But I wanted to share about something else that is one my heart tonight. If you are reading this, I want you to know you are loved. Right where you are. In your darkness, in your pain, in your doubts and anger, in your crippling sin, you are loved. That is what today is about. Good Friday. That while "we were yet sinners...Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
I always believed in a God. I was raised in the church and and sang the songs..."Jesus loves me this I know...for the Bible tells me so." Even as I studied science more and more, I honestly had a harder time NOT believing there was a higher being that created this earth, our every cells so perfectly and uniquely. I could not and still cannot wrap my mind around the world just coming to be. There had to be a God bigger then us who created us. Did I know all the answers? No. But I believed, and still do, that there is a God in heaven who created this earth. I even believed, and still do, that God sent his only son Jesus to die on a cross for our sins...I believe the Bible to be true and that through faith alone, our once broken relationship with the Creator is restored...this death on the cross was our penalty paid in full. That is how much He loves us. But somewhere...somehow...that LOVE part got lost.
As as child I sang the song...I believed He loved me. But slowly, as my eyes were revealed more and more to the darkness of the world and just the sin in my own life, I lost the belief that I was loved. And the sad part was, I was ok with that. I believed He loved others, I believed the Bible to be true...but somehow my mind started to believe that where I was, the choices I was making, the lack of any desire in my heart...all this meant one thing...yes God loved others, but He didn't love me. Maybe...if I didn't question so much. Maybe...if I could get this one sin under control. Maybe...if I took a break from "the church" and cleaned myself up...then He will be ready for me. Then He will love me. But how is that even possible? I was wise enough to look around and see that any perfect version of myself was no where in the near future...it is impossible.
Where did this lie come from? I really have no idea. Satan, I guess. Maybe me. Maybe society. Maybe false teaching or my perception of teaching within the church. I can't really pinpoint it. But I can tell you that if you ever sit down and really start reading story after story in the Bible, this lie...is just that...a lie.
No where does it say that you have to pull yourself together before coming to the Lord. No where does it say that you won't have doubts or questions. No where does it say that "You are loved if ______." No where does it say that God sent His son Jesus to die for those that seem to have it all "together." No...he died for us, WHILE we were sinners.
He loves you. You....exactly where you are. He leaves the 99 to chase after you. Just like I can't pinpoint where this lie came from that I had built up in my head that I had to pull myself together before any God would love me. I also can't pinpoint when I realized...that was a lie. It was a slow revelation I guess. A lot of questions, a lot of doubts and slowly I believed the truth. Slowly I saw that all the time I thought I had been running from God...he had never left me.
Maybe you are questioning if God loves you...or maybe you are slowly seeing that He does...but you are so scared to take that first step. My friends, this is faith. Not being able to see what lies ahead but believing that what lies beyond this earthly world is better. I don't have all the answers, I still question, I still wrestle, and if I am really honest there are times that I am still angry. I could rattle off miracle after miracle that I have seen in my short life of God's mercy and goodness. But there are also things that I still struggle with...that I still question "When am I going to see redemption win?" "How many times do I come before you Lord and I still can't see the victory?"
I think that's ok. Again, I think if we all sit here and wait to have everything figured out...well we will be waiting a very long time. And if you do claim to have it all figured out, then you probably should do some soul searching. Because though I believe God is good and God loves me, there are still things I don't think I will understand, victories that I will not see won on this side of Earth. But one day I will. Until that day...in my brokeness, in my imperfections, I cling to the cross and thank God for this day. That "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".
Its hard to take a leap of faith...but it's freeing. Maybe like bungee jumping (I dont know because I have never bungee jumped).
Back to being loved...that is what this weekend is about to me. And I just want anyone who is reading this to know they are loved too....whether you are on your knees pleading for a victory or maybe you are completely confident in yourself and don't think you need a God. Where ever you find yourself this Easter, please here me...you are loved.
It's hard to walk by through those walls...of the church. I have been there. When you walked away for so long (for whatever your reason may be)...and then your fearfully take one step after the other. You feel like everyone sitting around you is staring at you and knows you have doubts, hurts, anger. Can I tell you something...the church...our pastors...are human. They are broken too. We are human, we are going to make mistakes...but my faith is not in my church or my pastor. My faith is in Christ alone. Has my church been a central piece for helping me grow and know the Lord more...absolutely. But it's scary...its scary to say "Lord I need you" to say "God i know you love me right where I am" its scary to walk by faith. But as I look back, once I got through some of those lies, I realized a life without believing God loved me and was there with me through EVERY storm, is way scarier.
So I invite you to join me this Sunday, at our small church. Bring your doubts, your fears, your anger, your sadness...and let us dig through this together. Again, I don't claim to have all the answers. But please don't wait until you think you have it all figured out on your own. Tomorrow is not promised. Let's stop pretending we are living picture perfect lives on Facebook and dive deep. If you don't have a church home, and you don't feel comfortable joining us this Sunday...the invitation is always there. Call me, for coffee for brunch for dinner. I can't promise I will be able to answer all your questions, but I want you to know you are loved and He is calling you now. He wants to carry your burdens, he welcomes your questions, fears and anger. (Read Psalms...its a great story of the ups and downs we often feel).
So tonight as I go to bed, I remember the cross. Thank you for the cross. And this Sunday, may my voice sing in praise the victory over death.
"Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely You've bled for us
Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave" - Matt Maher