’s not just breaking a command, dealing with jealousy or anger or selfishness or vanity. Sin isn’t breaking away from some ancient code found in the Bible.

It’s an animal crouching.
Waiting.
Looking for the right opportunity to pounce and devour its prey.

Sin is a living force ready and waiting to attack the moment we choose anything less than God’s standard. It has motives, plans, desires to consume every aspect of our lives and rip us apart. It wants nothing more than to see us maimed and bloody, lying in the gutter of what was meant to be our lives.

Sin is not to be taken lightly.

It’s an enemy to be defeated.
A force to be subdued.
An animal to be mastered, brought into submission and dealt with.

Otherwise, it sits by, crouching, waiting for that opportune moment when our guard is down to pounce…and destroy the life God intended us to live.

So, my brothers and sisters, as we begin this season of Lent, may you be reminded of the severity of your sin. May you find yourself mastering that beast within. And may you, as you focus on the saving power of Jesus Christ, find that the crouching lion of sin has turned into a docile cat with no power over your life.

What area of sin in your life do you need to master?

Bearing God’s Image

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Genesis 1:27

We are made in the image of God.
It’s the core of understanding our status as new creations.

That doesn’t mean God has two arms, two legs, and suffers from allergies in the spring.
Or that He needs to bathe regularly to keep from stinking.
Or that He has a face with eyes, nose, mouth, and ears that stick out a little too far from His head.

Bearing God’s image doesn’t mean we physically look like Him.
It goes much deeper than that.

The Hebrew language, constituting much of the Old Testament, contains three words describing how we are made in the image of God:

At our very core, we find ruwach – the Spirit of God. This is the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation. It’s the same Spirit God breathed into man in Genesis 2 to make him a living being. Ruwach is God’s spirit, his force, the essence of his power that He places in each and every one of us.

On top of ruwach, we find our neshama. This is the part of us that other people experience. It carries the soul of God, and where we experience joy, pain, excitement, anger, fear, happiness, sadness. Neshama is our emotions, our feelings, those aspects of our soul that interact with others.

The outer-most part of our being is our nephesh. This is the part of us that is most easily seen by others. It’s our physical self, our personality, how we react to the experiences around us. Nephesh is what we see when we look around a room of other people.

All three parts of who we are, ruwach, neshama, and nephesh, bear the image of God.

We carry His spirit.
Bear the root DNA of His soul.
And reflect His essential being.

It’s why we have the capacity to do good.
Are moved when we see suffering.
And experience both good and bad emotions.

We are created in the image of God.

Your neighbor, friend, family members are made in the image of God.
They bully down the street is made in the image of God.
The prostitute, drug addict, thief, are all made in the image of God.

We just don’t always live out that image.

When we understand the image we carry, when we fully recognize our core being reflects our Creator, it changes how we see ourselves.
And others.

So, my brothers and sisters, as you wrestle with your identity as a new creation, may you be reminded in whose image you were made. May you begin to see the fingerprints of God all throughout your being. And may you, as you see yourself for who God made you, begin to understand what it means that you are made to bear God’s image.

How do you bear the image of God in your life?

Be the Change

Photo Credit: Matthew Fern (Creative Commons)

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
1 Corinthians 12:27

It can be easy at times to point out the flaws in our church or ministry group.
It’s not too difficult to realize something is broken.

Attend a single church for long enough, be a part of a small group or college ministry, and you’re bound to find areas that need improvement.

Worship isn’t as passionate as it could be.
The discussions aren’t as lively.
The preaching isn’t as powerful.
The community isn’t as welcoming.
Offering could be done differently.
Followup with new believers could be better.
Inviting others to come could be built up more.
Prayer isn’t as powerful, outreach not working, and the giving – the giving is never where it could be.

All of us could easily point out something we’d like to see changed.
But most of us don’t want to do anything about it.

We each have a role to play in the body of Christ.
A responsibility to see God’s move happen.

When the worship isn’t passionate, when the prayer isn’t powerful, when attendance is down, outreach isn’t affective, giving is down, volunteering isn’t happening, followup and inviting is non-exsitent, we all have a responsibility to bring change.

We all are held accountable to God.
Not just the leaders.

God has given each of us a gift. A heart passion.
When we see something in the body of Christ that isn’t functioning the way it should, it’s our responsibility to bring change.

Not just point out the problem.

The body of Christ is built up and made better when we offer solutions instead of criticism, assistance instead of problems, and change instead of grumbling.

After all, Christ holds us all responsible for how well the body operates.

And so, my brothers and sisters, as you find notice areas in your church or college group that need improvement, may you hear the call to be the change. May you offer solutions instead of criticisms. And may you, as you step out to make the body better, begin to see God do amazing things in and through you and the body you find yourself in.

How can you make the body of believers you find yourself in even better?

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No Other Gods

“You shall have no other gods before me.”
Exodus 20:3

God’s choice of words is quite interesting when He gives Moses the first of the ten commandments.

He doesn’t say that there are no other gods.
He doesn’t say that He is the only god.
He doesn’t blow past the idea that there could possibly be other gods.

God says we shouldn’t put any other god before Him.
In doing so, He implies there are other gods we could put before Him.

Gods of entertainment.
Gods of fashion.
Gods of beauty.
Gods of acceptance and achievement and worth.
Gods of money, success and career.
Gods of family.
Gods of spouses.
Gods of food, drugs and alcohol.
Gods of education, wealth and knowledge.
Gods of possessions.
Gods of fortune.
Gods of bigger offices, faster cars and fancier homes.

There are many gods in our lives, vying for our attention, seeking our devotion, calling out to be the god we choose to worship.

All of us have worshipped these gods at some point in our lives.

We all have created idols in our hearts.
We all have lifted up false gods before the True God.
We all have made something more important than God in our lives.

Our idols may not be made of wood or stone with their own altars we bow down before, but they have become more important to us than God.

What we talk about the most, what we spend our time and money on, are all indications of the idol in our heart.

When we put the little gods of this world before the One True God in our hearts, we create an idol.

And an idol will always stop us from serving the True God.

So, my brothers and sisters, as you look to serve the One True God, may you find the courage to dethrone the idols in your life. May you do the hard work of putting God before your plans, your desires and the acceptance you long for so much. And may you, as you put the True God as number one in your life, find that every other god in this world falls in line underneath Him.

What idols do you need to dethrone in your life?

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Removing our Masks

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy”
Proverbs 28:13

We all wear masks.
We all have those facades we hide behind.

We tell people we’re doing great, when really, it feels like life is falling apart.
We pretend we have everything together, when really we’re clueless as to what is going on.
We act as if our finances are in order, when really we wonder how we will pay this month’s bills.
We show acceptance and love to those who have hurt us, when really, we’re dying from the pain inside.
We go to church, small group, help with the youth ministry and act as if we are close to God, when really He feels a million miles away.

We don’t like people to see where we’re broken.

We make a mistake, we sin, we step outside God’s plan for our lives and our immediate reaction is to hide.
Cover it up.
Pretend everything is okay.

It’s something we’ve been doing since the Garden.

When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, when the disobeyed God and followed their own longings, when their eyes were opened and they saw what they had done, they sewed fig leaves together and covered themselves.

They didn’t want God to see their flaws.
They didn’t want Him knowing their failures.
They didn’t want Him seeing their shame and nakedness.
They didn’t want to hear that they messed up, disappointed God and had consequences to face.

So they hid.

We do the same today.

We don’t want people seeing our weaknesses.
We don’t want others to know where our lives are falling apart.
We’re afraid to share our shame and guilt and sin.

So we hide.
We keep people at an arm’s length.
We cover it up with religious obligations.

And try to work out our weakness on our own.

But covering up our sin doesn’t change it.
Hiding our weakness won’t make it go away.
Pretending we have everything together doesn’t fix our lives.

It’s only when we confess, only when we share, only when we remove our mask, open up about our faults and flaws and brokenness, and let others see what is really going on, that we are able to find hope and healing.

We need others to help overcome our sin.
And it starts by taking off our masks.

And so, my brothers and sisters, as you come up against sin, may you remember that hiding it doesn’t help heal you. May you find a handful of people who you can open up to and share your weaknesses. And may you, as you remove your masks and reveal your brokenness, find healing and hope to change.

How do you try to hide your brokenness?

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Spit Out Kind of Faith

“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Revelation 3:16

It’s easy to get complacent in our faith.

We get busy with work and school and church responsibilities. We fill our days with volunteer positions, household chores and staying connected to family and friends around the world. We spend time with the kids, play video games with our roommates, and juggle countless responsibilities that take our time and energy.

We work and strive and by the time we put our heads on our pillows at night, we’re lucky to have spent even five minutes with God.

We would rather watch TV than read our bible.
We would rather play video games than pray.
We would rather work on work for hours on a homework assignment that three years from now won’t matter, than spend time developing our relationship with Christ that matters for all eternity.

We go to church, go to small group, go to an Ignite gathering, and think that’s what it means to follow God.

The church in Laodicea was just as guilty.

The believers in Laodicea had become lukewarm. They still professed faith in Christ, they still went to church and still attended the fellowship gatherings. They knew the teachings of Christ, would talk the talk and did the bare minimum to get by.

They had belief, but no action.

They learned the teachings of Christ, but didn’t apply them to their own lives.
They knew Christ’s command to take care of those in need, and simply threw money at the problem hoping it would go away.
They toiled at their jobs, built their wealth, and tried to enjoy the comfortable life.

And Christ said He would spit them out of His mouth.

Our God doesn’t want lukewarm faith. He isn’t moved by those who do the bare minimum to keep their salvation. He isn’t wooed by just getting by.

He wants a bride who is madly in love with Him.
Who has given Him their hearts and souls.

God desires us to be on fire for Him. He wants a church that obeys His commands with a happy, sincere heart. He doesn’t just want 5 minutes of our day. He wants to be the number one priority of our lives.

Anything less than making Him our all, and we might as well not even know Him.

So, my brothers and sisters, as you juggle work and family and volunteer responsibilities, may you remember that your most important responsibility is your relationships with Christ. May you put Him first in everything you do. And may you, as you seek Him out, find that your desire for Him grows beyond anything less in your life.

How can you keep yourself from falling complacent in your relationship with God?

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Not Forgotten

“Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive.”
Genesis 30:22

Sometimes, it’s easy to feel as if God has forgotten us.

We go through a rough patch. We pray for something that doesn’t ever seem to happen. We find ourselves trapped in a job we hate, a relationship that’s going nowhere, or a sickness that doesn’t ever seem to get better. We face hardship and turmoil and persecution with no end in sight. We struggle and push and watch other people being blessed, and wonder why God isn’t doing the same for us.

God gave us a promise, said He would bless us, told us that the hardship would come to an end soon and then…nothing.

It feels as if He’s forgotten us.

Forgotten the promises He’s given.
Forgotten the provision we need.
Forgotten to help and direct and speak to us.

We’ve done everything He asked, obeyed as best we could and it seems as if God is nowhere to be found.

Rachel knew how that felt.

She stood by as her older sister, Leah, conceived and gave birth to five children with their mutual husband. She felt the pain of trying to give her husband a child and each time, finding out that she was barren.

She cried out.
Asked God to give her this one thing.
Begged for a son to make her husband happy.
Did everything she could to assist in the process.

Rachel felt as if God forgot her.

But God never forgets the promises He has given us. He never goes through a period where He has to be reminded of what He said.

God knows what we’re going through.
He remembers the promises He made.

The word translated as remembered in the above verse is the Hebrew word זָכַר (zakar), and means: to mark, to mention, to remember, record, mindful, think, bring to remembrances, burn – to retain in thought.

God burns His promises in the forefront of His mind.
He records them and keeps them ever before His eyes.

He doesn’t forget what He promises us, leaving us on the sideline and blessing others while overlooking us.

God retains us in His thoughts, constantly thinking about the promises He made us and how He will work to bring those promises about.

They never leave His mind.
And neither do we.

And so, my brothers and sisters, as you journey through your trials and hardships, may you know that God never forgets you. May you be reminded that He retains your promises in His thoughts at all times. And may you, as you remember the thoughts He as towards you, gain a deeper level of trust that He will fulfill every promise He has given you.

How does knowing that God never forgets His promises change the way you perceive seasons of waiting?

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Hope is Coming

“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.” John 11:45

This week, many Christians will find themselves in special services, reliving the events and celebrating the freedom from sin found through Christ’s death. We rejoice in these days, thanking Christ for what He did and go as far as calling it Good.

But to the first disciples, this week was anything but good.

They didn’t understand the need for Jesus to die. They didn’t realize it was all part of God’s redemptive plan. They didn’t know that His death was only temporary, and that He was going to come back to life in a few days.

To them, Friday was dark.
And Saturday was empty.

They watched as their Messiah, the One who was supposed to overthrow their Roman oppressors and establish Israel as its own kingdom again, was killed. Nailed to a tree. By the ones He was supposed to conquer. They stood by as everything they gave their life for – the kingdom they abandoned jobs, homes, family and friends to establish – was over.

Everything they went through, everything they sacrificed, everything they learned, practiced and taught was all for nothing.

Jesus was dead.
Life just didn’t seem to make sense.

The disciples did the only thing they could: they went back to the lives they knew before Christ.

They had lost hope.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve gone through a set of circumstances that made you feel as if God wasn’t there. Maybe you’ve prayed and sought and cried out…only to have things get worse. Maybe everything you gave your life for, everything you thought God was going to do, fell apart and all you want to do is return to the life you knew before.

Maybe everything feels dark and empty and there is just no hope for things to get better.

But remember, Sunday is coming.

He didn’t stay in the grave.
Death did not have the final word.
Hope coming.
You might just need to endure some darkness to get there.

[Image via Bud Ellison CC]