I grew up in a family of three boys. As you can imagine we often had moments of messes and broken things. We wrestled on more than one occasion, and to be honest I am not sure how my brothers and I didn’t break more things. One day when I was probably 9 my older brother and I were playing with a large stuffed animal my younger brother brought home. We did our best WWF style moves and smashed around the family room. While doing this, one of us (I really can’t remember who) smashed into my moms lamp. You know the lamp. The one that was old and had a long family connection. As you can imagine the lamp was in many pieces. In fact so many pieces that we did what any boys do when they have broken something. We ran and hid. We pretended like we didn’t do it. Well mom came home and was upset. No amount of super glue could put it back together. She was disappointed in her boys and quite angry.
Then it happened. You know who came home next. It was Dad. Dad came in the room. He saw what happened and sat all three of us on the couch. I really thought I wasn’t going to make it to my next birthday. He looked at us and said boys this cant be fixed. He didn’t yell in fact he had a large amount of calm. I really was surprised because dad could fix anything. Even he couldn’t get out enough glue and fix it, it would never be right. Instead he did something shocking to us. He went to a special store to buy a new piece. It was quite expensive. For the time over $200 to fix and for our family it was a lot. As a parent I think about how I might have had my boys chip in and help pay for it, but he didn’t. He went and just paid for it himself and mad the lamp new.
As we begin Lent I was reminded of this story. Today is ash Wednesday. It is a day we have ashes put on our forehead to remind us we are dust and to dust we shall return. It is a day to remember the mess we have made of our lives. It has been a mess made from the beginning of time and we as God’s people continue to move and make a bigger and bigger mess. We are marked as people who are a mess. God didn’t leave us in this broken mess. He didn’t just take out some super glue to put us back together. He did something far better. He sent His Son Jesus to be with us and to pay our price. If you go to service today you will have ashes on your forehead to remind you of both these facts. You are broken beyond repair. You are Dust…and to Dust you shall return. The cross reminds us Jesus doesn’t leave us that way. He pays the price and makes us completely new. So on this Ash Wednesday as we consider our sin and brokenness may we be reminded that Jesus has paid through the cross to make us new.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam[c] named his wife Eve,[d] because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.Genesis 3:14-24
We all have scars. I have a few from ministry. Some of those scars are seen and others are right in the middle of my face. But scars can be a good thing if they are done for the sake of the Gospel.
This past week we had an amazing VBS. We had more kids attend VBS this year than any of the past 5. We capped it off by collecting 545 items for food pantries in our area. This led to my most recent scar. I told the kids if they collected 500 canned goods I would jump into a pool of ice. It was going to be awesome. The kids were cheering, and excited when we brought them out to watch it. They were cheering me on. I thought the worst that could happen was get some bumps or bruises jumping into the kiddy pool. I leaped and was in the water. The pain wasn’t that bad but when I came out of the water I saw blood. My wife gave me the look that said “you did something very wrong to your face.” She grabbed my hat off my head and shoved it into my face so the children wouldn’t be further traumatized. It was not my best moment in ministry. Something that seemed so promising had gone so bad in a matter of seconds.
But I wouldn’t change a thing. I did get bandaged up and was able to walk back inside and share with kids I was alright and lead them in a prayer. One of the themes for the week was Jesus heals us and so I tied it all together. It turned into a good moment to share Jesus. I am someone who will jump in a pool of ice water if I think it will let me talk about Jesus with a kid. Heck the scar was a great story in the ER when I got my 11 stitches. I got to share Jesus with a doctor, nurse and three paper work people. I don’t mind the scars in ministry because another family, kid, student, adult or whoever got to hear the good news of Jesus. They got to see some crazy grown kid stand up and share Jesus. Who knows if they will ever be a believer in Christ. The Holy Spirit does that work anyway. I never even know if the scar is worth it.
I do know this however, I would take all the scars in the world if it meant one more kid or family might know Jesus. So for all of you in ministry, either volunteer or paid professional lets make more scars so others can know this Jesus who loves and cares for us. Lets tell the world even if it means some pain and scars.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Psalm 51:8 ESV
I know I am not the only one to make this observation; People are not real on Facebook! We only put the best out for others to see. We will take a picture 5 times if we don’t think it looks good. This can be difficult for Christians and others who are going through tough stuff. We all post the best picture, video or quote. We want others to believe everything about us is awesome. I know I do it. I post when we are doing family game night, reading our bible together or having a family hug moment. I don’t know that I have ever posted a picture when one of the kids is having a tantrum, or in the middle of a fight. I know none of you have seen a video of me screaming at my children over something trivial. I never show you my unkempt house, my piles of dirty laundry or the time I left the seat up. I don’t want people to see those moments. I want them to see the good. Heck, I only want to see the good.
So it got me thinking, what if for a week we took pictures everyday, every 15 minutes or so? What if I took pictures of the mundane, the broken, and the bad? What if everything posted to Facebook wasn’t the good stuff, but was me at my worst? What if I posted pictures from angles not so flattering to myself or only posted pictures that are too blurry to see? I suppose some of you would be offended, many would be annoyed, others would look down on me. Many would know for certain what they have always suspected, Steve is a broken sinner. Steve is selfish, Steve is a slob, Steve doesn’t do much right at all! To be truthful you would all be right.
For those of you who know me, don’t worry I am not going to post pictures every 15 minutes. You won’t have too unfriend or block my posts…hopefully. I write this because I want us all to be reminded we are broken. I to fail more than I succeed. I to am in need of Christ’s forgiveness. We all need His grace, forgiveness, and mercy. We need it each day.
If this week you experience in real life the ugly and the broken, and you are ashamed of it. I would try to remind you, Facebook isn’t real life. It isn’t real Christianity. In real life the picture is actually blurry and often broken. You are not alone. Jesus is there with you. He had gone through it as well. We have all been forgiven in Christ.
Therefore (Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrew 2:17-19 ESV
I have heard it said far too often from well intentioned Christians, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” I think this is a load of crap. Sorry for my language. It makes me angry because as I sit with students this week who are hurting beyond imagination this kind of stuff hurts them and leads to confusion. I want to scream and lets just all agree to stop saying these things to students because they are not true and certainly aren’t biblical.
First, does God cause these bad things to happen so we can deal with them? Nope! Not even close. The statement above assumes God causes bad things to happen to us. This is certainly wrong in terms of God’s character. God is good and God is love. He does not cause his people harm. The bad is this world happens because of sin. Sin has totally corrupted our world. Sin causes death. Sin causes brokenness. Our sin, original sin and Satan are the cause of evil in this world. Jesus has been working since the beginning of the fall to save his people from this sin and brokenness. Jesus came so we could be whole again. Through is death and resurrection we get a glimpse of this redemption today.
Second, and probably most troubling about this comment is it assumes we can handle anything with our own strength. It assumes inside of us is this superhuman power to deal with great tragedy, loss, and brokenness. This is a load of bunk. This past week walking with students has brought to the conclusion, sometimes we are hit with such tragedy, such pain, such brokenness that we cannot hope to get through it on our own. You see for me when I am faced with the unimaginable pain of loss, and brokenness, I am brought to my knees. This week of seeing students hurt, seeing students see this broken sin filled world brought me so low I was in tears. I am brought to a point where I am not sure I can even look up to God. Yet I am reminded of His promises to me to never leave me or forsake me. I am reminded that although in this world I will see trouble I can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world. I can put my hope and trust in Jesus because in him I know tomorrow will come. One day I will be able to stand again. When I look to that cross and see my redemption I can watch as he wipes away all my tears. For their will be a day when we will have be no more pain, no more brokenness, and all will be well.
If today you are broken and don’t think you can stand anymore, and are not sure you can handle everything that is going on in your life. You can join me on my knees this week as we look to Jesus the only one who can rescue us. My prayer is you see Jesus and let Him pick you up.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev 21:3-5