The Suffering Saint

“For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

It seems notable that Paul mentions this kind of glory as “displayed in the face of Christ.” There is a different kind of glory going on here – in the making of all things new. Christ was glorified in his suffering.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered…” (Heb. 5:8)

The light of the world can shine within our hearts because He walked through His darkest day on a dusty road to Golgotha. The light shines out of darkness.

I find hope deep within this promise: that God brings light out of the darkness. It starts in our hearts – our hoping, living, breathing hearts. When all is dark around us and it seems there is no hope, God is stirring within. Like heat on a humid day, hope rises.

To know Christ is to know suffering. Paul declared that we carry around the death of Jesus, so that His life may be revealed in us. This revealing is a process secured in the trials we overcome, and the securing is different for each of us. The time table, the means and the grace we will need to persevere. Though outwardly we feel and see and believe in the wasting away – inwardly there is a kind of renewing found only in the suffering saint.

How was James able to reach this place of consideration: that trials produce joy? Had he persevered through enough that he hungered for the intimacy he found only there? He desired very much that perseverance would “finish its work.” How many of our trials come because we are unfinished within?

What truths can we cling to in the midst of this finishing?

  • That our good Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials (2 Peter 2:9)
  • We will be hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. (2 Corinthians 4:8)
  • No pain can compare with the GLORY that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18)
  • NOTHING can separate us from the LOVE of God that is found in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39)
  • His grace WILL BE sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

What is incomplete in us was finished on the cross. Though our sanctification is life-long, our redemption was sealed in the final words of Christ.

“It is finished.”

Salvation is working itself out in us, we can be sure. We wait for the GREAT REVEALING. When the Lamb will lay down with the lion and all will be made well. Until then, we cling.

Peter instructed us to cling to the Word as to a “light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in [our] hearts.”

Jesus is the Morning Star. May He arise in our hearts as we suffer unto affliction, even for His great Name. And may we heed the Word like the brightest bulb in a dark and damp cave.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this?

If God is FOR US, who can be against us?”  Rom. 8:31

 

 

When Grace Breaks Me

Recently, I was a monster.

For the first time in an eternity, I started a Saturday in prayer. Kneeling. This itself is like miracle stuff. Saturday is for kids in our bed and big breakfast meals and cleanup and spilled juice and cartoon marathon and adventures at the park way too early.

I woke up heavy-minded. You know, all the stuff. I knew I needed Him today. I did not know, just yet, how much. And somehow, after the commitment of my day and the choice to honor Him, I came out of that prayer closet swinging at the world.

It started with a splinter. Or, at least, the thought of one. My boy was limping. Walking on his heal. No matter how many times I tried to persuade him to let me look, he pulled farther and harder away. Protective Mom was getting irritated because of all those times someone told me “it can hurt your foot if you walk like that!”

Obviously threatening was necessary.

“You cannot go to the store with Dad until we look at that foot!”

You cannot leave this room until you let me look!”

Anger rising. Volume raising.

And in the middle of all of this very positive affirmation, she came out. Mrs. Hyde.

The morning became like Anger Management with Adam Sandler. Minus the counselor. It’s worse than you think. Don’t be thinking I’m nice Mom being hard on myself. I’m pretty sure I then yelled at my daughter about applesauce. APPLESAUCE.

I’m pretty sure I also stubbed my toe, hit my elbow and ran into something all in the span of an hour. Mmmmmk.

It was honestly like one of those moments you can look down from the sky and see yourself, and you are absolutely baffled.

What is wrong with you, Ginger?

I knew I needed a shower. A time-out for Mom. And the moment the water started, I said, “Where, God, did that come from?”

I knew I needed to apologize to the kids quickly. And I did. I told them I make mistakes. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have yelled. They were gracious to forgive me.

But I was still baffled.

I could blame female hormones. But, alas, copout.

I know spiritual warfare is sharp. Yet, it had been quite some time since my flesh had come into the ring with my spirit and punched the tar out of it like that.

I started over after that apology, and we had a great family day. When the kids were down to sleep, I treated myself to a hot bath. I pulled out my current read, Grace in the Workplace. (I’m obviously very qualified to teach grown adults about living in grace.)

And of all the verses I would come upon in the middle of a chapter about evangelism….yeah – you guessed it, BAM! ——->Right to the heart.

It was only my VERSE FOR THE YEAR. Smack in the middle of my random book. On THIS day.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

 

You guys. For real.

Here is the thing about God as a Dad. He is always good in His discipline. Perfect, really. Perfect timing. Perfect words. Perfect way about it.

He throws it out there – the truth we know we need to hear. Then He lets it sit and do its work.

The verses actually goes on to say, “for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

That part – that was God’s encouragement to me. Like when I discipline Josh and then give him reasoning for the character I want him to have.

God knows I want that righteous life in Christ. He knows – deep down – what I really want. He was saying to me……in my spirit, “Ginger, anger itself may not be sin, but it opens a gate you don’t want to walk through. And you’re standing at the gate.”

When grace comes in the form of discipline, we are the better for it. Every time. When the discipline happens in the exact area of your ministry, it can break you. It’s the best kind of humble. Because on our best days we are only as good as the lessons we apply from our worst. We do not teach well what we have not struggled through.

Aren’t we most useful after we have been broken? And how many times does God warn us before the breaking is at its worst? And how grateful should we be – all of us – that He does indeed discipline us as a good Father does a son He loves.

His goodness is humbling and His grace breaks me in every kind of good way.

One of the Hardest and Best Things a Christian Can Do

The hardest things are the best things. What great thing really does come easy?

A basketball coach used to tell me, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.” Didn’t really inspire me as I sweat through the next set of suicide runs. But it did push me. I kept running. I kept practicing free throws after everyone else left.

Being the last one in the pool really does pay off. But it’s hard.

We’ve got a really hard thing with being human. Somehow we are either really hard on ourselves or just that way with most everyone else.

And it’s funny really how we still get surprised when someone offends us. Like sometimes it just plain knocks our socks off.

We have better days than others. For good/different reasons. But does it amaze anyone else how quick we are to forget how moody we were yesterday when that guy is rude to us today?

Grace is hard for us to just plain live out. Especially when it comes to being offended.

Let’s be real- offenses happen everywhere. And if you are in ANY kind of leadership role, it’s like your weekly Mode of Operation. Add social media or public speaking, and just monitoring people’s feelings might be your full time job.

At times, it’s been mine. Mostly by my own choosing. Paranoia befriends the leader quite nicely. But it does help when people share their “thoughts” about your “style.”

I once spoke to a group of women about ministry and mentioned that at some point I might offend them. (The context was in regard to the years we would know each other and work together) I was sharing my heart regarding how we could be easier on one another. A woman came up to me after the talk and said, “Ginger, I want you to know nothing in that talk offended me.” (Score one for the speaker.)

I laughed recently about something that could have offended, because- really- it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. And not one iota of angst we carry about another soul is going to make our day/month/ year better.

I’ve seen people forgive drunk drivers for taking the life of their child, when I’ve also known women to carry bitterness for YEARS about that one small disagreement/conversation they had in church.

Bitterness really is the heaviest purse to carry.

Women are extremely prone to rehash the entire conversation one million and five times because if ONLY the other person really got it. And then we get all “she just doesn’t understand my personality!”

Thus we run to (read text or call) the one buddy we know will have our back and gripe just as loud about what that other person said because – hello, of course we were right.

On our extra Spirit-led days (thank you Jesus) we are less defensive – until it returns to our mind later because it’s then fully legal to rehash in eyebrow-raising attitude diva form- since we are just talking to ourself. Ahem.

Christianity isn’t easy. How many of us know someone who was offended recently and actually followed the biblical example for handling an offense? (i.e. they went directly to the person to address it IN LOVE instead of talking to others about it) **Matthew 18:15..

Jesus said this kind of thing will win someone over. Why? Because it’s in stark contrast to the world and every FEELING we have.

You wanna talk brave: show me that. Because you can’t go half-way. Doing the right thing first and THEN talking to others about it. That makes you look and sound good, but your spirit sinks about 12 levels later. You always know your own motives. And they follow you.

To take your vulnerability into the ring of honest discussion with someone you’ve chosen not to like will test every bit of your pride.

Who decided we “may have to love everyone but that doesn’t mean we have to like them?”

Doesn’t that reek of someone who chose not to like someone and then justify it?

I get it. We’re all different. We aren’t going to be besties with all the peeps. Lord knows I lean towards certain personality types. Of course we do. I’m not pretending I like the whole world. It just seems like an easy out.

But I think this little saying has gone far enough in defining our boundaries. Because let’s be real: when you choose not to like someone —– you aren’t going to go out of your way to love them.

I don’t remember a parable about Jesus and the “unlikeable dude” that He had to make himself love.

Glennon Doyle Melton wrote a piece recently for Storyline where she said, “maybe the surest way to be liked by people is simply to like people.”

The thing is people really do WANT to be liked. So we’ve been steered in the opposite direction of what people want. Sure – people NEED to be loved. But they want to be liked. Read any evangelism book and you’ll hear about meeting “felt needs” before sharing the gospel. Yeah, empty stomachs have no ears. Maybe the love comes easier after we choose to be interested and meet a need.

Not everyone is going to like me. And I’m going to offend. My job there is to apologize as quickly as I can and move on. We cannot (IN NO SHAPE OR FORM) control how the other person responds. What we can do – is overlook offenses against us. Because when they carry over to bitterness, we decide that person is unlikable and we get that “feeling” every time we see them. How – I say HOW does this help us? Notta. As a  matter of sad fact – it’s uprooting our harvest. The Spirit does not thrive when unforgiveness takes root.

What kind of crazy good things could happen in the Spirit if the churches shook off all the STUFF. If we said today – TODAY – all the things people have said or done to me – IT”S DONE. OVER. As of today, no one, and I mean NO ONE owes me anything.

I will let no debt remain outstanding except the debt to love one another. (Romans 13:8) Yeah – THAT.

I once heard this statement: When you are offended, don’t nurse it or rehearse it; curse it…and God will reverse it!

To overlook an offense might be the bravest of all.

——————–

Linking up today with the beautiful Meredith, kind Holly and word wonder, Jennifer.

Why the Term “Fallen Pastor” Really Bothers Me

Side note/small print/Full Disclosure: I’m married to the preacher man.

I’ve only been thinking about this post for a year now. Just the title though – don’t get your expectations up. So let’s just get on with this one so I can sleep already.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH (That about sums it up)

The first thing God EVER said about sin is that SIN is crouching, waiting – even coming after us. We will be tempted. When did going to seminary qualify you to be less sensitive to what God said is crouching near us?

If we think temptations lessen in the ministry – we are about as wrong as a cat is curious. If anything – they double. Satan doesn’t waste his time on the benchwarmers. He’s after the first string.

So let’s assume people understand pastors are tempted. Then why are we so surprised when they sin? Do we really (does anyone still really) place them in the status of holy superhero? Are we still mixing up healthy respect with idol worship?

Here is some BREAKING NEWS: Your pastor probably sinned yesterday.

(I’m sorry. And you’re welcome)

Because when we expect ANYONE to be CHRIST other than the MAIN MAN – we are the ones set up to fall – into major disappointment and our own faith crises.

Your pastor cannot determine WHO GOD IS TO YOU. If we put all the cards of our faith into the pastor deck, we will seriously misinterpret the gospel and what PERFECT LOVE really looks like.

One problem here is that we seem to call the big stuff sin, and misunderstand our sin nature. The news hits when a leader commits a sin we consider major. Really, one of the most common sins in the Christian family is NOT doing what we know to do. We are all works in progress.

I understand articles that address HOW to heal in the midst of issues surrounding a leader. We all need help in conflict resolution and healing from hurts. What is sad is that the leader becomes this object of discussion. Everyone has their thought on what that leader should do. How they should confess. What their website should look like now.

Beth Moore opened her heart recently about a hunt going on in the Christian family. How we are quick to label people heretics. I fully agree. We are quick to label EVERYONE. When did we ever think putting “FALLEN” in front of a title or name is in anyway helpful? Because really, we all start out on that same fallen plane. But can I just…….HELLO, the fall was in G-E-N-E-S-I-S. Can we move on from this already?

If anyone – ANYONE – is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. Purchased, bought, DONE. They are REDEEMED SINNERS. To move them back over to “fallen” because they sinned is contrary to the grace we preach – I guess unless we want to write an article about every Christian when they sin and call them fallen too. Which seems kind of repetitious and quite time consuming.

There is either a clear misunderstanding of sanctification or we just plain want the opportunity to pounce on a leader and give our two cents. The title REVERAND does not graduate you from the need for the same daily grace we all get offered from a loving God.

Pastors are accountable to the system of authority set around them in their particular church. Just like we are all accountable to authority. Mostly – and above all – they answer to God. Well – us too there. Here is the kicker – they will be held to a higher standard with regard to the way they lead souls – but that’s God’s deal. I’m pretty sure He can handle that.

I expect all the people in robes or otherwise comfy preaching attire to sin. (Don’t get all – you should expect the best from people here) Of course I hope, I spur on….and above all I pray for pastors. But I do not expect them to be perfect. I’ve got enough on my plate confessing my own sin. I’m not signing up for the sin management record keeper position any time soon.

I’m concerned when I see headlines soaring because they have all the JUICE on someone’s mistakes. What does it say about us that we keep those conversations going?

Can we drop the term “fallen” from our labeling repertoire? Or maybe just throw out the label-maker. It’s pretty 20th century anyway.

If Only There Were Someone: A Journey Into Grace

I can picture his calloused, blistered hands attaching the breast piece and overlaying an ephod. With deep breaths, he puts on his robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash.

He was one of the very few. Chosen. To enter in.

Every morning he had to check the fires. Adjust the wood just right – keep the flames going. God required this – every. single. morning. His hands evidence of his daily task.

“Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.” Lev. 6:12-13

And then once a year – because he was a high priest, he walked beyond the second curtain. He was a priest in the tribe of Levi, the only men able to approach God…and plead mercy.

Can you imagine? The heavy weight on the chest as the wind of God’s presence HIT you just touching that curtain.

He may have gotten used to the stench. Of burning bulls and the blood spilled out. But I imagine his hands shook just a little….every time.

He knew “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22) And he knew he needed it. We all do.

There are still shaky hands today. Reaching out for the curtain to find God. Years and years of sins and offerings later. Trying to make it to noon without tipping the bottle……or moving the mouse to click on that flashing picture on the screen.

Sin – guilt – repentance. Repeat.

Sin has always been crouching at our door, gnawing away at our minds. And the guilt today is as serious as it was in the tabernacle days. It leads to death; it must have blood.

Some of us are keenly aware. Living from guilt to guilt. Reading posts and verses about freedom but living a double life. Doing what we don’t want to do, over and over again.

“I did it again, Lord.”

Our knees hit the floor and we ask Him —-again —do you have enough mercy —for ME?

When even the edges of my sin nature are caught by the light of His glory, there is a great chasm.

This is when conviction can lead to despondency. We fight to fix ourselves and fail miserably….with all our good deeds and such. (The usual routine of the “good” Christian soul)

What is this offering I keep laying down, handing over, milling with my hands? This good thing or the effort to do no wrong. Because this is most tiring of all ——–> Trying to be GOOD ENOUGH.

Good enough.

For Him. For others. For ourselves.

What if there was another way to live this life?

Moving beyond sin maintenance and beating ourselves up and wondering all the time if He is really deep down disappointed in us?

What if there really was another way beyond the curtain? Into the most intimate room with God and a life of peace for our own souls? What if the checklist could be burned on the altar? What if we were already enough?

Even Job – the man God considered blameless and upright – he asked “if only…”

With no New Testament to read or new covenant in his heart, years before the life of Christ, Job needed someone to come between his sin and the presence of a holy God.

 “He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.

If only….

If only there were someone…

to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot. ” Job 9:32-35

“….so that His terror would frighten me no more.”

Because what “a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31)

So Christ- our Someone– laid His hands upon us all by stretching them out on a tree. He lifted His hands to the Father and carried the cup of our condemnation with his own blistered hands, worn from woodworking and stone cutting…..and we are still trying to come up with our own clean offerings.

“by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Heb. 10:14

made perfect

Note – those in Christ – you ARE PERFECT in Him. You can’t get any better than the righteousness of Christ covering you.

Note – those who have yet to believe – believe in Him today!

The next step – the holy making – a day by day changing from glory to glory – that’s His business too. We obey, one brave day, one brave yes at a time.

 It’s so tiring to try and complete something He started in the first place: our sanctification.

What does it look like to LIVE in the palm of those hands? To actually believe we are righteous by faith alone?

What would it really mean if we found ourselves whole in Him? Could this revelation of grace – wouldn’t it – push us into the arms of justice? Fighting for the grace of others. Empower us to leave the dark corners we hunker down in to offer a deep soul drink to the thirsty.

Wouldn’t it remove competition? The need for a great name? With this astounding love of the Saving Name.

Would it remove fear? Because love drives out fear and the receiving of unmerited grace is a shocking kind of love.

Would it change our thinking – about others? Because we know grace had nothing to do with who we are or what we’ve done but WHO HE IS and what HE DID.

What if we could really SEE that Someone – the living Christ we fix our eyes on – in every living soul we pass?

Like my three-year old son, who passed a shirtless, shoeless, bearded man at the park and said,

“Look, Mommy, …..God.”

(Be still my heart)

“Yes, honey. I see Him too.”

I’m interested in the LIVING OUT OF GRACE. The knowing and believing that leads to practical actions in our world.

Because freedom is only honored when we do something about it.

Real grace – understood – does not lead to self-indulgence. This living free in sin because we know we are forgiven. No. Authentic grace received is seen in ripe ready fruit offered to another and another and another. It’s seen in a desire to live for Him. Not a have to. A want to.

There is a real freedom in this new implanted desire. When those sins, those inklings to chase after the pleasures of this world become like the most bitter taste to the mouth. When your heart pounds for righteousness one victory over sin at a time.

And when the checklist has been burned on the altar and we rise from the ashes of all our rag offerings – we open our eyes to something new and unexpected. Something we thought we had to figure out and study and understand.

His JOY is our strength.

 This is worth talking about, learning.

What kind of strength can be found over sin and complacency and guilt and condemnation by entering into His JOY?

And how does accepting grace unlock the door to that joy?

** Like my Facebook group. Let’s talk about practical grace. Inside the church walls and all over the world. What are you learning about grace? Tweet your response with #gracelivedout. And follow along here on the blog to let your heart ponder just how much grace He has for you….and what that might mean for the way you live this one chance life.

The Living of Grace

I have this thorn in my hand. Been there for over a month. I keep thinking I need to try again – with the needle. But I don’t, and it festers up, this tiny spot on my palm.

Even this is grace: knowing our sore spots.

The Spirit needs time to bring all our thorns to the surface. So we don’t cut into our hands/souls when digging up forgiveness. For ourselves – for them. You know the ones. Causing the festering. They probably don’t even know it. How we ring our hands over that hurt, that word said, that lack of attention.

That rub in your side, where the thorn is festering…it’s where you go. To practice grace. You lean in when it hurts.

There is a fear. To self-protect. It’s natural…for our nature.

And all of Christian life is this battle, this warring, this fight to the finish.

Our sin nature battling to win.

The Spirit saying, Forgive. Release.

We want the healing balm, but the scalpel brings redemption. It would be easier to live this life alone. Comfortable with just God. Loving Him and His Word. Not dealing with all the other people. The not-so-easy-to-love people He loves so much.

There are hurts in all of us. This daily need for grace. To receive and to give the abundant stuff. And we will offer grace to the extent that we truly believe we have received it ourselves.

What if we could dive into grace, like a pool, sinking deep down. Overwhelmed by the saturating. What if we could see how far the east is from the west – the unreachable sins He has forgiven. Could we breath deep then of an unaffected life. Strong in him, less offended.

John the Baptist lived to serve Him. Waited to see Him. Then Jesus arrived on the scene, and John was imprisoned. All the build up, all the fighting for souls, the preparing the way for the Christ.

Christ’s words about him? “Blessed are those who do not take offense on account of me.”

Then John? No applause for his work. No publicist to make his story look good. Just a choice – to release the need for self-promotion. And honor the Lord no matter the outcome.

He was beheaded.

What hurts the deepest tells us something about ourselves. What we do about those hurts – tells us even more.

It’s a hard work, forgiveness. It required a cross. It requires no less for us in the Spirit. To lay down our pride, our need to be right, to get even, mostly to explain our side…..and pick up the cross of love.

Most days I fail. Not on the choice to forgive, or the want to. But the living it out.

And then I remember to “put no confidence in the flesh.” Phil 3:3

This exhortation is not just personal, but corporate. To put no confidence in your human nature or that of any one else. The most devout disciple still has much to learn of Christ. So why are we surprised by sin? By negativity? Or persecution? Are we not aware of each man’s sin nature? Of the evil prowling at every side?

“Jesus Christ never trusted human nature yet wasn’t cynical or suspicious because he had absolute trust in what he could do for human nature.” – Oswald Chambers

Absolute trust.

Cynicism tries to fill the hole we just emptied when we forgave. To keep us from loving, trusting again.

Can we trust Him to work it all out in us…and in them? The changing of our nature. The mending of broken places.

Can we be audacious enough to confess our own weaknesses and then actually accept His covering grace for ourselves? This hope of glory – reforming the wretches we were, that we are.

Because grace is contagious. We want to catch this everlasting hope to infect the world.

The master surgeon has steady hands. To remove the thorn and apply the balm in His time. Let our work be a surrender alone: Yes, Lord. What work He must do in other people…that’s his business.

Our business is grace lived out.

I’m linking up today with Beth at #w2w Wednesday. Join the crew! Encourage someone today. How can we better live out grace? Comment below!

 

 

The Problem we Have with Offering Grace

The elder son had a vision problem. He was near sighted to his man made goodness. His works, his obedience blocked his vision from his need for grace.

How can my brother’s return be celebrated? He had yet to experience what the woman with the jar of perfume understood. Those who have been forgiven much will love much.

The best spoonful of medicine for the illness of judgement? Is to swallow hard the reality of your sin nature.

The Word tells us Christ was tempted in every way. So you will be. So you are.

Even now, the Christian says, “yes, I am a sinner” but truly thinks they are good to the core, only struggling in a few small areas.

You say, yes I struggle with anger, sometimes lust. But I would never murder. Commit vile acts.

The trap we fall in by managing our little sins. Thinking we would never…..

Because we are good people.

Satan doesn’t play nice. He’s out for blood.

The church is still writing articles about how we should handle it when our pastor falls into sin. We seem to wait for the big fall. Does the sin of the pastor make the flock feel a little holier?

Your pastor will sin. He or she probably has today. Have you?

Again, as long as it’s a little sin. We understand that. We do it too. Just not [this] sin. We like our sins in boxes, arranging them just so.

The day I stopped noticing fewer specks in the world? Was the day my own log hit me square between the eyes.

That error we tend to notice the most in others? Our eye is sensitive to it, because it is familiar.

Put me in the right (read wrong) situation long enough with just the right temptations, and I could commit any sin. Apart from grace, and grace alone, like Paul, I am the chief of sinners.

The more grace we have received, the more we will offer. Lest we think we do not need as much as the other guy, let us look squarely at the cross.