honesty about sin means honesty about salvation

I read this gem in my Lent devotional this morning, from philosopher Søren Aabye Kierkegaard:

“Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from God.”

I don’t like thinking about my sin, even though it seems I’m always aware of it and always fighting shame against it. But it is a private shame, one I push beneath workflow and to the corners of social plans. I don’t like that I stumble and fail and forget lessons I learned the hard way. I don’t like that I require crazy amounts of patience from God, as He reteaches my heart to submit and love and serve and obey.

But, when I finally speak my sin into the light I realize how much energy I spent keeping it in the dark. Not that my efforts to hide selfishness and pride can keep anything from my Maker (and, of course I know that), but shame is a great and sly motivator.

When I confess my sin, I distance myself from any identity associated with rebellion and lean on the identity of the One who saves. But this relief only comes by way of honest confession.

So many times, I will kneel in church or pause for prayer and search my mind for something to confess. Satan somehow clears all the sin I have been shamefully hiding and replaces that elephant space in my mind with silent whiteness. My thoughts don’t even wander, there is just nothing there at all. Later, of course, the sins creep out from the corners to remind me that I am unworthy.

My heart needs confession (honesty about my sin) because my heart desperately needs forgiveness (honesty about salvation).

There is just no way around it, but there is also no greater glory to be found. God welcomes our confession and exchanges us a crown. He covers us in His grace and grants us inexplicable joy.

He leads us like a shepherd and chases us when we stray. What a beautiful friend we have in Jesus, friends – that He would chase down a forgetful and frightened heart to offer perfect freedom from shame.

just as He said

“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”
Matthew 28:6, emphasis added

God keeps His promises – He will do what He says He will do.
He has never broken a promise, not ever

This morning I am caught up in the rhythm of believing – the every moment proclamation that God is, in fact, trustworthy. He did what He said He would do… freely, joyfully, and painfully enduring the cross so that we could come close and be reconciled. He suffered, as He said He would, on our behalf and for our ransom.

Then He rose, as He said He would, in victory over the grave and to secure our souls’ resurrection.

Just as He said.

He conquered death and offers us the every moment victory over the same. We are united with Him in His resurrection and invited to see just how trustworthy is our God.

Every moment, trustworthy.
Every moment, gracious.
Every moment, forgiving.
Every moment, loving.
Every moment, joyful over our reconciliation to Himself.

Every moment, keeping His promises.
I am moved to joyful belief because my God chooses to keep His promises to me.

Every moment, the God of all creation keeps His promises to His little, created ones.

the conversation

I used to feel guilty when I had the conversation with the Lord.

Do you know the one I mean? It always starts incredibly sheepish and shameful – littered with my apologies for not coming sooner, not trusting deeper, not being a more regular penitent.

The words come like a flood at the beginning, offering all sorts of explanations for why I’ve been away, and then everything calms down and God reminds me of His promises – those beautiful truths with a floor that won’t fall out.

I used to feel guilty when I had the conversation, but now I just feel freedom because I’m not bargaining anymore. I’m not asking for fair exchange or bartering for a better deal. My apologies and excuses and guilt feelings change nothing about the transaction about to take place when I commune with my Savior.

Now the conversation is like sewing a tapestry instead of sewing a button hole. Have you ever sewed a button hole? You need very little thread and it takes very little time… you’ll also likely have to come back and sew it on again when it comes off because buttons get a lot of wear and tear. A tapestry is very different – 12 inches of thread and a needle won’t do it. The thread weaves in and out and in and out.

Yesterday, there was a beautiful baby in my backseat. She didn’t let out a single complaint about my driving or about our little road trip to see her mom for a supervised visit. She didn’t seem to mind that I needed to have the conversation with the Lord the whole way to our destination, but it wasn’t a bargain she heard.

I think I’m beginning to understand the sweet grace of the Lord’s promises. The salvation He offers daily is filled with everything I haven’t earned. I know I will be on the receiving end before the first word of apology can leave my lips. But a funny thing happens when I trust His freely given promises – love prompts me to promise back.

I don’t mean the rushed-and-desperate promises that I’ll get better, do more, try harder.

What I mean is that a conversation wove into my yesterday – a day that would have bent me to bargaining in the past. Yesterday was a day that I desperately needed everything to go well for my job and for the kiddos involved. Normally, the conversation might have happened a couple times in those real clinch moments but instead it got woven in.

As I made my morning coffee, I prayed for love that casts out fear and then claimed the casting out. When I got anxious, I petitioned for peace and then walked with calm, bold steps. With the little ones in transit, I trusted the Lord to cover my car and I drove.

Promises are a big deal. But my promises to God are held together by His promises to me. I cannot bargain and barter with the Creator of the universe, but I can live out the promises He has made for me and in me.

I can promise because He is faithful and my promises are nestled deep in the well of my salvation. I can promise because it magnifies the Lord who saved me.

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Psalms 116:12-14 

I don’t feel guilty about the conversation anymore. I just feel freed.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

hit by a train

The second time she told me I was really listening.

It’s like I told you, Care. Being saved is like getting hit by a train. I imagine there are millions of pieces just splattered everywhere… and that’s the end of it. Only a miracle – a straight up act of God Himself – could manage to fit those pieces together. Only God could make me whole after a disaster like that.

She was talking about salvation and this time I was really listening. I already knew Alejandra’s life was a miracle, but hearing her tell her salvation story made me realize how little I had to do with it. It was really always this: she had stepped into the path of destruction and then God stepped in to offer a miracle – a life that is whole.

The next thing she said shouldn’t have been shocking, but there is always more to learn about salvation.

I don’t understand how people can have a middle phase to faith. I mean, when you get hit by a train, you either stay blasted in pieces or there is a miracle to make you whole.

And that’s the truth. There’s no “call me, maybe” in this scenario, no lukewarm in this salvation equation. The only way to be sure you are “in” is to think you must be “out” (to borrow from Tim Keller). The only way to experience the highest delight in this life is to know that it is a miracle of grace to experience anything at all.

We must never, ever lose sight of that train or the tracks that we tread toward our destruction.
We must never, ever lose sight of the magnitude of the miracle that put life in our dead bones.

And if you are still on the tracks, blasted into bits by your own doing, know that there is One who desires you do not remain destroyed. And He is the One with the power to do something about it.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

why words will never go out of style

In the beginning, God spoke; at Mount Sinai, God wrote.

God’s relationship with humanity has always been understood through words. God very intentionally used language to communicate who He was, what He required, and the consequences of disobedience.

He did not merely paint a striking sunset followed by an unsettling thunderstorm.
He spoke.

Yes, His words carried the weight of canyons and oceans and galaxies far, far away. What came out of his mouth was not paintings, but real, vivid, breathtaking landscapes. God’s words wove intricate molecules together and held them there.

And then God reached his finger down and wrote a book, etched on two tablets. He did not draw a picture or send an instagram photo to the people of Israel who had just been rescued out of slavery. He wrote words.

What gives?

Words, it seems, are going out of style.
My generation is being romanced into image-only relationships where words are subliminal (if a picture is worth a thousand, why write at all?).

It is not that images or photographs or illustrations or cartoons are poor ways to reflect our Creator. Au contraire! This is exactly how we reflect God, because he’s given us the desire and ability to create in a way that points to His perfect Creative hand.

But God did not leave us to figure out His plan for redemption by viewing only his perfect and miraculous creation. He spoke to the people. He wrote out the law.

The redemption story jumping out from Genesis to Revelation is not a mystery because God used language to explicitly communicate His plan for salvation. We are not left standing in front of an abstract piece to interpret its meaning. He gave us Creation – beauty beyond belief – and then He spoke to us and explained the significance of our existence, the despairing end of our freely chosen separation from Him, and the hope of restored relationship in Christ.

He wrote it out.


And that is why words will never go out of style.
God speaks with words.

Are we listening?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

These thoughts come from my reflections on the book Lit! by Tony Reinke. Check it out for yourself if you want to understand why reading is so important.

destroyed for lack of knowledge

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
(Hosea 4:6 ESV)

On the way to work my shift at the print shop last night, I was thinking about my morning meeting at the university that didn’t go as planned and about the transportation for the youth summer trips and about the grades for the Bible Instruction Course that still need calculated and about preparing a meal for 70 at the soup kitchen downtown.

I was glad to be on my bike, pedaling against the wind that I wished would blow through the clutter in my mind.

When I got to work, Derek asked if I had just woken up and I desperately wished I could have said yes. I slid into the groove and Derek, Jeremiah, and I made good progress on the night’s orders, though I kept noticing the weight of my feet.

And then Derek asked, “You read the Bible, right?”

Whatever was dead in me revived and I think my eyes got really big, “Uh-huh…”

“Well, you believe that it’s all true, right? ‘Cuz I have a question…”

I smelled trouble, “Derek, this sounds like I’m about to walk into a trap, but I’ll hang with you. What’s your question?”

He kind of smirked, acknowledging his underhanded set-up of this conversation, “Well, why does it tell me I can’t mix threads in my clothing or that we can’t eat, like, meat of hooved animals?”

I was quiet for a bit, measuring his interest.

“I mean, do you believe that – because you believe the Bible, right?” he pushed a little further.

“Derek… can you hear me out?” I thought I should get his permission before launching into a discussion of the old and new covenants and the significance of the Bible read as a whole.

He actually looked surprised, “Oh, of course! That’s why I asked.”

Derek is currently one of my favorite people and he wears genuine around like its high fashion. So, I took a deep breath and dove in. I can’t really explain what happened next.

We talked about Adam and sin and how it put all people at odds with God. We talked about Moses and Abraham and the guidelines God gave in the Old Testament for a holy, healthy life. We talked about the covenant God made with the people and how that covenant set up a temporary system until the fully sufficient sacrifice – a Savior – would arrive. We talked about Jesus and how he was that sacrifice. We talked about Peter’s vision in Acts 10 and about how salvation is not based on works or a family pedigree. We talked about how salvation is meant to bring freedom from the bondage of sin.

Not one customer came in during our conversation and the telephone stayed silent.

At the end of all this rambling, Derek asked, “So, does your church teach you that stuff – like do they present it like that? How do you know what you just said?”

I threw off all the strange weight of a full day, as I stood there and heard his questions. There was nothing else but his question and the Truth that answered him.

I shared the Gospel, plain and simple. I was a sinner, destined for destruction and deserving of death. But, I believe that Christ took my place on the cross and I’m now united in right relationship with Him and freed to live life abundantly with a knowledge of the Lord. The Spirit lives inside me and He shows me what is true. He gives me understanding as I read the Bible. The more I read the Bible, the better I know the Lord. And, yes, church is part of that process.

My knowledge of the Lord is my delight. Knowing Him means mystery, adventure, security, refuge, and cRaZy joy.

And so I want Derek to know Him, too! I want him to get lost in the wonder and get filled with the beauty that comes as we grow in the knowledge of the Lord.

God desires that we return to Him – that we seek Him and not vain pursuits.

“Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
(Hosea 6:1-2 ESV)

Hosea’s story parallels the hearts of the wayward Israelites – who pursued many lovers. Our story is similarly told – our hearts are inclined to love another. But, in Hosea, there is a future hope of reuniting with the Lord through Christ on the cross, “…after two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up…”

We live with that hope.

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
(Hosea 6:3 ESV)

Let us know.
Let us press on to know the Lord.
By the grace of God, may we not be destroyed for lack of knowledge. 

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

do you feel salvation in your fingertips?

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourself in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live
and I will make for you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
Isaiah 55:2-3

Oh, the thousands of times I have not listened. And the thousands on top of those thousands that I have lacked diligence.

And, oh, the rotten food I have eaten as a result.

Listen.
Listen diligently.

These words dripped like the sweet sunshine that rushed to meet me in mid-afternoon – God’s reminder that delight always waits on the other side of diligent listening. His invitation hovers patient, woven through my schedule and rests the right kind of heavy on my heart.

“Child, if you just incline your ear and come to me… delight is on the other side and inside my words.”

Listen. And I will eat what is good, I will delight in rich food, my soul will live and I will enjoy an everlasting covenant.

On this side of the life/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ, these sweet words mean salvation. It means joyful abundance in the depraved, daily trenches of our days. It means being satisfied (Psalm 63) in a way the best home-cooked meal will always fail to do. It means tasting and seeing that He is good (Psalm 34:8). It means feeling life leap in our souls and it means experiencing a love with the certainty of an everlasting, covenant promise.

It means pushing myself back from the table of my rotten concoctions and trusting that delight will be on the other side of diligent listening.
It means stretching out my arms and feeling salvation in my fingertips.

 

let LOVE fly like cRaZy