Heart Renovations {Good Friday Reflections}

our kitchen in progress

We’re in the middle of a major renovating project in the new house we’re set to move into at the end of the month. With the help of very generous friends in our church, my parents, and my husband and his friends, the ugly 60s style carpet in our living and dining room has been ripped out. The kitchen tile has been smashed out and new hardwood floors will be installed soon.

As you can imagine, the downstairs is a wreck. And on this Good Friday while I have just a few minutes to reflect on it, I can’t help but take a look inside the condition of my soul, apart from Jesus.

Apart from Jesus, it’s an absolute disaster. There is nothing good that exists (I wish there was).

I’m a sinful being and my sin is so disgusting and offensive that a price had to be paid to cover it.

Jesus’ death on the cross paid the massive debt I owed. A debt which I could never actually pay on my own accord. On the cross, Jesus said “It is finished.” Wholly. Completely. Not in part- but in full. Because of the pain, suffering, and anguish he endured and the spilling of his blood, I’ve been set free from the chains of sin. And no one else could do it, but Jesus.

Because of his death, grace washes over all our sin. Amazing grace for you and for me. A most precious gift.

But the cross can’t be left by itself, displayed on a church building, or worn around our neck as pretty jewelry. The cross, which showed his great love for us, demands an answer from us. A choice that we must make. Will we accept Jesus’ gift of grace and surrender our lives to Him? Will we turn from our sin and cling to Him? Will we allow him to renovate the ugliest, shameful parts of our heart so we can be restored again?

He is more than willing if we let Him.

The beauty of the cross and his grace is that He removes the junk and debris. He changes us and makes us new. It is all an act of His grace- a profound mystery.

Today, let’s not forget just how awful our sin is and how disgraceful Jesus’ death on the cross was. But let us also not forget…

Sunday’s coming.

Check out this video.

The Words “I Love You”

While I was washing the dishes a few nights ago, John walks up to me in adult-like fashion and says:

“Momma?”

I turn to him wondering what his next words will be. I assumed he needed something.

“I love you.”

My eyes lit up and I was pleasantly surprised especially after the kind of day it had been. My heart filled with joy that even though I’m a far-from-perfect Momma, my three year old still loves me and hopefully knows that he is loved deeply too.

“I love you too, John.”

He gave a big grin and went about his business playing.

God spoke truth to me that evening through my son. I love how God often has a way of intervening in our lives to show us how deeply He loves us. I don’t know about you but it seems like when I am the most unlovely, He shows his unconditional love all the more and I’m humbled. How does such a sinner like me deserve so much grace and love?

Yet he continues to love because He is Love. 

And he shows his love in unexpected ways: through Scripture, prayer, the Church, other people, creation, whispers, “aha” moments, circumstances, discipline, trials, and more.

But the truth is that he doesn’t have to continue showing his love. He has already proven his love by suffering and dying on the cross. He loved us while we were still sinners, in all our filthiness and ugliness. The cross sealed the deal and there is no greater love that exists.

But why do I often live like I need to be reassured of His love? Or sometimes I’m insecure of his love. I only need to look to the cross.

When it comes to love it’s no wonder that the song “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan strikes such a chord with so many people deep within. It’s a song that chokes me up and reminds me of His faithfulness. No matter what kind of hurt, pain, or trial we are going through, we follow a God who loves us and who cares about our frustrations and let-downs.

And he is indeed jealous for us.

He wants us to know that, yes, we are broken people and yes we will mess up sometimes but that doesn’t change anything about His love. He is ready and willing to show us that love if we will listen and obey.

I’ve remembered John’s words a few times this week. They have helped me through my daily struggles and they continue to remind me that those are the exact words God is saying to me.

“I love you.”

Who is your God?

Recently I took John to Barnes & Noble to play with the Thomas Train table in the children’s section and on our way out after playing trains, I saw the book god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens as one of the featured sellers.

I haven’t read the book. I’m familiar with the author from Apologetics classes I took in seminary. But the title got my mind thinking and when I got home, I decided to write down who God really is…

My God is Great.

He is Creator. Redeemer. Healer.

He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

He is all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere.

He understands suffering because He suffered on the cross.

He is Father to the fatherless and near to the brokenhearted.

He is Living Water to the prostitute.

He is full of compassion, mercy, and will judge sin.

He is a God of grace.

He forgives all sins.

He is a rock to those who take refuge in Him.

He formed the mountains. He knit me together in my mother’s womb.

He is able to keep us from failing.

He is to be feared.

He is mighty to save. He is King.

He is our song. He is our light. He is Life.

He proved His love by dying on the cross.

He is Savior of the World.

He is the way, the truth, and the life.

He is deliverer. He has washed us clean of our sins.

He searches the heart.

He is our hope. He makes all things new.

He turns ashes into beauty.

He is coming back for his own.

He loves you, and me, and Christopher Hitchens.

That is our God. And He is Great. And I have not even scratched the surface.


10 things the Cross has saved me from

… continues to save me from:

anger, control, pride, fear, condemnation, envy, shame, bitterness, anxiety, lust.

The weight of my sin on the cross was great, but not greater than the One who took it upon his shoulders:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFvMzDlsmig]

Amena Brown: Resurrection

This week, I’ll be taking a break from writing on my blog to post a few video clips that our Bluefish producers have created. I’m excited to spend this week taking a step back to reflect on all that our Savior has done for us and will continue to do.

I hope the videos posted this week will strengthen your faith and encourage you in whatever you’re facing today.

The voice behind this 2-minute video is spoken-word artist, Amena Brown.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nl40wVuCJUA]

the day my true love died

1212536_open_bibleJeremiah’s been reading through the book of John for one of his seminary classes. Last night, he was thrilled to tell me all about what he was learning while I was cleaning up the kitchen. And I love that I get to be the one to glean from it. He then blurts out, “I’ve gotta watch the Passion.”

It’s a little late. It’s like 2 hrs. long and it’s not one of those movies you can just pop in and play. It takes mental and emotional preparation… is what I’m thinking. I thought about doing my own thing and not watching it with him, but I decided to get on the couch and join him.

It was my third time watching it (with the exception of a few scenes) and some thoughts came to my mind that have encouraged me today:

  • Jesus’ humanity– even though he was God, he came down to earth as a man and lived in our shoes. He experienced rejection, suffering, hunger, thirst, laughter, tears, and alienation from those closest to him. He understands the pain I experience today.
  • Jesus’ love– he didn’t have to go to the cross for us, but he chose to because it was his father’s will. It was the only way for man to be saved from the penalty of sin. His shed blood on the cross makes us free and alive today. The cross is the ultimate proof of his love for me today.
  • Jesus’ perfectionJesus came as a man but he was holy and perfect in every way. YET, He took on our sins for us so that we didn’t have to pay the debt. No matter where we’re at today, he invites us to come to him in all our sin, brokenness, junk, hurts, habits, the whole 9 yards. What Jesus did 2000 years ago, requires a response from me every day that I live.

After getting my pride behind me, I was really thankful to be reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice and I know it will probably be a while until I watch the Passion again.

And I can’t help but think of Phil Wickham’s song True Love:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gU-ejQxEXk&feature=player_embedded]

A love story & lemonade

lemonade1Yesterday I went for a run around White Rock Lake and in the distance I noticed a little boy selling lemonade on the side of the running path. I felt a nudge to talk to him and share something really important that my pastor reminded me of that morning in church.

I stopped and first asked him if the lemonade was free. He said it was $.50 and that it was for a raffle at his school. I told him I didn’t have any change on me. After we talked about his school a little, I asked:

“Do you mind if I tell you something?”

His brown eyes got big and he was focused.

“No,” he replied.

“Have you ever thought about how much God loves you?”

“Yeah.”

“What do you know about Him?”

“Um… They nailed him to a cross. He didn’t like that. It was very bad… And um… the people didn’t like him because he said he was the son of God and stuff.”

“You’re exactly right. Where did you learn that?” I asked.

“At my school,” he replied.

He told me he was 9 years old. His name was Kyle and he wanted to be an architect when he grew up. I told him when I was not too many years younger than him that I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 6. I tried to explain to him that growing in a relationship with God takes time and when he gets older that he will understand even more. I explained that Jesus died for him and died for his sins (the bad things he does) so that he can have a full life.

He didn’t say anything after that. I could have been way over his head or he was just listening.

I sensed our little conversation coming to a close. I said it was nice to meet him and continued on my run.

Kyle was the cutest kid ever and he taught me something about faith.

The gospel is simple that even a 9 year old could grasp it.

Yet in its simplicity it is so incredibly profound. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again, but that fact can’t just stay there. The question is whether I will act on that truth by following him and surrendering all that I am to him because of what He’s done for me.

The love he showed on the cross might seem simple, but it wasn’t. It was “very bad” like Kyle said, in all of its forms. It was evil. All the sins of the world… he bore them. It was his blood shed on the cross that has set us free from our sins.

It’s just so amazing that Someone could love me this much. And even crazier that God sent his son to prove his love for all of us. He has given us this awesome gift of undeserved GRACE and He’s inviting all of us in to accept it. If anything in this world could lead me away from my sin (in repentance) and closer to him, it is because of his kindness and undying love.

My prayer for Kyle is that one day he will become an architect who knows the fullness of God’s love and that he will love him in return.

Healing Faith

grace_candle_logoWhen God wants to show you what human nature is like apart from Himself, He has to show it to you in yourself.

I read these words out of Oswald Chambers this morning. It really hits home to me especially in the last few months where I’ve seen ugly parts of my sin. I’ve heard it said once that the closer you grow towards Christ, the more you see your sin.

Sometimes I think I’m naturally good on my own. And that I can do life on my own. Even as a Christian who knows where my identity lies, I still sometimes struggle with the latter. It’s interesting the way God works in how he shows us the nastiness of our sin. While the news will show us the depths sin can take a person (like the recent murder of the abortion doctor or a major collapse in the economy due to frivolous spending),  as Oswald said, it’s often that God will show it to us in our own hearts… (however scary that might be!)

To show us we really aren’t so good after all. A little lie. A little gossip. Anger. Pride. Selfishness. Greed. Vanity. The list goes on…

But the good news is that God’s Grace covers over all of it! That’s why He came. He died on the cross to heal us from those sins and to give us new life in Him. It’s solely by grace that my sins have been covered- nothing I could ever do on my own. And thankfully he came too so that the more I love, enjoy, and delight in him, the less I sin or desire unsatisfying things that are not of Him.

So the next time I get a sneak peak inside my soul and see the sin that’s really in there, I can thank God and praise Him all the more that He’s healing my brokenness and He’s restoring me into His image day by day. And he won’t leave me where I’m at.

That’s what I thanked him for today.

The Weight of the Cross

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFvMzDlsmig]Last week, a gunman in the small town of Binghamton, New York took the lives of 13 people, including his own. The ugly darkness of evil and sin were yet again exposed to our world. And in the midst of such tragedy (around Easter), I’m compelled to look inwardly at the evil and sin in my own heart.

I often relate Easter-time to the blue-colored peeps and big chocolate bunnies hidden in grass that I found in my basket on Sunday mornings growing up. But I’m learning that Easter is everything but that. Easter is about dealing and grappling with the sin in my heart in light of the cross.

Motivated by love, Christ took on his shoulders the weight of my sin. Ever since the fall, I’ve had a major sin problem—or you could say a “thought” problem. So God, in human flesh, descended from the heavens to enter my messy world and eventually die a criminal’s death on a cross to rescue me from that sin and bondage.

Mark 7:21 says, “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery.” There it is. That sin problem disclosed again. I guess I was wrong and I’m not as perfect after all.

Christ came to heal every person’s brokenness and to restore his image within them. His wounds have healed us. Because of his resurrection, Jesus proved he wasn’t a liar or a lunatic. But that he was God. Because of his life, we now have life. And that is something worth celebrating this Easter.

Video Credit: Chad Madden: Bluefish TV

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