Tag Archives: gospel

Whoever loves their life…

Whether you have been a believer your whole life, or whether you are a new convert, there will come a time when the Bible will cut you to the heart.

God still says, “Adam, where are you?” and invites you to come out of hiding and stand before Him.

The Bible has a way of confronting your deepest identity, your deepest held convictions, your deepest secrets and hurts.

It puts the finger right on who you are and who you think you are, because who you are is a child in the image of Adam. And who you are called to be is a child of God in Christ. That means that Adam must go, so that who you were made to be might live.

You can’t get there if you never put to death the old man. That guy has to die.

And that is painful. It cuts to the heart. The scripture reveals your secrets and says, “Nail this to the cross.” It isn’t just those things that you do; it is the things that you are. Sanctification is only finished when we die. Only our death can finally put to death this body of death. But the little deaths, the taking up our crosses, must be daily. Jesus said that.

So the confrontation will come.

It will come in a sermon. It will come in your reading. It will come in your memories.

But it will come. The Holy Spirit will see to that.

What you do when it comes will be a matter of life or death. Unfortunately, mostpeople attack the messenger. Mostpeople won’t go there. Mostpeople will conclude that the “preacher is wicked. The bible has errors. That guy’s a jerk. That isn’t the Jesus I know…”

The alternative is just too hard. I like that old guy. He comforts me if I ignore the voice of all those that I have trampled in my push to be a god.

But if you go through the painful process of taking up the cross and hearing the thundering voice of the Word of God confronting everything you thought was right and normal and good, you will find your life.

If you want to hold on to “your life” – your life, your values, your identity, everything that you believe you are – the only possible result is death. You will think that you gained everything, but in the process you ironically lose yourself.

You must be born again to even see the kingdom of God. And that means that the old man must die.

Not gonna lie. That hurts like hell. Because it is hell, and it has to go. Your pride cannot take you into the kingdom of God.

(Luke 9:23-25)  23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
  24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
  25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?

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Filed under Gospel, growth, sanctification

Why so quick to take the blame?

This morning, an excellent blog showed up in my feed. I would suggest you read it here.

I would like to stress – as strongly as possible – that my comments have nothing whatsoever to do with Anna Duggar. I don’t know enough about her to judge anything one way or another.

(Well, I can judge one thing. Josh Duggar is a creeper, has always been a creeper and the fault that he is a creeper is his own. But the patriarchy/quiverfull /purity environment that cultivated him allowed him to thrive for decades. There are scores more of them in that environment.)

But I know nothing about Anna.

But the blog I linked above got me thinking.

Why did the woman mentioned in the blog (NOT Anna Duggar) disregard her church, her friends, her pastor, her therapist and everyone she knew and wait for “special revelation” from God? She waited until she got an answer she liked better. Why was the “answer” she received better than the godly counsel of her pastor?

So that got me thinking – why would a woman choose to take the blame for her husband’s sins upon herself as a viable alternative?

Why would she rather ask his forgiveness for her manufactured sins than deal with his very real sins?

And as my mind is mulling through this question, I remembered an anecdote from a missionary years and years ago. He labored for decades with little result, and he said, “If I preached that they had to crawl across broken glass to achieve forgiveness, my church would have been full.”

The free grace of God is terrifying for people. They would rather manufacture guilt than be free from it. If we have to crawl across broken glass to be saved, then ultimately the power is ours. But if the gospel is true, then our only hope is the free mercy of Christ, which is not in my control whatsoever.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

A few years back, my large intestine ruptured with no warning. I did not have diverticulitis.  I do not have any genetic weaknesses there. I did not have a poor diet.

In fact, there was no cause for it at all. My surgeon said, “Sometimes it happens.”

I got to tell you, that is terrifying. The fact that an intestine can spontaneously rupture was far scarier than even cancer or diverticulitis. If I could have prevented it by changing my diet, or by doing preventative care correctly, or anything else, that would put the power of health in my hands – which is far more comforting to the natural me.

Because the alternative is trusting in the sovereignty of God, which is scary to fallen man.

I think it is why there are so many people quick to give medical advice. Life and death MUST ULTIMATELY BE IN OUR OWN HANDS, because the alternative is unthinkable.

It comes down to the goodness of God. Is God truly good?

What happens when your life falls apart?

What happens when your husband is arrested for child pornography?

What happens when your colon ruptures?

What happens when your child rebels?

What happens when you have to call the police on your own child? Your own father?

What happens when your spouse commits adultery?

And in all of those situations, it is more comforting for us to take the blame ourselves, whether it is valid or not. For if we take the blame ourselves, then we can live in a fantasy world where WE control the outcome and WE protect ourselves and WE are captains of our destiny.

At least, if we go down, we can say that we did it our way. If we say it is our fault, then we have some control.

But if death happens, if illness happens, if sins are committed, if crimes are committed – and we have nothing whatsoever to do with it; if there was no choice whatsoever that would have changed the outcome; if there were no action at all that we could have taken to prevent it…

Then we have no alternative but to throw ourselves on the mercy of God, glorify him even in pain, trust his goodness and his sovereignty, and say,

“The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

It is terrifying to live that kind of life, but it is the only reality that there is.

There is a curse on this world that we can’t do anything about. But God can.

So we can wait for him, stand for the truth, exalt those things that are beautiful, and put no trust in the flesh.

And help one another. It is terrifying to admit that your spouse is a covenant breaker. Your whole world turns upside down. But often that is the reality.

Help one another with their burdens. Reality is difficult. But the solution is not to create a fantasy world. It is to face reality squarely and walk right through it.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”

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Filed under Gospel, Patriarchy

“Give me a drink”–a study in shame

If you haven’t lately, I would suggest that you read John 4 before reading this.

I’ve been thinking about this woman lately. I’ve preached on this before, but this is an account that floats around the mind and hits you in the heart.

The traditional interpretation is that Jesus sits at the well, confronts the woman with her fornicating ways, she tries to change the subject and then he talks about worship.

With that interpretation, it is rather difficult to get from point A to point B. How does living water fit in with her 5 husbands, her living situation and worship in spirit and in truth?

And this got me thinking about their first exchange together, which sets the scenario for the entire discussion.

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
(John. 4:7-9)

A hot, dusty afternoon. Jesus is tired. He is sitting by the well. It is clear that he is Jewish and that he is a rabbi.

A woman comes alone to draw water. She is tired. She is an outcast in her own community. She knows what it is to be unwelcome, unwanted, unloved. And then she sees Jesus.

You can just see the roll of her eyes. “Great. A Jew. All I need today.”

She knew that in a Jew’s eyes, she had three strikes against her. First, she was a Samaritan. An unclean race, mixed-blood, idolatrous worship – most Jews would go all the way around Samaria rather than risk being defiled by contact with all of the unclean people there.

Second strike against her, she was a woman. A Rabbi would pray, “I thank God that I am not a Gentile, not a woman, and not a slave.”

And third strike, she was a sinner. Everyone knew it. She was living with a guy without marrying him. She had been divorced 5 times. She was probably used as an example to scare children into proper behavior.

And then she sees Jesus. “Ugh. I am so not in the mood for this today!”

And he astounds her with a few simple words. “Give me a drink”.

She is stunned. Even touching this woman would make him “unclean” according to Jewish thought. Even the dust on the ground is unclean. And he wants to drink out of MY vessel?

When you see the scenario for what it is, you realize that something far deeper is going on.

This story is about shame. Shame is universal. We all dread and fear being cast out, being despised. No one dreams of being stupid and unwanted and on the outside looking in.

I am one who knows that feeling. As a child, the congregation would gather in circles after the service to talk (watch how people do that. It is fascinating). I would try to join a circle, and my brothers would move in front of me slowly to make it clear that I wasn’t welcome there.

I know that feeling. It is called “Shame”.

You don’t belong. Get out. You aren’t one of us. You are filthy. Defiled. Unclean. Dirty. Just go away.

And people deal with it in all kinds of ways. We shame others, thinking it will take away our shame. We lash out in anger, or we boast arrogantly, or we exaggerate our successes, depending on them to give us that elusive feeling that maybe our lives aren’t useless and wasted, that maybe we are accepted and loved…

But our shame has a reason. We were cast out of Eden. We used to be in God’s presence – welcomed and loved. But then we fell. We turned our backs on God, and learned that we were naked. And then we knew what shame was. We tried to sew fig leaves together. We hid from God and from each other.

Shame makes us lonely, for we hide our true selves, terrified that someone will find us out. And at the same time, we long to be known. Longing for intimacy and terrified of it at the same time.

It is a horrible way to live.

And it is exactly what Jesus came into the world to free us from.

“Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus, greater far than all my sin and shame…”

This woman knew what shame was. She had been rejected five times, and now is trying to belong by simply living with a man who doesn’t respect her enough to marry her.

She is cast out in her own village. And she is a Samaritan woman. She knows what it is to be rejected, despised, thrown out like garbage.

And now, something astounding. “Give me a drink.”

He then talks about living water, and the thirst for belonging and purpose, the cleansing of the Holy Spirit…

But something else needs to happen. “Call your husband and come here.”

She says, “I have no husband.”

And he says, “I know. You have had five husbands. I know who you are, I know what you have done. I know what has been done to you. I know your shame. I know your fear. I know you. And I want to be with me. I want your service. I want to drink from your bucket. I want you to come with me into my father’s house.”

She isn’t changing the subject. She knows that this conversation is about cleanliness. She is unclean, meaning that she is not fit to enter into God’s sanctuary. But this man is talking about drinking from her vessel. Is she clean, or isn’t she?

“Our fathers taught us to worship on this mountain. But you say Jerusalem. Who is right?”

And he answers her. Worship isn’t about performing the ritual right in the hopes that God will be coerced into doing what you want. Both temples are going away. (But, as it turns out, the Jews were right about Jerusalem). But now, the reality has come.

Jesus is here. He is sent by the Father to seek and save that which was lost. He was sent to gather the sheep together into one fold. He came into the world to save his own.

And he had a woman that he loved in a little village in Samaria. The whole world might think she was nothing, but the Father was seeking her.

And Jesus found her and brought her to himself, taking her shame and giving her glory.

“The father is seeking such to worship him.”

There is much more to say here. There is a lot about thirst, about water, about cleansing, about the Holy Spirit, about the Father.

There is a lot about worship, about Spirit and truth. There is a lot about how Christ makes us acceptable.

But the whole passage is about shame and belonging. Jesus came to bring us to Himself. He desires us to be with him where he is. He seeks and saves his people because he wants to.

He took this woman, cast out as a sinner, unclean, unwelcome, alone – and gave her purpose, gave her meaning, gave her glory. In other words, he gave her himself.

Glory, you see, is the opposite of shame. And glory is belonging to Christ. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Earthly glory fades away and is replaced with shame. In the end, those who seek glory on this earth hear the voice of Jesus saying, “Depart from me, I never knew you…” the ultimate shame.

In the world, you might be like this woman. Outcast, lonely, shamed, unwanted. Insignificant in this world. But take heart. This world is not the last word. We have laid in heaven for us a crown of glory that can never be taken away. Significance, beauty, cleanliness, the proper clothing (!), and we are accepted in the beloved.

Because Jesus took our shame upon himself, and was raised from the dead. Crowned with glory and honor, for us – just as it was for this woman.

He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Wherefore hath God highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name.

He is our glory, our crown, our purpose. When we know him and he knows us, we belong. Even though belonging to Christ means that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth, often times outcast and scattered, yet he gathers us together.

The father is seeking us.

How astounding is that??

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Filed under Gospel, shame

Purity Culture and Christ

According to the Scripture, purity comes by faith alone. We are clothed in Christ’s righteousness – the white robe of His purity. To seek purity anywhere else is idolatry and a denial of Christ.

(2Co 11:2-4)  2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
  3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
  4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted– you may well put up with it!

When Paul said that he labors to present the church a “chaste virgin” to Christ, he is referring to salvation by faith alone. A “chaste virgin” is one who rejects all other gods and rests in Christ’s righteousness alone.

“Another Jesus” is another gospel. Another gospel teaches that some or all of our purity, our righteousness, our holiness, comes from another source – ourselves, our will power, our “cooperation with grace” or our good works.

To put this together, when we seek our holiness in anything other than the perfect, completed work of Christ, we have forsaken Christ, and embraced “another lover.” This is consistent with the prophets:

6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:`I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
  7 And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.
  8 Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.'”
  (Isa. 44:6-8)

The “purity culture” taught a whole generation of boys and girls that their purity is identical to virginity. Purity balls, purity rings, purity dances, and so one – became a means to dads to keep their daughters pure. This was the fruit of Bill Gothard, a false prophet who taught a false Christ.

In their quest for purity, they became impure. In their quest for righteousness, they became unrighteous. They built on another foundation, and chased after another lover. Her name was “virginity”, and it became another Jesus, another Christ, another gospel.

3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Rom. 10:3)

In a weird ironic twist, in the pursuit of purity through virginity, they “spread their legs for another lover” in the words of Ezekiel. Blunt, but accurate.

And since God’s judgment is always fitting, the purity culture was actually rife with incest, abuse, assault, fornication, adultery, and all of the works of the flesh. Just as the scripture said it would be.

And because sometimes, things are deeply ingrained in us, I need to say this. “Purity culture” and Christian sexual ethics are not at all the same thing. To reject the purity culture is not the same as rejecting the bible’s teaching on sexuality. It is simply rejecting the false Christ it has become.

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Filed under Gospel, sexuality

thoughts on shame

Shame is universal. It isn’t a gender thing. All humans born of Adam are conceived and born in sin. Sin generates shame. Adam and Eve knew that they were naked.

Seeking to cover up that nakedness is also universal. We blame others. We attack ourselves. We sew all sorts of fig leaves and hide in all sorts of bushes to seek to cover our shame.

Shame isn’t an emotion. Shame is the fear that there is a standard to which you don’t measure up.

Sin misdirects our shame. We seek to meet different standards to cover our shame and continually miss the mark.

We cover our shame by destroying what we perceive to be the threat.

We cover our shame by boasting, by our feats of manliness, by works of charity, by taking a gun, by reviling others, by ranting on social media, by storming the capitol, … the examples are as varied as humans are varied…

Covering shame is universal, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Shame can only be covered one way: Come out of the bushes and stand naked before God and wait for him to clothe you (Please read Genesis 3).

We “come out of the bushes” by acknowledging our sin and shame before God without excuse.

We stand naked by acknowledging our sin without excuse, without shifting the blame on how she was dressed, how drunk you were, how someone incited you, how “the woman gave to me, and I did eat…” Standing naked means saying “Lord, have mercy upon me. A sinner.”

Waiting for God to clothe you is to receive the perfect righteousness, satisfaction and holiness of Christ which only comes as a free gift. It is never earned. It is always free. It is given to all who ask for it.

The call of the gospel is “Where are you?” We come out of hiding. We stand naked before God trembling and afraid. And we receive the perfect clothing of the righteousness and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel. There is no other.

Whenever a pastor teaches that shame can be covered in any other way, he has failed to grasp the power of the gospel.

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Compassion

There is a certain kind of person who gets very concerned whenever anyone starts talking too much about God’s compassion. They are always the ones to remind you that Jesus was harsh with people at times.

They seem to forget that the people Jesus was consistently harsh with were those who had a problem with God’s compassion.

I think that the reason certain people get nervous about God’s compassion is that God might be compassionate on the wrong sort of people.

It was the “wrong sort of people” that washed Jesus feet with her tears and anointed him with costly ointment.

There are those who view God the way the older brother viewed God – he worked hard for God every day and God never gave him anything. The older brother was angry because the younger brother got to “go out and have fun” and still got the fatted calf.

The older brother never understood sin. So he never understood God’s compassion. God’s compassion meant that someone somewhere is getting away with something – and we have to put a stop to it.

“God’s compassion will lead to chaos. Didn’t you know that? How will society survive if God is compassionate on the wrong sorts of people.

(Jesus never whipped people. He used the whip to drive out the animals.)

These same sort of people get nervous when you talk about empathy. One might find themselves being empathetic with the wrong sorts of people. We can’t have that.

As a disclaimer, I am the wrong sort of person. But Jesus found me. He spoke kindly to me. He drew me into his arms with whispers of love.

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so.

It is not possible to be “too unbalanced” with God’s compassion. It is far greater, far broader, far more extensive, far higher, far deeper than any of us can possibly imagine.

If you are the wrong sort of person, you are just the one that the Father is seeking. Come to Jesus and find rest.

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Achan and the Gospel

When Joshua conquered Jericho, God gave Israel specific instructions concerning the goods there. Everything was to be killed, burned or put into the treasury of the temple.

The story of what happened next is disturbing. The next city to be conquered was Ai. It was a far smaller and less powerful city, and the strategy was just to send a few of the army there. But they were soundly beaten, which caused Joshua and all Israel shock and great sorrow. What happened? Why had God forsaken them? Why did the army flee? Had God forgotten about them? What about the rest of the conquest that they were promised?

Joshua fell on his knees and asked the Lord what had happened.

Someone took gold and silver and clothing from Jericho and kept it for themselves against God’s command. Because of this disobedience, all Israel was troubled and God gave them into the hands of their enemies. God pointed out the criminal and Achan was stoned with his whole family in the valley of Achor.

Read the account. It is disturbing. Joshua 7.

This morning, I received a question about the event. The person asking the question was taught that if a parent had sin in their lives that God would punish the church and their children until they confessed it and turned from it. They were taught that this was the message of Achan. If someone is disobedient, the whole church will suffer, and their children will suffer.

I was greatly disturbed by this and have been thinking about it all day.

This, by the way, is not the gospel. The gospel is NOT “if you sin, God will punish your children.” And didn’t Jesus say that all of scripture taught of him?

We do learn of the holiness of God in this account. He is not someone to trifle with. He cannot bless disobedience. He cannot dwell with sin. He does indeed visit the iniquity of the fathers unto the children to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5) and his character does not change.

How can any of us escape? How are any of our children blessed? How can anything unclean stand in his sight, and who of us are clean enough?

The wrath of God and the horrors of sin are the backdrop of the gospel, but they are not themselves the gospel. “Do this and live” is not the good news, for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?

The stoning of Achan is disturbing, for God does not change.

But centuries later, the prophet Hosea saw the gospel from a distance. Israel had been divorced by God – they were no longer his people. But Hosea was shown a glimpse of the gospel.

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness, And speak kindly to her.
15 “Then I will give her her vineyards from there, And the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
(Hosea 2:14-15).

There will be a new exodus and a new deliverance. God’s bride will be gathered from every land and every nation. The gentiles will be gathered in as well. And the valley of Achor will be a door of hope.

What does it mean? How can this scene of the trouble that came on Israel be a door of hope for God’s bride?

Because Achan pointed to Christ. Achor pointed to Calvary. Christ was taken outside the camp and bore all of our uncleanness. Christ was cut off from the land of the living, bearing our curse. Achan’s sin troubled all Israel, and when he was cut off by stoning, the curse was taken away and they went on to victory. But that victory was short-lived, because all Israel were descended from Adam. All of them were unfaithful, just as all of us are unfaithful. The conquest was incomplete. The book of Joshua concludes with the book of Judges. What hope is there for any of us?

All of us have sinned and come short of God’s glory. All of us are unclean. How can Achan be stoned and take the curse away from us when every single one of us is Achan?

Only in Christ. In Christ, true God and true man, the curse that lay upon each one of us is taken away.

Isaiah puts it so clearly.

4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? (Isa. 53:4-8)

That is the gospel. The curse is on us because all of us have hoarded our stolen things. All of us have trusted in our own resources rather than trusting in the living God. If God marked iniquity, who should stand?

But God doesn’t send US outside the camp to bear our iniquities. He laid them upon Jesus Christ. Or you could say that he took them upon himself. Because of the mystery of the Trinity, both are correct. God laid them on Christ. God took them on himself.

The story of Achan is not “Behave or God will curse your children”. It is “come to Jesus, who bore our iniquities in his body on the cross.”

Teach your children about Jesus when you teach them about Achan.

The valley of Achor becomes a door of hope at Calvary.

Praise God!

On another note, if your church has never taught this, then it is not teaching the gospel. If you are being taught that God’s blessing comes on you when you obey and when you disobey you will earn God’s curse, then you are not being taught the gospel. Flee those churches. It is what God calls a synagogue of Satan. Go to where the gospel is proclaimed.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

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coming out

When Paul was in chains in Rome, he rejoiced that the power of the gospel was seen in his weakness.

One thing that I have read continually from those who heard Ravi Zacharias speak is this: when he spoke, you knew you were in the presence of a great man. he was so articulate, so wise, so charismatic. He could work a crowd. He could answer any objection.

Paul was just the opposite. In fact, Paul said that he preached in weakness and trembling. He was ridiculed frequently for NOT being a great public speaker, or a skilled rhetorician.

As I was thinking these things, I decided to come out. I have hidden something about myself for many years. I’ve hidden it even from myself, preferring to beat myself up for not being quite right than acknowledging that I have a weakness that I can do very little about.

I have anxiety disorder. Whether it was inherited or whether it was learned through much experience, or perhaps a little of both, it is a chain around me that I cannot rid myself of.

My brain warns me that I am in danger and tells me to flee, usually at the most inopportune time.

My heart races. My face flushes. I break out in a sweat. I start to shake. My words start to stammer.

If it is bad, I won’t eat.

I wake up frequently in the middle of the night having conversations in my head, running events through my head over and over again – until I break out into a sweat and my body temperature goes up.

I read recently that Herman Bavinck, arguably the greatest theologian of the 20th century, vomited before every sermon.

I don’t vomit. But I completely identify with the sentiment.

I manuscript sermons because I don’t know when my mind will go blank. I rehearse conversations because I have no idea what to do in them.

Social events are exhausting. I tend to flee somewhere just to regroup. Weddings are torture.

My mind tells me that everything is OK. God is on the throne. I am just human. My conversation is fine.

But there is a part of my brain that attacks me during every single conversation:

“You are such an idiot. I can’t believe you said that. They are going to hate you now. You will be left alone. Don’t you know how to people?”

“You are doing this wrong. You are going to fail. You’ll never make this. They will think you are stupid.

I won’t try out a new restaurant if the ordering procedure is too different. I have never tried sushi. I have never attempted to do something new for fear of failing.

When I am in a new place, or trying something new that I am required to do, my heart races and I go into panic mode. “Failure deserves to be beaten, outcast, isolated, and alone.”

I would far, far rather serve the table than sit down at it and be served. When I am clearing dishes I know what is expected, and when I know what is expected, I don’t break out in a cold sweat and listen to my heart pound in my ears.

I have been like this as long as I could remember. When I was younger, I would pinpoint a person that I figured was an acceptable person and try to imitate them. Maybe I wouldn’t be rejected if I could be someone else.

But that is a hard way to live.

One of my earliest memories was being terrified of trying out the slide. My parents, not knowing what to do, spanked me until I went down.

I remember the absolute terror of my first fire drill when I was about 5. They should not allow children to be tortured like that.

I self-medicated with nicotene for years. It gave me a good excuse to leave any social situation and it would calm my panicked nerves. But when I quit several years ago, my panic attacks and anxiety would attack from out of nowhere.

Today I know that it has a name and there are things to do about it. I have anxiety disorder.

I have anxiety disorder.

My dad used to say that worrying about stuff never helped. He was fond of saying that the things he worried the most about never happened. I’m very glad for him.

For me, everything that I ever worried about actually did happen, but those are stories for another time.

The curse on this world is very real. People do things that are even worse than you can imagine. The hate that the world can throw at you is unfathomable.

Illness is real. Cancer is real. Brain damage is real. Suffering is real.

The cross is real, and if we are Jesus’ we will pick it up with him and follow him.

And like Paul, when those chains tie us down, paralyze us and keep us from doing what we want to do – God will show himself strong.

“How can you be a minister” – my anxiety tells me repeatedly.

And then I remember Paul’s words:

(1Corinthians:2:1-5)  And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:  That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

And so I’ve decided to quit pretending that I’m something I am not. I will speak the truth. I will teach from house to house. I will visit. I will call. I will do what I can to show the power of God in the cross of Christ.

But then I might have to sit down. I might have to go outside and regroup. I might need to do something to calm my pounding heart and my rapid breathing.

I’m not the kind of preacher that has everything together. When people see me, they don’t say, “I’m in the presence of a great man” and that’s OK.

Because if I can lead someone to the living water, if I can exalt the power of God, if I can tell you about the beauty of Jesus who sweat great drops of blood, who fell down terrified at Gethsemane in order to bring me to God – then it is all worth it. Because I also know that when I am at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, I will sit in his presence and rejoice and no longer panic. I will no longer feel like an outcast. I will no longer be an outsider looking in on the normals.

And that is what I long for. But more than that, I long to be free from sin and misery.

In the meantime, don’t look for me to exalt human strength. I don’t have any. When I am in God’s presence, it won’t do me any good anyway.

Instead, I have an anxiety disorder. And so I look to Jesus.

Jesus didn’t come for the well. He came for the sick. He didn’t come for the strong, he came for the weak and foolish – and that is me.

If you are like me, and struggle with these things, don’t be ashamed. Walk right into it, for Jesus is with you through the valley of the shadow of death.

I wrote these words so that you might not feel so alone. There are a lot of us out here. I just thought that you might want to meet one.

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The offense of the cross

The “offense” of the cross is not what many in modern evangelicalism think it is. It isn’t to make yourself as offensive as possible; nor is it getting in people’s faces over the law. It is the offense of the cross; not the offense of the law.

The offense of the cross is that our whole righteousness before God is the perfect righteousness of Christ put on our account. Our only hope before God is our sins nailed to his cross.

The reason that this is so offensive is that it means that your pedigree, your education, your socio-economic status, your politics, your standing in the community, your church membership, your good works, your wisdom – count for less than nothing in God’s eyes.

Your hope is exactly the same as the hope of the drug-dealer, prostitute, drunkard, homeless guy, and Hollywood celebrity – God’s grace alone.

The cross of Jesus is God’s exclamation point on all of our pride.

It means we are no better that the “others” and cannot boast in any way. This is what Philippians 3 is all about.

Paul had a better pedigree and education than you did, and he counted it dung that he might know Christ.

That is the offense of the cross.

The Jew and Roman, the Greek and the Persian, the men and the women and the children, those who offered sacrifices and those who didn’t, those who knew what the law said and sat in church every Sunday and those who didn’t – all of them only stand before God one way, and only one way – through faith in Christ who offered himself a propitiation to God in your place.

How much you tithe, how many church events you go to, how you voted last election, what you think of those horrible sinners out there – do absolutely nothing to take away your sins.

That is the offense of the cross.

The very religious man in the front of the church is found guilty. The tax collecting traitor pleads for mercy, and is declared “not guilty” – justified.

That’s the offense of the cross.

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To seek the lost

Jesus said that one who is healthy doesn’t need a physician.

If you won’t admit you are hurt, you will flee the healer.

If you won’t admit you are weak, you will reject the One who is Strong.

If you won’t admit you are broken, you will turn from the One who puts you back together.

If you won’t say that you are lost, you will run from the Shepherd who seeks you.

If you refuse to “be a victim”, you will refuse the arms that hold you.

Jesus didn’t come to help the strong, the wise, the intrepid, the rich, the powerful.

He came to seek and save that which was lost, broken, sinful, weary, frightened, hurting…

If that is you, call to Him. He will never, ever forsake the little ones who come to Him.

If you don’t know this about Christ, read what His Apostle Luke has to say about him.

Luke 19:10 “ For the son of man came to seek and save that which was lost.”

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