Rise Up

I have a friend who told me a most eye-opening story the other night. She was speaking with a fellow mom who candidly just blurted out how Facebook was making her feel like crap. “Do you ever feel like that?” she asked. When my friend explained she wasn’t on any social media and neither were her teens, she was met with total confusion. “Well… do your kids even have any friends then?” was the honest and brutal response. It turned into a whole long debate, but ended with my sweet friend holding up her phone and proclaiming “this may define you and your family, but it’s not going to define mine!” And that was that.Sadly, unplugged people like her are kind of an anomaly these days. We treat them like weirdos and wonder how they ever get anywhere in life. To say we are letting the tail wag the dog is an understatement. We genuinely believe that going with the flow is in our best interests, even when it causes hurt and harm. It’s not that we don’t have the intelligence to know better, we do. There’s just this nasty thing called pride that will not be hushed. It’s fueled by a relentless enemy who knows that if he can keep us focused on ourselves, we can’t focus on much else. This passage from Lisa Whittle takes the breath right out of my lungs as she laments seeing kids she loves fall into this trap:“I have heard this story over and over again, and I’m sick to death of it. Another talented, God-breathed soul with a limitless future stuck in a web of earthly entanglements that will alter the course of his life. My anger takes me aback. I expect the sadness. I expect the tears, I don’t expect the mad. But my sadness has taken me here, to the manic food chopping and yelling out loud at the devil. With deep love often comes a rising up, and this is where I am. I am fighting for this kid and my kids and all the kids whom satan wants to take down with drugs and sex and alcohol and porn and self-harm and eating disorders and violence and apathy and entitlement and mind games. All my heart and soul and love is rising up within me and crying out.”I think this is what my normally quiet friend must have felt. In this long list of tragic vices, I find apathy to be the worst. It robs us of any desire to get out of our predicament. We stay lazy and self-focused and uninterested in rising up.Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” If our highest goal is to look good or if we are driven by a fear of missing out… we are going to “cast off restraint” and make poor choices. It can be as dull as wandering aimlessly or as deadly as running totally wild. A vision is more than just a pipe dream or even a goal… in this context, it means revelation from God. A Biblical vision gives us a bigger purpose outside of ourselves. It’s the thing we align ourselves up with because we believe it to be worthy. It’s looking beyond the little screen in front of us to something larger.Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Approval from God first and foremost. Let the rest shake out how it will, but being right with God is first. Yes, we will look weird at times. We may even miss out on some things. There’s a heavy-handed message telling us to keep on in that rat race and que sera sera… it’s the enemy hoping we’ll trade in the vision for some cheap imitation. The God-breathed kind of adventures are so much more interesting than the filtered little worlds we create. Being unapologetically tied to His Word eliminates a ton of dicey situations if we have the good sense to seek it and treasure it. This “web of earthly entanglements” is no game, but neither is the riches in grace that have been provided to believers through Jesus. Power to rise up and fight for what the enemy has stolen. Crazy love that keeps our feet planted when they want to turn and run. A sound mind that can be quiet and humble in a world gone totally mad. Power, love and a sound mind are riches worth fighting for (1 Timothy 1:7).Will we rise up and fight against this apathy? Will we tell the demanding world that it isn’t actually the boss of us or our kids? We don’t need to go cold turkey on it, but we do need to hitch our wagons to something that isn’t fleeting, something bigger than what we create. “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

In Defense Of That Little House On The Prairie

Happy Monday friends! Someone who knows me well wrote me about this and sure enough, I can’t leave it alone. There are things on a daily basis that we have to let roll off and then there are hills to die on… here’s my hill: Little House on the Prairie.

Somewhere in America over the weekend, a group of librarians got together and decided the annual childrens book award they give out that carries the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder must be immediately renamed. You see, it turns out that she was a terrible racist and this nonsense must be stopped. Their statement reads:

“Wilder’s body of work continues to be a focus of scholarship and literary analysis, which often brings to light anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work. Her books continue to be published, read, and widely used with contemporary children. ALSC recognizes the author’s legacy is complex and Wilder’s work is not universally embraced.

ALSC works to promote excellence in literature for children that aligns with our core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness, as well as to our strategic plan. While we are committed to preserving access to Wilder’s work for readers, we must also consider if her legacy today does justice to this particular award for lifetime achievement, given by an organization committed to all children.”

You can read the details for yourself on Twitter under the hashtag #alaac18. There was apparently a standing ovation when the vote went through. An entire “task force” was dedicated to this outcome,  and great “tears of joy” were shed over the change. Tears of joy… seriously. Yikes. I have tears of joy at weddings, graduations and the occasional sports game, but I’m clearly not very woke.

Now, before we go any further, lets address a couple of facts: nobody with a brain in their head thinks racism is ok, at any time. Years ago, Wilder herself changed some of the “problem passages” so readers wouldn’t be upset by them. That doesn’t actually matter, however, because this is not about righting a wrong, it’s about that “strategic plan” they talk about, one that requires they control the material and in which everyone else conforms to it. You see the tweet about “decolonizing” literature? Now we are getting somewhere. Drag Queen Story Hour is a thing in several cities now, but that crazy Laura Ingalls has got to go. Amusing that a group of people whose job it is to maintain a love and access to books is suddenly feeling the need to police what everyone is reading.

I have vivid memories, as many do, of sitting at my desk in elementary school reading about life on the prairie. It was our first exposure to something outside of ourselves, our first understanding of hardships we knew nothing about, our first peek into a history long since passed. Not everyone loved reading the books, that’s ok. We weren’t reading them because we related to/agreed with/embraced a pioneer lifestyle, we read them because we didn’t.

Nobody is naive enough to think the real-life experiences of these people were as clean cut as the book or TV series portray. Let’s face it, Ma was scared to death of the Indians. If I lived out on the open prairie at that time I’d be scared of literally everyone. Crazy things went down. Things the modern woke person would faint dead away at. Pa, it seems, wasn’t as much of an intolerant bigot and had more understanding towards them. Anyone remember that the entire family was saved from malaria by a black doctor? Anyone? No? Chapter 15. Not everything is so black and white (no pun intended).

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These stories are the memories of a little girl growing up in a harsh and different world. Have we lost all ability to put things into any kind of context? Nobody reads these books today and develops a fear of Indians. We read to understand that there was life before us and that there is life outside of us, whether we relate to them or not, whether we agree with them or not. I did my college thesis on the French Revolution, not because I was a crazed Revolutionary, but because it fascinated me. Amazingly, I never once had an urge to go undermine a monarchy or guillotine a nobleman.

My son read To Kill a Mockingbird recently. It challenged him and opened his eyes to something he had never seen. This book is on the no-fly list as well, because, racism, of course. It didn’t turn him into a racist, it showed him what people had to unjustly endure and that not everyone was willing to put up with such nonsense. That’s the problem with this kind of thinking, you are missing out on the other side of the story. For every racist fool, there’s at least one person who comes up against them in standing up for truth. Atticus Finch proves not all white people were awful. Kids should be reading all these things. Not wanting them to feel uncomfortable is not a reason to ban a book or retroactively sully an authors work. How narrow-minded and lazy have we become when we equate reading an authors works with total agreement with their personal world views? It’s insanity.

My humble opinion is that this isn’t really about racism, not as much as they’d like us to think. This is about a culture so self-absorbed they truly believe they have all the answers that thousands of years of humanity were too dumb to figure out. They are ‘woke’ and the rest of us bumpkins are still in the dark ages. CS Lewis called this “chronological snobbery” and we are in the thick of it:

“The uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” 

We can’t just keep shunning things that rub us the wrong way, whether they are genuinely wicked, somewhat offensive or simply annoying. The logical end to this path is that literally every historical thing is going to be banned. That is nothing to stand and applaud with tears of joy. This isn’t about giving racism a pass or embracing genuinely evil beliefs. It’s about not being so fragile as to be afraid of our own history. Your kid won’t turn into a racist reading about the pioneers. You can actually talk to them about humanity and history and it can be a wonderful thing.

I am literally watching Little House as I write this, lest you doubt my sincerity on the subject:

Obviously, we have a much bigger problem on our hands. I wonder who I can talk to about sexism on the prairie….

Please…Go Outside

“The artificial world lies and cheats. It seduces us with the worst of all lessons: that life is easy, and comfort is the goal. Thus it kills initiation at every turn. It cheats us of nourishment and strength and the very training we need. The answer is not only online filters. The answer is to choose a life where you prefer the Real over the artificial everywhere you possibly can. Reality was meant to shape us. The artificial is built almost entirely around our comfort and ease. Take back your soul. Re-engage the process of your initiation by choosing the Real everywhere you can.” John Eldredge

I read a blog post a few weeks ago called Choosing What Is Real by John Eldredge and have been revisiting it over and over ever since. Perhaps because it’s summertime, and I’m over the top about everyone getting the heck offline… it’s also because I am more nauseated than usual about the inter-webs and the ways in which we rely so heavily on them for identity and entertainment.

The idea that we not only spend most of our lives indoors behind a screen in an artificial world, but that we actually prefer it is so very disheartening. Anyone with kids understands this truth all too well. The ways in which games are being marketed towards getting them sucked into an artificial world is nothing short of evil marketing genius. If it’s not games, it’s the social apps that put everything on parade all day long. I’ve touched on it before, but I have an somewhat irrational aversion for most things YouTube related. I know there are interesting things to watch, but the amount of trash out there is mind-boggling. I know this because I have boys who watch really dumb stuff. You watch one video, and another automatically pops up, then another… before you know it, you’re sucked into some of the most absurd things you’ve ever witnessed.

To be clear, I’m not lamenting the good old days or wishing technology away. I’m not standing in my yard yelling at young kids to get off my lawn… not just yet. I’m saying that there’s something bigger at stake here, and it has to do with more than just safety filters.

I saw something yesterday that sent my mind into overdrive on this topic. There was a YouTube convention in which tens of thousands of teens showed up to see a certain famous online personality and get a picture with her. I had never heard of her, or any of them for that matter, but I’m fascinated about what draws the teens in, so I checked out her Instagram page. Turns out, she is no more than a vulgar, half-naked, barely legal in most states brat. She flaunts her body parts, her drugs, her mouth, and gets utterly nonsensical fights with other YouTube stars I’d never heard of. This is what passes for important to these kids. I experienced a level of disgust and wonder that I had not felt in some time. Otherwise lovely and smart young people are flocking to this stuff like it’s no big deal and I promise you, it’s slowly becoming the voice in their heads when it comes to their worldview. When you idolize someone else’s identity, you have no room to develop your own.

When Daniel and his friends were taken captive to Babylon, the king tried to get them to assimilate into their new culture. If he could get them to develop an appetite for the things of Babylon, they would be at his mercy. The thing is, too many of us have cultivated a voracious appetite for the artificial and it’s making us lose our sense (spiritual sense and common sense). We have to get back to desiring real stuff. When 20,000 kids show up at 6am to stand in a line to meet a rebellious smart a#%, they are searching for something. When they spend the entire day on their phones communicating with people they’ll never know, they are searching for something. Imagine for a second if they all stopped seeking the fake and instead went for the real thing.

Friends, young or not, our identity must be rooted in something besides a phony culture. If all technology fizzed-out tomorrow, would you still be you? If nobody was there to give you a thumbs up, would your habits or lifestyle change? That old saying about knowing whose you are so you can know who you are is true: without a deep understanding that we are children of God (Romans 8:16) we are destined to be slaves to an ever-darkening culture that will mold us and shape us but never ever satisfy us.

Our culture is aggressively seeking to assimilate us to it’s ever-changing values and ideas. Most of it is done through the artificial world of the internet and through people who have utterly sold their souls to do its bidding. We need real… people, experiences, moments. We are created for it. Though it isn’t always comfortable, it’s what pushes us forward and strengthens us. We have got to get our eyes off of ourselves and go join the real world.

I’ll end with a reminder from John Piper’s bestseller Don’t Waste Your Life:

“The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves.”

Christ offers a joy that can’t be bought. He gives us a satisfaction that ten million Instagram likes can’t begin to match.

Let’s stop being so pathological. Let’s go be real. 😉

The Airing of Grievances

“I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!”

Frank Costanza

Hopefully you all are old enough and refined enough to remember the celebration of Festivus, the fictional secular holiday that took place on the TV show Seinfeld as an alternative to on overly-commercialized Christmas holiday. After an awkward dinner, the family gathered around to lament the ways in which they were disappointed by one another over the past year.

Speaking of grievances, the is certainly no shortage of them going around lately. Big ones, small ones, accusations, denials, apologies… you name it. Since privacy is a thing of the past, we all have a ringside seat to the public ‘airing’ of these grievances. So-and-so pens an “open letter” to such-and-such… he or she responds with an apology or retort, to which five other people respond with their own open letters or dissenting opinions. It’s truly a sight to behold.

It’s an interesting thing watching a secular culture address issues of wrongdoing, repentance, and justice. There are very real, very grievous sins that need dealing with, while other troubles would be better left out of the public eye. The world has constructed a kind of system in which it’s easy to accuse and imperative to apologize if you know whats best for you. But does this system satisfy victims? Does it lead to genuine repentance on the part of the accused?

Sin is a very serious thing, and as Christians, we should take repentance and forgiveness just as seriously, both individually and corporately. The devil has a field day though, when we get so mixed up in the emotionalism of the latest outrage that we fail to see the proverbial forest through the trees. Accusations and apologies must never be weaponized, for when they are, the beauty and freedom of what Jesus did for us is whitewashed.

The secular world has no basis for their demands other than what is popular at the time. They are a mob that rides a cresting wave of opinion that will soon change. We must not believe that the world holds more truth than scriptures. True freedom and liberation come when we address sin Gods way. I read a blog yesterday that put it this way:

“This is where the devil hijacks our repentance — on both ends of this transaction. If he can get the perpetrators to confess vague sins, he can keep sinners shackled in the ambiguity of sorrow and regret without any real confidence of forgiveness and freedom. And if he can get the victims to traffic in the vague confessions, the devil can keep victims in the ambiguity of sorrow and shame without any real confidence of resolution and freedom. And tenderhearted Christians can get sucked into this black hole because it can feel very spiritual and brokenhearted. But there is a massive difference between the broken and contrite heart that God loves and leads to true freedom, and the emotional death camp of vague guilt and shame. Another way to say all of this is that Christian repentance must be obedient to God’s Word, not merely an emotional dumpster dive. And this means that when the world around us is demanding submission to their false gods, Christian apologies must be even more careful, especially for those who would be leaders or teachers. We have an even greater responsibility.

What sticks out to me is the repetition of the word freedom. The goal, the endgame, the purpose for us in all this is for us to have freedom through what Christ has accomplished. The secular way offers no resolution, and it doesn’t want one. The enemy wants us to spin in circles in a vicious cycle of offense that never ends. So again, we don’t ignore sin, but we must be extremely careful about what the world is demanding we bow to. Throughout the Old Testament, Israelites were told to bow to false gods, and it’s no different today. Often these gods come in the form of ideas and ideologies the world demands we embrace. The waters have become muddied with false choices about race, gender roles and privilege. It’s not that we don’t owe apologies at times, it’s that we must be very careful about what we are submitting to.

Timothy warned about this: “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26

The point is not that we be ‘right’ all the time. We are to point people to the truth, that they too can escape sin and its consequences. The purpose of Christian leadership is not to demonstrate how fantastically ‘in tune’ you are with the current trends or how ‘woke’ you may be to everyones offenses:

“What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  This isn’t a Bible verse, it’s from the Westminster Catechism, but it sums it up nicely. We are not here to bask in offense or victimhood any more than we are here to dominate or put ourselves on a pedestal showing off how compassionate we are. We forgive because we are forgiven, we confess our sins to God and to one another for the purpose of reconciliation and freedom. The “emotional death camps of vague guilt and shame” are not our dwelling place, no matter how important we may feel there. We are called to deal with sin differently, in a way that allows for true healing and freedom.

“A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city. And contentions are like the bars of a castle.” Proverbs 18:19

An offended Christian will usually turn into an offensive Christian, and we aren’t meant to carry that burden. Abiding in Jesus allows us to deal with the truth of real sin and not pick up needless offense at every turn.

Weathered

You’ve probably heard Paul’s encouraging words in 2 Corinthians 4:17 reminding us “that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It’s a reminder that the hardships we face here on earth really are small and temporary compared to our promised eternity with Christ.

“But while we are here among men with our sensitive hearts exposed to the chilly blasts of the unbelieving and uncomprehending world, it is imperative that we take a realistic view of things and learn how to deal with disadvantages. And it is important that we tell the whole truth to those we are endeavoring to win.” AW Tozer

Although not a specific response to that verse, the words of Tozer here elevate my heart a bit. Taken alone, Paul’s words are a bit of a hard pill to swallow. While being completely true, they beg the question ‘what about now?’ The Bible is clear that we aren’t just supposed to be hanging on until we get to heaven, scraping by while the world runs us over and leaves us for dead… not at all. We are to fight the good fight while keeping our eternal perspective. Paul understood this well and each earthly problem he encountered was kept in check by the weight of the truth of a far greater reward.

Those chilly blasts from the world hitting our human hearts… they hurt. We can’t prevent them, but we must be people who know how to handle them.

My husband coaches boys lacrosse a few times a week. He had a boy quit recently because he was being picked on by some fellow teammates. They were swiftly dealt with, he spoke to the team, and tried everything to get this kid to finish out the season, but his eleven year old heart just couldn’t handle it. Our hearts broke for him. We had an interesting talk about it all, wavering between two opinions: do you pull him out of a bad situation to protect him from these boys or make him stay and finish out the season and challenge him to stand up for himself? Not an easy answer.

As believers, we need to understand that the world is not always going to be on our side. In fact, if it is, there is probably something a little too worldly about us. Following full speed ahead after Jesus means bullies, harassers and general pain in the you know whats are going to hit us up at times. Jesus didn’t sugar coat things when He told us we would have to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Our hearts need to get accustomed to a harsh wind, not to the point of becoming hard, but they must become stronger.

Once a year, the hubs and I bike up (or try to bike up) Colorado’s infamous Mt. Evans. It’s a slow go, but it makes for some amazing scenery. At 11,000 feet, we reach my favorite point of the climb where the bristlecone pine trees are located. Most of them are over 1,000 years old and they are a sight. Twisted and contorted by wind and snow, they stand firm. They look completely absurd, but are the oldest and strongest living things around. Here’s my favorite:

Every time I puff my way up the hill, I am in awe of this thing. Oh the storms it has endured! As I look at it even now I can’t help but think how there are times we just need to stand our ground and grow deep roots. No, we aren’t going to look as elegant as the other trees, but the other trees wouldn’t last a second up there. Let’s be honest with ourselves and those we are trying to reach with the Gospel message. It’s not a cake walk. If you want easy, go to the hothouse where the delicate flowers are. They look awesome but they have to stay inside or else they wilt. As Christians we have to embrace the uncomfortable idea that we aren’t much use if we stay in the hothouse. We are created to withstand the winds, not alone, but under the wings of our Protector. I’m afraid we are learning that every uncomfortable circumstance is something to be avoided, but it’s not true. I know I run for the hothouse a little too often when God wants me to stand up to be winds.

His word tells us to keep an eternal perspective while fighting the good fight of faith here in this life. “In this world you will have trouble… but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus has deprived the world from its power to harm us. Paul’s message is more than a “chin up buttercup” encouragement to grin and bear it through hard times. His words remind us that though the winds blow, they can’t blow us over. Amazingly, that’s the “realistic view” Tozer was encouraging us to have. We don’t always get to escape difficulty, but we can avoid succumbing to it. The whole truth of carrying our cross includes cold winds, but it also includes them being used for our good!

That’s Not How This Works

Photo courtesy: Pinterest

There’s a funny car insurance commercial floating around where an elderly woman is proudly posting her photos “to her wall” but instead of Facebook, she’s just pinning them to her actual wall. Her friend comes in and tells her she’s doing it wrong by proclaiming “that’s not how this works… that’s not how any of this works…” to which the little old lady announces “I unfriend you!”

The other day, Pinterest “recommended” this picture to me under the category of “Bible study”. It took me a minute to understand what was happening, but basically you take a sharpie to your Bible and black out whatever words don’t “stand out” while leaving blank the words that do. What you are left with is what every college refrigerator looked like circa 1990-something with that magnetic poetry trend: random words you throw together to make a sentence.

Apparently this is a big youth group activity now, it’s artsy or edgy or something. I’m such a Debbie Downer, I know… but I have to refer back to my elderly commercial friend and say “that’s not how this works..”

Friends, we can’t turn Gods word into our own personal à la carte buffet, taking what we want and leaving the rest. It’s not easy, I admit, we all have our own lens through which we see God and our world, but it is vitally important we take the whole Bible as relevant and useful.

I get it, it’s just an encouraging exercise for teens or people less boring than myself. I sit with my Bible and I highlight like it’s going out of style, but I don’t black out to create my own truths. Big difference. There’s an odd little article over at HuffPo about how we should actually be cherry-picking from our religious texts because no way can all those things passed down from our ancestors still be relevant.

The biggest issue here is not so much in the creation of little artsy activities as much as it is in the general ignorance and disregard we have towards the Bible. We partake of the milk parts and not the meaty ones. Instead of being our daily bread and sustenance, we snack on some of it once in awhile and wonder why we are starving.

Here’s the point: if we treat Gods word as some silly play thing, we shouldn’t be surprised when confusion becomes our new normal, or even when its encouraged. His word is sufficient, it is complete, and it doesn’t need tweaking.

We are a distracted people… myself included. Good things can derail us if we aren’t careful. We get so obsessed with the doing part that we can miss the being with Jesus part entirely.

Friends, please don’t water down or limit the words He wants to speak to you. The whole book, all the verses, easy, difficult and in between. Let the hard ones drive you further into study, believe me, God can handle our questions. Don’t skew His message into something weird. If you want to make some things up, get some of those fridge magnets – if they are still trendy.

First World Easter

Easter week. Holy Week. My favorite holiday and my favorite celebration. In the same way we observe advent, I think the time before Easter deserves our attention and willingness to quiet ourselves to hear with clear minds the story that changed everything. Our lives are not very conducive to this message, however, and the gospel gets lost in our hustle. As much as we may try, we won’t find any answers in our good works or our poetic brokenness… the answers are at the cross. Easter week is a week to remember those truths.

“The reality is that if we are seeking a better life for ourselves by helping others, if we are seeking to perfect ourselves by helping others, if we are seeking an aesthetically pleasing, pretty, romantic life and happiness by the brief emotional espresso shots/pat on the back sensation of helping others alone, we will never, ever be satisfied. If we are claiming to find perfection and happiness in our own brokenness and sin, we will definitely never be happy. Why? Because our first purpose is not inward, but rather it is to glorify God.

If we are getting our scripture and God’s holy infallible word from the Instagram Bible alone, if we are depending on aesthetically pleasing and pretty motivational blurbs with vague and fluffy words to push us through our first world lives and problems, we are not really looking for a relationship with God. We are looking to feel okay with where we are at. We are looking inward for emotional fulfillment. We are looking for our own idea of perfection.

It is good to help people. It is good to love life. It is good to love the beautiful and good. But this should all be the fruit of seeking to glorify God and follow His Will first. And quite honestly, as someone who tried to find the aesthetic, emotional, Instagram life, I don’t want that kind of first world, lavender lotion, piano riff, and local coffee someone-give-me-motivation-to-do-my-laundry-and-homework-oh-life-is-so-hard Jesus. I want the almighty King of Heaven whose bloody, painful, violent death saved me from the depths of the fiery and damning hell where I deserved to go (and still deserve to go, except for His mercy). I want to glorify and sing the praises of the God who gave Paul and Silas the strength to sing loud, fierce praises at the bottom of a filthy, nasty-smelling prison cell with their legs jammed into stocks for the entire night. I want the Lord and Savior whose astounding grace motivated Ignatius of Antioch to suffer through being dragged three thousand miles with ten abusive Roman soldiers to Nero’s Colosseum to be eaten alive by tortured lions in front of a jeering unsaved crowd and to write that he longed for eternity. These are true instances of brokenness, but instead of letting these situations break them and then holding on to their brokenness and saying “Oh! Look what I’m doing for Jesus!”, these men set their eyes on Christ and sought to glorify God and not themselves and certainly not their lives.

Faith is not pretty, and neither is life. Making it pretty by embracing our sin and the effects of sin around us and photoshopping it will not help us, either. Trying to find satisfaction through charitable acts will not help us either, if we are not seeking and embracing Christ and His Word first. For we do not find Christ in our brokenness. We find Christ in His Word and through there, realize our brokenness and the horror of it and seek repentance and sanctification. We are to rejoice in our suffering, as Paul calls us in Romans 5:3 and 4, but because of our hope in the glory of God. We are not called to revel in our problems and look for emotional nirvana. We are to look upward. ”  Rachel Stevenson

Look up friends, not in. Acknowledge the unfinished things, but rejoice in a Savior that died on a cross and announced once and for all that “IT IS FINISHED.”

Help people. Do the good works, but find your strength in the cross. That’s where all the power and joy are found… not in striving to impress. He died so we may live life and live it abundantly.

The cross wasn’t cheap or smooth, it was costly and rugged. It’s easy to forget that with our Pottery Barn table settings and easy coffee shop culture. I hope we can be reminded of it all this week, the brutal beauty of the whole story.

Be blessed this Easter friends, cling to the old rugged cross and the great hope it brings to our old rugged lives.