How 2020 is Preaching the Gospel

“2020 is going to be infamous for centuries to come. People are going to use it in sentences like, “My week started great and then it went all 2020 on me.”

Our world appears to be falling apart on multiple levels. And it just keeps going. But maybe that’s a good thing.

I feel like 2020 is exposing humanity’s need of the gospel like never before. We are broken. The world is broken. We cannot fix this alone no matter how hard we try. We need a Savior.”

@christylynnewood

I originally wrote this on my Instagram a few weeks ago. I knew that it would eventually become a blog post. I am increasingly convinced that this year — that appears like it came from hell — actually came from a loving God who is tenderly calling His children home.

2020 is preaching us the gospel.

This year has wrecked me. Exposed me (and not just to COVID). And made me question what I believe. Anyone else feel like this? I think it’s a gift.

Because we can’t be found until we realize that we are lost. We can’t be saved until we believe we are sinking. When life is good it’s easy to get lost in our comfortable, busy, distractible lives. But strip us down to nothing…leave us naked and alone…and suddenly we see that all the pretty baubles are just cheap plastic. We were made for more than this broken world.

The disconnect we feel — the sense that something isn’t right — that’s the Holy Spirit whispering the truth to our heart. We were created by an incredible Living Presence for relationship with Him in a perfect world.

But it’s all broken now. 2020 has made that abundantly clear.

There are worldviews that teach the idea that people are basically good and it’s just their environments that cause them to do bad things. People with this mindset are passionate about fixing the brokenness in our world through social justice. The goal is to liberate oppressed people so that they can become good.

It sounds nice, but Scripture is pretty clear that it takes more than a clean, healthy, and prosperous environment to make broken people good.

"For all have sinned 
and fall short of the glory of God" 
Romans 3:23 (Net Bible).

2020 has put our sin on display. Selfishness, pride, love of power, lies, hoarding: it’s everywhere, among every walk of life. There aren’t any good people, just broken ones. Sure, we all have the potential for goodness because we were created in the image of a very good God. But that innate goodness has also been corrupted by sin. On our own we are hopelessly lost.

The brokenness caused by sin extends into nature itself and so we have natural disasters and disease. The world really is falling apart.

"For we know 
that the whole creation groans 
and suffers together..." 
Romans 8:22 (Net Bible).

If we cannot fix this mess by ourselves — the mess that is 2020 — then what do we do? We turn to the only One who saves. To the One who loves broken, messed up people. To the One who is in the business of restoration. Jesus Christ.

Contrary to the teachings of religious Christianity, God isn’t looking for good people. He doesn’t need us to fix anything or get it all together. We just come broken to the foot of the cross. The cross where a perfect God lovingly took the punishment for the sins of a screwed-up world.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us, 
in while we were still sinners, 
Christ died for us" 
Romans 5:8 (Net Bible).

This core truth of Christianity is offensive on many levels. God requires punishment for sins? People deserve death? Death was necessary for salvation? That’s all so violent. It’s not nice.

No, it’s not.

But in His love God took all that offense on Himself, all the shame, and all the punishment. And He offers humanity love, forgiveness, and restoration in return. How is it possible that God would do everything for us and require nothing from us? How can He give salvation as a free gift to anyone who will accept it? Because He is God and giving scandalous grace is what He does.

I originally wrote this post to get my thoughts together for a video I recorded for Facebook. The blog is much less dramatic and more put together than the video (where three neighbors are mowing their lawns, bugs are biting me, and a hammock attacks me twice). But if you’d like to watch the video you can find it here.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE SEARCH AND RECEIVE MONTHLY NEWSLETTERS WITH EXCLUSIVE CONTENT.

A Dry and Thirsty Land

419869D2-84DA-4FCA-9D1A-D04332679F67

The shriveled clumps of grass clung weakly to the dirt. Brown and brittle, they crunched under my feet. It hadn’t rained in weeks. Everything was dry and dusty. Just walking around kicked up so much dirt that a light tan film constantly covered my feet and legs. My favorite summer camp was quickly turning into a desert. We were desperate for some rain!

I was reminded of one of my first blog posts this morning as I once again prayed for rain. It has been incredibly dry here in Michigan for the past few weeks. The grass is yellow with the exception of some weeds and I have to water my flowers every other day. After growing up in the country surrounded by farm fields, I’m still stressed out by the spiky corn plants we drive past; their curled and pointy leaves showing their own desperation. My husband laughs at me, but it’s something that I can’t seem to let go.

I spent the morning watching the radar and weather forecast. It looked like the rain was going to miss us after all. “God,” I prayed feeling the weight in my heart, “send us rain.”

“I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land” Psalm 143:6.

I knew firsthand what it meant to be in a parched land and desire water. But what did it mean to long for God like that? I walked through the dry, dusty field at camp and I thought about being as desperate for God as I currently was for rain. Then I did it. I stretched out my hands. There is humility in stretching out to God — even a little bit of fear — because we are admitting that we can’t reach by ourselves. We are showing a need.

2E3FB9EC-64D3-4E13-A064-DCA06328435A

Does your heart feel desperate? Mine does. Months of stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, political drama, social unrest, disagreement, anger, frustration, grief…my heart is kind of a wreck.

Do you know what I long for? Jesus Christ to come and physically reign as King. I want to see what true justice and mercy looks like. I want to watch a King with ultimate authority rule without loving money and power more than truth. And I am excited to know that the longings of my heart will one day be fulfilled.

But I also know that the King of my heart can also provide the peace and security I long for right now in the middle of this messy world. The Holy Spirit is with me (and you) right now. He is here and so I stretch out my hands.

When I stretched out my hands to Him, felt the strain in my fingers and the pull in my elbow, He was right there.

I’m desperate for God. I can’t live without Him. I need Him in the same way that plants need the rain. He knows that, but I need to remind myself. So, I stretch. 

Sometimes when I’m feeling brave at church I’ll lift my hand up just a little bit higher until I can feel it. Sometimes it’s in the car when I’m listening to the radio. There is just something freeing and beautiful about admitting how much we need God.

I noticed that my house felt darker this afternoon, so I picked up my phone to check the radar again. A tiny storm was starting to form to the southwest. “Jesus, send rain,” I breathed. I took my coffee out to the porch to watch. The wind began to pick up and I could hear distant rumbles of thunder. It came. A gentle mist at first and then, while the tree stops danced and swayed, a downpour. I ran for cover laughing. I watched on the radar and out my windows for the next hour and more while the storm grew and grew. It’s still gently raining as I finish this post.

CFEEDDED-3619-42CF-9F61-0E0B366ECD80

The same God who graciously answered my desperate prayers for rain will answer our heart-cry for Him. “My soul thirsts for You like a parched land.” As we stretch for Him, He is there to be found.

“’You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all of your heart I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:13-14.

“…that they should seek God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is not actually far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26-28.

Name

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE SEARCH AND RECEIVE MONTHLY NEWSLETTERS WITH EXCLUSIVE CONTENT. 😁

 

I Don’t Want to be an Evangelical Anymore

pew-846021_1920 (1)

Fair warning: I am passionate but trying to be loving at the same time.

We’ve screwed it up, you guys. Big time.

I read an article a few days ago with a quote by Michael Steele (former chair of the Republican National Committee). Mr. Steele was angry with Evangelical leaders who were once again defending President Trump. What he said has haunted me ever since.

“I have a very simple admonition at this point. Just shut the hell up and don’t ever preach to me about anything ever again. I don’t want to hear it.”

His statement made me catch my breath. I was not offended. In fact, I absolutely get where he’s coming from. The man has a point!

I don’t think I want to be an Evangelical anymore. And I’m not the only one. I found this post back in December and immediately resonated with it.

img_7804.jpg

If you read my blog, you will know that I am not a progressive liberal. I lean conservative. I take a literal stand on Biblical interpretation. But I am passionate about truth, and Evangelical Christianity needs a healthy dose of truth right now.

We are not being persecuted for our faith. We are being called out for being two-faced jerks. We are being nailed for being hypocrites. We are being condemned for living a lie. They are right, and we are wrong.

Evangelicals have been very good at calling out “sins” such as homosexuality and abortion. But at the same time quick to excuse or cover up things like abuse and sexual assault that happen right in our own churches and ministries. We call it “protecting the name of Christ.” The world looks on and calls it what it is: hypocrisy.

We claim to follow a God of love, and yet we refuse to welcome strangers and those in need. We call it “protecting our own interests.” The world calls us fakes.

kid-2529907_1920

We are afraid of people who are different from us. So we isolate ourselves and condemn them. The world recognizes our fear as hatred. It might not actually be hatred, but it’s definitely not love.

I’m not going all “social justice warrior” on you. People can be passionate about social justice and have never met Jesus. But if we have truly encountered Christ, we absolutely will love people.

“By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:35.

Jesus never asked us to impose our moralistic views on our culture. We were not mandated by God to create a Christian nation. Are you kidding me? That’s a bunch of crap! Do you know what the Greco-Roman culture was like during the 1st Century? Do you know what kind of darkness those early Christians experienced? But they weren’t working on government reform…they were too busy shining like stars (Philippians 2:14-15).

We are missing the entire point, people. And until we figure it out, maybe we need to “shut the hell up.”

glass-984457_1920

It’s not just a surface problem. It’s not just about issues like gay marriage, abortion, or immigration. Our problem is deep. We need heart transplants.

We need to be broken, recognize our own sin, and repent on a heart level.

Somehow many Evangelicals have become obsessed with outward behaviors…Christian codes of conduct. Black and white. Good and bad. I think we all know deep down that we are screwed up and that terrifies us. For some reason we think we have to be perfect, but also know we aren’t. So we become really good at justifying, and defending, and excusing our own behaviors, all while pointing fingers at others to get the attention off of ourselves.

That’s all a lie.

Do you know what Evangelical Christianity needs? It needs the gospel. Ironic isn’t it?

There is a very real God who passionately loves us. We are magnificent creations, made in His image, and made to know Him. But, we chose to do things our own way. The world and the people in it are now broken by sin. We are a mess. But God…loves us. Jesus came as one of us, lived, died, and rose again. His death provides forgiveness and a way back into a relationship with God. Jesus gives His Holy Spirit to everyone who believes in Him. His Spirit is at work in our hearts, pointing out things that need to change and empowering us to live like Jesus.

heart-1693304_1920

This is the core of Christianity. It’s simple information, but do we believe it? If we truly believe the good news of Jesus Christ, it will transform our lives.

  • When I accept the fact that I am a messed up, but very loved sinner, I stop pretending I’m perfect.
  • When I let go of my own efforts and accept the grace of God, I am able to extend that grace to others.
  • When I recognize just how much I have been forgiven, I can forgive others as well.
  • When I see the amazing love of God for me, I will in turn love people.

***

I personally have had a very interesting last eighteen months. There was a lot of brokenness and pain. It made me reevaluate my Christianity. It softened me. It made me willing to listen to other people who were also broken, even people I disagreed with.

I’ve rethought and reevaluated my stance on a lot of things both religious and political. Some of the results have surprised me. It was the hardest and best thing that’s ever happened to me. 

I’m not saying we need to become progressive liberals or that we need to change our core beliefs and theology (although some of that might change)…but we do need to evaluate our beliefs and take stock of our attitudes. We need to lose the arrogance and fear. We need to learn to listen. We need to be willing to be wrong. We need to see all people as precious images of God. We need to value hearts over actions. We need to truly believe the gospel we proclaim.

And maybe once that happens, we can start talking again.

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Religion is Not Enough

23517460_1930154350638006_7202778407811339848_n

I just finished a book called, Unveiling Grace, by Lynn K. Wilder. It’s the true story of a family finding their way out of Mormonism and into a relationship with the real Jesus. Amazingly, Lynn and her husband were converts to Mormonism as adults even though they were exposed to Christianity as children. Their story proves the burden on my heart.

Christian religion is not enough. Attending church or Sunday school is not enough. Living a “good life” is not enough.

I’m afraid the corporate American church is horribly broken.

I’ve met a lot of people lately that agree with me. People who have left, and people who have stayed. Frustrated, bitter, cynical, hurting people. It’s not okay that so many people have been damaged by an institution that is supposed to be the body of Christ!

The world, is lost…broken…dying. Have you listened to the news lately? It’s terrifying. And we, people Jesus asked to be salt and light, don’t seem to have the real answers.

salt-1073252_1920 (1)

The answer isn’t in bigger, fancier, more awesome mega churches with hip pastors, talented worship bands, fog machines, relcaimed wood stages, or trendy coffee bars.

The solution will never be found in sticking to the “old time religion,” the KJV Bible version, and whatever other standards and rules we want to impose on people.

The answer is not to focus on social justice issues. People can have equality, clean water, and physical freedom, but still spend their eternity separated from God.

The solution is not moralism. Yelling about abortion, the LGBTQ+ movement, or pornography does not show God’s love and grace. There are many very moral people who have never met Jesus.

The answer is not to become culturally relevant by discarding passages of the Bible that don’t fit with our ideology. Human reasoning and intellect is not the ultimate source of truth.

So, what is the answer? What is the solution to the brokenness within the church and within our own hearts?

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” Matthew 7:13-14.

Growing up, I thought this verse was talking about worldly, sinful people waltzing down the wide road of death. While good, moral, spiritual people stuck to the hard, narrow road of life. But who was Jesus talking to here? Very spiritual people who had been given the word of God. An ethnic group called “God’s chosen ones.”  Men who had memorized the first five books of the Bible by the time they were twelve. Yeah…

So, what is this narrow gate? This hard way? Maybe it’s not a what…maybe it’s a WHO.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me‘” John 14:6.

It’s Jesus, you guys. It’s always been Jesus, and it will always be Jesus.

Jesus is the only solution to the brokenness in the church. Have you met Him? Do you know Him?

True Christianity is not a moral code, or a Sunday service, or an ideology.

  • It’s an encounter with a man who is also God.
  • It’s a door into healing and restoration of our most broken parts.
  • It’s a lifestyle because we have been changed from the inside out.

I’m afraid that there are a lot of people who sit in church on Sunday, and do their “good Christian” things, but have never met Jesus.

We can slap on some spiritual paint, add some emotional glitter, and think we are good. But, without the real Jesus, we have NOTHING.

Jesus isn’t just part of Christianity. Jesus IS Christianity.

Do you really KNOW Jesus? Do you believe that you can?

rain-20242_1920

If your version of Jesus is boring and mundane…if thinking about him makes you say, “meh,” then you haven’t met the real Jesus. If the grace of salvation seems unimpressive and dull…if you “already know everything” about it, then maybe you need to question if you really understand.

Where do you start? Have an honest look into your own heart. What does Christianity mean to you? And then seek to know Jesus. Read the gospels with childlike curiosity. Who was/is He? The answer will transform your life.

 

Name

But We Need Jesus (A Book Update)

img_4997

I’m sitting here at my favorite hipster coffee shop, feeling the vibe…feeling creative and artsy, and hoping to be inspired. I’m praying that I can explain what I’m thinking in a way that will make sense. 🙂

Friends, there are so many confused and broken people in this world! And we who call ourselves Christians have the answer for them…we have the good news about Jesus…the best news, the most amazing news! BUT…

It has to be more than just information.

Because logically, it doesn’t totally make sense. Intellectually, it’s kind of offensive. Culturally, it’s becoming irrelevant.

Words can’t convince people. Arguments can’t convince people.

But a life changed, overwhelming love and grace, total faith in something we cannot explain…things like that, proof of the Spirit of Jesus living inside of us…these are the things that make people wonder and think, even if they still question and doubt.

I’ve had three conversations in the past few weeks that are sticking with me in ways I didn’t expect.

  1. I was thanked for being kind by a person who has recently had Christians say terrible things to them because of something they are dealing with.
  2. I shared the good news of Jesus with a teen and listened as they prayed, trusting Jesus as their Savior, witnessed tears and smiles as they became a new creation.
  3. I listened, asked questions, and then shared my beliefs about Jesus with someone who believes in God but finds the Bible difficult to take literally.

These are my favorite conversations, my favorite types of experiences. They make me crave more. It’s amazing!

Confession time: I have been allowing doubts and fears to stop me from following God. I have allowed people’s opinions of me and my abilities to stop me from obeying Jesus. Ever since the agent I was working with turned me down, I haven’t even looked at my book proposal. It’s been three months. I let people shape my identity instead of Jesus.

img_4980

But these conversations the past few weeks…they are reminding me that I have a story to share. I have a passion and a message. His name is Jesus.

I don’t need to be perfect to share this message of love and hope, I just need to be willing. I will never have it all together, but that’s okay! I’m not supposed to…after all the message isn’t about me, it’s about my Savior who does the forgiving and saving, and shows the grace and love. I need Him just as much as anyone else!!

My heart for the lost world is for them to meet Jesus.

My heart for Christians is for them to actually meet Jesus and be able to share Him with the world.

I want you to so believe and experience Jesus that He completely changes your life. I want you to understand your salvation so well that it is effortless for you to share it with others. I want you to be at a place where you could sit in front of an entire coffee shop of people and talk about Jesus in such a real and compelling way that they would listen even if they didn’t believe…

Christian brothers and sisters, I want you to believe the truth about who you are in Christ with your heart, not just your mind. I want it to be life and not just knowledge. Not rules, not standards, not religion, but LIFE. Because we need the real Jesus. And this world needs the real Jesus. We are dying without Him.

And so, I am going to pursue this whole book thing again…until God clearly closes the door or until He flings it open. Please pray for me! Especially that I will believe the truth about myself. who I am in Christ, and not allow my identity to be shaped by people and their opinions of me.