Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Whole



Excerpt taken from Thad's first book, "Real Identity" (pg 48)
 
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     There’s somewhere to go. Something to do. 
     It was after service. I was preaching on a Sunday morning at a church in new England, still in my late twenties. Standing in the back of the church, a young woman gave me the tiniest glimpse into her life. She wanted me to know, more than anything, that she had met Jesus. That He was everything to her. That her life was different today because of Him.
     I asked how it happened.
     At first, she made general comments. Her life had been hard. she had lost her way. she got in with the wrong crowd. She did things she shouldn’t have. But as she talked, she went deeper. She’d fallen prey to a man who dominated her—abused her, hooked her on drugs, and then threw her into the world of prostitution where night after night she felt raped and tortured. she said she tried to run twice. Both times he found her and told her he’d kill her.
     “I didn’t know,” she said, “if I was dying or if I was already dead.”
     Her eyes filled with tears as she talked. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. still, there was a gentleness about her.
     “The police busted the guy,” she went on. “I was in prison for a few months. More like detox. When my head cleared, I just wanted to die. I felt like a piece of trash. So dirty and ugly inside. So embarrassed and filled with shame. What was I supposed to do when I got out of prison? Where would I go?”
     And then she said something I’ll never forget. It changed something inside of me. It was more than just a word, more than a feeling, need, or craving of the heart. There was something deeper here. “I wanted one thing. Just one thing,” she said. “I wanted to be whole.”
     That’s not what I was expecting her to say. I thought she was going to say, “I wanted to be clean.”
     Clean. That’s the word. That’s the picture of baptism. That’s what John the Baptist was doing in the Jordan. He was inviting people to come down. Down into the waters of repentance. Down and under—to receive forgiveness of sin.
     To wash. Real washing. Washing on the inside.
     Like the woman at the well in John 4. She met Jesus. And Jesus met her. She didn’t have to tell Him her story. She didn’t need to reveal the pain in her life. The men. The abuse. The deepest harshest feelings of being ravaged and filthy in soul. Somehow He already knew. He knew it all.
     And He talked of living water. This confused her.
     It can confuse the reader too. We don’t see it. We only hear about it. If we take it, hold it, and drink it, it becomes in us “a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Great news, but where is it? Why doesn’t He give it to her?
     But He does. We have to have eyes to see it. It’s there. As they’re talking, this moment happens when she asks about the coming of the Messiah and that He, when He comes, will “declare all things to us” (John 4:25).
     And that’s it. He hands her the living water. Not with a wooden spoon dipped into the well, but with words. Words bigger than words. Words that speak power to the soul. Power to wash. Power to clean the dirt. The filth. The stains that are so deep inside we think nothing in the world has the power to make it go away.
     “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26).
     And the woman drinks.
     Then she runs to the city. She tells them all. She’s different inside. She knows it. They know it. They know it enough to believe her. Enough to follow her. And to let her lead them to Jesus.
     I’ve always seen this moment as a kind of baptism. Her washing inside. Like the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “But you were washed . . . in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
     Washed clean on the inside. All that dirt of our sin gone. All the filth of what people have done to hurt us, abuse us, shame us—gone.
     But it’s more.
     The woman I met that day at the back of the church taught me that. She told me she met Jesus. And Jesus met her. She told me how it happened and all the details that surrounded that day. But as she spoke, it was like she was taking me to the well.
     Like there was somewhere to go. Something to do.
     To take the water. Hold it. Drink it. Go down into it. That there’s power here.
     The power of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. Power to forgive our sins. Power to wash the un-washable stains forever from the heart and soul.
     “He did all that for me,” she said. “And so much more.”
      And then she told me the burden of her heart. So many women just like her. Battered and beaten, day after day, with nowhere to go, nothing they can do. Feeling vulnerable, helpless and trapped.
     “I want to find them,” she told me. “I want them to know Jesus. I want them to know what He did for me He will do for them.”
     And then she said it simply: “He will make them safe. And then, after that, He will make them whole.”

Questions for reflection
Are there places in you that need to be clean?
Are there places in you that need to be whole?

Friday, May 15, 2015

THE CROSSING

 Excerpt taken from Thad's first book, "Real Identity" (pg 21)

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     Here I stand. At the crossing.
     Sometimes I wish it wasn’t so hard to find. That what we see on the outside is what’s real on the inside. Just that simple. But too often the chasm between the two is huge.
     And I forget about the crossing, where the outside and inside meet.
     Sam taught me that years ago. He was the perfect testimony. He came to faith in Christ through the witness of Christian men in our church. And Sam jumped in—Bible studies, home group, ministries in the church and our local community. He gave time, which in his profession he had little of. He gave money to the church and beyond . . . way beyond.
     Because he cared for the needy. It hurt him to see people suffering. Off he went on mission trips to remote parts of the world, wanting to help, needing to serve, having a big heart.
     His name came up to serve in church leadership. Who could be better? He met all the criteria: strong in belief, in conduct, in service, in leadership.
     Sam.
     Until the testing came, and it came hard. By the time we heard about it, it was too late. He’d left his job, left his wife, left his teenage kids, left his church family. Sam was gone. The guys closest to him at church pursued him. They still do, even to this day so many years later.
     Some said it was an affair. Others said something big happened at work. Was he caught doing drugs? Smuggling money? A cover-up of some kind? It almost doesn’t matter. Whatever it was, it was big enough to expose his heart.
     And that’s what testing does.
     In the parable of the sower, the seed of God’s Word has to land in the heart—the good soil. If not, when testing comes, we fall away (Mark 4:17).
     In the same way, the foundation has to be on rock, not sand. So when the storm comes, we stand strong. Unshaken (Matt. 7:25).
     Jesus taught us this. The world is full of trial and trouble. What matters is that we’re ready for it—that what He has done in us is real. To the heart. And what He will do for us is see us through the storm. He will give us what we need to endure. To persevere.
     That’s His promise (John 16:33).
     James said it. All we have to do is ask. In the midst of the mess of this world, we ask the Lord “who gives to all generously and without reproach,” and He gives us the wisdom we need in the moment (James 1:5). As long as we ask in faith. And from faith.
     Because our faith is real. He has penetrated our hearts. But that’s the problem, isn’t it?
     Sam looked so real. He said the right words. He did the right things. He leapt beyond himself for the sake of others. He wept at the reading of Scripture. He showed us what it means to have a passion for the things of God. He testified in- and outside church. He looked so real.
     None of us dreamed that he lived in two worlds. One on the outside. One on the inside. And the one on the inside was so dark and secretive, controlled and well-protected, that none of us saw it coming. A big storm. Bigger than him. Exposing him. Tearing his two worlds apart.
     Double-minded, that’s what James called it (James 1:8). A word meaning “two-souled,” it’s deeper than being two-faced—hypocrites with an image on the outside that betrays the heart on the inside.
     It goes to the breaking of the soul. As if, deep in our core, we can be two.
     And we can’t. Not before God. Never, never can we serve two masters and get away with it (Matt. 6:24). No matter how in control we think we are.
     Because storms come. Storms expose.
     Sam became exactly what James said: “Like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). The storm hit and he was gone. His wife, teenage kids, and church family bereft without him. His kids ached for their dad. One of them wondered if being a Christian was really even worth it.
     Sam.
     He taught me to stand at the crossing.
    He taught me that it’s not enough, as a Christian leader, to help people believe in Jesus Christ, know the Bible, learn to pray, belong to the church, grow in service and ministry, give from our resources, and serve the poor, the needy, the voiceless.
     All of it can be done and the heart never touched. The gospel never real. The salvation given us in Jesus Christ never known in the depths of who we are. Outward Christians: right words, right deeds, playing games, two-souled.
     So I make myself stand at the crossing.
     Between the outside and the inside. And I beg the Lord to have mercy on us. To help us cross. So that Jesus Christ is real to our hearts, in the depths of our souls, before the storms come.
     So we’re not like Sam—disciples on the wrong foundation, rooted in the wrong soil, double-minded, two-souled, rudderless at the time of testing. But just the opposite. We know Him. He knows us.
     We’ve made the crossing. We’ve found real.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION*
Can you talk about what it’s like to stand at the crossing between the image we project and who we really are?  Is Jesus Christ real for you? Is He the foundation on which your life is built?

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?