We Are All Broken

Here is a link to an article about the letter. There is a letter that has been going around. It is a hateful letter. A letter that makes one sorrowful over humanity. A letter that begs for a passionate response. A letter that instills hatred on all sides. Maybe you have seen it floating around on the, or perhaps you have not. Here is a link to an article about the letter. The message to the letter is simple. The anonymous author hates a woman for living in her neighborhood with her autistic child. That is the most simple way to summarize it. It is poisonous and hateful words. There is not a single word in the letter that is not dripping with hatred.

My gut reaction is to want to respond with anger and hatred and call it righteous anger. I want to call her every name in the book. I want her to feel beyond guilt for what she wrote. Part of me wants to know the exact words to say to cut this woman to her core in a way she could never recover.

If I was capable of doing all of this and carried it out the world would not look down on me for it. We look at hatred like this and we want to see retribution. We want to enact retaliation. We want her to face the punishment for her crime, and make no mistake, this was a crime. A hateful, appalling, tragic crime. I look at this letter and I see it scream out hatred.

It is also screaming something else. It screams out brokenness. The other day I was sitting as I waited between class and work. I saw a woman walk past me. A thought was shoved into my mind. A thought that was so penetrating and strong that I have trouble believing it just appeared based off of my own will power. It was a thought that changed my day. “What is that woman’s story?” As I asked that question I began to see a bigger picture than the woman walking past. I saw that she walked to a table where she was clearly caring for two older women unable to care for themselves. She looked weary and drained. Their was a weight on her shoulders. She was tired. She seemed uncertain of life. In some brief moments I found myself grasping that this woman had a story, and I was catching brief glimpses of it.

I was at work that day. It was the end of my shift. I found my phone ringing for one last time. The name displayed on my screen and my heart sunk. it was a man who I had had on the phone multiple times. It never ended well. It always lead to anger and resentment. It always ended with me hanging up the phone baffled as to how anyway could be so angry and find it ok to dump that anger on a random stranger. What was his story I wonder? Was he facing struggles in his family? Were their hardships at work? Was a loved on suffering? What kind of home did he grow up in? He had a story.

The truth is that there is very little keeping me form being like any of those hateful and angry people. I am very capable of it. There are times where I want to say those hateful and cruel things. There are those times where I want to make people hurt because I hurt. It’s not that I don’t know better. I most certainly know better, but the baggage in our lives clouds our judgment.

This world is a broken one. Somewhere in the midst of following God’s commands of purity, sanctification and refraining from being in love with this world we forgot that we are meant to have a deep love for a broken world. It is the kind of love that pushes onward when the brokenness responds with hatred. it is the kind of love that does not hunger for what it can take, but rather gives sacrificially.

I read that letter and I find my heart breaking. I break for the woman who received it. I break for the woman who wrote it. I break for myself and the realization staring me in the face of what I am capable of should I choose anger and bitterness over forgiveness and mercy.

I’m not saying we should be angry when we see these thing happen. Anger is a natural reaction to these moments. I’m not saying people shouldn’t answer for what they do. I’m not saying we sweep everything under the rug, but it should push us to ponder the implications. It should make us wonder what would happen in someone’s life to compel them to be this way. It should make us be grateful for experiencing God’s mercy. It should make us get down on our knees and pray, because in these moments we are reminded of a brutal truth. This world is broken, and it desperately needs to be fixed.

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Joseph’s Forgiveness

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20

Do you remember this verse from Sunday School? It’s probably been awhile since you have seen it outside of your personal reading time. People do not talk about this verse much. People don’t like talking about the possible connotations of God and bad things happening to people. People debate over this verse far too often. Did God predestine for all of those bad things to happen to Joseph. Was God holding to the ideal of the ends justify the means? The debating over this verse is unfortunate. The reason is because this story of forgiveness is one of the most powerful examples for us as believers to follow.

Joseph’s brothers were trapped with guilt. When their father died they believed the only thing protecting them had been gone form this world. For all they knew Joseph was faking his kindness to them for the sake of their father. Guilt is a powerful thing. It sucks any joy out of life. I keeps us fro living with purpose. It keeps us from being used by God.

Forgiveness is equally as powerful. It frees people from that power of guilt. It breaks the shackles of sinful memories. It gives people the freedom to move forward. Forgiveness is crucial. It also is a pain in the neck. Yes, you read that right. Forgiveness is hard to do. We don’t like the idea of forgiveness. We don’t like it because to often it is preached as another word for ignorance of other peoples sinful actions.

Forgive and forget. We ask the impossible when we proclaim that. It comes from the concept of Scripture telling us that God shall remember our sins no more. If God forgets our sins then we must follow in his example and forget those who sin against us, but does forget really mean forget?

My church history professor talked about this concept in class yesterday, and made a really interesting point. If we truly claim that God forgets our sins completely then we have a problem. The problem is that we still remember our own sins. This means that we now know something God doesn’t. Clearly our interpretation on that Scripture is wrong then. If it doesn’t mean that God will permanently forget then what does it mean? My professor gave his answer to that question and I am inclined to agree with him. It means God will never remind you over your sin. He won’t hold it over your head. He won’t shame you with guilt over your past sins.

Forgiveness isn’t ignorance. It is not shoving sin under the rug. It is not enabling bad behavior. It is an acknowledgment that God is the one who has the final say. God is the true judge. It is acknowledgment that the bod can be restored even when sin is the cause.

I struggle with forgiveness. It is hard for me. Part of the reason is because to often it is taught to me as ignorance. Even when it is not taught as ignorance I am rarely told how it actually works. When I look at the forgiving heart of Joseph I see that it came naturally to him. He was able to forgive his brother verbally because he had already made that choice of forgiveness a long time ago. How did he reach that point?

I think it is because he realized that even when they did their worse it was not enough to pull him down. He realize that God was able to work even within the parameters of their evil actions. What Joseph understood was that bitterness, anger, and resentment towards his brother’s sinful actions would also mean having those same feelings directed at God. It was their sins that launched Joseph on a journey that God used to bring about salvation for his chosen people.

I’m still learning, but I have begun to believe that forgiveness start by realizing that God takes even the bad things done to us to make us who we are. I think that can bring about acceptance towards those past hurts. Things that are said to me in the past shape me in a new way. That guide me in new direction. Harmful actions done against me mold me into a new kind of person.

The truth is that sin done against us will always mold us into a new kind of person. I can mold us into being bitter and cynical, or it can mold us into something bigger that God has intended for us to be. The latter is what leads to forgiveness.

The Shepherd Staff

I was watching Prince of Egypt with my wife and son the other day. It was on Netflix and we were looking for a way to keep my son a little bit distracted and calming down for the night. If you’ve seen Prince of Egypt before then you will know that while it I an interesting and entertaining film it also has it’s inaccuracies the stick out like a sore thumb if you have read the story of Moses enough. There was an accurate depiction that really jumped out to me this time though. Moses was a shepherd.

What an enlightening truth right? Gee Moses was a shepherd. God catch Fletcher. Next you will be telling us that the sun helps us to see during the day. I know that little detail seems so miniscule, but within the context of the story it is an incredible little detail. Moses was a shepherd. Moses wasn’t qualified for he job God had assigned him to me. People don’t like to hear that. People don’t like it when the truth is said that people who God picks to do his works are not qualified to do it.

You see, the Moses you and I know is a great man. He spoke intimately with God. He was a leader for an entire nation. Moses was a man of incredible faith. He was one of those guys that had this deep relationship with God. That’s not how Pharaoh would have seen him though. All pharaoh saw before him was a shepherd.

What’s the big deal about Moses being shepherd? Egyptians loathed them. We know this from Genesis 46. Joseph is giving his family instruction for when they come to live in Egypt. he tells them to make sure that Pharaoh is aware that they are shepherds because Egyptians loath shepherds and will let them live in a land away from everything else. Why don’t the Egyptians like shepherds? They have the feel of a nomadic group. I’ve read that Egyptians did not find sheep to be the greatest of food nor a very worthy sacrifice. They were a useless dumb animal which meant those who cared for them were useless themselves. The Egyptians had not respect for shepherds.

Are you beginning to see what the big deal is? God sent a shepherd to give a message to the ruler of Egypt. He sent a shepherd to give command to Pharaoh. He sent a shepherd to trying and push Pharaoh around into releasing a nation of slaves. A shepherd. The big thing is that Moses had been around Egypt long enough to know what this reputation would get him on his return. This puts an extra dimension and Moses’ insistence of not going to Egypt. The whole time Moses is saying he is the wrong man. He wont get my respect. In his mind he is thinking about his murder of an Egyptian. he is thinking about that shepherd staff in his hand. That staff. A staff that is a mark of his lowly status to an Egyptian. Do you know what God does with that staff? He doesn’t have Moses hide it. He uses it as the focal point of the miracles that are accomplished. He guarantees that attention is going to be brought to this staff.

Why? Why would God use a shepherd to free a nation? Why would he make sure the status of shepherd was placed on display? That’s how God operates. He makes young boys kings. He sends shepherd boys to fight battles. He sends old shepherds to free slaves. He takes the staff that would be sign of worthlessness in Egypt and shows that he is the only God that matters. He is the God who can work through the lowest of people to accomplish the miraculous.

There are times where we feel we are unable to accomplish what God has called us to do. Our inclination can be to hide our insecurities and weaknesses. We don’t want the world to know how unqualified we are. We want to hide what makes us who we are. Those are the things that God often puts on display. Those are the things that let God tell the world that He is with you. When we hide our weaknesses we try and hide God’s presence with us form the world. We do this because we fear the world will be looking at us and the failure we have become. Do you know what God’s response was to Moses over that? What the world is going to see is miracles.

Don’t hide whatever is your shepherd’ staff. Let God work through that. et is be a symbol to the world of what God can accomplish through you.

Living in the Story

The other day my shift at work was entering into its slower point. Our work manager had a little quiz throughout the evening to help boost morale where the first person with the right questions would receive a mini cupcake. I was narrowly getting every question right, but would get beaten out by someone else. As the evening was drawing to a close and the calls where becoming fewer there was one final question asked. “What is the greatest movie of all time?” My response was almost instant. “It’s a trick question. There are three of them. The Original Star Wars trilogy.” I won that match.

There is a guy I sit across from at work who I have developed a friendship with over out similar tastes in video games. We both have a deep love for RPGs. When we dig deeper into this appreciation for the genre we both find that what compels us toward these types of games is the story. We enjoy a good story. We want to be caught up in the emotions of the characters and feel like we are joining them on this epic journey.

We all want to be part of a grand story. Everyone likes a good story. A good story has struggle. There is conflict. There is risk. There is the point where you fear evil just may come out as the victor in the end. A good story that sticks with us always has good win. A good story always has conflict and heartache. There is a sense of pain and loss in good story. The overriding theme in the greatest of tales we find is that signature of hope for a better future in the midst of that struggle.

I think this is the problem for many in the Christian life today. We are not taking ownership of our part in the story. We are not seizing an opportunity that is hardwired into us to desire. We want to be part of an epic story, but we forget to actively participate in that story.

God has been writing out the greatest story of all time. It is full of conflict. It is the origin story of good vs. evil. It is the story the began every element of a good vs. evil story that we expect in a book, film, or video game. It is a story with pain. It is a story with hope. and it will end as a story with triumph.

Everyone wants to be the main character in their story, and that is what is so inherently unique in God’s story. Each individual has the distinct feeling of being the main character while also being place in a supporting role. We believe to be the main character because we are viewing this section of the story as the point of view character. It is entirely unique really. For a brief moment in this story we feel like a main character. I think this is simply a very generous gift given to us by God.

While we may feel like the main character we must remember that our true role is far different from that. We are truly just the supporting roles in this story. We et to be part of this grand adventure, but we play the supporting cast. If you ever speak with an actor who is truly passionate about his work he will tell you that he dreams to have the role of a lifetime. For each actor that role may appear different. We each get to have the opportunity to take on the role of a lifetime. It is a role that we were uniquely created to carry out.

As I aid, there is a problem. We do not actively try and live out our role in God’s story. The issue is that the hunger for being part of a story is still there. We end up looking for that story wherever we can find it. We look for it in love, work, family, and sin. We look to be part of this grand story, but we often settle for a role that is less than what we were made for. Some of us do it out of a desire to be the star of our own story. Others do it out of envy for a type of role. Some do it because they fail to see the epic scale of God’s story. Other do it because they fail to see God’s story at all.

God’s story is the greatest love story of all time. It is the greatest redemption story ever told since children were told stories. It is hero story lived out since boys dreamed of valiant knights slaying terrifying dragons. It makes every other story pale in comparison when viewed in it’s entirely massive scope. It’s a story worth getting caught up in because we don’t just get to wish we were part of it. We are literally part of it. How are you going to live your part in it?

The Lighthouse

I long for being in God’s kingdom. I long for being in God’s presence. I long for a day when those who have hurt me and I have hurt can live together without bitterness and resentment running the risk of rearing its ugly head. I long for the day when hope is proven fruitful. I long for the day when sorrow is nothing but a faint memory. I long for the kingdom.

I think we all long for that. We all know that there are pieces in this world missing. There are pieces in this world that don’t belong We see the things that are t right. We have an idea of how things are supposed to be. It is with those realizations that are hearts ache to be where they are meant to be. it is where creation groans to go back to its source. Where creation can be fulfilling its intended purpose. A time where things will be made right.

The longing cannot produce anything of value if it is not followed by action though. While we long for a kingdom that we cannot fully reach until we have departed form this earth, we can catch glimpses of it. We can shine light on it during moments that we live here on this earth.

We can bring a little bit of God’s kingdom when we set aside our bitterness and resentment towards those who have hurt us and choose forgiveness instead. We can bring a little bit of a God’s kingdom when we meet the needs of others who are hurting. We can bring a little bit of God’s kingdom by expressing love and compassion to those who need it. We bring God’s kingdom to light when we do good. When we live in obedience and service to our true king we point the world to that king and his reigning kingdom.

It is those moments that are never on the news that ends up having the greatest impact on this earth. A work for Christ can have a greater impact than any murder, strife, battle, war, politician, failed economy, or hateful action. That is because those acts that point to God’s kingdom speak to the heart of creation itself. It is those moments that remind creation of where it belongs. It is those moments that remind creation that it has a king to follow.

My new job has been a unique experience. I spend my day on the phones speaking with students. Some students are angry, selfish, entitled, and what can only be described as hateful. There are other students as well though. There are students who choose to be caring and compassionate. They bring a little hope and joy to the moment. It is funny, I have noticed those students even when they are few and far between end up having the greatest impact on the day. I can only assume it is because I hunger for those moments the most. I can only assume are hunger for those moments the most because those are the moments that feel the most right. Those are the moments where I can say, “This is how it is supposed to be”.

Why don’t we strive harder to remind the world of how it is supposed to be? What if we lived our lives as a beacon of reminders? What impact would this world face? What ripples would extend from those single moments? How would it shake the world on such a deep level that even the greatest earthquake would be unable to compare? We already know the world has become something it was not intended to be. We know that very well. When are we going to go beyond just longing? When are we going to start making the world long with us? When are we going to start reminding the world that there is more than this? When are we going to realize that these small actions carry a huge impact?

Go beyond longing my friends. Be the lighthouse that creation cannot possibly ignore. Show the world what it is it longs for, but is unable to put into words. Bring change beyond the years of war, death, and suffering.

Men love your wives

I have felt the need to star writing more about marriage on my blog for a while. As my readership expands I find the variety of readers continues to be more and more diverse and young couples married or soon to be married continue to be a large demographic of that. While I have known marriage is a good thing to write on I have always developed some hesitancy over it. I’m not an expert in marriage. I have only been married for a little over two years and I still have a lot to learn. Some of my views on the big topics of marriage aren’t always very well liked. That shouldn’t shut me out though. So with that I wish to proceed in trying to tackle a very delicate and sensitive topic in marriage.

We wrestle over the issue of the roles of a man and wife in a marriage. Preachers quote passages that state wives are meant to be consistently obedient to their husbands. They speak on how the husband is the head of the household. The husband is the main authority in the family unit. At a first glance I tend to agree with those views, but I also grasp the need to peel the layers of the onion often mistaken for an apple.

I am speaking directly to men in this post. My fellow men, much of the church is failing you on this topic. We have told you the role you must have, but have failed to spend equally time emphasizing what that role means and looks like for you on a daily basis in the home. We have have failed to put equal emphasis on the husbands responsibility to be gentle with his life. We have failed to put equal emphasis on a husbands responsibility to overwhelm her with his love.

We say those things are important, but when we look out so many preachers out there it is hard to iss why wives in the church are getting frustrate. Church sermons on marriage often end up feeling like a guilt trip. Many sermons we here tend to sway more on the responsibilities of the wife rather than the roles of the husband outside of just being the provider.. Not all preachers are this way, but there are enough to see where the frustration is coming from.

There is a popular passage that focuses on this tension filled issue. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” Colossians 3:18-19. There are a lot of opinions on interpretation with this passage. Ironically all the controversy of interpretation is placed on verse 18 while it seems we often end up ignoring the implications of verse 19. Verse 18 certainly is an interesting verse though. There are three main school of thought all focusing on the phrase “as is fitting in the Lord” There is one side who states that this phrase means there are no bounds to which the wife should submit. She should submit to her husband as though he is God himself. I have to be honest and say I do not have a clue where folks get this one form out of this verse. The second view is that this scripture is putting a limitation on the responsibility of wives submitting to their husbands. In other words, submit to your husbands so long as what they are having you submit to is fitting and pleasing to the Lord. The third view is that this is referring to the motivation of the wives submission. She submits to her husband because that is indeed fitting in the Lord. I am inclined to say it is a mixture of both two and three. Let me explain.

Of course it is fitting in the Lord. God wrote it in His word so when we obey God’s word we are pleasing him. The exact same thing could be said about the husband’s responsibilities. This leads me to believe there is a mixture to the second view intended in this passage as well. I can hesitantly say that there is a limitation to a wife’s submission. I say hesitantly because unfortunately just as there are husbands who have abused their authority there have been women who have abused this “loophole” and force their own interpretation of what God wants based on what is in their personal comfort zone.

Here is the thing. A wife is not meant to submit to a husband who makes her sin. She is not meant to submit to the husband who beats her night after night and let him do it because it is submission. She is not meant to equate submitting to husband as being treated like dirt by her husband. There is an element of submission there though. Scripture does intend for the husband to be the head. What does this mean for the husband though.

Husbands, I have some bad news. There is zero limitation on your responsibility.There is no loophole. Scripture tells us to love our wives. n Ephesians Paul tells us to love our wives as Christ loves His church. It means we are to be gentle and understanding with our wives. It means we use our authority in order to serve them. Did you catch that? A husbands authority in the family is to be used to serve his family. As the leader in the family he is to be the biggest servant in the family.

Husbands, this means we do not hold our authority over our wife’s head. We do not tel her to follow what we say because we have authority in the family. A husband who needs to speak of his authority is not using his authority very well. Husbands need to start being taught again that God does in fact speak to our wives as well. When God is leading us in a direction we need to be understanding when it is taking a little longer for our wives to catch that same vision.

Marriage is a lifetime of servanthood to each other. For the wife it is based out of submission and for the husband it is based out of sacrificial love. People have spent a lot of time studying why Scripture takes it form that angle. Some folks say it is because men more naturally focus on things from a respect level and must be reminded to love while the opposite is true for women. Perhaps that is true. What I can say for certain is that men need to bend over backwards to being a servant to their family. It means having patience and a gentle heart. It means we don’t flaunt our authority in the marriage. Take a stand men. Take a stand and love your wives as Scripture tells you to do. Your authority is nothing when compared to the authority of Christ over his whole church. His authority is telling you to love, be patient, be understanding, and be willing to let Him speak to your wife’s heart as well.