Tag: salvation

On preaching, inadequacies, and life in Christ

If you would have asked me as a child or even as a college student about some future life aspirations, preaching sermons would not have made the list.

 

Especially because I am a woman, and I grew up a paradigm that would not allow for me to be upfront.

 

Yet here I am, having preached for the fourth time in as many months and wondering what crazy work God has done and is doing in my life.

 

Before and after speaking, I swim in a swirl of emotions from wonder to frustration to doubt to joy to regret to fulfillment. I love it and hate it at the same time. I never feel a clear call that I am the perfect person to speak that message- or a clear call that I am not.

 

But I know my main goals are to step in and to listen.

 

Sometimes that listening is difficult.

 

The preparation for my message this past Sunday was particularly exasperating. I felt completely under qualified. The subject was new life in Christ. Which is pretty much the subject of the New Testament.

 

What could I add to the words of Peter and Paul? And what could I say in 30 minutes that would even scratch the surface of this message of the Gospel?

 

As I read and sifted and processed, I often wondered if I should pass the baton to someone who would be better at this than me. But I didn’t. Somehow it seemed that feeling inadequate was actually the perfect place to begin.

 

If I authentically believe that what I do is through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the strength of Christ, for the glory of God, then it’s not about my adequacy. It is about my trust. I have to lean into God more than I count on my gifts.

 

So I did that the best I could.

 

Does that mean I walked away with a message I wouldn’t tweak if I had the chance, with points completely polished, and with a conclusion that would take your breath away? Not in the slightest. There are several things that went well, and many more that I would do differently if I were to give this talk again.

 

Yet I believe that God uses broken vessels to shine His light. I believe He can speak through me because of my gifts or in spite of my gifts, depending on the circumstance.

 

If you would like to listen to the sermon, you can find the audio here. It has my name below it, and is titled “Abundant Living.” Using the text of John 10, I talked about how Jesus offers us a full life in which we are saved, we are free, and we are known.

 

The message kicked off with this video called “Something more.” Definitely worth a watch.

Something More from Moving Works on Vimeo.

How would you describe life in Christ?

*Dear readers, would you like me to continue to link to my messages when I speak? Is it interesting or helpful to you in some way? Or does it feel like some sort of awkward plug not fitting for this blog space? I would love to hear your honest feedback if you have any. Either as a comment below or an email. Thanks!

Hitting Rock

Lore Ferguson and I don’t always agree on our theology, but I have a deep respect for her faith. She consistently draws us back to Jesus and the Gospel with her writing. I hope you can hear and feel that in her words today. Her voice is a blessing to many, including me.


 

I’ve heard it often, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” but this morning I am reading Psalm 62 and the second section says it more clearly:

 

How long will all of you attack a man to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse.

 

I have blessed with my mouth, my pen, and my words, while inwardly I have prayed for ruin, for the end of one’s folly, for the fall of their public ministry. I have felt like the leaning wall and tottering fence in a world wrought with battering opinions thrown in every direction but heavenward, under the ministering eyes of a sovereign God. I have had pleasure in falsehood—my only aim to see my kingdom succeed, my theology in the majority, my leadership thrust into high positions. And I have been at the toppling end of another’s hope to thwart me and the ones I love.

 

I have fallen hard and I have hit rock.

 

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge in God.

 

This morning I think about the simplicity of salvation. How the all knowing and good God plucked me from amongst scoffers and charlatans and claimed, “This one! This one is mine. I have saved her soul from the toppling end of everything and set her feet on a rock.”

 

I sit in that truth because without the joy of salvation it is easy to get tangled in the mess of faith, in the depths of doubt, and in the web of apologetics and certainty. It is easy to let my tongue minister death instead of life, to hope for destruction instead of healing. But it is easier still to lift my eyes to the solid rock, the fortress, the unshakable truth of God alone and the salvation He’s given me. And oh, what Joy!

 

He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

psalm 62


lore ferguson headshotAbout Today’s Guest Blogger: Lore Ferguson

My name is Lore (Lor-ee) Ferguson. In every particle of life we’re hearing messages, people are saying words at us, shouting them over the noise of the day. My hope is that Sayable is a place where the message is quiet, encouraging, and somewhat simple. My goal is to see a generation of dechurched, second generation Christians, or the ragged and hurt, come to the joy of what the gospel means deep down.


 

Add the link to your post about Psalm 62 below. Make sure to read someone else’s post, too! Or join next week with a post on Psalm 63.

The phrase I avoid but also believe

 

It is a phrase slapped across bumper stickers and painted onto cement walls and written onto signs held up in the stands.

 

Jesus saves.

 

Photo credit: Anne Varak via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Anne Varak via Flickr Creative Commons

It sounds so stale. Christians have worn out this phrase, so that the world rolls their eyes at the sight of its letters.

 

I get embarrassed sometimes when I see it. I don’t want people to think of me as “that kind of Christian.” The kind that breaks a complicated faith down to pithy sentiments. The kind that covers up pain with prayers and promises that God works all things. The kind that speaks before it listens, or worse, yells before anyone is even interested.

 

And so, I run away.

 

I bolt from that phrase as if it is the kryptonite that will freeze my powers of ever having friends again. I am afraid of being bold. I am fearful that the words will come out wrong and I will sound like a weirdo. I am scared of making false promises.

 

But mostly, I am terrified of rejection.

 

And so I talk about how God is with me, or what my church is doing to help the poor, or how Jesus has helped me become a better person. All these topics are safe. They don’t make me sound like the psycho Christian lady. They are subjects that people both inside and outside the church can respect.

 

I am like Nicodemus, who goes to talks to Jesus about His identity under the cover of night. Fearful of what being seen might do to his reputation.

 

How fitting that it is during this hidden conversation that Jesus says these most famous words in all of the Bible,

 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:16-17

 

Jesus saves.

 

I admit to you, right here and right now, that I believe this to be true. Not because I’ve seen it on a t-shirt, but because I have felt it in the depths of my soul.

 

I want to talk with you over coffee about why I believe this. I want to be bold and tell you that Jesus saves. I want to talk about what my heart used to be like and how it changed after I decided this faith was true. I want to tell you how my life isn’t perfect and how my faith journey hasn’t always been easy, but how that doesn’t make the statement “Jesus saves” any less true or meaningful.

 

For me of for you.

 

I believe that each of us needs saving. We need to be saved from our regrets and our motives and our hurts and our angers and our mistakes and our false identities. And I believe that Jesus does that.

 

I believe each of us are wanderers in this world that God so desperately loves. And God has pursued us with His love in the form of His Son. Not to condemn us for going our own way, but to gather us into His arms and bring us home as His children.

 

I want to be less afraid and tell you that. I want to say it to you more often.

 

I think it’s the most important thing I can say.

 

Jesus saves.

 

Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.

Buts Really Get in the Way Sometimes

I’m not a very cynical person by nature.

Most of the time, I’m pretty optimistic, actually. .I love to recognize the potential in the people around me. I enjoy dreaming about future possibilities. It doesn’t take me very long to see the good in the bad.

Yet sometimes, my pessimistic side comes out.

One of the places this can occur is when I am reading the Bible. Too many times, I read verses, and instead of enjoying their beauty and depth, I focus on the “buts” in my head.

You know, the “buts.” The voices that say things like, “But that’s not the way life really works.” Or “But no one really feels that way.” Or “But what about the other times?

These buts can be good. They can cause me to dig deeper, explore, and not take the surface answer as the best answer.

But these buts can also make me think I’m smarter than the Bible.

I forget to treat the biblical writers as intelligent individuals that also knew about these exceptions. Yet, the exceptions and the buts did not hinder them from expressing their feelings of praise.

Psalm 18 is beautiful and grand. It speaks of God’s dramatic rescue of His servant, David. Yet, sometimes when I read it, the buts get in the way of me seeing its power.

When I read this verse,

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies. – Psalm 18:3

I think, “But God doesn’t always save when we call. What about those times?”

Well, David knows that, too. In Psalm 13, he wondered how long God would hide His face. He pleaded with God to no longer let his enemies triumph over him.

David’s knowledge that God does not always rescue in the way and at the time we want Him to does not stop him from praising God when salvation does come.

Or what about these verses?

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
I am not guilty of turning from my God.
All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin. – Psalm 18:20-23

They make me think, “But David is not blameless. No person is blameless.”

Well, David knows that too. He writes many Psalms of confession, the most famous of which is Psalm 51, written after David has an affair with Bathsheba. Plus, this Psalm is an adaptation of 2 Samuel 22, which is clear about David’s sins.

David’s knowledge of his sinfulness does not hinder him from seeing himself the way God sees him: forgiven. He has sinned, but He has also confessed. He has sacrificed and sought God’s grace. He can leave those sins in the past and not dwell on them any longer.

So now, I want to leave some of the buts behind. Can I challenge you to do the same thing?

Try diving into this Psalm without cynicism. Work to praise God for what He does, without thinking about what He doesn’t do. Attempt to appreciate the times you see God moving in your life, without dwelling on the times He has seemed silent.

Do you ever let buts get in the way? How do you think we can let them go?

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could read it and think about it, even when that is difficult.

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