Not me! Not I…but Christ

One of the perks of studying abroad with a college theater group was free or cheap tickets to theatrical productions playing wherever we were. Actors like to play to full houses, so if there are spare tickets, they are happy to find worthy recipients. On one such occasion while I was studying in Italy, the British National Theatre was touring with their production of The Passion Play, and we somehow gleaned tickets for a performance in Rome. Because we had the “cheap seats” (the groundlings), we got to be very close to the action, sometimes part of the action, as we stood on the floor (for six hours with one dinner break). The first act told stories from the Old Testament, and the second act, the story of Christ from the gospels. Of course, during the Palm Sunday scene, everyone was excitedly cheering. Then during the Good Friday scenes, most of the audience was excitedly jeering. Except me. As one who seemed to be the “token Christian” in my group, I was not about to cry out, “Crucify Him!” I loved Jesus and wanted no part in demanding His crucifixion. And that’s what I shared when a couple of the others asked why I had been quiet. I thought of myself like one of the women who had followed Him and watched the crucifixion, devastated by His murder. I had even portrayed Mary Magdalene several times in an Easter monologue―but I had not considered why she followed Him even to death. (See Mark 16:9.) That kind of gratitude was not part of my response at the play, nor even part of my testimony....

Not me! Not I…but Christ2022-05-04T23:19:43+00:00

God’s Work in Our Weakness

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST Recently, my English students responded to the prompt, “What type of weather represents your personality?” Now, I really try to journal with my students, but I often struggle to get out from under my grading to take part. But this prompt was different. I really wanted to write about this one, or did I? Literally seconds into my journaling, I realized that I was not a sunny day, or even a soft blanket of snow. My life-long loathing of certain parts of my temperament came flooding back, and my best answer was a storm, yes with lightning, maybe a bit of hail? Ouch. As a few of my students and I discovered— or were reminded—personalities can be complex. Sometimes, we might even wish we had a different one altogether.  When I consider my own temperament, I often question why God chooses to use seemingly difficult dispositions to accomplish his plan. Well, we may never have the answer to that question this side of heaven, but there is good news! The fathers and mothers of the faith were human too—personality flaws and all. The Bible shows us that God uses all his children for his Kingdom purposes— whether we view the glass as half-empty or half-full, whether we are outgoing or shy, whether we go with the flow or like things to stay the same. And, as we’ll soon see, even when we stumble and fall into sin, God works through us then too. Relating to Those Who’ve Walked Before I have certain traits, tendencies, weaknesses, and sins I would like to change in myself. I long to be more content. I wish I didn’t have a tendency toward despair. I desire to be rid of my fear of failure or rejection. I’ve confessed my selfishness with David who mourned: “For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me…As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” (Psalm 40: 12,17)....

God’s Work in Our Weakness2022-05-04T23:02:07+00:00

We Are Not Better Than This

JILL WIGGINS|GUEST Earlier this month, I witnessed the assault on our nation’s Capitol with incredulity. In the aftermath, I found myself consuming copious amounts of media examining responses from political leaders, pastors, and news sources. It did not take long before a myriad of politicians from both parties adopted the familiar phrase often uttered by parents and teachers alike to children whose behavior has been disappointing— “We are better than this.'' Although I understand the sentiment and its guilt-eliciting, behavior-changing appeal, I would respectfully and broken heartedly disagree with their proclamation.  We as Christians should be the first to point out that “we are not better than this.”   I spent the better part of my teenage years thinking that I was “better than this.” I grew up in a small Baptist church in northeast Alabama and our offering envelopes came preprinted on the front with a variety of boxes to check. There was a box for attendance, daily bible reading, offering, and lesson preparation.  Every Sunday night at youth group, my goal was to very literally turn in an envelope that checked all the boxes, because along with not drinking, smoking, cussing, or fooling around with boys, that was what “Good Christians” did. In the years since, the list has become more political in nature, but the sentiment is the same. Then and now, there are boxes to check, issues to support, causes to champion. These are things that Christians do. . . and those are things Christians do not do. Though not overtly stated, I perceived that there was “us” and there was “them.”  We were good “box-checking” Christians, and “they” were dirty, bad, vile, worldly, sinners.    Yet, one Sunday night, the summer following my senior year of high school, I found myself face down on the hook rug on the floor of my bedroom, crying out to God. I realized that I was    one of “them.” I was dirty, bad, vile, and worldly.  For all my box checking, I was a fraud.  A pit formed in my stomach, and I believed that if everyone knew just how really bad I was, how dirty I felt on the inside, no one would ever love me. And that’s when I met Jesus. After all, we must first see the sin in ourselves to grasp the wonder of God’s grace. Paul in his letter to Timothy states that “Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15). Present tense.  Jesus came into the world to save sinners like me. Sinners.  Like me. And that is the good news. That is the gospel. That is grace... 

We Are Not Better Than This2022-05-04T23:37:26+00:00

That’s Why He Came

MEGAN JOHNSON|GUEST “We must lay before God what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” (C.S. Lewis) As we approach Christmas, I’m reminded of a situation I was in a couple of months ago. Now, this situation as we will call it, is not for the faint of heart, it is going to make you squirm, so be forewarned and proceed with caution…. My daughter, Maggie, had lice crawling on her scalp. She woke up in the middle of the night crying and clawing at her head and a vague recollection of a student at preschool having lice the week before buzzed in my brain, so I courageously pulled out the flashlight and checked. Yep. There they were, as clear as could be. I nearly dropped her. Here’s the thing: Just a few hours before, I was blow drying her hair for the first time, and we were all “ohhh-ing and ahhhhh-ing” over her smooth, soft, golden, beautiful hair – truly, all 5 of us encouraging her in how pretty her hair looked since she let mommy fix it…and yet, crawling not so far below the surface of all that shine, were bugs. Bugs that were immune to normal shampoo because, I read, they hold their breath. If you’re not itching at your head by now, you’re stronger than I. The spiritual implications stung me immediately. I remember Jesus’ proclamation to the Pharisee’s: “Woe to you! You clean the outside of the cup, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matt 23:25), or David crying out to God in Psalm 51:6, “you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” How often do I ohhh and ahhh over my own outwardly apparent righteous works, or other's outward works, or long for recognition and approval for my “righteous” acts? And yet, there are bugs crawling beneath the surface. Daily, friends, yes daily. And yet, as we celebrate Advent, this is exactly why Jesus came. He came to cleanse us from the filth inside, from the “bugs” that are immune to all our forms of self-denial, discipline, and good works.  I’m reminded that God made a covenant with Abraham, swearing by Himself, that He would be His God. And God did this, while Abraham was asleep. Abraham was doing nothing to add to the promise of God. No works of his own to add to the covenant. And like that, Jesus comes – to a sin ridden, lice infested, broken world. Emmanuel! God with us!...

That’s Why He Came2022-05-04T23:46:10+00:00

The Cracks of Life: Embracing the Uncertainties of Life in a Fallen World

There is a rather unsightly crack in my kitchen ceiling. I’ll admit, it has been there for a couple of years—a sign of a foundation issue caused by leaking water. The foundation work has been done, but we probably will have to look at that crack until we get around to remodeling our kitchen—someday when the finances are right. There are times when I am weary of seeing this ugly reminder of imperfection, something I can’t control. This crack, however, is a lot like other unsightly reminders in life, reminders of foundational cracks in a fallen world. The Cracks  of Life While I am looking forward to having a blemish-free ceiling one day, I am ecstatic about one day having a crack-free life. This dream, however, will only be realized when Christ returns. For now, we are living under the curse of sin set in motion by Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the garden. They wanted to be “like God,” and because of their rebellion, we not only deal with the sins of others on a daily basis, but the consequences of our own sin. We now fear not only the cruelty and selfishness of others, but the sin in our own hearts. The fall of Adam and Eve leaves us with the certainty mentioned by Christ in John 16 when he says, “In this life you will have tribulation . . . “(John 16:33)...

The Cracks of Life: Embracing the Uncertainties of Life in a Fallen World2022-05-05T00:41:23+00:00

God’s Abounding Grace

There are times when I am driving my car, running simple errands or on my way to work, when I am struck by the landscape around me. The lush green hills set against the pure blue sky with puffs of clouds so thick, I wonder if I could reach out and grab one. Everything pressing on my mind vanishes and I feel a sense of wonder and amazement. Then I ask myself "Has that been there all long? How could I have missed something so amazing?” I’m especially surprised when it’s a route I often take. This is true when it comes to reading God’s Word. It's incredible what God can open our eyes to see in His Word at different times, especially in places that have become familiar. That’s the beauty of Scripture: Whether it be your first time reading it or the 20th time, you can still stumble across sweet treasures. Just like on my drives, the Lord is constantly setting our gaze on new things for us to see. A New Treasure in John 13 A recent treasure for me has been reading Peter's denial found in John 13:36-38. This story comes on the heels of Jesus serving the disciples by washing their feet, the same occasion where He announced to them that someone would shortly deny Him and informed them of His upcoming departure. When Peter heard that Jesus would soon leave them, he said, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." His response makes sense because they had experienced so much together and grown in their relationship. Jesus’ question in return carried a tone somewhat like “Really?” He said "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”...

God’s Abounding Grace2022-05-05T00:49:27+00:00

Now to Him Who is Able

KRISTEN HATTON|CONTRIBUTOR Everything in me wanted to attack. After how I had been mistreated—by a friend no less—no way did I want to absorb the pain. Quite the opposite; in my sinfulness, what I really wanted was for her to hurt too. I wanted her to pay for how she had wronged me. On the other hand, in my anger and hurt, I really did not want to sin. I wanted to be careful not to say or do anything that would be un-Christ like. I wanted to be forbearing, gracious, and forgiving. But I was afraid that because of how hurt and angry I felt, my contrary nature would win out. An Ongoing Struggle This internal conflict is the reality of being in the Spirit, and also living in a broken and fallen world. Through faith in Christ’s redeeming work for us at the cross, we’ve been set free from the power of sin, yet the presence of sin still remains. This means we will continue to deal with these dueling natures within us until we are glorified. Too often though, it seems there is no battle; the flesh just wins out. Like Paul in Romans 7, I identify with the desire to do what is right, but then going on to do what I don’t want to do instead. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:18-20)

Now to Him Who is Able2022-05-07T22:54:09+00:00

I’m a Mess-terpiece

That was my conclusion the other day when I mentally reviewed footage of my most moronic moments. Once I was hosting a meal after a funeral, and in trying to light candles, I set the tablecloth on fire. Another time I was having a wonderful conversation in our living room with an honored guest, until the pet chinchilla got out, and the dog got in. One of us did not survive the chaos. I was going to bring punch to your anniversary party, but I took the wrong highway exit and got there 45 minutes late. Here’s that book I borrowed—it was as thrilling as you had said! But I did have a tiny incident with the grape jelly while I was reading it. Youth group is arriving to meet at our house, and so are the plumber and the electrician…. Time does not permit to tell of my doomed drive to the next county to deliver an important document (it never got there), or of why I nearly threw up on a nun in an airplane. No, nor of how I closed a conversation with someone I wanted to impress by saying, “Thank you please!”  And there was the time—I’m sorry, times— when I fell down in front of a hundred people.The only suave thing about me is that I don’t blush, though my self-esteem is curdling like the carton of milk I left in the trunk of the car. Why don’t I just hide under the covers to avoid doing some real damage? Sometimes that has seemed a good option. I’ve always found it hard to feel forgiveness for doing something stupid that is not a sin. Oh, wretched woman that I am, who will rescue me from this body of sin and death and fender benders and lost house keys? How can I repent of stupidity? I can take my sins to the foot of the cross, but I can only shudder when I remember how things ended after letting my nephew try to walk in his new leg cast. Is there grace for innocent blunders? If so, why do they cause me to sit up in bed at 2 AM and clap my hand to my forehead, whereas my memories of being angry or feeling lust allow me to sleep like a baby?

I’m a Mess-terpiece2022-05-07T23:08:18+00:00

The Sins We Love to Hate

A few weeks ago, I read an article about the recently released movie Rocketman, which chronicles the life of openly gay and quite flamboyant British rock star, Elton John. The article exposed that the Russian government had removed all of the homosexual love scenes from the movie since Russian law interprets these as “lewd acts” and considers them lawbreaking. Although I’m not sure that outlawing sin is the best way for believers to suppress our own sinful desires, let alone mandate that non-believers do the same, I was kind of thankful for this declaration since I believe that the Bible defines homosexual sex as sin. To be clear, however, the Holy Spirit is the one who confronts our sin and moves us to repent of it. He also moves us to believe in the power of the atonement received by the Lord Jesus on behalf of our sin and fights in and through us against sin that remains both in us and around us. But, nonetheless, my response got me wondering and made me think: why am I so on-board with the Russians here? I guess a better question is: why am I not up in arms about other sins that are so prevalent in our culture?...

The Sins We Love to Hate2022-05-07T23:17:44+00:00
Go to Top