Category Archives: restoration

Putting Down the Sign

imagesAnyone who knows me will tell you that I love Twitter. There’s a voyeuristic quality about it that I just can’t resist. While I love reading the short descriptions about what’s going on in people’s lives I rarely pay attention to the ones that have photo links attached for no other reason than the fact that they are mostly pictures of people’s food (sorry, but I don’t care about your half eaten burrito or stewed tomatoes). 

 

Today was an exception to that rule. I kept getting tweets (messages for you who are unfamiliar) from XXXChurch (http://xxxchurch.com/) that had updates and photos from their booth at the Erotica LA convention. They were fantastic pictures of salt and light people laughing, passing out bibles, sharing the gospel. My personal favorite? Dining with Ron Jeremy and company. This is what missions is all about. I was thinking about this as I sat down to read for tonight’s post. Coincidentally, tonight I’m on Luke 18 and 19.

 

Luke 18:9-12 (from The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector) reads: 9”Some were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10”Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and one a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evil doers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

 

Of all the photos that were sent the most striking was a photo of a man outside, standing by himself (not unlike the Pharisee), carrying a sign that read ‘Porn Damns! Jesus Saves!’ Even if the message was right on, the method of delivery sucked. It’s easy to stand outside, alone and unengaged, taking pride in the self-righteous assumption that I am not like those other people. It’s much harder, and undeniably more effective, to humbly serve in the dark places reaching out to touch those who are lost. I don’t know how many people the lone sin-sign guy reached today but I do know that XXXChurch passed out a few thousand bibles. 

 

Now for some practical, everyday application. The odds of my having an opportunity to invite a porn star to dinner tomorrow are very slim. But I do have an opportunity to connect with those who are lost. Tomorrow is Sunday. I pray that as I enter the temple to  pray I do not point to the guy next to me (v.11) and call out his or her sin (something that I’ll admit I am often tempted to do). Lord knows I have enough of my own. 

 

And I pray that the Church would stop carrying the sin sign too. It happens. I’ve experienced it. I long for the day when we, the Church, truly realize that we are also the robbers, evil doers, and adulterers not just the other guys. I pray that we will put down our sin-signs and confident self-righteousness and embrace those who, despite their actions, are at their core just like us.

 

So, back to X3 Church. On their web site the volunteer page says, “Don’t blame the dark for being dark, blame the light for not shining in the dark.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 20 and 21.

 

Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering here’s what I had for dinner. See how ridiculous it is? 


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Carrying Each Others Mats

images We have lived with the pain of addiction in our household for many years. The process of recovery has been life giving and spiritually defining for both my husband and I. However, the road of recovery has been a long, narrow, rocky pathway full of peeks, valleys and sharp turns. I’ve learned that at it’s root addiction, any addiction, is an adulterous relationship with self desire. And that selfishness is a jealous, stubborn lover. While actively engaged in this relationship you lose all control over your body and your senses. This is what I was thinking about when I was reading about Jesus healing the paralytic, a man who has lost all control over his body. 

17One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus” Luke 5:17-19

 

In this passage the paralyzed man, the man who had lost total control of himself, clearly needs the healing power of Jesus. Despite any desire he may have to seek recovery from his affliction and forgiveness for his sin (v.20) he has become a prisoner to his body, locked in by his disease, unable to move past himself to the place of healing. I know this feeling, we have been there. 

 

Here’s the cool part. Jesus gives us the perfect illustration of the recovery process as he designed it. “Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus”. In all of our experience with addiction recovery the one thing that stands out over and over, in almost every addicts story is the thought that recovery is a puzzle to be solved alone. But Jesus shows us that healing comes when we share our burden with others and they draw along side us, leading us on the path to healing when we don’t have the ability to get there ourselves. I especially love the persistence and tenacity that these guys show in verse 19. Even though they are met by hurdles (it’s too crowded, I relapse, this guy is really heavy too carry, I relapse) they don’t give up until they are in the presence of the Lord. It is impossible to experience recovery alone.

 

Unfortunately, the shame of addiction locks people out. It actually repels help from the outside. While addiction is a lonely condition, recovery from addiction only happens within the context of community. It only happens when you are honest with others about the reality of your condition (you are paralyzed by the grip of addiction) and are ready to allow some really good guys in. Guys, or girls, who are strong enough in character to pick you up and not let go until you are in the presence of hope. 

 

If you have a story about addiction or the recovery process please feel free to share it along with any comments about Luke Chapter 5. Sharing our story is the first step in picking up the mat.

 

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 6 and 7


Looking for a good group of folks to help carry your mat? Try these links:

 

Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.aa.org/?Media=PlayFlash

Narcotics Anonymous: http://www.na.org/

Celebrate Recovery: http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Mark Driscoll’s free e-book on pornography and masturbation http://relit.org/porn_again_christian/

Every Man’s Battle: http://www.everymansbattle.com/

In the Detroit area The Woods addiction support group: http://www.wwnazarene.org/ministries/groups/support.php#addiction

 



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Intimate Betrayal

I’ve invited my husband, Jesse to write this post with me as the topic that I had in mind rang a lot of bells for both of us. I’m grateful that he accepted. This post is a merging of both of our thoughts and writing. Get ready, it’s a long one!

 

I (Nicole) have heard more Sunday morning messages about God taking on the form of man to identify with our humanness than I can count. I don’t know that I’ve ever truly believed them. There are lots of reasons for my disbelief most of them having to do with my insistence that it would be difficult for him to truly identify with my personal experiences as a woman and a wife. Reading Matthew 26 and 27 helped me to see how wrong I have been. Many of you have been praying for Jesse and I through the years as we have struggled with harsh truths in our marriage. Truths about our connectedness, purity, honesty, unconditionalness. How could a perfect God identify and connect with me, personally and empathetically, given the level of intimate betrayal I have experienced? Enter Judas Iscariot.

 

The first verse that really stood out to both of us was Matthew 26:23 “Jesus replied, ‘The one who dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me”. My Jesus, the God of the heavens and the earth, is a multidimensional God. He is more than the God who rides in on a cloud of glory. He is also the man who experienced the hurt that results from the most intimate betrayal in all of history. A betrayal that is signified by the very sign if intimacy itself – a kiss. He has experienced the betrayal of a friend and confidant who shared in the closest of traditions at one of the most personal moments of Jesus life – his last supper. And this God/Man can surely identify with the painful betrayals of my heart.

 

While I (Jesse) was reading I was thinking that Judas apparently didn’t really, deep down, know Jesus. He spent a lot of time with him, but we know that he had his hand in the till all along. At the last supper, right after Jesus has clearly stated that he knows he’s going to be betrayed Judas joins the others in saying, “Surely it is not I?” (26:25) It’s as if he thought he could somehow fool the Son of God. Which made me wonder, how well do I really know Him? Even though I’ve spent all of my life sitting in churches and Bible studies, do I think I can fool him too? Am I ready to abandon him when he wants to invite me into his Kingdom instead of delivering the goodies I’m expecting? Does that turn into a justification for sin, or at least for a lack of effort in pursuing a better relationship with him? After all, why bother with all this God business if he won’t do what I want? Reading about Judas leads me to ask myself some serious questions.

 

What stood out to me (Jesse) the most in this passage is that Judas represents the difference between remorse and repentance. Matt. 27:3 tells us that Judas “felt remorse.” Remorse to the point of death. Judas publicly acknowledged his sin and obviously felt awful about it. But he didn’t repent. I wondered as I read this: how many times have I felt just terrible about something I’ve done – and that was it? The fruit of remorse is, at best, an abiding sense of guilt, shame, and self pity. Repentance is something else again. A repentant Judas might have done something to show a real turning from sin, not just feel bad about it. This challenges me because for some reason, even though it feels terrible, remorse over my sins has been much easier than true repentance. Probably because it doesn’t require me to do anything except sit with my self-pity. 

One of my (Nicole’s) favorite Over the Rhine songs is Poughkeepsie from the ‘Good Dog, Bad Dog’ album. The lyrics talk abou

t being “drunk on self pity, scorned all that’s been given me, I would drink from a bottle labeled Sure Defeat”. As I read Jesse’s reflections I think that’s the kind of hopelessness he’s writing about. The turn in the song comes when hope falls from the heavens allowing us to cast our worries to the sky. Grace. 

 

So, here’s the hope of grace for us: I (Jesse) noticed that in the very midst of his betrayal, Jesus still calls Judas his “friend.” (26:50) That’s staggering. It tells me that Jesus isn’t writing anybody off, not even me. At the ultimate moment, he was still ready to embrace Judas as a “friend.” And it tells me (Nicole) that our God is the God of reconciliation. The restorer of even the most broken, deceitful relationships. He is a God who can undoubtedly identify with my hearts desire to experience renewed intimacy and recovery from betrayal. And so we both rejoice. What an amazing Savior!

 

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 1-3.


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