Find Your Way Home

fywh-cover God has been, as I asked Him to do, breaking my heart for what breaks His. What moves Him to show love, grace and compassion to me and the rest of the world… how can I do the same?

How can I live as Jesus lived? When I see pain and suffering that I do what I can to reach out and share the abundant love and compassion God has given to me?

Put together as a short devotional book, “Finding your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart” broke my heart and then inspired me. The women (over 100 contributors) who are current residents, graduates, staff and volunteers of Nashville’s Magdalene house put their collected experiences into a little book that left me smiling and weeping. It won’t take you long to read it, but it will take days to process their moving stories of life on the edge.

The most powerful statement to me came in chapter 3 “Cry with your Creator.”  The woman writes of being sick, skinny, and filthy.

“I will never forget just standing at the edge of Dickerson Road with tears streaming down my face.  Someone please help me.”

I read it and cried.  I could not stop crying.  I tear up every time I think about it. How many people drove by and didn’t notice her?  How many people are begging on the inside for someone to see them? To be kind to them? It was personally convicting in that I would be one of those people – so busy, so distracted that I would not look around to see who was hurting and how I could provide comfort.

Matthew 10:42 states “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (NIV) That would include the bag of chips and soda that brought one woman to Magdalene (ch. 12 – Show Hospitality to All.)

The Thistle is the symbol of both the community and the farm that makes body care products. Why the thistle?

“Thistles grow on the streets and alleys where the women of Magdalene walked. Considered a weed, they have a deep root that can shoot through concrete and survive drought. And in spite of their prickly appearance their royal and soft purple center makes the thistle a mysterious and gorgeous flower. Being a Thistle Farmer means the world is our farm, and that we choose to love the parts of creation that others have forgotten and condemned.”

I love that there are ministries (within churches and para-church) that are reaching out to those that are largely forgotten. Examples include Hookers for Jesus and in Nashville, Emmaus Church does outreach to strippers, the gay community and the homeless saying ‘God loves you as you are.’

What I take away from this book:

  1. God loves everyone more than we know.
  2. There are people out there who will love you like He does.
  3. I need to learn and continually practice how to love like He does.
  4. Small kindnesses matter.

Each chapter paints a picture of love and grace. It shows the long process of healing. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But the love remains.

Just a quick editorial note: I was asked to write a review and received a copy of the book. Also, the book should not put off anyone who does not believe in God. While we can argue about eternity later, I believe we can all agree that the world is in dire need of more love, compassion, and grace. The source of that is your choice.

See also: Born into Brothels, The Pussycat Preacher (both documentaries are available to rent on Netflix)

If I only…

Matthew 9:18-22

18While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.

This is probably one of the most moving portions of Scripture to me, personally.  Definitely top 5.  This and the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears.  I nearly sob almost every time I read them because I see myself in these women.

This woman, though… since blood made one ritually unclean, she was ostracized from her community.  No one would touch her because then they would be unclean.  For 12 years.

No hugs.  Likely few meals with family.  She would not have been allowed in the temple to worship.  Cut off from most of society.  The loneliness she felt must have been horrible.  It is almost incomprehensible to me.

Then she hears about this Jesus.  She heard about his miracles.  His teaching.  His healing.   She likely knew the prophecy of Isaiah 53:5 which says “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Perhaps Jesus was wearing his prayer shawl, which has stripes on the bottom.  With great determination, she fought her way through the crowd, thinking over and over ‘If I can get to his cloak, his shawl… I will be healed.  I believe he can and will do this.’

I Peter 2:24 repeats the same promise but with the past tense.  Since by that writing, Jesus had already ascended to heaven, the work was done.  It is finished.  Our healing came through Him.  The stripes of the Roman lash on his back brought and bought our healing, our forgiveness.

“By his wounds, we are healed.”

But how do we cut off people the same way for different stuff?  For the junk in their past, we keep them at arms length.  Associating with them might make us ‘dirty.’

I want to learn from Jesus’ example and go where He went – to the people who were unloved, left behind, and shunned for whatever reason… health, social, behavioral, economically and love them as He has loved me.

And that means love pretty much everyone because we’ve all been there.

What to Believe In

William said this in a comment

Obama is… a kind of secular god-as-government messiah.

I was listening to James MacDonald’s Walk in the Word from a day or two ago.  He was talking about an exchange he had with John Piper at a conference.  Piper talked about being a Calvinist.  MacDonald took issue with that word.  In an exchange of letters after the event, MacDonald explained that he believed John Calvin, John Wesley, Augustine, Apostle Paul, etc… were brilliant men who helped to enrich our faith, but to refer to ourselves as anything other than a Christian was wrong.  It was elevating a human to a place reserved for Christ alone.

He also warned of placing our hope IN people for provision, salvation, etc…

I had to pause the audio, sit there, and think.  I never liked the term “Obamessiah” because I thought it was way too over the top and divisive.    His campaign slogan is “change we can believe in.”  This implies that he is the agent of that change.  Believe in him and off we go to a glorious new future.

However, given the reaction by ardent supporters and the every day people I ride the bus with… it isn’t too far off from the expections people have of him.  This has caused a change of rhetoric from him – being very cautious with his words about how fact the economy will recover (for example).

Their hope is IN him – to fix, to provide, to save them and the US from complete and total destruction.  I would hazard a guess that their faith in Obama is equal or greater than their faith (speaking of those that are Christian) in Jesus Christ.

Where is the line between supporting someone (a candidate or past0r) and putting your faith, hope and trust in a created being rather than God?  I am not sure.  It did cause me to reflect on how I view certain pastors – that maybe I was a bit starry eyed and let myself get swept away with their words rather than those of the Bible.

Back to what MacDonald said, I don’t think it is wrong or bad to use terms like Pauline (to refer to the Apostle Paul and his teachings) or Calvinist (those of John Calvin) and so on.  If you are using them as a descriptor of their teaching and position, ok.  When you start to go into “If you aren’t a Calvinist, you are going to hell” then…. we may have some problems.

The Path to Purpose

Pastor Pete challenged us on Sunday to answer the following questions.  I scribbled some answers in my journal during the sermon (sorry!) but want to expound on them here.  These are my answers for this season of my life.  2 years ago, they were probably radically different… 2 years from now, they may be different, still.

Shamelessly ripped from Without Wax:

1. Who Am I To Serve?

Your deepest purposes must bring good to someone who is without justice, reconciliation, or hope. It might be abused women, orphans in Africa, or business men who don’t know Christ.

2. Where Am I To Be?

What is the primary context where I will serve the people I’ve been called to love?

3. What Burden Am I To Bear?

This is so important!! Everyone of you reading this right now is called to battle some unique effects of the Fall.  Don’t just blow by this. Stop for a moment and think about this… there’s a problem in this world that brings you to tears or makes you downright angry. What is it?

4. How Am I To Engage?

Your engagement to the problem might be to pray, administrate, teach, serve, lead, paint, sing, confront, repair or nurture. EACH of us will do what we do with a style which reveals something about God in a way that no one else can.

My answers: Read More

Sharon asks, I answer

Sharon Cobb asked about Ephesians 5:22-23 over at Kat’s blog. This is much better understood when you expand the passage to include 25-32.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

ESV Version

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of sermons on these verses. I’ve bristled at what the preachers said. I have fought the teaching. Now I embrace these truths. Read More

I follow… therefore I lead

Several weeks ago, God burdened my heart to start a small group. This was a few weeks before the announcement of the upcoming Community Group Fair (Sept 14th and 21st) at Crosspoint. I prayed, I sought counsel from my friends and Ryan who oversees small groups. There were two ideas: one was a weekly discussion on Sunday after a service of Pastor Pete’s message. I love that idea of going deeper on the message that God has appointed for this church to hear at this time.

The other was a book study on Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshear’s Vintage Jesus. It is what God ultimately led me to… so here is the description:

“Roughly two thousand years ago, Jesus was born in a dumpy, rural hick town, not unlike those today where guys change their own oil, think pro wrestling is real, and find women who chew tobacco sexy. Jesus’ mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was often mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit. Most people thought she concocted the crazy story to cover the fact she was knocking boots with some guy. Jesus was adopted by a simple carpenter named Joseph and spent the first thirty years of His life in obscurity, swinging a hammer with His dad.” — Vintage Jesus, by Mark Driscoll

In Vintage Jesus, Mark Driscoll, one of America’s most influential young pastors, teams up with a seasoned theologian, Gerry Breshears, to lead you on a hilarious theological journey chasing Jesus through Scripture and pop culture. These two men will answer questions about who Jesus is, what His death accomplished, what He is doing today, and what will happen upon His return. Whether you are not sure about Christianity or you have been a believer for years, Vintage Jesus will teach you something new about the man at the center of our faith—Jesus.

Learn more about the book at relit.org/vintagejesus

The book ($14) and optional study guide ($10) are available on Amazon.com.

We will meet Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. and finish between 11:30 and noon. We will watch highlighted portions from the Mars Hill sermon series that is the basis for the book. This is a 12-week study.

If there is interest among group members, we can rotate who hosts (I will facilitate, regardless of location) so that any who want to share hospitality may do so (and spread the travel burden among the group).

Not Watching… I’m not watching!

They can’t make me. I am going to do my best to avoid any and all Olympic coverage (OK, I did look at some of the fashion high and low lights from the Opening Ceremonies). I went and brought down a thread on everyone’s favorite events at Pastor Pete’s blog. I want to expound on why I’m not watching.

2 years ago in Torino when they said the Olympics would be held in China, I was very apprehensive. I knew about the abusive government: oppression of speech, persecution of minortiries – ethnic and religious, ignored sweat shop labor, violence in Tibet… I could go on. Then they rounded up all the cats in Beijing to kill them as some attempt to “prevent disease”. They scared the populace so badly, people were getting rid of their pets – not just the feral cats. Did they miss that whole European Black Plague history lesson?

Jen put it this way for those of us who are believers – with the Chinese Government’s continued repression and violence against our brothers and sisters in Christ, to view these games would be like Jews watching the Berlin Games with Hitler in power.

Voice of the Martyrs carries stores about the oppression of Christians around the world. How blessed we are to live in the US. Get down on your knees, thank and worship God for where you were born. Intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters around the world who are facing persecution and possible death for our faith.

Write and encourage a prisoner today. VOM’s site will give you phrases in the native language along with an address to send it to. It costs less than a dollar. I am sure the encouragement will be priceless.