Confessions of an Imperfect Christian

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I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

My plan is for the Confessions… series to become a regular part of the blog, but we’ll see just how much confessing I can stand!

Confession #1:

I’m a sinner.  Shocking, I know.  But seriously, what is shocking is that I lived my life, up until a few years ago, as if that wasn’t the case.  Sure, I knew that I was a sinner, I had read it repeatedly in the Bible and memorized verses that spelled it out in black and white, but I never really knew it.  In fact, I never would have admitted this out loud, of course, but I felt like I pretty much had the whole Christian living thing down.  Asked Jesus into my heart? (Um, when I was 5-years-old)  Check.  Didn’t cuss?  Check.  Youth pastor’s wife?  Check.  I was mentally checking off the boxes on my “good Christian” checklist without ever recognizing that, deep down, I was a Pharisee.  If you’ve read anything about them in the Bible you know that they were known for all the things they were against, and Jesus repeatedly rebuked them for getting between him and people who really needed him with all of their religious rules.  But when we moved to India in 2007, I was finally confronted with how much I had in common with those reviled religious leaders of old.

Spiritually speaking, living in India was like walking into a cage full of brown bears with a salmon strapped to my chest.  It was a daily assault, and in the midst of the pressure cooker of Third World living my religious facade began to crack, and I began to see the true condition of my heart in a way that I never had before.  What I saw wasn’t pretty.  But everything changed the day I stood, shaking with a rage (about something stupid, loud Divali music) like I had never felt before, and I realized that, in that moment, I was capable of a level of violence that I never imagined possible (I didn’t act on it, in case any of you are worried) but that’s when it finally hit me.  I was (am) a wreck without Jesus.  I am a sinner, and I needed someone to rescue me from myself.  In that moment I realized that my sins weren’t any smaller or bigger than the brothel madam or the murderer in prison–in the eyes of Jesus they were the same–we were the same.  Up until that point I had found it very easy to look down my nose (or turn it up in disgust) at all of the other “sinners” that I encountered, until I realized that I was just like them.  The only difference was Jesus, and his grace and forgiveness.

The book of Luke recounts a story that Jesus told to Simon, a Pharisee, in response to his disgust that Jesus would allow a prostitute to wash his feet with her tears and hair.  Jesus said, “‘Two men were in debt to a banker.  One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty.  Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts.  Which of the two would be more grateful?’

Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.’

‘That’s right,’ said Jesus…(speaking of the prostitute, he said) ””  (Luke 7:41-47  The Message)

Reading that passage, I weep for all of the years that my gratitude was so minimal because I believed I needed so little forgiveness.  Now I know better, and I am so very, very grateful for God’s love and grace, and the opportunity to share it with others!

Have you ever been guilty of knowing something about God but not really knowing it in your heart? 

How has that affected your relationship with people around you? 

God Can Do It Better–So I think I’ll Let Him

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I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

“Only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God…Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?…anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure.”  Galatians 3:3,5-6,10 (The Message)

This passage has been popping up over and over again in my mind.  A small voice reminding me, when I get off course, what happens when I try to control the things I think I have control of!  You see, I always start off with the greatest of intentions and God-given dreams, and yet, sometimes, when I get my hands on them, I mess them all up by taking them out of God’s hands and twisting them with mine.

Take this blog, for example.  I almost didn’t start it, because I (quite arrogantly) thought it depended on me.  Now obviously, in one sense, it very much depends on me to type the words.  But in another–I pray over every post that God would use it as he chooses and place it before the eyes that he wants to see it–so in that sense, it’s totally up to God.  But when I try to take it back into my own hands I obsess over my stats tab and how many people have read (or not read!) my current post, and I start wondering what topics would be more popular, instead of writing about what God has laid on my heart, and I end up completely forgetting that God has way more control over that stuff than I ever will!

This blogging journey is reminding me (on an almost daily basis) of something I prayed several years ago (sometimes those prayers can really come back around to bite me!)…I prayed, “I never want to do anything that I can do in my own strength.”  During our time in India, I had seen God repeatedly make beauty out of very ugly situations, things that, left to my own hands, would have never been salvageable.  But God was able to redeem them.  He was, and is, able to do things that I NEVER could!  It was at that point that I threw out the white flag and prayed the prayer that I’m now trying to live out day by day.  The funny thing is, when I remember that it’s not up to me to be anything but obedient, I feel free!

Question for Reflection or Comment:

What is God calling you to do that is way beyond what you can do in your own strength?  What’s keeping you from doing it?

Grace Outside the Box

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My family and I had the honor of living and working among the people of India as missionaries for several years.  Every day our car was bombarded with dusty hands desperately pressing and tapping against the glass.  Women, with naked children on their hips, begged for money and food as we passed their makeshift homes on the medians of the busy Delhi streets.  Car exhaust and incessant honking were their constant companions through each harried day and night.

One day, as I was entering our car, a woman gripped my elbow.  As I turned around, I was confronted with one of the most pitiful sights I’ve ever witnessed.  In her arms she held a small child whose mangled hand had been carelessly wrapped in dirty, bloody gauze.  The exposed flesh of his wound was yellow, oozing with infection, and his face was scrunched up, crying.  My heart broke with compassion while, simultaneously, my blood boiled with rage as I saw her hand out expectantly.  I thought, What type of perverse person would exploit this tragedy for their own personal gain?  I didn’t know if the child belonged to her or if he had been “borrowed” to drive up profits for the day.  I had no way of knowing if it was her idea to capitalize on his injury, or if someone else was pulling the strings behind the scenes to line his or her own pocket with rupees, and I didn’t really care.  I was disgusted and outraged at such shameful abuse and neglect.

Unfortunately, this type of thing happens daily on the streets of India.  After my anger had dialed down a bit, I felt the familiar voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart.  Is that woman beyond my grace and forgiveness?  Would you share my love with her? he urged.  I squirmed.  Instinctively, I responded, No!  I absolutely do not want to share your love with her!  She doesn’t deserve it!  At this, the Holy Spirit lovingly rebuked me, Neither do you.

 Humbled and chastised, I was knocked to my knees in repentance.  I knew it was true.  How many times do we, as human beings, decide who deserves the opportunity to hear the good news that Jesus died for our sins?  If I’m honest, I don’t want Jesus to forgive people who hurt children and use them for selfish gain.  And yet, in 2 Peter 3:9, the Bible says “[God] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent”  (NLT emphasis added).  Imagine how the streets of India, or your own neighborhood, might be revolutionized by the transforming power of God’s love at work in a sinner’s heart, if only we are willing to share it with everyone.

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Questions for Reflection:
1.  Does God’s grace have limits?  We say it is boundless, but do we live as though we believe it?
2.  Do we cheapen God’s grace when we only offer it to those we deem worthy?
3.  How might the story of the early church have been different if God had not pursued Paul with his grace and forgiveness?