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How the presence of danger defines love…

I have a friend who had something horrible happen to her:

In the middle of the night, while she was peacefully sound asleep, a man broke into her house, busting down her door, stole into her room, dragged her out of her bed and into a vehicle and drove off.

Isn’t that awful? Trespassing! How horrible. How rude.

How loving.

How heroic.

How Christlike.

See, there’s one detail that change things dramatically.

Her house was on fire.

But there was this man. A hero. A firefighter who responded to the call and didn’t consider his own life dear to him but risked his own safety and well-being in order to bust down the door, plunge into the blinding smoke and flames, and rescue an unconscious woman from her bed. He dragged her out, put her in an ambulance, and away she went. She was in a coma for a long time. They didn’t know if she’d make it. By the grace of God, she survived. She’s a mama, about my age. Every day is a gift for her now, because someone recognized the danger, valued her life, and did the loving thing.

That detail about the fire changes everything, yes?

What is the “loving thing to do” depends heavily on the absence or presence of danger.

As my husband always says, the key to humble, Christlike rebuke or confrontation is helping people understand,

“You’re not in trouble, you’re in danger.”

Sin leads to death. Always. Destruction. Regret. Loss.

It is never loving to leave someone alone to die in a burning house. 

So of course, the question is, How do we define danger? Who gets to decide when that person’s in danger or not? Who determines the degree of danger? A house-fire is rather obvious, but we certainly shouldn’t break into someone’s house and drag them into the street just because they’re smoking a cigarette in bed.  Right? One could argue that that’s dangerous as well. Who decides?

Only the One who created us. Only the one who sees the end from the beginning. Only the one who knows the number of hairs on our heads, grains of sand on the shore, the ones who knit us together in our mother’s womb, who is alone wise. The only One who defines love.

In 1 Corinthians 5, there were some people who were in danger. Big danger. And all the people around them didn’t go into the burning building to rescue them. They didn’t think that was loving. It seemed rude. Judgmental. So they just stood around outside “accepting” the people’s decisions. In fact, they boasted about their non-judgmental attitudes! But Paul is livid. Why?

Because they weren’t rescuing people from danger. Sure, the steps he suggests taking are extreme. Basically like busting down the door on someone’s house and dragging them out of their beds. Crazy stuff. But later, in 2 Corinthians 7:8-13, we hear the beautiful result, that even though it was ugly at first, every though it was hard, even though there was grieving and hurt and anger and difficulty, that godly grieving brought repentance (turning from sin) which brought …

LIFE.

Rescued from death.

There was anguish. But some precious souls were saved from the fire because someone was willing to look rude and bust down the door of their life and drag them away from danger.

The truth is, we were all asleep in the burning house (Rom 3:23) but Christ made a way of escape by His blood, and now calls us to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:18-21), his firemen. Sure, at times our jobs are mundane, we’re cleaning our gear or washing the truck. But other times we’re called on to do something seemingly rude, something scary that might be misinterpreted, something that makes us scared out of our mind, because the presence of danger defines love. 

My friend is eternally grateful that a rude guy busted down her door and dragged her out of her house.

Thanks for reading. 

*Originally shared last year

Grace

Declaring more than Happy Birthday over Mrs. Sacred Mundane

Kari’s husband here, seeking to share some words about my wife. Today is her birthday, and while this woman doesn’t seek the attention, she is worth celebrating.

Jeff & KariYou see, Kari is the same in public as she is in private; she harbors no secrets. Humility and integrity have married together with creativity and authenticity in this woman. Today we celebrate herWHO she is — above her works, and words. Her worth is in being a daughter of God. 

The words belong flow because there is little editing when it comes to portraying Kari’s character. Sure, there are many aspects of our lives that she keeps private, and rightly so. Not once has she shamed our family in writing or speaking the true stories she shares. Kari routinely asks for my input and permission before going public with a private aspect. (I did not however ask her if I could post this.) But the point is, she’s the same person at home as she portrays in public; except for here at home she’s mostly adorned in sweatpants and a favorite tattered fleece. *smile*

June is a month of reflection for both of us, with birthdays and our anniversary. And I am learning it is a moment to consider the future. Kari is consistently future-oriented; I wake up daily in the past. So the declarations I pray today over her life, some of which I share below on her birthday, have an already-not-yet quality to them. There is the power of the Gospel over her past (absolution and forgiveness and so much more through justification by grace), God eradicating the presence of sin and selfishness (sanctification), and she is becoming who she already is in Christ and will be forevermore (glorification). My bride knows theology well, and lives it better. In the Renew family we say we want to embrace and embody the grace and truth of Jesus. Kari, whose name means “the pure one,” seeks to live up to this standard, imaging the pure hope of the God of all Grace. 

Grace

These truths are vital to share, for the “secret sauce” of Kari’s life is no mere talent or special opportunity. She has tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 37), and responds to His goodness — and greatness, and grace, and glory — with her whole heart and life. This woman shows up, serves everyone, is found faithful, perseveres through discouragement (hupomone!), and receives the fruit of wisdom only ours through following Jesus. She wanted “nothing” for her birthday, since she’s living beyond herself. I say there’s a gift we could give. 

Learn to Live UnstuckYou’ll find this blog has no monetized ads, for we’re prayerfully seeking to give away the Gospel. We want you to learn to live unstuck through the good news of Jesus. Yet there is one gift you could give Kari, by way of clicking.

Will you pre-order a copy of her new book Sacred Mundane?

(Perhaps to give away. All her ebooks and this new book described here.) 

You’ll receive the gift as it releases July 25th, and I guarantee the message will serve you on the path to freedom, purpose, and joy. Sacred Mundane will guide toward hope as you let your days transform your life. Kari has labored over that message for more than a decade — all the while living the sacred mundane life. Her soul and our home spills over its pages; it gets a little messy. God is so good. 

There’s something more to this gift: for your purchase goes beyond her. It’s our joy to give all our proceeds from Sacred Mundane for the flourishing of women and children in developing whole communities globally. We happily give this to and through World Vision. 

Back to the birthday girl… my prayer over her soul, and longing for her life, is that she enter into the grace and truth of Christ, clinging to the honor and justice that truly belongs to our Creator. So I declare these truths from Scripture over her life:

Kari, you are loved by God, and me. You are a daughter, born again, and adopted into the family of God, chosen before the foundation of the world. The Creator chose you as His own! Being rescued and remade into the image of God’s Son, you reflect His glory, and bear the fruit of His Spirit, according to all the creative means God desires. He will complete the good work He began in you, and in us, through your trust, honor, and obedience. He will sustain you to the very end, kept blameless until the day of Christ Jesus. Though you were once without hope, but God because He is rich in mercy through the gift of His Son has saved you forever. You were ordained to live in the good words God planned for you, that you shall walk in them all the days of your life, and this new year especially. For you are set apart for righteousness, bringing God’s creative solutions to order the chaos all around you. As one of His called people you can rejoice that all things are working together for your good, to the glory of God. For no good thing does He withhold as you walk uprightly. I am convinced you are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct others. Your life serves God’s purposes in the whole world, and this small part of it. You are also full of faith, humility, and love, and can do all things in love, through Him who strengthens you. For nothing is impossible for God. You have all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Jesus. You are chosen as his vessel to declare His excellencies — His perfections! — and display His goodness and glory. You work with all your might, as unto the Lord, and surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life. Then you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. You are blessed beyond measure because Jesus Christ our Lord, who took our sin and sickness and shame, who bore them away forever, on the cross. He has defeated all enemies in your life, absolved all your sin, set you free to live as He intended. Jesus has endued you with power and kindness to use the spiritual gifts and unique calling He chose as you fulfill your role as a significant minor character in the big Story.

PattersonsMay this new year continue deeper in His truth, wider in His grace, fully in His joy. In God’s glorious plan, where Jesus is the Hero of the Story, as the One who moves the plot forward, you participate in the renewal of all things, the redemption from the curse, and the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. You are loved with an everlasting love, and nothing can separate you from the love of God, through Christ Jesus our Lord. It is pure joy to be in this goodness alongside you. Amen! 

We pray this over you on this day. Happy Birthday, Kari! 

It is a joy to walk alongside you, following Jesus together as a family. Now to finish your present, cleaning out the shop.

—Jeff (@deTheos, @renewjeff)

p.s., Kari will return to write next week, so if you’re longing for her take on things, you can subscribe by email here to receive all new posts as they’re published. 

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The power of declarations

I was at a loss. It felt like things were getting worse and no amount of good parenting seemed to make a difference. He was more and more anxious, he was overreacting more, acting more autistic, and just overall unhappy. I tried everything I knew, but kept feeling like I couldn’t reach him. I couldn’t reach down deep into his heart, into the place I knew was broken. It wasn’t just about behavior — he wasn’t behaving that badly, but something was off and I didn’t know what to do.

So I tried declarations.

Now, before you flag me as crazy, hear me out.

A friend handed me Raising Burning Hearts. I had never read a charismatic parenting book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m only a few chapters in, but one thing that struck me was: The power of declarations.

At first I was skeptical — declarations? I pictured my kids confused faces as I stood over them with my hands on their foreheads, shouting out, “You are the head and not the tail!” It didn’t seem like that would probably be a good idea.

But I was still intrigued — the author shares about the power of our words, life and death are in the power of the tongue, and I knew that I had been struggling with harnessing my words, with speaking words of life. But then on the other hand, I always struggle with this area, because Dutch doesn’t respond well to verbal praise–that is not his love language and he gets embarrassed easily. Even as a toddler, if I praised him verbally for potty training success, he’d get angry and run away. So I have to be very careful with my verbal praise, and wasn’t sure how declarations would fit into that.

So I started silently, without him around. As I was out on my prayer walk, I began just proclaiming/praying over Dutch as many scriptures as I could think of. It was a mixture of saying, believing, proclaiming, and praying. I wasn’t so much petitioning as I was laying hold of promises that are already said to be true in the Scriptures. It was like waving a banner of truth over the whole situation.

I was amazed by how encouraged I was by the time I was done. Instead of my usual, “God please fix my sad situation somehow” it felt like aggressively believing, trusting, and calling into existence the spiritual realities that God says are true. It really felt like waving a banner of truth. I thought, “Man, I need to pray like that more often!”

But then I was really encouraged by that day. It was so much better. No tears and frustration, no anxiety over baseball, so much better. So that night at bedtime I quietly slipped a little scripture-declaration into my usual bedtime prayers over him. Each day I continued declaring scripture over him, my own heart and mind, over stressful situations as they arose, a little more each day. I found myself eagerly reading the scriptures, looking for more promises to lay hold of.  It felt like a way to battle, like each declaration of truth and scripture was a death-blow to the enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy.

And each day, he continued to thrive more. 

Now please understand: this isn’t a gimmick. I don’t mean: Declare your way to a new kid by Friday! But we are wise to proclaim the goodness of God, His truth, His Word, over our lives, and especially the lives of our children regularly.

Now the author had a specific, short declaration blessing she said over each of her 6 children every single morning before school. I don’t have an exact scripted version but I like the idea. So far, my declarations just go something like this …

Dutch, you are loved by God and me. You are a son, born again and adopted into the family of God. You are made in His image, you reflect His glory, you bear the fruit of His Spirit. He will complete the good work He began in you, He will sustain you to the very end and keep you blameless until the day of Christ. You are set apart for righteousness. He works all things for your good and His glory, and no good thing does He withhold as you walk uprightly. You were made for good works, prepared in advance for you to walk in. You are full of goodness, faith, humility, and love. You are patient and kind, you are generous and faithful. You can do all things through Him who strengthens you and nothing is impossible for your God. You have all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Jesus. You are chosen to declare His excellencies and display His goodness and glory. You work with all your might, as unto the Lord, and surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. You are blessed beyond measure because of Jesus Christ our Lord, who took our sin and sickness, who bore them away, forever, on the cross. You have spiritual gifts and a unique calling to fulfill as part of God’s glorious plan, for the redemption of all things and the coming of His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. You are loved with an everlasting love, and nothing can separate you from the love of God, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen! 

All of this is some form of scripture, and there are a LOT of scriptures to pick from, so you could create your own based on what biblical truths you most need to take hold of. Again, not saying this is some magic gimmick, but we definitely turned a corner last week and I’m convinced this played a part.

The more we raise His Word as a banner over our lives, the better. So let’s proclaim His excellencies over every circumstance, and see what difference it might make.

{You are loved by God! Have a great week. Thanks for reading.} 

photo by Mando Gomez

Land that I love… {A long confession}

I have a confession: I haven’t loved America.

Sometimes God’s leading is so surprising, the twists and turns He takes us on so unexpected, that we’re often unsure whether we want to even share the stuff out loud. Right? At least I feel that way sometimes.

I have recently been challenged by two issues—two convictions that caught me off guard because they are in such sharp contrast to the way I’ve always lived. Mere months ago I would have scoffed at the suggestion that my heart was off in these areas, and yet God has gently guided me, through prayer, His Word, conversations, and a few thought-provoking books, to take inventory of how my life lines up to what He says.

One of them was my attitude toward my country. I had become, in recent years, anti-American. Looking back, I see a few reasons:

My spiritual-sounding reason had to do with wanting to pledge allegiance to God, above all. I still remember my dad asking if my kids said the pledge of allegiance each day before school, as we did growing up. I chuckled, “Dad, my kids don’t even know the pledge of allegiance.” I’m ashamed to say that I felt proud of that somehow, like I was making my kids Jesus-lovers by denying them knowledge of our nation’s history.

See, my heart was right-ish but off-ish: We are ultimately citizens of heaven, this world is not our home, and so in my desire to have no other God beside Him, I wanted to be sure that no other allegiances neared the throne. That’s fine, certainly, of course my love for God trumps all other loves, but in my over-zeal for this I had actually neglected the land God’s called me to love.

This can happen in any area. For example, I can be so over-focused the outward mission of God, that I neglect my marriage and my children. I can ignore them while I’m off “reaching the lost.” The lesson for me this past year is that it is precisely IN the discipling, loving, nurturing, and caring for my family that I am best able to reach a lost world Christ loves. Our families, our relationships, our marriages, the virtue of our lives and the way we love others, were meant to serve as lights—cities on a hill—for all to see.

If I neglect my home, I miss the mission.

And if I neglect my homeland, I might miss His mission too.

Now, I can see the sadly shallow reasons as well. Like many Gen-X-ers, I was sucked in by an arrogant, anti-American attitude. Some of it is nothing more than mindlessly following the “cool crowd,” like insecure middle-schoolers. It’s cool to travel abroad, it’s lame to roadtrip America. It’s cool to eat ethnic food, it’s lame to eat American food. It’s cool to quote Ghandi, it’s lame to quote any of our founding fathers. It’s cool to bash America, it’s lame to laud America. Think about it: If you wanted to buy an American flag t-shirt, let’s just say you wouldn’t go to Nordstrom, you’d hit Walmart. The general attitude is that patriotic people are old, uneducated, narrow-minded xenophobics who shop at Walmart, love Norman Rockwell art and think the world is white. It’s sad to even write this, but it’s true. I would never have had any American-flag decor anywhere near my property or person—so not cool. Fourth of July parades? Please.

In so many ways, I never left 8th grade.

Added into all this is the misunderstanding that patriotism is the same as nationalism. Patriotism has been vilified, at least in my far-left corner of the country. If I dared to love my country, wouldn’t that mean I didn’t love the world? Afraid of being seen as a xenophobic, unwelcoming, ethnocentric, minority-hating person, it seemed safer just to join the crowd and scoff at America along with most everyone else under 40. Besides, the term “American dream” has become synonymous with self-seeking — most certainly not in line with gospel-living.

So what happened? The first was that during my 40-day fast, God gave me an overwhelming burden to pray for our nation. With Daniel 9 confession, repentance, and intercession, He began to make me care about the state of the country where He had sovereignly placed me. I was struck by the fact that God chose for me to be born here, and in a place of such tremendous privilege we therefore have a tremendous responsibility. To whom much is given, much is required.

We have traveled to 5 of the 7 continents in the world, and yet we know that God has called us to live and serve and minister here. We send much of our resources overseas, as we will continue to do, to help alleviate suffering, and we want to strive to draw attention to the plight of the poor worldwide, but how will I serve and love and bless this place where I live? Do I just turn up my nose in anti-American snobbery and lament at how she’s fallen?

Secondly, my heart began to change, quite simply, as I taught my kids history! Sadly, the one subject I sorely missed as a kid was American history. Honestly, I don’t remember ever learning anything about the history of our country. I think my 7th grade American history teacher had us fill out March Madness brackets and learn the state capitals and that was it. No disrespect, I just never learned about our rich heritage, I never saw the spiritual side of our nation’s founding, I never knew the whole purpose was that we’d be a city on a hill, a beacon of hope and light and freedom to the world around. I never knew the inscription on the statue of liberty, I never knew the words of Washington, Adams, Franklin, Lincoln…men who were, of course, not perfect, but willing to give their lives for the sake of this experiment in freedom called America.

And finally, I was struck by Romans 13, and the clear command to submit to governing authorities and while of course I have always paid taxes to whom taxes are due, it then says to give “honor to whom honor is due.” It hit me:

We have lost honor.

My close friends know, that when we felt God leading us to have more kids, He put several names on our hearts. The first was the girl’s name Honor. I was so excited to have a little girl named Honor.

Then we miscarried. While I was up all night going through the miscarriage, I prayed to God for clarity on what was happening. So clearly I heard:

This was Honor.

Now I believe Honor is safe and secure in heaven and I will see her someday, but I grieved the spiritual significance of what happened.

We have lost honor.

Sure, many of our leaders have done shameful things. No one is pretending they haven’t. But as I have earnestly prayed about how to relate to our leaders, I have consistently been led to this clear command: Honor. Just as you do with your husbands — you may not agree with every choice, you may even despise some of the things he does, but you honor and respect him not because he deserves it, but because God has commanded it. You get on your face and PRAY FOR HIM daily, not because He’s earned it, but because God commands it. Of course you may disagree, you may respectfully voice your vote and even make an impassioned plea when you think he’s gone astray … but you never cease to honor.

It saddens me to see so many Christians behaving in a dishonorable way. We mock our nation’s leaders, create disrespectful memes and hashtags, we use sarcasm and blatantly disrespect. How on earth do we expect our children to respect us when we openly disrespect those whom God has placed in authority over us? We will reap what we sow. During the 8 years of Obama’s term, even if I didn’t agree with what he did, I never disrespected him. Never to my children, never online, never in a joke or crass word. During the election, I saw a friend’s FB status that subtly made fun of Hillary Clinton. It was clever and funny, so I clicked “like,” but I was immediately convicted.

With every click I am either creating–or destroying–a culture of honor. I would encourage Christians, no matter where you are politically, to uphold a culture of honor. Not because a certain leader deserves it, but because God commands it.

So how will I respond?

  • I want to diligently teach my children the godly heritage we have in America, that the whole purpose of American freedom was for the sake of others, not for ourselves.
  • I want to cultivate a culture of honor. I want to teach my children to honor their elders, veterans, those in positions of authority, because God commands it, and by obeying Him we will bless His heart.
  • I want to venerate heroes. Our culture has sunken into such a sad state of cynicism and pessimism. The news is almost always degrading, despising, discouraging. I want to put examples in front of their faces of heroes, men and women who have risked their lives for the gospel, for their country, for others.
  • I want to love my country. Not worship, not idolize, but love in a healthy way. I want to teach my kids to love this place where God has placed us, to be grateful, and to pray for her.
  • I want to celebrate virtue. Self-government and freedom will not work without virtue. I want to point out and draw attention to and celebrate example of virtue anywhere I see them. Politics are downstream from culture. By impacting our culture, we create the biggest impact of all.

And finally, we put up an American flag. 🙂 It might not be cool, but it will remind us of our commitment to pray for this place God has put us, to love her and earnestly implore that God will have mercy on us and draw us back to Him.

{Happy Memorial Day. Thanks for reading.}