Tag Archives: Jesus

Rachel Held Evans: On Origami and Trust

The news concerning the death of Rachel Held Evans this past weekend has been hard to swallow.   She leaves behind a loving husband, 2 young children, and a family innumerable who have been blessed, encouraged, and loved through her speaking and writing ministry.   She will be greatly missed.

I first met Rachel back in 2010 when were were both actively blogging about faith and the church.  She graciously shared some of my writings on her blog (which was far more popular than mine ) and we met at a few conferences.  When I was moving from seminary back to Tennessee in 2011 we kicked the idea around of starting a church that would minister to the outcasts and misfits – those who had lost faith in the church but hoped God hadn’t lost faith in them.   Sadly, that never transpired.

Over the years we drifted apart but I continued to read her work.   While we didn’t always land in the same place, I always admired her gift with words and her ability to articulate the questions of faith that all of us have or have had and she did so humbly and honestly.   Never did I doubt that she was and is deeply in love with Jesus and her neighbors.   Today, I don’t doubt that that love is only magnified and more truly known.

I’ve been moved by the many tributes written these past few days.   But I’ve also been appalled by comments and posts from many of her detractors. I won’t reference them here as I don’t want to give them life, but they reveal the dark underbelly of the Church at which Rachel devoted much of her time aiming her prophetic voice, and the remainder of her time creating places of grace and healing for it’s refugees.   She wanted them, and us, to know that the church imperfectly reflects the goodness of our Father and that we can trust Jesus to make all things new.

I fell prey to something these last two days, be it my hero complex or simply boredom, to defend Rachel to some of her detractors.   In the midst of this I realized that this is not something Rachel would have done herself, nor expect any of us to do.  Rather, she would likely pray for them, and instruct me to do the same (or teach me how to turn their hate mail into origami).

But it did get me thinking about trust.  When the judgments of those self-avowed defenders of pure religion are stacked up against the grace-filled, humble words of Rachel and her many friends, a blinding, stark contrast is on full display.  The former is only able to give lip service to trust, whereas the latter embodies it in word and deed.  They do this, I think, because they trust not the frame of their religion but the One who frames them in perfect light to the Father.

This came to me as I was singing this weekend the song, “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less.”   The first stanza goes like this:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

As in life, Rachel’s death is also inviting me to trust Jesus.   To trust less in my understanding of Jesus, or my doctrinal purity, or who I agree or disagree with on certain matters but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Yes, no doubt there are important things worth contending over, but may my hope and yours be first and foremost in Jesus – the one who loves us and died for us in the midst of our ignorance and sin.  This trust in the work of this Person, I believe, is what is most important, and making this our business is what I believe will best honor the legacies of both Rachel and our Lord.

Rest in Peace and Power, RHE.

 

Recap of PLM Conference: Fix your eyes on Jesus

I just returned home from the Pure Life Ministries annual conference which was such an amazing experience and encounter with God.    Some 480 men and women gathered in Florence, KY to worship the God who has the power – and the desire – to set each of us free from the chains that ensnare us.    It’s an amazing thing to be in the presence of such testimonies and witnesses to God’s redeeming love.

I wanted to take a moment while it’s fresh on my mind to write down a few of the things I took away from the great speakers who shared over the last few days.   I hope this helps me to better apply what I’ve learned and to edify you.

Steve Gallagher referenced the proclivity within each of us to gravitate towards either law bending or law keeping.   He stressed that when both are right with the Lord and walking in the Spirit both are a blessing to the Church.   We need the law benders to upset our status-quo and breath fresh wind into our sails and we need the law keepers to remind us of God’s holiness and demands upon the Christian to obey him.

Steve then did a beautiful job referencing each of the seven churches in Revelation 2 &3, showing what happens when these natural tendencies of ours (law bending or law keeping) cease being surrendered to God.   One thing in particular that stood out to me was pointed towards law keepers, or those of us who can easily become satisfied with having a form of godliness but none of it’s power.    How easy it is to play church and appear to be doing all the right things while our heart is far from God.     I know all too well how easy it is to do this, and how easy it is to fall into a delusion that all is well in doing it.

Dave Leopold built upon this foundation laid by Steve (unbeknownst to either while preparing their messages).  He spoke of how we toil in our own way rather than God’s way.  Building a ministry isn’t always the same, he said, as building God’s kingdom.

Dave’s longing for himself, and his prayer for us, is that we may all prove that we have been with Jesus.  May our very lives – both inner and outer – be evidence that we have spent much time at Jesus’ feet.   Jesus does not desire us to be mere messengers of his message, but desires each of us to become the message.   When he has conquered us, he will send us out to conquer the world in Jesus’ name.

I loved the illustration he shared of the sun.   When we lay out in the sun, we are changed.  Our face let’s the world know that we have been out in the sun.   Likewise, as we spend intimate time with the Son of God, the world will know it.

Dustin Renz shared a powerful message on suffering.   I think he is exactly right that we do not teach or understand suffering within the church.   And yet, the life of Jesus himself as well as all of scripture is full of calls to suffer, even promises that we will.   Dustin shared the following points:

  1. We need to learn to expect suffering.   Jesus promised that we would know trouble in this world.   In fact, the very call to follow Jesus is an invitation to lay down our lives and die.
  2. Suffering shapes us and fits us for service.    James reminds us to consider it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds.   These are preparing us for service.
  3. Learn to endure suffering.   Imagine if Paul had given up after being ship wrecked, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, starved, left to die?   The loss to Christianity would be extraordinary!    We must endure to the end.  Far too often we give up too easily and we have not even come close to experiencing the sort of suffering Paul and countless other Christians have endured.    How many potential testimonies, not to mention our own, are lost because we give up too soon and run back to our sin?

Glen Meldrum shared three snares of the soul which will trip us up time and time again if we are not mindful of them.

  1. We don’t treat sin like sin.   Numbers 33:50-56, God insists that Moses and the people, when they get to the promised land, must drive out the wicked inhabitants and all their idols.    If they do not, they will be “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” and trouble you all the days you dwell you there.   Jesus was serious about sin, warning to cut out the eye of the hand that causes you to sin.    Whatever is keeping you from Jesus, get rid of it!   Even if it’s something “good.”
  2. Not being very careful to love the Lord (Joshua 23:11-13).    We must be very careful to love God!   Make it your purposeful pursuit in life to spend time with God and nurture this relationship.  No one follows Jesus by accident.  None of us default towards loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.   Our sinful hearts are easily distracted and get caught up in so many other things that we lose sight of our walk with God.    Be careful!
  3. Idolatry rises up in our hearts.   Things like bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, sexual sin, pleasure, and more become the gods we cling to to.  We become what we worship.   The destruction happening in marriages is from hell.   Satan hates God, and his work is to destroy the image of God in us by replacing it with his own image.  How does he do this?  By causing us to have other gods.

All of these messages, though unplanned to be so, beautifully weaved together this overarching theme for me:  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  Pursue Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.   Submit to the love – and the rule – of God in my life.  And pray.   Pray like my life and the lives of others depends on it, because it does!

I’m so grateful for this time of refreshment and revival.   It has inspired me towards a deeper repentance and desire to be of service to God and others in ways that for quite some time I have felt unworthy to pursue because of my past failings.    God reminded me this weekend that he has not altered his feelings towards me nor his call.   I’m grateful that my wife was able to join me on this trip and for work he is doing in her life and ours as a couple.   We are both excited to see what God has in store for us in the weeks, months and years ahead.

 

Jesus descended into hell

The Apostle’s Creed, drawing from 1 Peter 3 and 4, teaches us that Jesus descended into hell to preach to the dead, liberating them from their captivity.   It should not be lost on us here the simple yet profound fact that Jesus has been to hell.

Today, on Holy Saturday, it’s good to meditate on this great truth.  Jesus descended into hell.

I have heard a pastor friend of mine say often,

You need to allow Jesus to take you by the hand and lead you back to the dark, hellish places of your life, sit with you there, heal you there, and walk you out of there.

My friend Mark, in saying that during his weekly recovery sermons, is providing you and I with practical ways we can meditate on the great truth that  Jesus descended into hell.

Far too often I want to gloss over the hellish pieces of my story.   I want to live in the land of Easter where we talk only of victory and possibility and new birth.  These are good things, to be sure, but none of them precede Jesus descending into hell.  The journey to those dark places in my life is an absolute must.   It’s imperative that we, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, walk back to those areas in our lives with Jesus by our side so that he can preach the gospel to us there.    We need to hear his words of life wash over us in the hells of our past.    My friend Mark says something else here that is useful:

If we don’t allow Jesus to attend to our past, our past will attend to us.

The fact that Jesus has seen hell gives me comfort that he won’t be surprised by anything in my past (or future).    Nothing is going to shock him.  Nothing will cause him to shy away or change how he thinks and feels about me.   I can trust him to do with me in my hell what he did with them in theirs some 2000 years ago:   Preach the good news, release the captives, set people free and rise again on the other side victorious and new.   

Allow Jesus to descend into your hell.  Only he has the power to walk you out of there as a new person.

Blessed Holy Saturday to you and yours.

 

Jesus had to die to save a wretch like me

I wrote these words a few years ago.   They are as true today as they ever were.   God is good!

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You won’t be free until you see the cross of Jesus Christ for what it truly is.   This is why St. Paul said that he desired to know and preach nothing else besides Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).  The words of that wonderful hymn are true:

Would you be free from your burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood
Would you o’er evil the victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood

The writer of Hebrews says this about Jesus, our sacrifice:  “He entered once for all in the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscious from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:12-14).

Would you be free?  Would you be purified in your mind and heart and enabled to serve the living God with a clean heart?   You must know the power of the blood shed on the tree of Calvary.

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One of the biggest obstacles to our freedom is our tendency to minimize our sin, thereby minimizing the cross.   After many years of theological education which taught me all the many theories about why Jesus died on the cross none of it had any power to change my life like the simple truth:

Jesus had to die to save a wretch like me.   

Sin is a serious thing to God and the cross is proof of this.  Sin is not just inconvenient, or messy, or harmful, or depressing, or selfish.  Sin is deadly.  Sin destroys.  Sin is of such seriousness that it required God’s own Son to die in order to deal with it.   If you have any doubts about how serious God takes our sexual immorality or other habitual sins just look at the cross and see his bloody Son.   

I remember the day I first saw Jesus on the cross as though for the first time after nearly 36 years of being a Christian.   I had just completed a strongly recommended assignment while at Pure Life where I locked myself away in a chapel for about 6 hours and wrote out everything that came to mind in Charles Finney’s Breaking Up the Fallow Ground exercise.   When done, I gazed at the 20-some pages of offenses I’ve committed against this God I claimed to love and my heart was crushed like never before.    As I wept over the utter wretchedness of my life I looked up at the cross on the chapel wall and cried out,

HOW???  HOW COULD YOU DIE FOR SUCH A MESS LIKE ME???  HOW COULD YOU DO IT!!?? WHAT SORT OF LOVE IS THIS??!!

In that moment there was no longer  a question of WHY Jesus died for me.  I knew in my heart of hearts that there was no other way.  The WHY was morphed by HOW.    How could God do this for me?  I remember shouting,  I am so unlike You!  I became mesmerized by this holy, awesome, wholly-other God who would put on flesh and bones and shed His righteous blood for a wretch like myself.   Give me this Jesus!   I no longer wished to argue about nor doubt why he died for me but desired nothing more than to live for a God who showed such love for me!   There was no doubt in my mind and heart that from that moment on I would make Jesus the Lord of my life forever, and that I would one day be with Him in glory.    I knew the price with which I had been bought, and it was now a joy to honor God with all my heart, mind, and strength, including my body (1 Cor. 6:20).

My hope and prayer for you who are reading this blog is that you would see the cross this Easter season for what it truly is.    The why is simple:  He had to die to save a wretch like you and I.   The how is marvelous:  What sort of God is this who would do such a thing for you and I?   When you see the cross for what it is you will know that you know that you know that you are Christ’s and He is yours.

If you are serious about putting to death your habitual sin then I challenge you do print out the Breaking Up the Fallow Ground and read it, pray over it, and do it.   Take as many hours or days as it requires of you, and ask God to show His Son to you as though for the very first time.   He will do it!

A pastor friend of mine who came to me for help after decades of bondage took this exercise seriously and sent me the following text:

I am free! The surrender is as complete as I can do for the moment.  I have the assurance that I am Christ’s and He is mine.  There is NO more condemnation!  I am walking out of this sanctuary as a new resurrected person in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, desiring to walk in holiness and to do things not my way, but His.   Praise God! Thank you Jesus. I have the assurance of my personal salvation for the first time in my life!  Praise God for His mercy, His patience, and His faithfulness!

He has been free for over 2 months now, praise be to God.    Will today be the beginning of your freedom?     Run to the cross.   There is power in the blood!

Tiger Woods is but a foretaste

I, like everyone else, had tears in my eyes Sunday watching Tiger Woods win his fifth green jacket at the Masters.   Against all odds, Woods treated all of us to the beautiful, joyous story of redemption as he raised his fists in triumph on the 18th green in Augusta.

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This was Tiger’s first Master’s win since 2005 and first PGA major win since 2008.  Since that time, Tiger has been famous for things other than golf, such as his sexual addiction, divorce, DUI, and four back surgeries.    Any one of these things could understandably ruin a person.  Taken together, it’s a shipwreck.   But little by little, step by step, Tiger Woods put one foot in front of the other culminating in the resurrection you see pictured above.

I’m not crying, you’re crying!

There is a simple explanation why stories like these evoke such emotion in us.    There’s a reason anyone with a pulse gets teary eyed over stories of redemption like the one played out for us this past weekend (and the one about to be played out for us next week on Easter Sunday).     That reason is this:  You and I are like our Father in Heaven.

If you wonder why you get excited and joyous and, yes, even tearful, when someone comes back from something that should have destroyed them it’s because God is like that. 

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a few stories about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like and he does so by describing the emotions God (and all of heaven) has when someone lost is found.    In heaven, Jesus says, there is much rejoicing over the one sinner who repents – the one who is down and out and shipwrecked.    All of heaven celebrates when even one of us overcomes.

The story of Tiger Woods inspires us not because golf is great or because Tiger Woods is great.  It inspires us because God is great and has made us like himself, giving us hearts that long for and explode over resurrection.   And you want to know something even better that that?   We don’t resurrect ourselves.  God does.   It’s all a gift!

This truth is both liberating and devastating.   Liberating because, once the truth of it hits home, you realize you don’t have to do this alone.  You don’t have to be stronger, or better, or smarter, or braver, or have more will power.   Deep down you know that if that were the case, you’d be damned for sure because you’ve tried all that before and failed.  We can’t resurrect ourselves.    It’s going to require a supernatural intervention.    Which is why this is also devastating.   We are so used to being self-sufficient.  Our lower nature, the one that too often controls our thoughts, has us convinced that we are the master’s of our fate.   It is devastating to learn that only God can and must be our Master, and we have not allowed him to be such in our lives.

Tiger’s story is but a foretaste of what can be with God.   There is an even better story than Tiger’s coming to us this Sunday.  It’s the one where God became a man in order to die on a cross for my sins and yours.   It’s the one where God chose to become all that is shipwrecked in my life and yours so that the works of the shipwrecker, the devil, might be destroyed.   It’s the one where God then raised from the dead the one who takes away the sins of the world, setting us free to live as new creations, not just better ones.

And all of heaven rejoiced.   And this day, as with any other day, all of heaven is waiting on pins and needles (much like we all were as Tiger sunk his last putt), to see your redemption story.    Will you trust the one who is ready and able to write it?

May you have a blessed Holy Week.

Everyone should read John Piper

Every Christian should read and listen to the sermons of John Piper.

I have not always believed this.  In fact, I would have laughed at such a suggestion for most of my adult life.  But I’m convinced of this now more than ever.

Last year I wrote a post taking issue with John Piper’s advice on how to defeat lust.   I took exception to the fact that one of his six steps was Enjoy Jesus more than sinful pleasure.   In my thinking at the time, I felt like this was heaping unnecessary shame and guilt upon people who already know they should enjoy Jesus more, but don’t.    Not a terrible feeling to have, but not a terribly correct one, either.

I think sometimes it’s easier to concern ourselves over the shame and guilt others might feel than we are with sharing them truth in love.   In doing so, I think we rob people of opportunities to experience the power of God resurrecting their life (the resurrection assumes a death) in favor of ensuring they feel comfortable in this present life.

Piper will have none of that.  His sole purpose is to glorify God.   He wants everyone to discover that they are only truly happy when they find delight in God.   And this is why everyone should read him.

I’m reading now his wonderful companion to Desiring God entitled When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.   In this book he masterfully and pastorally handles the issue I took with him suggesting we enjoy Jesus more than sinful pleasure but, even more, he awakens in me a desire to know and love God more intimately than I ever have (a thirst that, to be sure, will never be fully quenched).

I have some theological disagreements with Piper to be sure, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is head over heels in love with Jesus and submits himself wholly to the holy words of God with child-like awe and wonder.

That is something I desire.   And the good news, according to both Jesus Christ and John Piper, that desire is a gift of God and one which will grow and grow and be filled and filled, also as a gift of God, assuming we continue to pursue Christ and his righteousness.   Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things…

If you are experiencing a lack of faith, a dry spell in your walk with God, or if you know it to be true of yourself that, quite frankly, you enjoy and find delight in many things more than God, then I commend to you the works of John Piper.    It is often said that the reason we worship together corporately is so that in those seasons where we may not have faith, we can lean on the faith of others.    If you are in such a season, I pray that Piper’s deep and abiding faith and utter joy he finds in the Person of God might serve as a crutch for you today, and inspire you to new heights and greater desire tomorrow.

Grace and peace,
Chad

Two Upcoming Conferences

I’m looking forward to attending two weekend conferences coming up, both of them addressing our sexual brokenness and the healing that can be found in Christ.

The first conference is the last weekend of April and is the Pure Life Ministries Annual Conference.

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This will be my first time attending their annual conference since graduating from their live-in program back in 2012.   My wife will be attending with me and I am excited to introduce her to a place which has held a special place in my heart for the last many years.

The second conference is the Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit in Atlanta the first weekend of May.

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I’m excited to attend this conference as I continue to discern what God has in store for me in future ministry (both in the ongoing work within myself and sharing that with others who struggle with compulsive, addictive behaviors).    One of the speakers at this conference, Jay Stringer, has written an excellent book I highly recommend:  Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing.

Please pray for those of us attending these conferences that God may use them to draw us closer to Christ.   And, if you are looking for a place to spend a weekend which promises to be a rewarding experience for your spiritual growth, consider registering!