Making Space for Lament

songs of lament

My heart is heavy tonight.

Tonight, friends are grieving. Some are asking questions. Some are suffering silently. But tonight I’m praying for those who mourn, and my list is long.

Too long.

Today I’m reminded of the importance of making space for lament. Lament is the cry of the brokenhearted. We lament when we grieve that the world we know it is not the world as it should be. Lament is the voice of those who suffer, who live with unanswered questions, who feel rejected and embattled on all sides.

We lament when the sky is like brass and God seems like just another name on the list of those who have abandoned us.

Lament is the overflow of a desolate heart.

Scripture is filled with lament.

How long O Lord? Will you reject me forever? (Psalm 13:1)

My  God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)

I live in disgrace all day long and my face is covered with shame  at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge (Psalm 44:15-16)

All my enemies whisper together against me;    they imagine the worst for me (Psalm 41:7)

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief (Psalm 31:9).

Though lament is one of the most common forms of the psalms, it’s not something we often embrace as part of our worship. I’m not sure why. Part of it may be our discomfort with messy emotions. Part of it may be that the praise and worship movement’s emphasis on singing songs to God doesn’t always leave space for songs of encouragement we sing to one another. And I think some of it is that we “should” ourselves out of emotions–trying to talk ourselves out of the disconnect between what we feel and what we believe is true.

But sometimes we just need to weep.

Lament is our response to spiritual disorientation. We know–we know– God is faithful. And yet we still hurt. What do we do with that pain?

We lament.

We lament by being honest about our emotions. There is no “should” to emotions. Anger, loss, betrayal, loneliness, rejection, sorrow, fear–these are parts of life. We can’t talk ourselves out of deep emotions. These deep-seated echoes of the heart have to be experienced to be resolved. To lament, we must let ourselves feel.

We lament by sharing our sorrow with the community of faith. My introverted self prefers to keep deep emotions hidden. But I am challenged by the reminder that the psalms–even the psalms of lament–were used and sung in corporate worship. There are times for us to weep in private, but we should not always keep our lament hidden. Jesus was open and honest about his grief. He wept over Lazarus, mourned for Jerusalem, and agonized over the cross. We need safe spaces where we can be honest about our pain so that our faith families can help us bear it.

We lament by crying out to God. This can be hard. It feels disrespectful to tell God that you’re mad at him and don’t really want to talk to him right now. We may struggle with telling God we feel abandoned when we can cite verse after verse that says he never leaves us alone. But God knows the secrets of our hearts. What we see modeled for us in the Psalms is that when we take our complaints to God our circumstances may not change but our experience of them does. Sometimes God rescues us–and when he does, we rejoice. But sometimes God doesn’t take us out of our pain. He gives us the strength to keep on walking, one slow step after another. He doesn’t carry us out; he carries us through. And in those places of silent sustaining, we find we aren’t so alone after all.

Sweet sister, let yourself feel. Mourn. Grieve. Rage. Weep. Lament. Songs of lament are as valid expressions of faith as songs of joy.

And we need them both.

How do you make space for lament?



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Hard Words of Love (Mark 10:17-29)

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The Gospel of Mark only specifically records one person Jesus loved.

It wasn’t one of the disciples. It wasn’t his mother. It wasn’t any of the familiar cast of characters like Mary and Martha or Mary Magdalene. It wasn’t even a person he healed, like the paralyzed man with his four friends or the little girl Jesus raised from the dead.

No, the only person Mark says Jesus loved is a young man who came to him one day with a question.

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

He was sincere, but the man’s question revealed a fundamental flaw in his thinking. We don’t inherit eternal life because of what we do but through what Jesus has done for us.

But the man doesn’t understand this. Jesus’ response that none of us are good but God alone only confuses him. Of course he’s good, the man thinks-hasn’t he kept all the commandments since his youth? But there’s one thing he lacks–one command he can’t fulfill.

And Jesus loved him too much not to call him to more.

Jesus looked at him and loved him.“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Mark 10:21).

Jesus loved him. What Jesus had to say to him wasn’t meant as rebuke, but loving correction. Hard? Yes. Isn’t it always hard when God throws open the windows and shines light on the secret places of our soul? Like Eustace shedding the dragon skin, we need Jesus to strip us clean so he can wash us new.

Jesus’ words stripped the man right down to his soul. The man treasured his wealth more than eternal life. He may have been concerned about his inheritance in the age to come, but not at the cost of jeopardizing his inheritance in this world. Hadn’t he obeyed the commandments? Wasn’t his wealth a sign of God’s pleasure? And so the one thing Jesus asked was the one thing he would not do. He went away sadly, missing the treasure of an invitation few ever heard: come, follow me.

What must I do to inherit eternal life? Come, follow me. Jesus answered the man’s question as he answers ours. What must I do to be saved? Come, follow me.

What keeps you from following? Riches, like the man? Or is it respectability and reputation? Fear of looking foolish? Or just your inability to believe it really all comes down to grace in the end.

It hurts to peel the dragon skin away, to let go of the things we’ve clung to for so long. It’s hard. But when Jesus tells us to let go, it’s not because he’s angry or scolding. Jesus’ hard words always flow from love, and he loves us too much to settle for less than our everything.

Jesus looks at us and loves us. And he says, “Come, follow me.”

Are you willing to follow?



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My Failure and God’s Faithfulness

Posting today at 5 Minutes for Faith:

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I’ve been spending time in the Gospel of Mark lately, keeping pace with Jesus’ march to the cross as our days press on toward Easter. One of the things that has stood out to me on this reading is the disciples’ failure. We see it throughout the gospels, but Mark accentuates the disciples’ shortcomings.

In Mark, the disciples consistently fail to grasp Jesus’ mission as the one who will suffer for our sins. They have moments of insight, but the recurrent theme is of their failure.

The disciples failed. But God remained faithful.

The good news is that my failure does not annul God’s faithfulness.

Come read the rest and join the conversation at 5 Minutes for Faith.



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When it’s Time to Clear the Trees (Joshua 17:14-18)

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When discontent rears its head, I sometimes find myself playing the “if only” game.

If only I could win the lottery . . .

If only the kids were older. . . 

If only we lived closer to town. . .

If only I had more time to write. . .

If only I could drop that last 10 pounds. . .

I’ve got a pretty good “if only” list. But what all my “if only’s” boil down to is discontentment–that sneaking suspicion that life would be better, easier, and more fun if only one or two things were different.

Little things.

Unpleasant things.

Hard things.

There’s some people in Joshua who sound kind of like me:

The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly.”

“If you are so numerous,” Joshua answered, “and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.”

The people of Joseph replied, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.”

But Joshua said to the tribes of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—“You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have chariots fitted with iron and though they are strong, you can drive them out” (Joshua 17:14-18).

I’ll provide a helpful recap for you:

Tribe of Joseph (TOJ): There are too many of us! The land you gave us doesn’t have enough room!

Joshua: Since there are so many of you, go clear the trees in the forest.

TOJ: But that would be hard! And there are mean people there! And they have iron chariots!

Bottom line: God had given the tribe of Joseph their share of the land, but they didn’t like it. There were trees to cut down. Enemies with iron chariots to drive out. Instead of relying on God’s strength to conquer all their territory, they chose to live in a corner and complain. Life would better if they had more room. Different room. If there weren’t all those trees. If their enemies didn’t have all those chariots.

If only.

The problem with the if only’s is that they cause us to miss the blessings God has already given us. God had given the tribe of Joseph ample room. But they chose to live in a portion rather than doing the hard work of tree-clearing and enemy-chasing so they could stretch out right up to the borders.

And I wonder if I sometimes do the same thing–choosing to live small rather than cleaning out the corners and chasing the shadows of sin out of my life so that I can enjoy the fullness of the blessing God has given me.

Because I am convinced of this–that God gives to each of us differently but he gives all of us what we need. And he gives us the strength to take it all.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words, written as he sat in a prison cell:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes we have trees to cut down. Sometimes we have battles to fight. But the solution isn’t found in the if only’s. Victory comes by pressing on to claim what God has already given us, knowing that he gives us the strength to stand.

I have learned to be content through him who gives me strength.

That’s what keeps the if only’s away.



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First Steps of Faith (Joshua 9)

There’s a certain way I’ve always heard the story of Joshua and the Gibeonites taught: The Gibeonites tricked Israel into making a covenant with them even though Gibeon lay within Israel’s land because Israel didn’t ask God what to do first. If Israel had prayed before acting, God would have told them the Gibeonites were lying and they wouldn’t have made peace with people who were supposed to be their enemies.

I’m rethinking that narrative.

Yes, Israel should have consulted with God before making peace with an unknown group of people. But we assume that God would have revealed Gibeon’s lie and told Israel to destroy the Gibeonites along with the other Canaanite tribes.

What if he didn’t?

What if instead God’s answer would have been something like this: “Hey, these folks are lying to you. But make peace with them anyway”?

Why do I think that’s possible? After all, God had told Israel to drive out all the peoples of the land. That should have applied to Gibeon. Yet if Israel had sinned in making covenant with Gibeon, we might expect the next chapter to be another episode of defeat and repentance. That’s what happened with Achan’s sin. One man’s sin kept the entire nation from victory, and God refused to let Israel go forward until the sin had been dealt with. Yet the next chapter of Joshua describes one of Israel’s most important victories–a victory achieved by God himself fighting for his people. And this battle was prompted by Gibeon’s cry for help after Gibeon was attacked by her neighbors for making peace with Israel. God himself helped Israel keep her covenant with Gibeon and expected Israel to continue to uphold her covenant generations later.

On the face of it, making peace with Gibeon should have been a mistake–a direct violation of God’s command to Israel. But God doesn’t respond to Israel as if they had erred. Why?

Here’s my theory: Gibeon’s deception was actually a stumbling first step of faith.

  1. Gibeon chose to make peace with Israel when all the people around her were choosing to make war. When the other peoples of Canaan saw Israel’s victories at Jericho and Ai, they joined forces to fight against Israel. Gibeon alone chose to make peace.
  2. The Gibeonites base their actions on what they had heard about the Lord (Joshua 9:9, 24). They had heard how God had brought Israel out of Egypt and protected them in the wilderness. They had seen Israel defeat Jericho and Ai. They had been told that God had promised their land to his people and they believed God would do it.

What the Gibeonites knew about God told them they were better off joining his people than fighting against them. It’s not a complete declaration of faith. It’s not the rousing speech Rahab gave the spies. But at a time the Gibeonites could have run away from God, they chose to take a step toward him. It was a clumsy step: the Gibeonites deliberately lied. But it was still a step, and God honored it.

You see, God doesn’t turn away those who seek him. And first steps are never graceful. We don’t know all there is to know about God when we take that first step toward him. We don’t fully understand the depths of our own sin. We may not have learned all the rules of the church culture or what “good people” are supposed to do. But in that moment we decide we are better off with God than fighting against him, we take our first stumbling step of faith.

And God honors it.

In his commentary on Joshua Robert L Hubbard suggests that both the stories of Rahab and Gibeon show that God’s mercy and compassion extend to non-Israelites who seek him. Inclusion among God’s people is ultimately defined not by birth but by allegiance to the Lord. Though Gibeon didn’t fully understand God and his ways, their actions put them in a position where they could come to know God better. Because of Gibeon’s deception, Joshua ordered them to serve as “water carriers and woodcutters for the house of my God” (Joshua 9:22-23). What better place to learn about the Lord than serving in his sanctuary? In fact, Gibeon eventually became a center for Israelite worship (1 Kings 3:4, 1 Chronicles 21:29, 2 Chronicles 1:5).

What does all this mean for us? For us who are God’s people, one lesson is to make room for those who are making their first stumbling steps of faith. Faith is a process, and it is not for us to put additional burdens on those who are seeking the Lord. Sometimes we need to give space for the Spirit to work out the details. There should be a place in our community of faith for those who are seeking Him–even when that process is messy.

But maybe you feel more like one of the Gibeonites. Not sure what this whole faith thing is about, finding yourself with more questions than answers. But what you’ve heard about God tugs at you, and you’ve got this gut feeling you’re better off with him than without him. There’s room for you at the table. Press in. Keep seeking. Take that first hesitant, halting step of faith.

He won’t turn you away.

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Things I’m Loving: March Edition

I’m so glad winter is almost over. I used to have this fantasy of living somewhere with actual seasons, but this last week of Texas ice has done me in. It’s time to face facts: I am a winter wimp. Those of you living in Boston and North Dakota and Alaska and places where there is real live snow on the ground that lasts months, I salute you.

And I’m really glad it’s going to be 60 degrees here next weekend.

Here’s some things I’m loving right now:


How to Catch a Prince is the third book in Rachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding series, and it’s my favorite of the three. I know the princess story thing can feel a little overdone, but Hauck puts a wonderfully fresh spin on it. One of the things I enjoy about Rachel’s books is that she always includes a touch of the supernatural. Not supernatural as in werewolves and vampires, but supernatural as in God breaking into our normal and transforming it with heaven’s glory. Corina and Stephen are real, relatable characters who will challenge you to love well. If you’re looking for a sweet romance with spiritual depth, this is a great choice.

Lizzy & Jane is another Christian fiction book I enjoyed. When I first picked it up, I thought this was going to be another Pride and Prejudice retelling. It’s not. Though Austen references figure heavily in the book, Lizzy and Jane isn’t just another contemporary rehashing of Elizabeth and Darcy’s romance. There’s some romance, but it’s really a book about two sisters finding, forgiving, and learning to love each other again. It’s an enjoyable read but it also has spiritual depth to it and kept me turning pages.

This is one I’m excited about. A while back I contributed to a children’s anti-trafficking curriculum developed by FAAST International. Change Agents is a 7 week anti-trafficking curriculum for children ages 8-13 designed to help educate children and their families about human trafficking, help prevent children from becoming victims, and empower children and their families to make a difference. It’s a heavy topic and I know it may seem awkward to talk about these subjects with your preteens. But here’s the deal: traffickers prefer to target children below the age of 14. Waiting until they’re older may be too late. The goal of Change Agents is to help children develop a healthy understanding of how much God loves and values them so that they will be less likely to become victims. This is an important resource and I’d encourage you to check it out. Change Agents will be available March 9, 2015.

So did you see that Elsa got arrested in both Texas and South Carolina?  Take a hint girlfriend: enough winter already.

I really liked these Bible journaling tabs from The Littlest Way. If you did this over the course of a year, I think it would be a great tool for looking back at the end of the year and tracing how God has spoken to you throughout the year.

4 Keys to Evangelism in Honor-Shame Cultures. It’s always interesting to me how our culture impacts how we hear and respond to the gospel. This is the first installment of a three-part series Ed Stetzer is hosting on his blog about the spread of the gospel in honor-shame cultures. Check it out.

My top posts from last month:

Why I’m Not Watching 50 Shades.

Winning our Battles Through Worship.

And so it’s your turn. What are you loving this month? What are you reading, singing, listening to? What’s caught your attention? Share with us in the comments!



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The Cost of Sin and the Door of Hope

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The story of Achan’s sin in Joshua 7 is one of those Bible stories that makes us squirm. Yes, Achan sinned. But in our modern western eyes the consequences don’t seem to fit the crime. We forget that sin is costly.

Achan forgot that too.

From the beginning, we as readers know more than the characters in the story do. It’s like those moments in movies when you find yourself yelling at the hero not to turn on the car because you know there’s a bomb under the hood. The narrator drops a bomb right there in Joshua 7:1. “But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan, son of Karmi, the son of Zimri,the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.”

Israel is getting ready to go into battle against Ai. Compared to Jericho, Ai looks like a cakewalk. Joshua doesn’t even send the whole army up to Ai–only about 3000 men. But what we know that Joshua and the army don’t is that God is angry with Israel and has withdrawn his favor from them because of Achan’s sin. God’s presence and power do not go with Israel into battle, and the Israelite army is routed. 36 soldiers are killed, and the rest flee. Joshua and the elders of Israel fall on their faces before the Lord, and God reveals to Joshua what we already know: there is sin in the camp.

A process of casting lots reveals Achan as the guilty one. During the battle of Jericho, God had commanded that all the wealth of the city be dedicated to the Lord–a kind of first fruits offering of the plunder of the land. Achan knew this, but he saw in the city some beautiful things. A beautiful  robe. 200 shekels of silver. A bar of gold. He saw. He wanted. He took. Achan hid the objects in his tent and lied to cover up his sin. Achan deliberately and deceitfully took what God had claimed for his own. Achan sinned, and he paid the price. So did his family. Achan, his family, and all his possessions were stoned and then burned with fire. It is a terrible, tragic scene.

We struggle with that ending because it seems unfair to us. Achan sinned, but did his family have to pay the price? It feels wrong to us because we so strongly value individual responsibility and autonomy. The Hebrew culture had a more corporate, community-based understanding of sin and responsibility. In their worldview, Achan’s sin was shared by his family. His sin affected his family. It affected his nation. It affected the families of the 36 men who died in battle. The wages of sin is death, and Achan received what he had earned.

Thankfully, we live on this side of the cross. In his death, Jesus paid the price for our sin. But we should take note of Achan’s story and remember: sin always has a cost.

We know sin costs us, but our sin costs those around us as well. Like ripples spreading from a stone cast into a pond, our sin affects everyone it touches. When a husband commits adultery, it costs his wife suffering and anguish. When a pastor falls, it costs his congregation a measure of their faith and trust. When I’m irritable and short-tempered, my children pay the price. When we tolerate sin in our lives instead of pursuing holiness, it costs our congregations a measure of God’s presence and power when we gather in worship. That’s why God calls his people to revival. Sin is costly and when we sin we are not the only ones who pay.

The good news is that God is gracious. The valley where Achan was stoned became known as the “Valley of Achor,” the “Valley of Trouble.” In Hosea, God promises his people that he will turn the “valley of Achor into a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15). We know the trouble and the terrible price of sin. But God has graciously given us a solution: confess, repent, and cast ourselves on Jesus. The cross transforms our valleys of trouble into doors of hope. It is in those broken places the power of God’s redemptive love flows through.

Maybe you’ve stood like Achan and watched as the ripples of your sin went farther than you’d ever dreamed. Your sin has cost you. It’s cost your family. Maybe it’s even cost your community. Know that there is hope. Confess. Repent. Return. Jesus stands waiting for you. Let him be your door of hope.



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Winning our Battles through Worship

I’m not sure how many times I’ve read the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. It’s a perennial preschool ministry favorite. Grab the cardboard blocks and a few kazoos, build a wall, and act out the story. You get to talk about how awesome God is, plus knock down a wall and spend a few minutes in little-boy heaven.

It’s a win-win.

But this time I saw something different in the story:

Israel won the Battle of Jericho through worship.

Let’s set the scene. The nation of Israel is at the end of their Exodus wanderings. The generation that fled Egypt has perished in the wilderness. Now their children and grandchildren are ready to take the land and inherit the promise that was given to their fathers. God himself threw open the door to the promised land, holding back the floodwaters of the Jordan River and leading the people across on dry land. They’re ready. Now one thing stands in their way.

Jericho.

When God give Joshua his marching orders, the Lord leaves no doubt that he is the one giving them the city. Jericho, and all the land, belong to the Lord. He and he alone has the power to grant them to his people. So God’s instructions to Joshua don’t have anything to do with besieging the city. God tells them they will take the city through worship.

God tells Joshua to gather the people and march around the city once each day for seven days. The priests are to lead the procession with the ark–a visible symbol of the Lord’s presence with them. 7 priests with 7 trumpets are to go before the ark. On the 7th day, they are to march around the city 7 times. Then the priests will blow the trumpets, the people will shout, and the walls will fall.

That’s not warfare. That’s worship. And it’s not the only time in Scripture that we see it. 2 Chronicles 20 tells how King Jehoshaphat led the people of Judah into battle with singing. As the people worshiped their enemies fought among themselves and destroyed one another. Acts 16 records how Paul and Silas were thrown into jail in Philippi. That night Paul and Silas sat with their feet in the stocks and sang songs of praise. God sent an earthquake, the prison doors were flung open, and the jailer got saved.

When we face our Jerichos–our places of battle–sometimes we’re tempted to fight the war with the world’s weapons. We resort to manipulation, gossip, and deceit. We grasp for power and jostle for position, prepared to fight for our seat at the table. But these aren’t the weapons God gives us for our battle.

We have an enemy–Satan and the spiritual forces of darkness that stand in opposition to God and his people. We can’t win that battle by fighting on his terms. God gives us a different set of weapons to use. Prayer. Testimony. Worship. The Word of God, and the precious blood of Jesus by which we have already won the victory. We can’t win our battles the world’s way. We win through following God’s battle plan.

We win by living out radical worship.

What are the challenges before you this week? What battles are you facing? Know that our God has already given you victory–a victory won not in battle but on a cross. Stand in obedience on the truth of his word. Bathe your battle in prayer. Listen to stories of victory, and move forward in worship. Then look to see what God will do–for he is faithful.



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50 Shades of Hope

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I don’t know where you are as you read this today.

Maybe you are one of the 17.7 million American women who has been the victim of rape or attempted rape.

Maybe you have had an abortion–something 1 in 3 American women do by age 45.

Maybe you are among the 18% of women who regularly use the Internet for sexual purposes.

Maybe you are struggling because deep down you believe your problems in the bedroom mean there’s a problem with you. Sex is painful or boring or just one more thing on your to-do list. Maybe you don’t want to trust your husband with your body because right now you can’t trust him with your heart. Maybe there’s secret shame you’re hiding, or maybe you’ve sat in congregations and listened to pastors talk about modesty on one hand and 30 day sex challenges on the other and wished they’d all just make up their minds.

There is hope. And his name is Jesus.

Jesus brings healing to all our brokenness–even our sexual brokenness. He’s done it before.

Remember the woman at the well? 5 husbands, and living with a man who wasn’t her husband? Jesus confronted her sin, but he didn’t shame her. He offered her living water–he offered her himself–and he made her a mother in Israel and a missionary to her people.

Then there was the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn’t pick up a stone. His words made her accusers drop their stones and slink away. He refused to condemn her and sent her away, telling her to go and sin no more.

There was the “sinful woman” (Luke 7:37) who crashed a banquet to anoint Jesus feet with perfume, washing his feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. Jesus didn’t recoil from her touch. He accepted her worship and pronounced her forgiven.

Mary Magdalene was afflicted by seven demons. Tradition says she was a prostitute, though the biblical text never does. I personally doubt that, since Mary had enough financial resources to help support Jesus in his ministry (Luke 8:1-3). Still, odds are a woman afflicted by seven demons knew sexual brokenness. Satan’s mean and those are the games he likes to play. But Jesus–Jesus set her free. She was welcomed among the disciples. And Mary was the first to see the risen Savior. Satan stole her past. Jesus gave her a future.

People will tell you there are other ways to get free. Read this book, watch this movie, don’t be so uptight. Everybody’s doing it; just get over it; do what feels right. But here’s the truth: our freedom is only found in Jesus.

Jesus is our hope. If you have been wounded and beaten up by someone’s sin against you, Jesus is waiting to heal your hurts and set you free. If you struggle with the shackles of sin weighing down your steps, Jesus won’t turn you away. Turn to him, and he’ll run to welcome you home.

Wherever you are tonight, I want you to know there is hope in Jesus. Don’t keep suffering in silence. Run to Jesus. And find someone to tell. Focus on the Family can help you find a counselor near you.

How does Jesus give you hope? Share a verse of hope in the comments.



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Why I’m Not Watching 50 Shades

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Y’all might have heard there’s a notorious little movie coming out just in time for Valentine’s Day. Two weeks before the movie’s release, Fandago is already reporting that the movie based on E.L. James’ erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey is the fastest selling R rated movie of all time. Early projections are that 50 Shades will take in $60 million for its four-day box office total.

I’m not going.

I’m not watching because God calls us to flee sexual immorality, not fantasize about it.

In 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul urged the Corinthian church to “flee sexual immorality.” Why? Apparently there were some members of the church who were participating in sexually immoral behavior and justifying it with bumper sticker slogans like “I have the right to do anything” and “food for the stomach and the stomach for food.” Paul doesn’t mince words in his reply. You may have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. You have the right to do anything, but don’t be mastered by it.We are called to flee sexual immorality because our bodies–and minds–are the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are called to honor God with our minds and our bodies. Flee temptation–don’t flirt with it.

I’m not watching because erotica and pornography distort God’s good gift of sex.

God designed sex as a good gift for husband and wife. Erotica and pornography pervert and distort that gift. In the Old Testament, the Bible often uses the word “yada,” “to know,” as a euphemism for sex. At its heart, sex is about knowing and being known. In marriage, sex is an act of commitment, intimacy and vulnerability between husband and wife. We’re able to share our bodies with one another because we have shared our souls. Erotica and pornography strip sex away from the context of relationship. They tell us that other people designed in the image of God are there for our titillation and consumption. They tell us that sex is just a meeting of parts, not a merging of souls. They tell us that it’s all right to exploit another person for our entertainment. Sisters, recognize those lies for what they are. Erotica and pornography are nothing more than a Satan-inspired twisting and perverting of God’s good gift of sex. We should have nothing to do with them.

I’m not watching because BDSM denies God’s ultimate purpose for sex.

Can we just spell out what those initials stand for? Bondage. Dominance. Sadism. Masochism. Sadism and Masochism have to do with taking pleasure from inflicting and receiving pain. Bondage? Pretty much what it sounds like. Dominance is the role played by the sadist who seeks to dominate his or her partner by taking authority over them through tools such as humiliation, whipping, domestic or sexual slavery, and worse.

Does this sound like the kind of fantasy Christian women should be indulging in?

Somehow even in Christian culture we have accepted the idea that as long as it happens between two consenting adults and no one is harmed it’s okay. No harm, no foul.

Not so fast.

If sex is a gift from God, then we are meant to exercise that gift in accordance with his purposes. Pleasure and procreation are part of that purpose, but God’s purpose for sex goes beyond that. Marriage itself is a picture of Jesus’ sacrificial love for his people. Within the context of marriage, sex is a portrait of union and intimacy. We are meant to glorify God with our bodies in all that we do–even in our sexual relationships. Does enjoying inflicting pain on another person glorify God? Does dominating another person through humiliation and servitude reflect the attitude of our Savior, who made himself the servant of all?

Absolutely not.

I’m not watching because this type of fantasy breeds discontent with reality.

Anyone out there married to a billionaire with control issues stemming from his dark past? Didn’t think so. We live in the real world with real husbands who leave their socks in the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, and worry if we’re going to run out of money before we run out of month. I get the need for a mental escape. But just as pornography makes it harder for men to connect with non-silicone enhanced wives, erotica makes it harder for us to connect with our real live husbands. Life is not a Cinderella story. In marriage you’ve got to do the hard work of negotiating who does the dishes and who balances the checkbook and whose turn is to use the steam vac to clean up after the carsick child. And here’s the deal: the real thing is so much better than the fantasy. Want to know what romance looks like? It’s a husband who’s faithful. Who brings you honeycrisp apples because he knows they’re your favorite. Who changes the diapers, rocks the babies, feeds the dogs, and yes–takes the steam vac to the car when necessary. It’s a man who loves Jesus and loves you and isn’t ashamed of either. Maybe it’s not the the stuff epic romances are written about, but it’s real and it’s solid and it lasts. And I wouldn’t trade it for a daydream.

I’m not watching because God has better for me.

Yeah, I’m skipping the movie. But I’m not missing out on anything. Mr. Grey can keep his 50 Shades. I serve the God who spoke the galaxies into motion. I have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus and I live for his glory. I want what God has for me, and I’m not willing to settle for anything less. Who needs grey when you’ve got glory?

Couple things: If you’ve read 50 Shades and want to get rid of your books, Danna Gresh and Julie Slattery will give a free copy of their book, Pulling Back the Shades to anyone who sends in their copy of 50 Shades of Grey. Their book is a short but highly beneficial read and they address many of the questions raised by the 50 Shades craze in a series of videos on their website. If you’ve got questions or want to know how to respond to friends who have been reading the series, it’s a great resource.



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