part [two] chapter [one]

An open letter to Christians everywhere (including me):

I just watched America’s Got Talent and saw what I hope is a career rebirth of another sinner saved by grace: Nikki Leonti Edgar (Wikipedia). My heart was broken listening to her story and realizing that I listened to her singing Christian music as a kid then hearing that she was shunned by the Christian community.

I began doing my own research; I wanted to know for myself. Since Nikki was shunned from the church, did she turn her back on God? Or did she do as Jesus and turn the other cheek and move on down the road? I read stories and comments from many different people. Some couldn’t believe that Christians would turn their back on a pregnant teen mom who choose life versus death for her baby. Others believed there must be more to the story. It saddens me, but there isn’t more to this story. It’s a simple story that all of us share. See, Christians sin, some more frequently than others, but we are all sinners. It’s not the sin that defines us though, it’s how we deal (or don’t deal) with the sin. Sin is bad, really bad; it separates us from God. And when we don’t deal with that sin, the separation grows and extends the time. Before long we grow numb to the separation and we no longer miss God (our Father).

The thing is: the world knows what Jesus looks, sounds and acts like better than some Christians. And, they are tired of fake, two-faced Christians who aren’t real. The world can spot a Sunday-morning Christian a mile away. Because of this, the world is still searching for something to fill the spot in them that God created specifically for Himself (Psalms 63:1). The world knows they want/need something, but they see us Christians walking around and say, “surely that isn’t it,” because so many Christians are fake. So many Christians don’t walk like we talk. I mean, even the devil knows the bible (Matthew 4:1-11).

It’s time for all of us who profess to be Christians to walk the walk we’ve been talking. It’s time to recognize that we are all sinners saved by grace. It’s time for us to fall on our face and declare God as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:17).

Lord forgive us, for we know not what we do. Personally, I make mistakes daily, but my daily prayer is that the Lord makes me better today than I was yesterday. And I know if I lean on Him, then with His help, I can be made better, I can be restored, I can be redeemed, and I can be and do all things according to His riches in Glory (Philippians 4:13). I am praying for Nikki and her family, that in this new journey they are on, they lean on God, and show the world Jesus, a Jesus this world has been seeking and not finding in His people.

maf

part [one] chapter [two]

You’ve heard the adage: “You reap what you sow.” The Word is very clear in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: […he who is sowing sparingly, sparingly shall also reap; and he who sows in blessings, in blessings shall also reap.] This holds true for many of us if, like me, you’ve been churched all your life.

But, the question could be posed: What do we do with the verses like Matthew 5:45 […(God) sends rain on the just and on the unjust] or Luke 6:35 […for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil]? Was Paul wrong in 2 Corinthians 9:6? Or was he simply laying out a foundational truth that God blesses in the same manner that we bless others?

Do we really always reap exactly what we sow? Does God punish and bless according to our pasts? I’ve been wrestling with this for some time now, and the only conclusion that I can come to is this:

The successes of our pasts carry residual benefits. The failures of our pasts (repented for and forgiven) carry finite consequences.

I know that sounds overly simple, but some of the greatest promises God has for us are simple.

Life: [Honor your father and mother that your days may be long on the earth.] Exodus 20:12
Precedence: [The Lord is the one that goes before you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.] Deuteronomy 31:8
Protection: [When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.] Isaiah 43:2

There are consequences for leaving my marriage with which I struggle every single day. But repentance – true remorse – and the grace and love of Christ that covers a multitude of sins brings redemption to every sinner. And covers every sin.

Does grace give us immunity to sin and the consequences thereof? Absolutely not. It simply gives us a chance to begin again after we stumble.

In three weeks, I’ll remarry, and the priority pursuit within that sacred bond is the creation of a ministry primarily directed towards Christians who’ve divorced (before salvation or after). We want our lives – our mistakes and lessons learned – to not be in vain. We want to share those things we’ve learned the hard way and maybe help others from making the same choices. Leaving my marriage may not have been the advice the church would have given me (or the man I’ll marry in March), but God has shown us grace and mercy far beyond what we deserve and he has restored to us things we never believed possible.

So, we pay the consequences for our sins (all of them), and we enjoy the benefits of blessing God by blessing others. But do we really reap exactly what we sow? Grace says no. [For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God (that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers) is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.] Romans 6:23

Thank God that, once we accept Christ as the gatekeeper of our souls, we don’t reap death as a punishment for sin but are given chance after chance to redeem our lives and give back to the One who so graciously gave to us a way to live eternally.

Some will always have problems with the sins of your past. Some will only remember the things you did that carry negative consequences; they’ll never remember the redemption that you received after God transformed your sin into a great triumph. But, you will. You’ll forever be reminded of the place from where God brought you. And, hopefully, it will create in you the desire to help bring others out of their dark places and show them eternity in a way nobody else can.

eb

part [one] chapter [one]

To this point, my life has been an amalgam of many different things: hurt, disappointment, gladness, sorrow, loss, joy, inability, unworthiness, love…

If you think you’re seeing a pattern, you’re right. For a portion of my life, I was in a place where happiness was very short-lived, if ever experienced. Though small, that time had a profound effect on my days since. People say that you remember the bad much more than the good in life. Bad news travels fast, and most times, good news doesn’t even make it on the radar.

Married at 22. Pregnant at 25. Separated at 27. Divorced at 30. Single mom. No job. Food stamps. Living with my parents. Not exactly the life I had imagined for myself. In fact, it wasn’t even close. But, I had no one to blame but myself. I didn’t marry the man God had for me. I was heartbroken and sad and had no self-worth, despite years of being raised in church and knowing that God has a specific plan for all of our lives. I caused hurt and harm to far too many people because, at 21, I was prideful and stubborn.

That’s a tough thing to admit. (Especially on the Internet for everybody to see.)

But, I knew that there had to be something beyond the mess I’d created for myself. So, I went against everything I’d ever been taught, and I left my marriage. I was a broken, empty shell of a person, but God softened my edges, threw me on the wheel, and began again. See, He didn’t make the mistake of creating me. I made the mistake of wasting His creation.

This is just the beginning of this journey, and I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me. The reason I’m telling this story is not so everyone can know what I’ve been through. It’s so others who’ve walked this road can understand:

[it may be unfulfilled, it may be unrestored,
but when anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord,
just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed]

eb