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Every morning since he was about 8, my son Dauntless goes out to the chicken coop to collect the eggs. But, this morning was different. He came into the house with a bowl of eggs, shell, and runny yellow yolks all mixed together in a slimy mess, with bits of egg running down his trembling hands. He tripped on the way back to the house.
Brokenness isn’t beautiful. Broken things aren’t beautiful. And, a broken heart definitely isn’t beautiful.
We feel the searing pain of every false smile, faithless friend, disappointment in a spouse, and the hard injustice we see on every side. Life is filled with broken things and, if we’re honest, most of them are on the inside of that person we see in the mirror every morning.
Instinctively, we know there is something better, something whole that life was intended to deliver, but somewhere those plans were destroyed and we live in the aftermath, piecing together disparate parts that don’t fit together so well. And where is the purpose in all that?
Some people speak as if brokenness is beautiful, as if life was intended to be a cubist painting – identifiable as “life” but chunked up, chipped and badly distorted, like a basket of eggs handled by a carless child. A basket of fresh eggs smashed to pieces from a fall is not a good thing. Any child will tell you that.
“You have cancer”, “Your child is severely brain damaged”, “He was killed in a car accident” “Your husband has been cheating on you”, “Your unmarried daughter is pregnant”…. Brokenness is not beautiful. It’s ugly, lonely, disfigured, painful, and perverse.
The mistake is to believe there is no purpose in our pain – that broken things can have no value.
The Creator of all that was right and good (before it was corrupted by sin) says that the worst thing that has happened to you He will use for good. . . . if you let Him. Romans 8:28 assures us of God’s use of our broken places – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Our journey is our own but the human experience is universal, which is why the next time you encounter someone, you can rest assured they are filled with broken places, too, and the good that God brought into existence from the pain you’ve suffered just might be the grace and understanding heart you have for your fellow traveller.
There’s more room in a broken heart and sometimes God has to break our hearts to make room for others.
Brokenness hurts, sending shards of pain throughout our life. Who could want that? Brokenness exacts a high cost but it can also be of great worth in God’s hands. The value of our own brokenness is seen in God’s use of it in the lives of others.
Life has forced you to pay a heavy price but will you receive the value of your brokenness? Will you receive what God has in store for the worst things that have happened to you, allowing Him to bring peace to your heart and good to the lives of others from all the pain, shame, ugliness, and heartache?
. . . . Casting all your care upon Him; for he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Many Christians today are committed to the idea that, if they just get Jesus “right”, representing Him well by loving everyone enough, then His message will be received and good feelings will abound.
It’s a nice idea. It’s a comforting idea. It’s just not a biblical idea.
Remember the cliché about History? The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from history. When it comes to our efforts to love people into heaven, we just can’t seem to learn from history, especially the history of The Messiah.
Jesus was good at a lot of things but he was especially good at being Jesus. He knew how to be Jesus better than anyone . . . and still managed to get himself killed. Why do we think we can do better? Why do we tell ourselves that if we only present Jesus accurately, people will be drawn to Him and we’ll get a warm bear hug wherever we go? And yet we soldier on, trying to convince people that Jesus isn’t offensive which is a major-league challenge when one of the names of the guy whose popularity we’re trying to increase is, “The Rock of Offense.”
And what is the basic message of this Offensive Rock? “My Way or the Highway to Hell: You Choose.” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the father, except through me.” John14:6. It’s a statement guaranteed to start an argument. No amount of soft lighting, soft preaching, and the latest world-class worship vibe can soften that message.
It’s His love that makes Him so offensive. Jesus knows where you and I are headed without the salvation He offers. He’s been there. Sometimes being offensive is the most loving thing you can do.
Jesus loves people so much, he’s willing to offend their sensibilities. He knew they would kill Him for His Truth and He warned His true followers that they should expect the same from this world.
All men will hate you because of me. Matthew 10:22
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. Philippians 1:29
We can’t say we haven’t been warned.
If this message is obscured by our attempts to “love” people, to be liked, or to be culturally relevant so no one could ever be offended, we are not preaching the Jesus of the Bible, we are not telling the Truth, and we’re not loving people.
Sacrificing Truth on the Alter of “getting along” and not offending anyone may feel good in the moment but it isn’t a loving act. It’s self-deception . . . and worse. The other person is being deceived, too, being given comfort where none is.
“Feel Good Christianity” may be good at protecting feelings but it gets people hurt. “We’re just trying to love people” so the claim goes but Jesus never asks His followers to love people more than He does.
It’s a twisted effort at deflecting negativity, valuing what people think of us over the reproach that comes from the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In some cases it may be a sincere effort to protect Jesus’ image, but real biblical love is willing to risk real offense. Real love says what needs to be heard.
If someone is headed for Hell, he doesn’t need to be made comfortable for the ride.
He needs to hear God’s Truth from you and from me – the True Gospel – the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes – Romans 1:6.
And, what is that True Gospel?
- You are a Law Breaker. Check out the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20. If you’ve broken one, you’re guilty before God. Those who are guilty will experience the wrath of God and spend eternity in Hell, separated from Him.
- There is a way out. To escape this fate, God provided a way for Justice to be served: The perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
- You must repent. What must you do to be saved? Repent before God of the sins you’ve committed and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. When we come face to face with the fact that we’ve sinned there is no mistake – we know we are guilty and in need of a Savior.
Yes, Jesus is the loving Bridegroom, drawing all people to himself – If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself, John 12:32 – and He also said, My yoke is easy and my burden is light. But, speaking the Truth in love never obscures from people the hard edge of Grace that challenges everyone to choose or lose.
People won’t come to Faith because we were deemed nice enough and avoided saying anything offensive. They will come the way they always have, Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, Romans 10:17. And, to most, The Word (the Bible) and The Living Word – Jesus Christ – are offensive.
Among the fruits of the Spirit (the manifestation of Him in our lives – Galatians 5:22-23) are peace, gentleness, and kindness but even Jesus, filled with these characteristics, did not avoid bringing deep offense. True disciples of Jesus can’t either.
Now, if the offense is coming from you and me, then shame on us. We’re walking in the flesh, not the Spirit, bringing reproach to the Name. Even so, as followers of The Rock of Offense in a culture that (falsely) holds tolerance as a supreme value but bans Jesus from every public gathering because He and His Word are offensive, we need to face the fact that no amount of Spirit filling will obscure the reproach of Christ. The god of this world wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jesus has expressly stated that His enemies are our enemies – that anyone who witnesses of Him will, at some point, be hated. But, he said more . . .
In Matthew 10, Jesus tells His disciples that He is sending them out as sheep among wolves. Think about that for a minute – not a pretty picture. But, then in verse 33, he gives them (us!) a grave warning,
“ . . . but, whosoever denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 10:33 And, he’s not talking about being willing to vote for him in the local popularity contest. He’s talking about being willing to bear His reproach before a mocking world.
No-offense Christianity comes at a terrible price.
Will you stand with The Rock of Offense, truly loving people by witnessing of the Truth before hearts made hard by sin, or will you focus on making people on the road to Hell comfortable during their journey?
Take the salvation/conversion of kids. Often eager to hear a profession of faith, parents can push the process along until the child does what he thinks dad and mom want him to do: Ask Jesus to come into his heart.
But, is that a genuine conversion or merely the result of coercion, however well intended?
Merely saying words never saved anyone.
Getting “Johnny” or “Jay Lynn” to say certain words does not result in salvation. Only genuine repentance does that.
Can young children really understand what Jesus did and truly repent?
A few nights ago, Lisa and I along with our older children were ending the day as we always do – sitting for a few minutes over a cup of herbal tea brewed by our 16 year old daughter. It’s like clockwork. Only this evening was different, and not only because we were savoring an awesome new drink (Crio – ground cocoa beans, brewed like coffee. It’s great! Click Here if you want to check it out) sent from the Bentleys, our friends from Virginia.
I was a bit distracted, trying out the new brew, when I saw our youngest (8 years old) looking from across the room – his brow uncharacteristically heavy.
He made his way over to me, looked me in the eye and asked, solemnly, “Dad, can we talk . . . in your office?”
The office . . . must be serious.
When in private, he struggled to speak, began to cry a little and then said, “Dad, I want Jesus to come into my heart.”
I looked into his eyes for a moment, considering that it had been at least a year since the subject had come up near the time of conversion of his older brother. Not wanting him to “jump on the bandwagon” at the time – what I deemed his interest at the time to be – I encouraged him to wait until he could tell me why he wanted to become a Christian.
“Why do you want to become a Christian?” I asked gently.
“I know I need Jesus in my heart. I need to be forgiven for my sin.”
Saying those words “my sin” he cried more as I hugged him, thrilled that he desired to repent and receive the free gift of God’s mercy and grace. Lisa and I never push our kids toward the cross. We (very imperfectly) strive to live out our faith and teach our children what the Word says but orchestrating conviction of sin and the moment of saving faith isn’t Dad & Mom’s job.
That job belongs to the Holy Spirit.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: John 16:8
Our son was being convicted, in his young heart, of his need to be forgiven – of his need of the Savior.
“Son, would you like to pray?”
He nodded yes and we knelt down together but he struggled to get started. I looked at him, and suddenly asked a question that came to mind.
“Would you like your brothers (10 & 12) to join us in prayer?”
Soon, the four of us were kneeling, and praying together and my youngest began . . .
“Dear Lord, please forgive me for my sin . . .” and the flood gates opened as he unburdened his heart and received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Immediately, I was reminded of the man in the temple:
And the publican (tax collector), standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. Luke 18:13
Much rejoicing in the Jacobson house those few nights ago, and next door, where Grandpa is on hospice care: “The Lord allowed me to live long enough to see my youngest grandchild come to know him!”
So, can young kids be truly saved?
Absolutely! Because anyone who truly repents is truly saved, regardless of their age.
God grant you the wisdom and discernment to hear the Holy Spirit when he is moving in your family.
It’s the Jesus everyone is comfortable with – the good guy, the great teacher, the wise philosopher, the warm, fuzzy, nice guy Jesus who looks on my life (no matter what I’ve been up to) and smiles with the concern of a friend who thinks you’ve been drinking too much.
We can manage that Jesus.
But, there’s a problem with the Jesus everyone is comfortable with. Apart from our imaginations, he doesn’t exist.
The Jesus found in historical documents (don’t forget the books of the Bible are historical documents) was not a “good man”.
Good men don’t say the kinds of things Jesus said. Lunatics do.
So, was Jesus a lunatic? The evidence is pretty strong.
The last time I saw someone parading around the street telling people he was God, my mind didn’t waste any time identifying him as a crazy man . . . because that’s what crazy people do, they say ludicrous things.
Normal people – good men – don’t do that. But, Jesus did, all the time.
Here’s one of many examples. In John 8:58, while speaking to a crowd of Jews, Jesus said, “ . . . before Abraham was, I am.”
Our 21st Century ears might not get that right away but those listening did. They understood perfectly what Jesus was saying and did the only logical thing to do under the circumstances. They picked up stones to kill him, hoping for a good head shot. Jesus was claiming to be God – to the Jews, a blasphemous lie worthy of death.
So, which is it? Did the Jews have it right and Jesus is a liar or is he just nuts – a crazy man, making ridiculous claims?
The one option that isn’t left on the table is that Jesus is merely a good man, going about life saying the things good people say.
Other than the Jews in the Bible, I’ve never heard anyone claim that Jesus was a liar (good men aren’t liars) and I’ve never heard anyone say that Jesus was a crazed lunatic (good men aren’t crazy).
So why do people default to the most illogical conclusion of all: Jesus was a good man, a great teacher, a moral leader, a great philosopher?
Let’s not forget that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the father except through me.”
That Jesus is a little harder to manage.
Sorry, Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, Gandhi (etc., etc., etc.,) Jesus is not a team player.
So, why does this “Jesus was a good man” mantra persist?
There is a very simple reason.
It’s because of what good men have in common with lunatics and liars: You don’t have to listen to what they say.
Few, today, call Jesus a liar or a crazy man, so they default to the next best acceptable designation. Calling Jesus a ‘good man’ is simply nice away of saying, “I can appreciate him, but I don’t have to listen to him.”
Concluding Jesus was a good man is by far the most absurd, illogical assessment of the evidence possible. Doing so proves that either your ignorant of what is in the Bible or you know, but don’t care about the facts.
“Mr. Nice Guy” won’t fly if we care at all about the evidence and apply a little logic to it. So, where does that leave us?
There’s one more option: Jesus Christ was exactly Who he repeatedly claimed to be.
If that is true, we do have to listen to what He said.
The Bible says Jesus first came as the suffering servant of mankind, taking on himself the sin of the whole world. But, it also says, He is returning as the conquering King and, when He returns . . .
“ . . . at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth; And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10
Did you catch that . . . every knee . . .? That means those who believe and love His appearing will bow willingly and everyone else will be forced to acknowledge Who He is.
Bow before Him now, or bow later but, make no mistake, you will bow before Him.
No, you can’t manage a Jesus like that because He is so much more than merely the good guy next door.
The Bible says the King is coming. He’s not crazy, he’s not a liar, and he’s certainly not a good man.
Jesus Christ is the Lord of Glory.
Maybe He will come today . . . or maybe you’ll get killed in a car accident . . . or maybe you’re old and will die in your bed tonight.
We do not know what today may bring us.
Are you ready to meet Him, face to face?
As the father of eight children, I understand the desire to see all of one’s children come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ – and it is tempting to “push the process along.” But sometimes, we can be too eager and push our children into words and actions that have more to do with our desires than the Spirit’s work in their lives.
The Evangelist & The Skeptic
Skeptic: I just saw one of your converts facedown drunk in the street.
Evangelist: Drunk, did you say? Facedown in the street? Well then, he was definitely one of mine. The Lord’s converts forsake their sin.
When we strive to get our children to “pray the prayer” we risk making them our converts, rather than allowing God to make them His. How young is too young? God knows. True conversion is a work of the Spirit, not a work of the parent’s will.
When the Spirit moves in the heart of a child, it is obvious something supernatural is taking place. We need only to be faithful beforehand and ready in the moment to be used of the Lord at the appointed time.
Here are some practical suggestions in preparing the soil of your child’s heart.
1) Recognize God’s timing is at work in the life of your child. In John 3:8, the Word describes the Spirit as being like the wind. We don’t need to be anxious or in a hurry when it comes to our children’s pilgrimage to the foot of the Cross. We need to be obedient and purposeful in how we are living and representing God to our children. God is at work. Rest in this truth.
2) Teach your kids the 10 commandments. In Galatians 3:2, they are called, “Our schoolmaster . . . unto Christ.” The Moral Law of God will speak to the awakened conscience and help kids to see they are sinners who cannot be righteous in and of themselves.
3) Read the Bible regularly with your family. The Word says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Modeling Truth is not enough. Our kids need to hear the authoritative Word and that only happens in the lives of young children when parents make the Word a priority in daily life.
4) Teach your Children the Gospel – the Good News of God’s offer of mercy and grace through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Because the phrases “good news” and “the Gospel” are familiar to Christian parents, it’s easy to assume our children know what they are and mean. Over the course of 11 years as a pastor/teaching elder, I have seen many cases of kids from Christian homes who were familiar with these phrases but didn’t now what they actually meant. Ask your kids, “What is ‘The Gospel’ or ‘The Good News’ of Jesus?” My children are from 8 – 21 years of age. If you’re like Lisa and me and have a wide spread of ages, it’s natural to think everyone “gets it.” Trust me, they don’t! Four days ago, I asked our youngest this question and found out . . . I have more work to do!
5) Do your job (Deut. 6) and let God do His! It’s good to be reminded (and a great relief!) that it is not our job as parents to convict children of their sin. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job, Who is in the world, convicting men of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come (John 16:8). A parent’s job is to speak often, throughout the day, of the Lord – what He is like, what He does, how much He loves us, to fear Him, etc.,
6) Don’t be a hypocrite. When our kids see there is no difference between what we are teaching them and how we live, our words and life have power. Can you say with sincerity to your kids, “Follow my example?” When there is a difference between words and example, acknowledge it to God and to your kids, ask for forgiveness from God and from your kids, and then change before God and before your kids.
Can you say with sincerity to your kids, “Follow my example?”
7) Pray that your child’s heart be awakened to the things of God, and listen to the Holy Spirit for His timing in speaking to the heart of your child. Think of it like this – you’re constructing a building, brick by brick (precept upon precept as you sit/stand/walk, in the manner of Deut. 6) not putting out a blazing fire so, don’t use a fire hose and drown your child in volumes of facts, information, and knowledge he/she isn’t yet ready for.
8) Again, Rest in God’s timing. Your children are on a pilgrimage – just like you and me. And, where were we years ago, as young children? We have seen His faithfulness in our lives. Does He love your children any less? He is faithful and He is good.
Leading our children to Jesus can seem like a huge challenge but, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. And, God is for you in this endeavor! 2 Peter 3:9 says “ . . . He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
This is God’s desire for your children. He is with you in this pilgrimage.