I’m Just Here for the Broken Ones

Christy Lynne Wood

My grandpa loved burnt cookies. That last pan that got forgotten in the oven, the extra crispy ones with the hard brown edges that no one else wanted to eat, those were his favorites. When my grandparents came to visit, he always had the same question for my mom. “Got any burnt cookies?”

At first I thought he was joking or just trying to make my mom feel better if she’d burnt any. But as I grew up, I realized that my grandpa was actually serious. One of thirteen siblings, his mom was just a little busy and burnt cookies were often the result. Strangely, Grandpa not only got used to burnt cookies, he actually preferred them. I recently learned that various relatives would burn a pan for him on purpose. Good old Grandpa!

It makes me think of Jesus. As people, especially in our virtual world of social media, we value having it together. It’s important that we are looking good, behaving well, or at least pretending. But while He was on earth, Jesus seemed to prefer the broken ones, choosing to make rejected people His closest friends. He was always pursuing the outcasts and the obvious sinners. I think He was a little bit like my grandpa.

I love imagining Jesus coming in with outstretched hands and a smile, “I’m just here for the broken ones.”

I’m just here for the broken ones.

We’re all broken. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others. The tax collectors and prostitutes that Jesus befriended weren’t any worse sinners than the Pharisees. Sin isn’t just outward behaviors.

We desperately need a bigger understanding of a lot of things. I think religious Christians often see sin as merely behaviors they need to avoid. Somehow the goal has become outward goodness and our real issues get shoved under the rug and into the closet. Guilt and shame keep them there and as a result many church people never get to fully comprehend grace.

Religion_ I’m too much of a mess. Gotta get it together before I come to God.

Sin isn’t just behavior. It’s the deep self-centeredness that colors everything. It’s in our thoughts, and attitudes, and the motives of our hearts. We cannot get rid of it by ourselves. But we don’t have to!

God doesn’t want good people.

How’s that for a crazy thought? God does not value human effort at goodness. It is utterly impossible for us ever to be good enough on our own. And pride stops grace.

But this is why the gospel is good news. Jesus loves broken people, messed up ones, and total failures. And those are the kinds of people who love Him back. Because they know they need Him, because they know they can’t do it on their own. Because they come humbly to the cross and accept His free gift of forgiveness.

When we are broken, then we are able to be healed. When we are lost, then we are able to be found. When we are a total sinner, then we are able to experience forgiveness. In humility we find abundant grace, and mercy, and love.

Let’s stop trying to cover up our messes. Let’s just be burnt cookies!

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Letting Go of Perfect (Blogging at PastorsWives.com)

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Hope you enjoy my monthly contribution to PastorsWives.com. 🙂

After a crazy summer, I was looking forward to our perfect vacation. We’d rented a three room suite at a resort by Lake Superior. I was anticipating lazy beach days, exploring, and snuggly family time. Things didn’t go as planned.

Our suite had plumbing problems, so the owners “upgraded” us to their home. It was beautiful but also awkward and nerve wracking with two small children. Our four-year-old decided this was a great time to express how the summer’s lack of consistency had affected him. He turned into a raging, defiant, fit-throwing monster every time things didn’t go his way. It rained. A lot.

So much for perfect.

Our ideals rarely come true. Perfect vacations. Perfect marriages. Perfect children. Perfect churches or ministry situations. It’s pretty obvious that we live in a world broken by sin.

We can drive ourselves crazy striving for perfection. Continue reading here!

Hunting Pokemon

Last night my husband and I went out for a late anniversary date. After our delicious, wood-fired pizza, we decided to walk down to the popular, nearby dam. It was a beautiful summer evening: warm but not hot, gentle breeze, flowers blooming, water flowing. Absolutely gorgeous! But, as we approached the dam, it was clear that something was wrong.

People huddled in silent groups, sat motionless on the ground, or slowly walked by in a daze, all staring intently at the devices in their hands. Go figure, the dam was a popular spot to catch Pokemons! Everyone was playing Pokemon Go.

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As one of maybe three or four groups of people who weren’t catching virtual critters, it was surreal to watch. It looked like a scene from a sci-fi movie, and I half expected to see alien spacecraft hovering overhead preparing to extract the zombie victims.

The entire world has become obsessed with hunting and catching Pokemons!

What if Christians were as obsessed with finding Jesus?

People are willing to pack backpacks, drive their cars, join crowds of other people, look dumb, and put massive amounts of effort into catching virtual cartoon characters. What happens once you catch them? Nothing really, at least nothing of actual physical value.

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Why aren’t we as willing to put effort into finding Jesus? Maybe…

  • We don’t believe it’s possible.
  • We are content with knowing about Him.
  • We like easy religion.
  • We are afraid of what might happen if we actually find Him.

My understanding of the gospel has evolved over the years. As I have been thinking about writing a book, and about all the issues in modern Christianity, I have become obsessed with a gospel centered around relationship. I believe God created people to be in a relationship with Himself. (We see this in Genesis 1-3.) Sin broke the perfect relationship He intended. But, although Adam and Eve had to leave the garden, God continues to talk with and pursue people all through the Old Testament. Eventually, at just the right time, Jesus comes and restores the relationship between God and humanity, and He proves it by tearing the curtain in the temple. (Matthew 27:50-51) Finally, He sends His Holy Spirit to indwell everyone who trusts in Him for salvation! (Romans 8:9-11)

But here’s the deal. If the core message of the gospel is really all about a genuine relationship with Jesus…and if we see every truth of Scripture through that lens…it has potential to leave us with an uncomfortable situation.

Because if it’s NOT about rules or outward behavior, and it IS about seeking the person of Jesus…but we discover that we don’t actually want to pursue a relationship with Him…where does that leave us?

Staring down the motives of our hearts…and coming face to face with the reality of who were are apart from Christ…enemies…who desperately need a Savior!

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…for if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” Romans 5:8, 10

Religion leaves me in control, gives me a checklist to make myself feel good, works around my plans and schedule, and is easy to reject if I get tired of it. An actual relationship with Jesus leaves me feeling powerless at times, shows me my sin, might be time consuming, requires faith, and if I reject it, I have to deal with the fact that I’m rejecting Him!

And yet, in the deepest parts of my heart, I know that Jesus is what I really want. I believe that He will absolutely satisfy me. And the things He takes away, or asks me to let go of, well, they probably aren’t as valuable as I think they are.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing (experiencing) Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish (literally poop) in order that I may gain Christ.”  Phil. 3:8

Will you hunt for Jesus with me? Even if it gets hard and takes effort? Even if it get’s uncomfortable and we don’t feel like we want to? Even if we are afraid? He has promised that if we look for Him, we will find Him! I’m confident that seeking Jesus is a lot more rewarding than catching Pokemon!

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Finding My Message

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On Tuesday I sent my book proposal to my agent, Karen. It’s been quite the 2.5 year journey to get to this point! I think I spent more time trying to run away from writing a book than actually being obedient. Good thing Jesus is so gracious and so persistent. And now it is out of my hands and into His. It feels exciting, terrifying, kind of unreal, and unexpectedly peaceful all at the same time.

My sister and bestie (who also happens to be my editor, encourager, and confidant) asked me the other day, “Are you ready for this to potentially change your life?”

I don’t know. But I’ve been thinking about it, a lot. And the biggest question I’ve been wrestling with is, what is my message? It’s one thing to blog, but what if my book actually gets published, and what if I am given opportunities to speak to people? What do I tell them?

I’ve been thinking and praying about this a lot, and after a long, passionate talk with my husband last night, I think I know. It’s actually pretty simple and unimpressive, haha! 🙂

I think I’m supposed to share the clear, simple gospel and include the parts that often get ignored or missed.

  • God made you for a relationship with Him and He loves you more than you could ever imagine.
  • But we are enemies of God and our sin (lack of perfection) separates us from that relationship. Sin brings death.
  • God knew from the beginning that we could never work hard enough or earn our way back to Him, so He came as Jesus. Jesus lived, loved, died, and rose again taking the punishment for sin and destroying the power of it!
  • If we trust in Jesus alone, we can have forgiveness and eternal life.
  • Through Jesus, God has restored our relationship with Him! And if we trust in Jesus and His death, God gives us His own Spirit to live with and in us as a guarantee of our salvation.
  • The Holy Spirit will give us comfort, encouragement, help, wisdom, and everything we need to live like Jesus if we will let Him (believe He can).

Really, Christy?  What kind of a message is that?

I think it’s the one that’s too often missing, or covered up, or tweaked. Consider these thoughts.

Why don’t Christians focus more on the fact that Jesus came to restore our relationship with God instead of telling people that He died to save them from hell? I feel like this misses a huge part of the good news!

Once people trust Jesus as their Savior, why don’t we teach them how to know Him instead of giving them a list of things to stop/start doing? If we are pursuing a relationship with Jesus and allowing Him to work in our life, isn’t His Spirit real enough and strong enough to convict us of our sin and change us from the inside out?

Why don’t we read the Bible because it shows us who God is and what He has done (among other things), and pray because we are sharing our heart with God and enjoying a relationship with Him? How often do our “devos” happen (if they happen) because it’s “right” or because it makes us feel more godly or spiritual?

There are so many problems with Christianity these days, on both sides of the fence. But I think this basic, simple, “nothing new” message is the answer. Because it brings us back to Jesus, the reason behind our “Christianity” in the first place. It confronts us with the fact that the point is knowing God, and Jesus did everything to make that possible.

If Christians put everything else aside, and just believed in these simple truths, and then embraced the fact that we can know God and have the Holy Spirit. If they started pursuing Him, seeking Him, exploring what it means to have the very Spirit of God with us always, wouldn’t God be big enough to teach and show them the truth?

There are too many lies to try and defeat…on both sides, conservative and liberal. But if I can tell people the real, clear gospel, which is all about Jesus, and His desire to restore our relationship. If they believe and embrace this truth, won’t the Spirit of Jesus do the rest?

 

 

Would We Recognize Him?

 

This is re-blogged from last year with some changes and updates. 🙂

If Jesus came and visited my church would I recognize him? Would you? Most of the religious people missed him last time.

moses-573811_1920The Pharisees were some of the religious elite. They looked good on the outside. They were filled with zealous passion. They not only followed the rules in the Law, they made up more rules and followed them too. They read and taught the Scriptures. But when God showed up, the promised Savior of the world, these same religious people missed him. In fact they didn’t just miss him, they claimed that he was a drunkard, a sinner, and possessed by a demon! God, the Creator of the Universe!

Ironically, these “good” Pharisees were the only people Jesus condemned. He spent a lot of time telling parables about them, ignoring their rules, and challenging their ideology. Why? Jesus met “sinners” in the dirt, loved them, forgave them, and set them free. Why was he so confrontational with the Pharisees? Would he be confrontational with me? What if this is the answer:

The sinners knew they were sinners. The Pharisees thought they were good enough.

Grace is only good news if you know you need it!

When I am in the dirt (like the woman in John 8), totally aware of my sin, my mess, and my unworthiness, Jesus can sit down there with me and show me grace. He loves me and forgives me even though I don’t deserve it. Jesus overwhelms me with grace because that’s who He is, and I stand in awe and can’t help but love Him in return.

But, if I think that I am good enough because of the list of rules that I am following, if I think that my outward performance is impressing God, if I am puffed with pride, then Jesus can’t show me grace.

Because, grace means nothing if we think we have earned it.

I really believe that Jesus’ motivation behind every confrontation with the Pharisees was to show them their sin, to show them that they weren’t good enough, that they would never be good enough, and that they needed Him.

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These religious people thought that God gave the Law for people to follow so that they would be good enough to impress Him. They thought it was a checklist to perfection. But Paul tells us in Galatians 3 that God gave the Law to show us our sin, to show us that we couldn’t do it, and to remind us that we needed a Savior.

God’s standard is perfection. In order to be with Him, we have to be perfect. (Psalm 5:4) Yeah, I don’t know about you, but I’m out of luck. 😦 Still, He wants us! God wants a relationship with us! That has always been His goal. The consequence of sin, disobedience to God, is death. (Romans 6:23) But God loved us so much that He came to die in our place (John 3:16). If we trust in this, that Jesus died in our place for our sins, then God forgives us, adopts us as His children, and gives us eternal life! (John 3:16-18) That is good news! There is nothing that we can do to earn forgiveness. And, there is nothing more we can do to earn God’s blessings or impress Him once we have been forgiven.

Sadly, I’ve met a lot of Christians who look more like Pharisees than Jesus followers.

If Jesus showed up at your church with shaggy hair, maybe an earring or two, wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops, with Christian rap music blaring out of his rolled down car windows, would you recognize Him? Does this description make you angry? Uncomfortable? Does it make you laugh?

I don’t think Jesus fits into the predictable, churchy, sanitized box we have created for Him. He sure didn’t fit into the Pharisee’s box! What if we are missing the point (a restored relationship with our Creator) because we are too focused on religion and tradition? What if there is more than we can ever imagine right at our fingertips? Right there for the seeking, if we are willing to look?

 

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