Perfection(ism) is My Enemy

Broken Together

I got a couple dents in my fender

Got a couple rips in my jeans,”

I once texted those lyrics from Free to Be Me by Francesca Battistelli to our oldest daughter.  She had received a car for graduation less than 6 months earlier and had just been in her second accident.  She seemed to have somehow missed the lesson on blind spots or she was distracted on that day or something . . . but at that point she was discouraged.  Because she loved this song, I knew exactly how she would respond to my text:

“Try to fit the pieces together

But perfection is my enemy.”

Perfection is my enemy.  I found myself singing those lyrics again a few months later as I worked on a project.  I had two canvases I wanted to hang above our bed.  I wanted the words, “Broken Together” painted on them.  If you haven’t heard this song by Casting Crowns you should listen to it.  REALLY. It is a song that greatly ministered to me and my husband as we were going through a time of great brokenness and we have continued to try to hold on to its truths.

“Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete.
Could we just be broken together?
. . . The only way we’ll last forever is broken together.”

I had considered having a friend who is much better at lettering, paint the canvases for me, but there was a part of me that felt I should do it myself.  I was very hesitant, however, because I knew it wasn’t going to look as good if I did it.  It wouldn’t be perfect.

Sure enough my perfectionist tendencies kicked in as I was painting.  At one point I was in tears, painted over everything I had done and started over.  It was during my second attempt that I found myself singing those Free to Be Me lyrics, “perfection is my enemy.”

You’ve probably already picked up on the irony of this, but I was a little slow.  I was literally painting the word BROKEN and was trying not to get frustrated because it was not perfect when it finally hit me . . . brokenness and perfection can’t coexist.  I was going to have to decide which one I was going to embrace; it couldn’t be both.  I chose broken.

Now at that point I didn’t just start slapping the words on the canvas with no thought or care, but I did let go of the need for it to be just right and stopped trying to correct every little mistake.  And there were mistakes – parts that weren’t just right, but these became reminders that I am not just right either.  Neither is my spouse.  Neither is our marriage.

Later I found myself in tears again, but this time they were not tears of frustration but tears of gratitude.  I had been painting in the garage and brought the canvases inside.  I set them up in a window sill in the kitchen to finish drying.  I was getting some water at the sink, turned to look at the paintings and right there between the O and K, I saw it. . . a cross.  The frame of the canvas had a vertical piece in the middle and there was a random streak of darker paint going across and as the light came through the window you could see it – the cross.

I said earlier that brokenness and perfection cannot coexist, but that is not entirely true.  There is a place where they coexist beautifully.  On the cross the body of Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life, was broken for my sin.  He who knew no sin, became sin, so that I could receive his righteousness.  (2 Corinthians 5:21) Because Christ, the perfect, sinless, spotless lamb chose to be broken and die for my sin, I am now viewed by my Heavenly Father as righteous, redeemed, perfect.

Actually, now that I’ve thought more about all this, I’m going to have to retract my previous statement.   Perfection and brokenness can coexist. They coexist in me.  Christ has given me his perfect standing with the Father, but as long as I live on this earth, brokenness will be a part of who I am.  I am broken and my world is full of broken people . . . as a matter of fact, my house is full of broken people and my church as well.

What can’t coexist is perfectionism and brokenness.  The more I try to live up to a standard of perfectionism, to appear as though I have it all together, the more likely I am to miss the deep community God desires for me to have with others and there is a strong chance relationships will be broken apart.

There is a difference between a broken relationship and being broken together.  I know this too well.  When we’re broken together we come alongside one another admitting our own weaknesses and encouraging our brothers and sisters in theirs as we walk through this broken world together.  There is a big difference.  It’s the difference between isolation and loneliness and deep, fulfilling relationships.

 “The only way we’ll last forever is broken together.” 

Broken Together

*I did go back and paint the cross into the picture.

Tami Lowman

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Me, Myselfie, and I!

It's All About Me, Myselfie, and I

What is wrong with these vacation pictures? I asked myself as I was scrolling through the news feed on Facebook a couple of weeks ago.  These vacation pictures don’t seem like vacation pictures. They seem more like … more like selfies.

When I was growing up, we took vacation pictures like every other family—beautiful vistas of Lake Michigan beaches, rolling sand dunes and ancient forests. Sometimes, a few small, barely recognizable people were also captured in the photograph. Lovingly tucked in photo albums, the pictures have faded and yellowed with age and love. Vacation photos were all about where we went, what we did and who we were with. Not anymore.

We live in a selfie world.

Now a days it’s all about how I feel and how I look. Modern vacation pictures are often just another version of a selfie. No longer can we vicariously enjoy the beautiful scenery others capture on their vacations because landscape is just a backdrop for another selfie or a groupie (is this a word?). Whether you vacay in The Alps, Disney, or CoCoa Beach doesn’t matter. The destination is unrecognizable. Imagine the money families could save. Forget the pricey getaway—just take selfies at your local beach or campground. Me, myselfie, and I.

Love your neighbor as yourself-ie.

How does all this selfie-ishness line up with God’s word? It doesn’t. God says the first shall be last. Galatians 5:13 reminds us to “serve one another humbly in love. “Romans 12:1 says,  “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Luke 6:38 states, “Give and it will be given to you.” 1 Peter 4:10 offers this selfie-less advice, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

You see it’s not all about selfie, it’s about serving. Selfie-ness leads to emptiness. It drains, compresses, and stagnates our heart, soul and mind. As we constantly tend to our every want, need and desire, we become so myopic that eventually we only see our selfies and miss the needs of others.

What can we do to combat selfie-ishness? 

  1. Plan Think of a current situation in your life. Purposely plan a way you will be unselfie-ish in this situation and serve others.
  2. Sacrifice. Today, or whatever day you choose, let everybody else go first, choose the restaurant, set the temperature on the AC, pick the movie, dessert, or activity everything you do. Ouch.
  3. Deny. Give up a favorite food, drink, activity, or dessert etc. for a specified amount of time. Double ouch.
  4. Ask. Ask God to change your heart; to give you a heart like His. Ask Him to open the eyes of your heart to your own selfie-ishness and the need of others.
  5. Hide. Hide God’s word in your heart. Memorize verses such as the ones posted above and pray them into your life.


Mary Kane

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Leave me a comment and let me know how you do with your resolutions to lose your selfie-ishness. I will be struggling right along with you.


Key Change: A minor change on a major scale

Key Change

A key change doesn’t require a large shift on the scale or grandiose measures. Did you know that a half step can make all the difference? A small change can create some beautiful music.

To appreciate a key change, you don’t need to know music theory. A listener can hear the transition in tone.

Every now and then life calls for a key change. Without it there is little music produced, for a piece puts out true beauty not from the fixed notes it embraces but rather from the subtle modulation we experience.

Life is packed with opportunities for you to take the stage on some major and minor scales, but you won’t get far in a performance if you’re not willing to embrace a key change.

The key change is your perspective. A slight shift in how you view life’s circumstances will make all the difference. When someone uses words you didn’t expect or reacts contrary to the culture’s perception, that’s a result of changing perspective.

If you want to stand out in the crowd and survive with your dignity amongst life’s situations, it’s going to require a key change in perspective.

Your circumstance, that cross you’ve been called to carry, looks different than mine.

You could be performing mundane tasks in a job, when you may be suited for much greater work.

Perhaps you’ve been cultivating the same field, nurturing a dream year after year, even though it yields no harvest.

Or, you may be called to walk through this world with a smile while your heart secretly breaks inside.

There are so many crosses we carry and every one of them is painful.

Outwardly this cross may appear destructive, but inwardly its spiritual work is planting the richness of a blessing deep into the soil of your soul. Many of the blessings you inherit are the fruit of sorrow or pain.

Jesus on the cross, redemption itself, is the world’s greatest blessing and was produced through the greatest pain.

The Apostle Paul made a key change. He learned how to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11)

The attitude we live with is what determines our growth in God. This isn’t about being fake. The key change in our perspective is trusting God when other people are getting what we want.

Growth doesn’t happen when you remain with the same heart in the same place. A harmonious arrangement in life calls for a key change in perspective.

Where is that place that presses up against your threshold of yesterday? Where do you need to die to your own will, pride and sin and surrender at the feet of Jesus the very things that keep you proud and strong?

The charm of a broken spirit leaves us with an imprint of the cross. There’s a fragrant aroma of brokenness and humility that rises after it’s been touched by fire. Make the key change to transform the song of your sorrows into a beautiful melody of redemption.

Do you trust God so much that you absolutely do not want anything that He doesn’t want you to have? That’s perspective. That’s the key change in your mind that will take an ordinary song and dance and create a signature that’s all of you glorifying all of Him.

Trisha Keehn

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What is Expected Grace?

Expected Grace

Christians, we are a fortunate lot, aren’t we? We serve the God of ceaseless mercy, second chances, and staggering grace. We know that we know that we know that when we walk out of His will, God will lovingly forgive us once again.

I used to envision Him as a God that begrudgingly forgave me again and again because it was, after all, what He does and Who He is. It is part of His job description. I do not know why I saw Him as being reluctant to forgive, but I did.

But when it hit me that the Father of the Bible’s very own Prodigal Son was a true picture of God Himself sprinting toward me at the first hint of repentance, my perspective of Him changed, praise God! He is not irritated with us when we sin, turn back to Him, sin, turn back to Him, sin, and once again turn back to Him. He is overjoyed. He may have every right in the world to be annoyed and/or angry, but instead of rolling His holy eyes at us, He reaches out His forgiving arms to us.

However, when we repeatedly choose the sin over the Son, what we are truly saying is that we would rather sin…commit an act against God…do the very thing that separates us from Him, than walk with Him and deepen our relationship with Him.

I suppose we could continue on in that pattern…knowing that even though we are sincerely apologetic, the sin might be victorious again because well, even though we haven’t admitted it out loud, we have decided it is easier to rely on expected grace than to work, fight, and pray through to a victory of overcoming sin. I have been there on more than one period in my life regarding more than one sin.

Allow me to share with you the affect that continuing on in that pattern had on my relationship with Jesus, and why my encouragement to you is: “Stop the cycle!”

1.We know the act itself… the gossip, the cheating, the lying… is not what detaches us from God. Not that these are minor issues in any way, shape, or form. There are undeniable consequences to all of these acts. However, I believe that God is most concerned about what lies at the core of our choice to deliberately reject His way. The heart condition that causes us to sin is what causes the disconnect. Every time the sin wins, we are making a choice between telling God and showing God that our love for Him is first and foremost in our life or our love for Him is secondary to our love for unfulfilling ways.

2. Another thing that happens is that we make it harder to hear from Him. Our hearts harden, our resolve weakens, and the distance between us expands. Oh, Friend, we can rest assured that He is ready to run toward us even if He has farther to go, but the road IS longer and our weariness may set in sooner. The discouragement we feel when we realize we again allowed the Holy Spirit’s voice to be drowned out by our self-centeredness can make us feel defeated and ready to give up. The deeper we allow ourselves to go into the ugly pit of sinful behavior, the harder to get back to the beauty of the surface.

When we begin to take advantage of God’s grace in order to continue in our sin, we are making a decision to be satisfied with the temporary, artificial happiness that sin provides, instead of being secure in the contentment of the lasting, authentic joy that God provides.

God offers us an incomparable gift in His grace. Let us be gracious; not greedy, in receiving it. Let us never feel entitled to it, and instead feel empowered by it to dive more deeply into relationship with our amazing God.

Gwen Thielges

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Has the Church Lost its Priority?

Priority of Prayer

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” Matthew 21:13

When Jesus dealt with the religious robbers he declared the priority of HIS House. It will be known as the place where prayer is the chief goal of the church.

Could it be that the religious money changers were robbing the people of currency and also robbing the people of spiritual currency with God?

We know this Scripture. We have preached it and prayed about it. We have tried different prayer methods and have seen little response to our pleas to pray corporately. But isn’t it time to get back to what the church must put first?

LifeWay Christian Resources surveyed more than 1,300 evangelical leaders from around the world to determine what they perceived to be the “Top 10 Issues Facing Today’s Church.”

The number one issue was:

1.Prayer: The need for more ongoing, passionate prayer in both personal and church life.

We shout about how God’s people aren’t winning souls. We have heard sermons with statistics like, 90% of Christians never win a soul to Christ. However, Google that stat and it’s nowhere to be found.

We have strategies on how we need to do this or that to reach young people or target young families. Facility and ministry needs that zero in on reaching a specific demographic.

But honestly couldn’t it just be we have lost the belief that prayer must be first in the church?

Even if our giftedness and passion leans toward evangelism remember: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Luke 10:2

JESUS said, so PRAY to the Lord of the harvest.

Jesus said again,”Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

He further stated, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

But we know this. We know to “come boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16) We know to be persistent in prayer, “never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Then why isn’t this working? Why are the days so dark and revival is a word we used to use?

Could it be the enemy has actually convinced us that prayer doesn’t work?

Wesleyan Methodist Pastor and author of The Path of Prayer, Samuel Chadwick wrote, “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”

Let’s get back on our knees. More than ever we have to make prayer the priority in our churches. Start a prayer group in your home. Maybe a small group in your church.

After all Jesus promised, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:14

Keep Looking Up!

Heaven is closer than you think.

May God bless your day.

Pastor Rodney

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Prayer: No. 1 issue in churches, survey of leaders shows

Regaining Balance

Do you have Balance?

A middle-aged pastor said, “I’ll tell you what I struggle with, and it’s constant. It’s church vs. family vs. what I have left over for some of my personal needs. How do I balance my life so it’s not either totally structured and rigid or totally hang-loose and spontaneous? I like to achieve, but I also like to be with people and invest in them. So how do I achieve both?”

We all want balance in our lives. A balanced life is the key to joy, peace, and effectiveness. But living a balanced life is not easy. Finding balance seems to be a struggle for most people today. It’s not the too little to do anymore. Our lives are crowded and complex. The answer lies not in the balance of our abilities but in our ability to balance.

What do we do to regain balance? The answers are found in the word balance.

Be decisive in what matters most. Determine what matters most we prevent us from engaging too much time in activities that are not important.

Ask for help. Don’t be too stubborn or proud to ask for assistance when you need it.

Live with margin. Margin-less living is the disease of our culture. We live our lives like a page typed-single spaced, top to bottom, and edge to edge. Margin is having breath at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, time between appointments.

Attitude means you are willing to wait before you decide if something is bad. Often, what may appear to be bad might actually turn out to be good.

Never lose your focus. Watch a graceful ballerina when she spins. While her entire body is spinning rapidly, she holds her head still as long as she possibly can, fixing her eyes on a distant point. Then, at the last possible fraction of a second, she turns her head completely around and finds the point again. She is focusing on a single point to help her stay balanced even when everything else around her is spinning. For us we keep our focus on the purpose of our lives.

Concentrate on your gifts. Wise up and say yes to the best that you can offer and give. Sometimes in our efforts to win approval we give in to the lesser things and our energy is wasted working outside our giftedness.

Eliminate the unnecessary. Many of the activities that we engage in our not necessarily wrong, they are simply not necessary. We need to develop the skill of discretionary neglect.

Allow me to rephrase a statement from Jesus: “Come to Me, all you who are worn out and weighed down by scrambling to meet the demands of others, and I will bring quiet to your spirits. Serve Me, follow Me, and—because I am caring and understanding—I will stop the clamoring in your souls. For what I ask of you is not a burden at all.” Life is not a crowded to-do list but a blank stretch of canvas. It is not trying to balance all of the demands of our lives but simply doing this day what God would have us do. Then, and only then, will we find balance.

Rick Ezell

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You Don’t Have To Do It Alone

You are not meant to do this alone.

IT was BIG, brown, and UGLY. And it was on my ceiling.

I recently came home from a doctor’s appointment to find my daughter sitting on our couch staring at the ceiling. The night before she had fallen asleep on the couch and when she awoke she saw an enormous roach on the ceiling above her. This is Texas and there is no way to totally prevent roaches getting into the house. And most of them are BIG. (Did I mention this is Texas?)

Needless to say, my daughter quickly moved to the other couch and awaited my return. When I saw where the roach was, I paused for a moment contemplating how we could get to it. We have vaulted ceilings and this fellow was sitting on the 20 foot high peak.

I quickly formed a battle plan. First, we grabbed hats off the rack. There was no way we were attacking him without some head gear! Next, I sent my daughter for a broom and a bowl while I snatched the Wasp Spray (15 foot range) and the Roach spray – one in each hand. Nervously climbing the step stool to decrease the distance, I aimed and fired. He dropped and hit the floor running but was no match for my daughter. She had the bowl on him before he reached me. Victory! Together we had conquered the big, brown, ugly roach. Teamwork! An exciting and laughable moment in our house.

Of course, we left the bowl weighted down with a sundry item until my brave husband got home from work to look under the bowl. Once he established it was dead, I willingly disposed of it. That day, there was a recognized need – this roach had to die. No one wanted to deal with it alone. So we worked together to accomplish the goal. And we all benefited from the result, except the roach.

There are, of course, other more serious needs we face each day that require us to work together. A friend who needs rides, a family member who needs medical care or companionship, someone moving, someone who needs childcare and the list goes on. We are not meant to meet every one of everyone’s needs. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it is important to work together to meet the needs of those around us.

But do you know what is the most important need we could ever meet? the most important teamwork we will ever participate in? The work that should take priority over all else?  The work that too often is bumped to the bottom of the list when, in fact, it is designed by God to be at the top of our list? It is the work of spreading the good news of Christ! We are designed and gifted to work together to do just that.

Apollos, in Acts 18:24-28, learned this lesson well in Ephesus. The scene is set in verses 24-26:

Meanwhile, a Jew name Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only of the baptism of John.”

Up to this point, as far as we know, he is working alone. And then something amazing happens. Read the next three verses and see if you can identify all the team players:

“He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”

So let’s see, Apollos spoke boldly, then Priscilla and Aquilla reached out to him to help expand his understanding of the gospel. Next, and here is the part that is easy to miss, when Apollos wanted to move on to Achaia, the brothers of Ephesus step up and encourage Apollos. Then they take time to write a letter to the disciples in Achaia. That letter apparently introduces Apollos and asks the brothers to welcome him. And when Apollos arrives in Achaia we are told he was a great help to them in return through his teaching and public stands. He was not working alone any more. A whole team of people worked together – for one purpose – spreading the word that Jesus is the Christ! Hallelujah!

If you know Christ, you are already part of a team that is working to spread the gospel.


So grab your hat off the rack and get to work.

Teach the truth about Christ,

Disciple others,

Encourage those who are in the midst of the work,

Help people connect with one another to accomplish the work,

Welcome those who want to do a new work in your community

You are not meant to do this alone.

Shellynne Wucher 

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Why Do Christian’s Quit the Church?

Will you quit?

I learned how to quit in the fifth grade. The music teacher loaned me a saxophone and showed me how to play three notes. I was supposed to go home and learn, “Mary had a little lamb.”

For two weeks that saxophone sat in the case in my room.

I came back to school and admitted to him that I hadn’t practiced. He wasn’t happy and told me so. So I quit.

Learning to give up on something isn’t new. We have quit jobs, marriages, school, and plenty of musical instruments. But quitting is something that very often leads to hard feelings, disappointments, and regrets.

Paul wrote, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Serving in the church as pastors or members is difficult. The enemy doesn’t want us serving each other. Quite often we find the position of service we like and then something happens. We get hurt.

We “get weary in doing good.”

The enemy whispers, “It’s not worth it.” “Look at all the good you did and for what?”

We begin to believe that trusting people, church, and serving is the last thing we will ever do again. So we leave our spiritual saxophone sitting in our case at the house.

Church becomes something we should do instead of something we love to do. People become casual acquaintances instead of people we help in ministry. We quit using our gifts and our joy is gone.

That’s why we quit. We have lost our joy.

Our spirit once soared as we sang praises to Him. Our souls ignited when we helped someone else but now—nothing.

If you have been a Christian long enough you have been through this. Quitting is the natural response to difficult days. Changing churches may help for a time but sooner or later there is another saxophone that needs to be played.

What will you do?

Trust again?

People need you in the band. They are counting on you to blow your horn (forgive me). Your gift is a gift to others.

Take it out of the case. Maybe try those first three notes again. “Mary had a little lamb,” maybe all you can play now but look Jesus is smiling.

After all He found His joy in not quitting.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Aren’t you glad He didn’t quit?

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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The Field of Dreams Approach to the Church


(This article originally appeared in the Baptist Courier.)

I still like the movie Field of Dreams.  I must confess that I get choked up every time I watch the end of the movie where Ray (played by Kevin Costner) ask his dad, “Hey Dad!  You want to have a catch?”

Early in the movie, Ray hears a mysterious voice stating, “If you build it he will come.”  In response he builds a baseball field among the cornfields near his Iowan house and witnesses a spectral baseball team that converges on the field to play ball.

Sadly, a number of churches approach their communities with a Field of Dreams mindset regarding their facilities.  Although they are not evangelistic and have dusty baptisteries, they believe renovating their facilities or building new facilities “to attract young people” will cause Millennials and young families to flock to their church buildings in droves; however, when we look at what Millennials actually say is important to them regarding the church, we see a much different picture.

Here is a short list of some of the things Millennials say attract them to churches:

1 They want preaching that is not shallow.  Millennials want biblical preaching that asks and answers hard questions in life.  To appeal to this generation of young people, preaching must have depth.
2 They want authentic worship. Young adults are not as concerned that churches utilize a particular style of music in worship.  They are attracted to authentic worship that reflects the culture of that local congregation.  They do want worship to have both authenticity and quality.
3 They want community. Millennials are attracted to congregations that promote biblical community where church members actively participate in making disciples.  They also want multigenerational small groups where they can learn from believers who are further along in age and spiritual maturity.
4 They want community ministry involvement. Young adults desire to serve in churches that are actively ministering in their communities.  They want to address social needs and concerns within the area surrounding the church.  Millennials also are concerned with justice issues around the world and want to participate in churches that address these issues.
5 They want church buildings that are functional. Millennials aren’t so concerned with being a part of churches that have flashy or “cool” worship centers.  They will worship at churches who are being the church, regardless of the style of the building or the worship center.

So, rather than focusing on renovating or building worship space to attract young people or young families, churches should concentrate on making disciples of people in their surrounding communities and being authentically biblical congregations.

To be growing and healthy congregations, churches must consist of church members who regularly share the gospel in their everyday interactions and relationships with their family members, friends, and acquaintances.  Such congregations are welcoming and open, but are led by pastors who do not shy away from preaching biblical sermons that address hard topics or hard questions.

You can build it; however, if you are not an authentic church that prioritizes building gospel relationships and making disciples, they won’t come.

Dr. Tim McKnight

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What’s The Deal With My Broken Heart?

What's the deal with my broken heart?

My mother passed away this summer after a massive stroke. Each day, every day for a week, I held her hand and kissed her face and sang her favorite hymns. Through tears, I read her Scripture about God’s love—about hope and healing and eternal glory. The words were meant to encourage her during her final act of courage, but I clung to the promises for myself, as well. By reminding her of God’s enduring love, I reminded myself that He loves me, too, even while He calls away the most influential person in my life. By testifying of God’s perfect plan, I reminded myself that His plan was always to bring her home; He had blessed me by loaning her to me.

Yet faith continues to be difficult, because you can never truly prepare yourself for a broken heart.

Many times during the last 2 months since I lost her, I have considered Psalm 147 one of my go-to psalms when life kicks me in the stomach. This passage keeps unfolding new possibilities for me to consider. I used to fix my attention on the “broken heart” section as a way of feeling God’s empathy. Today I saw this passage in a new light. I looked at the scope of its entire message, and it baffled me a little. See what you think.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.” –Psalm 147:3-5

I find the topics in the sentences of these 3 verses rather peculiar because they seem unrelated, especially grouped in the setting of grief. Is this passage an encouragement or a warning? Is it about God or about me? Why is humility entwined with redemption and the broken heart? Why is there a threat of being cast away?

The English word humble in verse 6 is translated from the Hebrew word ânâv, defined in 4 ways in Scripture:

  • poor and weak
  • poor and needy
  • poor, weak, and afflicted
  • humble, lowly, weak

The Genenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon continues the explanation like this: “commonly with the added notion of a lowly, pious, and modest mind, which prefers to bear injuries rather than return them”[i]

If I have a broken heart that craves healing, it seems that humility—an acknowledgement of weakness and affliction—plays a critical role in restoration. The human heart wants only to feel love and pleasure, never pain. We want to resume normal life, to take control, to move on. So whenever brokenness comes, our initial and sustaining response is to ask for its removal and to force ourselves into health. We think that being brave is somehow the spiritual answer to trouble.

But when we are broken—truly helpless and needy—then we seek Him.

We remind ourselves, as God does in Psalm 147, that He knows us each by name. He understands all things. He has a perfect plan that must resume (we insert that wherever necessary) because we can’t abide the thought that God’s plan for us might be pain (although clearly that was His plan for Jesus). We have difficulty accepting that God loves us in our weakness and that He desires our weakness so He can use us.

The English translation of humility makes more sense. God knows that pain brings us to our knees. Pain lowers the shades from our eyes and the wall around our hearts and prods our inner longing to know Him more. That process involves a humbling, a recognition that we can’t fix our own problems, and we might never know why our affliction occurred in the first place. Maybe, just maybe, God’s plan for us all along was to shine through suffering.

Oh, how much we need humility for suffering! This is not the “aw, shucks” humility of a great man fighting arrogance. God’s design for us is a total awareness of His glory, which naturally precludes a complete confrontation of our own depravity and our willingness to bear it. Total humility doesn’t merely recognize spiritual flaws at the church alter. Real humility lives in raw self-awareness and complete dependence on God.

We throw around the word “dependence” at church and Bible study, but none of us actually want to take up residence there. That would necessitate the “reckless abandon” of Jim Elliot and the “to die is gain” mentality of the Apostle Paul. And their lives didn’t end so peacefully, if you remember. They lived lives of suffering and pain, and I’ll wager they carried around hearts that broke, and not even over themselves. Their hearts broke for the world, for the ones whom Jesus loved.

No wonder when King David lay prostrate before God in humble confession, he begged, “Cast me not from your presence!” God throws away the wicked. Lowlinessness—weakness—prepares us for dependence on God.

In our pain, there is spiritual healing from a heart that craves its own comfort first and turns to God as a last resort. I am sure that God desires brokenness and lowliness for me; through them comes the spiritual healing only He can give.

I can’t get this completeness any other way.

Sue Schlesman

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