A Broken Person is a Whole Person

With three kids (10, 8 and 1), there’s no shortage of toys, books, and games in our home. Therefore, there’s ample opportunity for things to break.

This morning, it was a cereal bowl in the sink (I look forward to repairing the disposal again). Earlier, it was a part of a “rainbow loom.” Before that, a doll got a lazy eye.

And because lots of things break, lots of feelings are crushed.

“How can I make this bracelet without that loom?!”

“Mom, that doll is creeping me out.”

Depending on what and how many objects break, it can be a very long day in our home.

Broken things are typically thought of as useless. It’s rare that an object, having been busted apart, can regain its previous function. While that might be true for objects, it’s completely opposite of what it means to be a Christian. God breaks us as a means of grace. Brokenness is a divine mechanism to transform us into the image of Christ.

David’s prayer in Psalm 13 reflects this beautifully.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

The overall impression of David’s prayer is that while God may seem very absent in trying times, He’s actually profoundly at work. It’s as if the fact that He seems like He’s not is the proof that He is. As David’s own prayer shows, this is very difficult to accept in the moment of one’s brokenness. But ironically, David is praying. He’s talking to the very God he feels that has abandoned him in his suffering, which implies that deep down, David knows God is very much at work in this moment of brokenness. What this means is that praying through such moments is a very powerful tool for embracing His strength in our weakness.

Prayer is means by which we become whole people even as we are broken people.

So if you’re a broken person today, know that God is at work, and that prayer can be the means by which you realize how you are being made whole through the pain. You don’t have to like it. Becoming whole through brokenness is not about the quality of your faith, but about the object of your faith.

If you’re not a broken person today, your time will come. God will determine at a specific point and time to give you more character … to make you a more complete person. And He will do this by breaking you.

Because a broken person is a whole person.

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Authority

As a first-born, I’m not the most rebellious person you’ll ever meet. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t know how to buck authority when I thought it was justified.

Indeed, isn’t that the problem with people like me: we think we know it all, so we don’t NEED authority?

Regardless of our birth order (or any other excuse we might conjure up), we all have that authority figure we find it hard to submit to at some time or another.

  • That Department of Motor Vehicles that should ask you how to improve their customer service.
  • The highway patrolman who doesn’t know that you really do have permission to ride in the HOV lane b/c you feel like it.
  • The librarian who lost that book you supposedly returned on time.
  • The cashier who counts your items to see just how many over 10 you have.

Yes … we love to buck authority.

And we particularly love to buck authority in areas where we are certain that we ARE the authority.

This is one of the reasons why the religious leaders and teachers of Jesus’ day had a hard time accepting Jesus’ authority. THEY were supposed to be the authority. But to show them just how wrong they were, and just how tragic their error was, Jesus told them this parable in Matthew 21:33-46.

There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing,and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

The allegorical references are clear and striking. The landowner who planted a vineyard is God. The vineyard is Israel. The tenants are the religious leaders of the nation. The messengers (servants) are the succession of prophets whom God has sent to them. Last of all he sends his son, an indirect self-reference to Jesus.

And the point is as clear as the allegories: those who think they are in authority and reject the true authority will themselves be rejected. 

It’s absolutely frightening to me that Jesus’ authority was never questioned by Satan or demons or other blatantly evil beings, but WAS questioned and challenged by the most biblically grounded, respected, holy people known to man. It’s a parable that, while specifically addressing Israel and her leaders, in turn challenges me to look inward for those areas in my life where I’m questioning Jesus’ authority over them. In my heart of hearts, I often prefer a love-hate relationship with Jesus’ authority.

  • I love His authority over my eternal salvation, but I loathe it over my finances.
  • I love His authority when He tells me to get married, but I struggle with His authority when He tells me how to actually BE married.
  • I love His authority when He delivers me from my enemies, but I squirm with His authority when He tells me to love my enemies.

And so it goes: a love-hate relationship with Jesus’ authority.

But Jesus’ authority cannot be challenged.

It can … and will … only be submitted to.

The only question is whether it will be done joyfully or begrudgingly.

Feet: Jacked up or Beautiful?

You don’t want to be in the car when my boys take off their socks and shoes. In fact, they are now forbidden from doing such a thing ever since our last road trip this past May. There’s not enough “Febreze” in the world to mask the odor that emits from their feet. Praise the Lord they can clip their own toe nails now.

Not that mine are any better. I’m only allowed to do my own pedicure outside, and preferably just prior to getting in to the shower. And I can’t even consider touching another person in my family with my feet.

Evidently, the boys got their nasty feet naturally.

Not everyone’s feet are as jacked up as the men on the Tims Team, but when is the last time you looked at your feet and thought, “Now THOSE are beautiful”? Even the most perfect pedicure can’t change what we all know to be true: feet are funky.

Thankfully, God has a way of redeeming our feet beyond their unpleasant physical form.

Consider Romans 10:14-15.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

How does God redeem our feet? By associating them with the degree to which we go and share the gospel with others. The feet of those who go with the good news of the gospel of grace have beautiful, beautiful feet.

Trim your nails and wash between your toes all you want. But if you want to have beautiful feet, share the gospel.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Pastor’s Appreciation Month Giveaway

One of the reasons I wrote “Southern Fried Faith” was to give pastors in the south a little help at finding the gospel in those places in the southern church culture where we usually can never seem to find it.

So I’d like to give your pastor a copy if you’ll think he’ll enjoy it.

Here’s how this giveaway will work.

  1. Buy yourself a copy (Kindle or print).
  2. Subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress.
  3. Email me (southernfriedfaith@gmail.com) proof of purchase, along with where you’d like for me to send a personalized copy of the book for your pastor.
  4. I’ll mail it to him ASAP.

I’m going to do this for the first 10 people that follow those four steps before midnight Sunday, October 5.

And if this doesn’t seem like the kind of thing your pastor would appreciate, be sure to do something he would really love. You can never encourage him enough.

What to Tell Yourself when the Church You Love Fails to Love You Back

Ministers are far from perfect. They will hurt individual church members, lead their congregation astray, and stick their foot in their mouth many times in a pastorate of any length and substance.

Church leaders will also hurt one another. If I had a dollar for every staff member who has come to me utterly broken at how their pastor or personnel committee treated them, I could take you to dinner at Cheesecake Factory, dessert included.

When the church a minister loves doesn’t love him or her back, there are three things that minister needs to remember.

  1. No one attacked Jesus more than other leaders. Most of them were religious, some of them were secular. Some hated him because of his message; others feared him out of a desire to protect their power. So when the church you love doesn’t love you back, no one knows what this feels like better than Jesus. You can take great comfort in the fact that He can empathize and sympathize with you when pastors or other church leaders sin against you.
  2. If God is going to use you greatly, He’s going to wound you deeply. I believe this is a paraphrase of a quote by A. W. Tozer, and it puts a ministers pain in the proper perspective. We don’t become better ministers of the gospel by experiencing as little conflict or pain as possible, including pain that seems or even is unjust. God forms our character and equips us for great things by wounding us in deep ways. You may not have known you were signing up for this, but you were, and the deepest wounds comes from those you deeply love.
  3. The wounds themselves are a primary means by which God will use you to spread the gospel. Your working through it will testify to the gospel in some shape, form, or fashion. Either in your weakness, He will be made strong … or, in your weakness, you will become bitter and harsh towards those who hurt you and the institution they represent. Can you, like Paul, say, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (2 Corinthians 12:10)? If Jesus is to get the glory in your pain, you must.

Significance in Submission

Last week, I had the privilege of walking through Psalm 8 at Brentwood Baptist Church with a group of men who are meeting regularly for prayer and Bible study in the Psalms. Below is a synopsis of my talk.

What is it that makes a human being significant?

More personally, what is it that makes YOU significant?

One of the easiest ways to answer that question is to think about how we introduce ourselves to others who do not know us. Something like, “Hello. My name is Joe. I have a wife and three kids, and I work at a button factory.” Or maybe, “Hello. My name is Rob. I have a wife and three kids. I am a husband, father, pastor, educator, and author.” An answer like these shows that such a person finds his roles or activities as the foundation of his identity.

“I am what I do.”

“I am who I know.”

Of course, in a postmodern culture, one might reject this question altogether, which is to answer it without acknowledging that one is answering it. It’s to say, “I am whatever I want to be.”

In an evolutionary culture, we might answer it this way: “I am the most highly evolved species on our planet, perhaps in the universe.” It’s be defined biologically and by how that biological “story” has unfolded.

None of these exactly “gee-haw” with the Bible.

In Psalm 8, David’s prayer and song reveals that human beings find their significance in submission to a Creator God.

Let’s begin with verses 3-4.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

David recognized something that we, even with our vast technological advances with regard to space travel, are still recognizing: the universe is unbelievable! For example, our galaxy, the Milky Way, is one of BILLIONS in the universe. It takes the sun 100,000 light years to travel around our galaxy once (about 200 million earth years). To spend any time exploring the profundity and complexity of the universe as a Christian is to arrive at the same conclusion as David: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” How small we are in the grand scheme of things! Why in the world would the God who made and orders the universe think about and care for human beings? Why would God have a purposeful, active compassion for humanity? Why would we have any special significance to Him?

But not only does He do just that, but He has given us significance and honor above everything else in creation. Look at

Yet you hav­e made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have­ given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Notice how David uses the word “glory” in this Psalm. He uses it in verse 1 to talk about God’s glory, but he uses it here to speak of you and I. This is an effective way of identifying man with God and of saying that we have been made in God’s image.

Notice how David emphasizes our special significance by speaking of our role as “ruler” over the world and its creatures. Rule is something normally ascribed to God in the Bible, but Psalm 8 says that God shared this rule with us.

Notice how David emphasizes our significance by the way he describes us as being “a little lower than the heavenly beings” rather than “a little higher than the beasts.” It could have been written the other way around. But by doing it this way, David forces us to “look up” and strive for the God who created us, rather than “look down” and find our identity in what we rule over.

But there is a problem, and it is a very obvious one to all of us. We humans do not rule over God’s creation the way we were made to. God made us a little lower than heavenly beings, but we have rebelled against such an identity. We do things to each other that animals would never even dream of doing to their own kind or us. Some of us would never treat our dog the way we have sometimes treated our spouse, and our dog would not treat us as poorly as others have treated us.

Graciously … Lovingly … God has acted on our behalf. God sent his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to save us from our failures and to fulfill Psalm 8 as we have not.

That is why the author of Hebrews uses Psalm 8. He applies it to Jesus, saying that He (JESUS) was made a little lower than the angels and that, as a result, the Father has “crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet,” adding, “In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him” (Hebrews 2:7–8).

So where is our significance found?

It’s found in our submission to the God, whose Son submitted Himself to God so that we could be with God forever.

And when this is our identity … our significance … we sing along with David in verse 1 and verse 8: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”