sinners-wanted-1024x682I’m a perfectionist.  Once I took a test to determine if I were a perfectionist or not.  I was about twelve years old.  The score of “1” was the lowest and “10” was the highest.  I scored an eleven because I thought one of the questions contained bad grammar—a split infinitive, I think.

Because I’m a perfectionist, I tend to beat myself up when I’m not perfect.

Want to hear an amazing truth?  God planned for there to be sin in the world.  It didn’t take him by surprise.  Our evil, fallen world was part of his original design.  Why?

Because a sinful creation glorifies God more than an innocent one ever could.  Maybe we need to read that again.

There are things about God’s nature and character that could never be displayed in an innocent, perfect world.  One of the most compelling attributes of God is his grace and love.  But what displays his grace and love the most?  An innocent creation or a sinful one?

What kind of child displays the character of a parent the most, perfect children or rebellious ones?  Love for innocent kids is one thing, but love for rebels is quite another.  The strongest and most amazing kind of love and grace can only be seen in the context of imperfection.

We would never see the flabbergasting magnificence of God’s forgiveness if creation remained innocent.

The universe could never see the kaleidoscopic beauty of God’s character so long as people were innocent.  But as soon as the oxygen of our sin hit the heat of his love, the bonfire of his beauty burst out before our eyes.

A sinful creation displays the glory of God more than an innocent one ever could.

Are you not perfect?

Our imperfection makes room for God’s grace to enter in.  We imperfect creatures glorify God more than innocent ones ever could.  So, go ahead, don’t be perfect!  Because you can’t!  You ain’t!

Or, as Martin Luther said in a letter to his friend Philip Melanchton, “Sin boldly!”

Sin boldly does not mean that we can do whatever we want.  Rather, it means that no matter what we want, all we can do is sin.  Everything we do is sin, no matter how good we think it is.  It all falls short because it’s all garbage.  Even our best deeds.

Sin boldly, because we cannot be perfect.  So we need to stop beating ourselves up for not being what we could never be! 

When I beat myself up for not being perfect, it’s like beating myself up because I can’t be an ice cream cone.  Why punish myself for something I never was, nor ever could be or do, not even in ten million years?  Instead, sin boldly!

Be who you are and have the courage to depend on the grace of God.  That’s where the boldness comes in.  Do we have the guts to depend on the grace of God?  Are we bold enough to admit that we’ll never be perfect and therefore have to rely on the perfection of another?

Sin boldly!  And to finish Luther’s quote, “But believe more boldly still.”

When you go to bed tonight, which question are you wrestling with the most: Can I be ice cream?  Or Can the perfection of Jesus save me?

One is ridiculous, the other is glorious.

(Learn more from Sam’s new book, Soul Tattoo: A Life and Spirit Bearing the Marks of God, available for preorder now.)

Sam Kee is a sinner, husband, father, and pastor.

Sam Kee is a sinner, husband, father, and pastor.

 

Leave Your Boat

Hope Stands —  September 9, 2014 — Leave a comment

Donna_Schaffer_-_Looking_up_at_the_Boat[1]In today’s radioblog, Sam talks about repentance.  What is it?  How do you do it?  Repentance is not as negative as you might think; in fact, it’s one of the most positive things that you can do.  This was first heard on the Moody Radio Network.

Click the player below to listen, and thanks.

weird christianityChristianity is so weird, isn’t it? I mean, it’s so trapped in the prudish ways of the Bible—doesn’t it know any better? Here are some of the bizarre teachings of Christianity.

1. It teaches that the heart is more important than appearance.

Weird, huh? It teaches that your character, integrity, and intrinsic personhood are more important than your shoes. I know, it’s pretty upsetting, isn’t it? I mean, hasn’t anyone ever told Christianity that in order to be important and noticed, that you have to look good? Hasn’t anyone told it that if you’re not a certain waist size or if you don’t have a certain look that you should probably cut or injure yourself in order to punish yourself? Christianity is so behind the times! It even has the nerve to say that God loves us for whom we are, rather than for how we look! Shocking, huh? Why can’t God be like everyone else and just give us superficial, conditional love, based on our complexion and spending power?

2. It teaches that God is knowable and that he wants to have a personal relationship with us.

Wow. I can hardly believe it! Upsetting, right? I mean, doesn’t Christianity know that it’s cool to be uncertain, to be on a spiritual “journey,” never claiming to have the truth? Hasn’t anyone told it that it’s arrogant to know the truth but it’s fashionable to be ignorant? We don’t want a personal relationship with God, because then we might have to experience his great love for us; wouldn’t it be better just to have a business relationship with God? “Hey, God, how about this: I’ll just use all the stuff you made and you just keep me happy. Deal?” I mean, why have an intimate relationship with God when he can be your butler? Why would you want to know where you’re going when you could be lost?

3. It teaches that we can be completely forgiven of our sins and have a clean conscience.

This one really blows my mind. I mean, who would ever want to be forgiven of their sins? Isn’t it so much better to be wracked with guilt, full of shame, to the point where you’re hiding from other people and drowning yourself in some kind of addiction, using all of your resources on yourself rather than on helping those around you? Culture has it right, doesn’t it! We should be able to beat ourselves us, atone for our own sins, and make those around us suffer. I mean, who would ever want to go to bed with the knowledge that all of their past, present, and future sins are forgiven completely, so they have no fear of death? Isn’t it so much better to have a conscience that’s dripping with shame and guilt, rather than have peace and joy? That’s outrageous!

4. It teaches that we are happier when we give away our possessions to those in need, rather than keep them for ourselves.

Can you believe that? Give to the poor? What blasphemous thing to say! I mean, doesn’t it know that the new iPhone is coming out soon? Doesn’t Christianity know that it’d be better to spend 600 dollars on my own unnecessary pleasures rather than save the lives of six starving children? What is it thinking?! As if those starving children really matter!

5. It teaches that we’re supposed to love each other.

Come on, Christianity, get with the program! Can’t we just blow each other up? Can’t we just continue to pick on the weird kid, until he cries in the corner or walks out in front of a train? Can’t we just look out for ourselves? Can’t we just continue to deceive, deprive, destroy, and damn each other? I mean, what would happen if we all just started to love each other, being selfless, putting the needs of our neighbors ahead of our own? Can you imagine a world like that? Why would I want to receive nonstop love and encouragement from others when, instead, I could constantly undergo their scorn, ridicule, hatred, condescension, abuse, neglect, and anger? Don’t you know that it’s so much better to tear someone down so that they despair of life, rather than build them up so that they become light in the dark? Isn’t it so much better to hate those who are different than us, rather than to accept them? Christianity, you are so weird!

6. It teaches that there is hope.

Wow, now it’s really getting disturbing. Christianity teaches that we are never without hope and that all things will work for the good. I mean, why can’t we just live in hopelessness? Why can’t we just live without purpose? Why can’t we just hate ourselves and call it quits? Christianity has the nerve to suggest that our trials can be our triumphs and that Jesus’s resurrection from the dead will cure any loss. Wow. That’s so messed up! Christianity is so outdated! Doesn’t it know we don’t need hope anymore?

When God Doesn’t Make Sense

Hope Stands —  September 5, 2014 — 1 Comment
Emily Danielle Photography

Emily Danielle Photography

by Hannah Firestone, originally posted at The Identity Project.  

Think about jewels.

They are so rare and precious. Some are symbolic of a relationship or a child. Some adorn royalty. Few people would debate the worth of a diamond. The Bible is full of jewels: rare and precious treasures that God offers us for free. Every once in a while, a new jewel shimmers in our awareness as we read, meditate, and pray. Each is a gift. The largest jewel, of course, is Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.

I want to show you a jewel from Psalm 139.

This particular jewel shone brightly to me in the seventh grade. Yep, middle school, aka the height of identity crisis for every female. Am I pretty? Do people like me? Do I fit in? Do I look good in these shorts? Are my feet the right size? Does that boy have a crush on me? Does anyone love me?

For me, the answer to all those questions was a resounding No. My logic was simple:

  1. I do awful things.
  2. I’m not doing any good.
  3. Therefore, I’m worthless. No one loves me.

A lot of people arrive at this conclusion.

Then I read Psalm 139. Here’s my thought process:

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me…you are familiar with all my ways.”

Yikes. God is familiar with all my ways? This is not good news. He knows about all my failures, mistakes, beliefs, impure thoughts, and bad habits. I better run away from this guy.

“Where can I flee from your presence? If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Crap. I’m doomed. He knows me, I can’t escape, and I’m in for it.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Hold the phone. Knitting someone together must take a lot of care. Maybe this is going somewhere.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

(Insert tears here) I’m a work of God? I’m fearfully and wonderfully made?

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

God not only made me and watches over me, but he has big plans for me that he made before I was even born. Mind. Blown.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Yes, Lord. Please.

My new logic doesn’t make sense to me:

  1. I do awful things.
  2. God made me and loves me anyways.
  3. I can do great things for his kingdom if I serve him.
  4. I’m precious to him.

At any given moment, I’m more likely to feel the old logic. It’s how I’m wired. But I push it away. God’s love isn’t supposed to make sense. The truth of Psalm 139 isn’t fully understandable yet. One day, I’ll stand in God’s presence and bask in his love forever. Until then, I hold on to his promises and remember that, although he knows all my junk, my Creator adores me.

What a jewel. It brought me back to Christ, and I hope it encourages you. When you find such a beautiful truth, hang on to it like a precious treasure. After all, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right?

Hannah Firestone (Emily Danielle Photography)

Hannah Firestone (Emily Danielle Photography)