Proclaiming the Gospel

Growing up, I was always a self-proclaimed goody-two-shoes. I rarely did anything wrong. I followed the rules. I never rebelled. I defended my faith and brought my Bible to school to show just how serious about my faith I was. I was your classic good Christian girl.

While this is wonderful, it took me a long time to see just how lost this world is, but how genuinely human my neighbor is, regardless of their faith or knowledge of Christ. The topic of how to approach nonbelievers has been one that is on my heart a lot lately. I have seen far too many Christians build up walls around our churches, judging newcomers and young Christians by their sins instead of getting to know them personally. But I feel that Jesus has been shifting my views a little, allowing me to see a generation, however selfie-obsessed, that is broken and in need of the knowledge of the love and grace that only Jesus can give.

I am not alone in this. Many growing churches today have the same mindset — we live in a world that needs Jesus, so let us show Him to them. Sometimes, the mindset can be viewed as a watered-down Gospel. Many Christians feel that love is taught too freely and sin is not taught enough. I believe that sin should be pointed out among Christians, but that love cannot be given to freely.

I recently watched an interview with Carl Lentz on The View that had many Christians angry. He did not point out that abortion is a sin on national television.

From the very beginning, they introduced Carl Lentz as a pastor “unlike anything I’ve ever seen” and then went straight for hot button topics like same-sex marriage and abortion. It’s The View, so controversial topics are not unexpected, but it really looked like they were asking not out of genuine interest but to stir up something. Immediately, I got uncomfortable — not from the question, but from the motives. He got uncomfortable too, and refused to give a straight answer when asked if abortion was a sin. I quote, “I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, find out their story; before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”

I thought about those words — similar words to what I had told my husband only days before. If you don’t know Jesus, I want to get to know you and point you to Him. I do not want to look at you and point out your sins. This is not my job.

In fact, my job as a Christian is laid out in Mark 16:15 – “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” – and in Matthew 28:19-20 – “ Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Firstly, the word “gospel” literally means “good news.” The good news is NOT that you have sinned but that the God of all creation has loved you so much that He sent his only Son into the world as a baby for the sole purpose of dying one day all for you. Because you matter.
Secondly, I don’t think that the order in which Jesus speaks in Matthew 28 is an accident; in order to make disciples of all nations, first we must baptize and then we must teach. First we must lead them to Jesus and then we must teach them His ways.

I talked about this a few posts back in No Place in Heaven; that there had to be a better way to approach nonbelievers than telling them that God hates sin and that they have sinned. This could not be the gospel that Jesus was talking about in Mark 16:15. That could not have been what He meant.

Recently, I read in 1 Corinthians 5 about sin in the church. Specifically, Paul had received reports that there was a case of sexual immorality in the church, something that is so obviously sin, even pagans did not practice it. He rebuked this sin specifically and said there was no place for it in the church. But he also touched on sin outside of the church and said,

 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

The more I read my Bible and how Christians are to ask, the less I am compelled to point out that my neighbors who do not know Christ are actually sinners by a standard they do not understand. The more I think about Jesus, the more I want to let people know that he was a radical in this time and would likely be considered a radical in the church today. He ate with sinners. He refused to cast stones at an adulteress. He gave the good news about the living water he offered to another adulteress who wasn’t even Jewish. He was touched by a woman who was ceremoniously unclean and did not rebuke her. He loved the unlovable and the pharisees scoffed at him.

Five years ago, I was pregnant with my first son. I was not prepared for him. I wanted kids, but not yet. I was only four months married when I found out about my son. It was not the first year of marriage I had always imagined. I knew, though, that God had given my my son at that time for a reason. As life goes on, I am realizing more reasons for all of it. One thing God did in me at that time was give me compassion for the girl who chooses abortion.

I was always pro-life and will always be pro-life. I wrote about it a little here. There were facts I had always known from research that supported the ideology that a fetus is actually a life. And yet, five years ago, I felt scared and ashamed to be pregnant. I never considered ending my pregnancy, but I realized how people could. The life growing inside of me was something permanent that I would have to care for when I was only learning how to be an adult myself. I could not see past my current situation, and my current situation certainly did not allow for a child.

My heart melted the day that I saw my “little gummy bear” dancing on the screen during my 9-week ultrasound. I knew the scientific facts about how babies grew in the womb. But to see my baby, only an inch long, dancing and jumping, made everything that much more real.

If I had chosen to end my pregnancy, I never would have seen that ultrasound. I never would have actually seen the life inside of me. You could have told me about it, but I would not have known. I could not have pictured it. If I had chosen to have an abortion, that guilt would have stayed with me, as I have heard from many women who have had abortions out of fear from their current circumstances. Every birth date that would have passed would have been a reminder that the baby I never had was not with me.

You see, many women who choose abortion do not do it out of spite or callousness. They have so many different reasons. And many genuinely do not see the fetus as a life and therefore have no reason to call it murder. Do you not see why a Christian who claims the love of Jesus above all does not want to call it sin on national TV? Do you not realize how many broken women there were watching that morning needing to not hear that there choice from years ago, months ago, or the day before was simply a “sin”? And could you not imagine the backlash that a Christian man would have gotten for calling all these women sinners?

The world does not need to hear right now that it is in sin. In the midst of all that is going on in these weeks alone, we need to hear that there is a God who loves us, a God who wants to be with us, a God who thought that we we worth His death on the Cross.

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No Place in Heaven

There’s no place in Heaven for someone like me.

Because I am a sinner. I’ve lied (Lev. 19:11), I’ve been proud, I’ve been lazy, I’m addicted to chocolate and potato chips (Proverbs 6:16-19), I’ve been angry and held grudges, and I’ve insulted people (Matthew 5:21-26). I am a sinner (Romans 3:23) and there is no room in Heaven for sin (Rev. 21:27).

And yet, I know I will get to Heaven (Acts 2:21). It is not of my doing, but because Jesus loved me so much that He was willing to leave His place in Heaven to come as a baby, grow in the world and walk this earth, die and rise again, all so that I could have a place in Heaven with Him. He has saved me by His grace.

I named this post after a song I recently heard, by an artist I really like. I love a good portion his music, although I am saddened by some of his lyrics and his skewed views on theology. But my heart really fell when I heard his song about being gay and begging God to love him in spite of it.

Listening to the words was sobering. My mind raced around the ideas and words and beliefs regarding Christianity and homosexuality. It skipped past protesters who picketed, holding signs of “God hates gays” (He doesn’t) and went straight to the commonly heard phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner” (Jude 23).

Let me be clear: all types of sexual immorality is sin (1 Cor. 6:12-18). It is important, as Christians, to not forget that sin is real and it separates us from Christ — it is the entire reason Christ came to the world at all.

And yet, I feel like we got it all wrong. I feel like I got it all wrong.

When we, as Christians, single out homosexuality as a sin, we act as if it is a greater sin than anything else. Why does no one call out liars, claiming that the liars are loved, but the lies aren’t? I’ve even seen more compassion for murderers than for homosexuals. So, how is a person supposed to feel when he is told that his identity is a sin? How can he not feel that he is beyond saving, beyond grace?

The Nashville Statement came out recently. (I am not against it nor condemning it. I think it is necessary for the church to defend its statutes when politics start to interfere with freedom of religion.) How must a person feel to know that out of every possible sin, there was a separate doctrine written only about himself and people like him? When you are personally hurt by people who claim to love the most compassionate Man to ever walk this planet, how could you interpret it as anything but condemnation?

I think we as Christians need to be more empathetic and more willing to show the love of Jesus. We are doing no one a favor when we blindly call out sin into an already hurting world.

As a Christian, I don’t ever want to be the one to tell you there is no place in Heaven for someone like you. But if you feel that way, come to Jesus. Let Him love you. Try Him and let Him do whatever He needs to do with you.

There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

An Overwhelming Christmas

It was 5:30 AM on a Friday in late November. Ethan had already been up for two hours. I was exhausted. He was screaming in the crib, and Daddy tried to takeover and hold him for a bit.

All I wanted to do was sleep but I couldn’t. I decided to use that time to go on my phone to buy the main Christmas gift for the boys: tickets to a Christmas train.

I had it all planned out — we were going to take a mini-getaway a couple of hours from home, and go on this train that was the perfect blend of coziness, affordability, magic, location, and fun. The hotel was already booked, and I had meant to buy the tickets, but when I checked a few days before, I didn’t have my credit card with me, so I could not reserve the train tickets.

So, when I was met by the giant seven letters of heartbreak, SOLD OUT, I immediately started sobbing wailing. So now, my husband had two crying babies he had to try to console.

My reaction may seem a little extreme (it’s laughable now), but I was overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated as it was, and probably PMSing. But the thing that got me is that it felt like I was the biggest failure as a mom at that point. I had planned the most perfect gift for my boys and due to my failure to act, I could not give them a part of me.

Side note: Roland was a gem through all of this. So kudos to him. 😉

Fast forward to today, almost a week after our mini-getaway, I can tell you that the train ride would have been awesome but we had a great time as it was. (Because I know you’re curious, we went to a car/train museum and then to a nice hotel with a great indoor pool for kids. Joshua had the time of his life, and Ethan was perfectly behaved.)


Then today, as I was reading the story of Christmas to Joshua, I wondered how Mary felt. Each day, we focus on different portions of the story because Joshua is 3 and we have attention span issues with longer stories and I feel like there are so many important details to focus on. Today, I thought of Mary placing her newborn baby in a feeding box for animals because she had no other option.

Did she feel like a failure?

Did she, the woman who was hand-picked to carry our Savior, feel like she wasn’t cut out for the job?

Was she overwhelmed that at such an inconvenient time and place, her body was going into labor?

Did she question how she was going to raise this child when she realized that he would be born in a stable that night?

Did she wonder if she should have had a plan? Shouldn’t she have known that the census would be around this time? Wasn’t there someone Joseph knew who they could stay with? Did any of these questions go through her mind?

As a mom, it’s so easy to feel like a failure. Especially around the holidays, when we try so hard to make everything special for our kids but realize by December 15 that it’s more stressful than not and then wonder if it’s best to not soak up in the holiday magic or push through it anyway, and what about the Christmas gifts?

But Mary… she was a young girl who had one of the most important jobs this world has ever known. She was the vessel that God used to bring Jesus Christ into the world. And even she did not have all the answers. Heck, she even forgot her kid and did not notice until the next day.

So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect moms? Why did I sob over one mom fail when my kids were perfectly happy, despite my one mistake (which was so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things). Why do we especially strive to make things so overwhelmingly magical during this season? (Emphasis on overwhelming.) Don’t you think our kids would be equally happy with a little bit less stuff, planned events, and stress?

When Mary looked at her perfect baby lying in the manger, I don’t think she was thinking about the fancy bassinet that she did not have. When she saw the shepherds coming and bowing down before him, I don’t think she thought twice about the kind of mother she would be.

I think she was perfectly content, knowing that her baby boy was in her arms, that her Savior was in the world. I think the more she just sat and stared at his tiny face and took it all in, the more overwhelmed with peace and joy she became.

I want to do that. I want to focus on the fact that Christ came down to this earth for the every wounded heart, every broken soul, every crushed spirit, every afflicted body,  and even every financial problem.

I want to be overwhelmed by his goodness this Christmas.

Blessed Are Those…

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

What an amazing promise this is. 

When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, he specifically said that those who mourn are blessed. It took me years to understand WHY people who are in such distress are considered to be blessed. It feels like the exact opposite. It feels like when your world has suddenly crashed down, when part of your heart has been ripped out that you are anything but blessed. Often it feels like God has done something against you, or at the very least has overlooked you. But those who mourn will be comforted

The Message puts it this way:

““You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:4‬ ‭MSG‬‬

…only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

I often feel that the nighttime is the worst when grieving. You’re tired, and often not in the company of others. You’re alone with your thoughts and with your grief. When all you need is some rest, you can’t get any. When all you need is a warm hug, you feel nothing. 

And yet, for Christians who mourn, God is right there holding us. 

Sometimes, the pain goes too deep to even feel Him there, but He is. 

Even when we push Him away, He does not let go. 

Even when we fight Him, He still holds us. 

Even when we are angry with Him, He does not relent. 

And then, when our exhaustion has won over, when our energy is spent and  we are too tired to feel anything else, we collapse. But we are already held. 

We finally rest in the everlasting arms of Jesus. 

And it’s in those moments, those of comfort and rest, that we realize that we are blessed in spite of everything. That no matter what, Jesus has held us tight. We we may not have answers, our heart may not be whole, but we have found rest in His comfort.

And for that, we are blessed. 

Tonight • All Sons and Daughters