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Living in the Light

 

 

Filtering by Category: Gospel

Light in the Darkness

Jessalyn Hutto

It isn't long before a Christian realizes that a life of faith requires that he mentally and spiritually assent to truths that don't always feel or seem true to him in this dark and broken world.

The woman who has just lost her unborn baby to miscarriage is called to believe that her sovereign God is still good.

The man who's received a devastating medical prognosis is asked to believe that his God still loves him.

The family who's experienced bankruptcy is told to trust that their God still has a good and perfect plan for them.

The church whose pastor has resigned due to a moral failure is called to believe the same gospel message he preached from the pulpit every Sunday..

Such realities -though Biblical and true- can feel very foolish when all the physical evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. Indeed, when you are in the midst of life's most difficult trials, the pain you experience can be so thick that you hardly remember the good and holy words of our God, written down for low moments such as these. And when the tears are plentiful and constant, it is hard to see the Savior's loving face through them.

In these dark moments it doesn't feel rational to assent to his goodness, wisdom, and love.

And yet, this type of faith-fueled foolishness is exactly what our Savior asks of us.

For it is in this foolishness that the wisdom of God is revealed to our hearts.

In truth, we do not praise God in the midst of difficulties because it makes sense to, but rather we praise God in the midst of our difficulties in order to make sense of the trials themselves.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
— 1 Corinthians 1:18

I have experienced this reality first hand - this absurd and powerful peace that can steady a Christian in the midst of the unthinkable. I was reminded of one such moment when a song came over my radio a couple days ago. It was Shane and Shane’s version of Our God is Greater. As the words, "And if our God is for us, then what could stand against?,” rang out, I was transported back to a Sunday following one of my miscarriages. I remember singing this song with tears pouring down my cheeks. I was unable to keep them in, hardly able to sing a full line of the song without gasping for breath. And yet, our kind worship pastor kept pounding the line into my broken heart, telling me a story about a God who was for me.

This particular song is quite an encouragement when things are looking up for you - when you are standing on the precipice of the great unknown. But when suffering becomes known to you and you're deep in the trenches of spiritual warfare, being attacked from all sides, experiencing the devastating fruits of the fall, this song can feel like a cruel lie.

When death robs you of your child, and you experience its cold grip within your very womb, it doesn't really feel like God is fighting for you as the song says... it doesn’t feel like he is in any way for you.

Yet the Bible assures us that in the midst of our pain, God is at work for our good:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
— Romans 8:31-32

I love this verse, don't you? It is like a spiritual punch to the gut for my doubting soul. It's as if God is saying: "You think I don't love you, daughter? What more can I do to prove it to you than crucify my eternal Son? I've given  you everything! Believe."

But this beautiful gospel story can stray so far from our minds when we are hurting. Jesus said that if we eat of his body and drink of his blood we will never hunger, nor thirst, yet here we are feeling famished and parched in the midst of despair.

Could it be because we have not seen the gospel for the sustenance it truly is?

Could it be that we have forgotten that it is in Christ that there is fullness of life.

Not in a baby. Not in good health. Not in a steady job. Not in a faithful pastor.

In Christ.

His gospel is light in our darkness because it illuminates eternal realities. It reveals to us the reason for our suffering and the hope for its end. It gives us a cosmic understanding of our pain, and draws us into the healing embrace of the One who holds the galaxies in his hands.

The Word of God may be foolishness to this perishing world, but to those who are being transformed by the Holy Spirit, it is the unveiling of true reality. Within its pages are found the answers to our souls' most vexing anxieties. 

Why pain? Why suffering? Why sorrow? Why regret? Why death? What is the point of life when it is so hard? Will their ever be an end to this darkness? Can happiness be possible? Is there reason to hope? Can I be happy in this world? Why do I long for something that isn't possible? Where are we all headed?

The answers are in a Book given to us by the very breath of God, so that we could know the Story. Our story. His Story. The Story that makes sense of everything.

The gospel story.

And so, when we are crushed by our circumstances and tempted to doubt God, we must redirect our gaze to the unwavering  proof of his love for us - to the only One in whom we find joy and peace. We must run to the gospel.

We must tell ourselves The Story. The one that's been faithfully passed down from generation to generation because it is like a candle in a dark room - banishing our fears and uncertainty.

It is the story of a baby born in a stable - a holy mixture of frail humanity and omnipotent divinity. The story of a sinless man whose dry, callused feet, crusted in mud, faithfully roamed a middle eastern land bringing good news wherever they went. It's the tale of an unattractive, unimpressive man -whom we never would have thought twice about - except that he claimed to be the God of the Universe. Yet this man asked not to be served by his followers, but rather to serve. We must remember how in the moment of his ultimate act of service the sun refused to shine and the earth broke apart in anguish. As the sinless Son of God hung on a cross suffocating to death, experiencing the wrath of God against our sin his creation couldn't help but convulse. 

We look to that cross and we remember love, even in our darkest, earth shattering days, we remember Love.

For Christians must be storytellers. 

We must spend our days retelling the same exact story over and over again of a God made man, sent to suffer and die for the forgiveness of our sins.

Yes, we tell this story to the world, hoping and praying that God will open the eyes of more blind people in the same way he has opened ours. But we also continue to tell this story to our own hearts, knowing that just as Jesus' frail disciples were swift to sleep while he suffered in the garden alone, so too are we quick grow unaffected by his suffering.

The only antidote to our doubt in these times is to tell ourselves The Story. 

For as Kate DiCamillo so eloquently spoke into one of her characters: 

Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.
— The Tale of Despereaux

Blank Slate

Jessalyn Hutto

Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to push the reset button? Or have you perhaps had one of those moments where you thought to yourself, oh dear, if I could just rewind a few minutes and take back the words I just said... the face I just made... the bad attitude I just betrayed...? 

I know I have.

In fact, sometimes it can seem like my life is made up of an ever flowing cascade of regrettable moments. Times when I should have been quiet rather than opinionated. Days when I should have slowed down and resisted the agitation of rushing. Moments where I should have chosen peace over pride.

My husband and I have often looked at one another, as tempers begin to rise and the agitation begins to fester, and called an audible, "whoa," to our galloping emotions. "Can we just start this over? Forgive each other and start over? Can we give each other that grace?"

And in those blessed moments when we are able to deny our flesh and seek unity above selfishness, we praise God for the gift of forgiveness.

Because forgiveness -true forgiveness - frees you to live joyfully and abundantly without the guilt of the past failures holding you captive.

It gives the paralytic the ability to walk.

I think that's why we relish the idea of a new year. Realistically, nothing changes between the second that splits December 31st and January 1st, but mentally,  as a culture, we've signed a communal agreement saying that in the click of a clock's minute hand we are all allowed the grace of beginning a new chapter in our lives.

There is a metaphorical turning of the page.

A new door opened.

A previous year's slate wiped clean.

And it is this idea of a fresh, blank slate that is so appealing to us as we set about making our new year's resolutions - this feeling that we can somehow wipe the sins of last year from our memories. There's a joy found in packing up all those sins and mistakes into a little box labeled "past" and exchanging them for a fresh, empty box that shines with the excitement of "endless possibilities."

Who knows what we can accomplish in the new year - what demons we may slay? 

And so, the new year provides a "reset" option for many of us. It gives us the feeling that we can begin again with a blank slate, and that blank slate gives us the motivation necessary to scale the intimidating mountains on the new year's horizon.

It's remarkable.

In a sense, we are offering ourselves absolution for our past failures and the freedom to live unhindered by them in the future.

The problem is, the absolution we grant has no actual meaning.

It isn't real and it isn't lasting.

Poor creatures that we are, no sooner has January faded into the mist of our memories than we find ourselves reverting back to the overeating, the disorganization, the negative attitude, or whatever other vice has plagued us over the years. We come down from our New Year's high and realize that we are still the same sinners who struggle every day to deny our sinful tendencies.

We find that the guilt from our past continues to cripple us and we're forced to stare again and again into mirrors that betray the broken, messed up people we've always been. 

Sadly, after all the hype and optimism of January 1st fades away we are left with little but a renewed sense of our own weakness.

For as long as we seek absolution (and therefore, motivation) from within, we will never find true rest and lasting joy.

Abundant life will continue to allude us.

But this is not to be so for the Christian, because the Christian's absolution is not found within, but rather, it is found in Christ.

It is real; it is concrete; it is eternal. 

In Christ, we are not weak and weary sinners who've been overcome by our iniquities, but rather, we are triumphant, risen saints. We are declared righteous and holy. In Christ's strength we are made strong.

What joy is experienced by those who've been saved by the blood of the cross, whether it is 11:59 p.m. on December 31st or 12 a.m. on  January 1st! What freedom there is for the sinner whose hope is not in what she can accomplish, but instead in what her Savior has already finished! She is not enslaved by her past because the Lord has wiped all of her sins away. Truly, it doesn't matter to her if it is the the crisp, hopeful morning of a new year or a disillusioned  summer afternoon when all of her well-meaning resolutions have gone to pot.

Her hope is not in herself, but in the Lord.

She knows that her Redeemer came so that she might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Every. day. of the year.

"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." -Romans 4:7&8

Can we say this enough?

Blessed are we, dear sisters!

Our sins are not tallied against us.

Our slates are clean - forever!

All because the Clean One made himself dirty with our sins. 

Let us not look inward this year, but instead, let us look upward toward our God in Heaven who loves us, cleanses us, and teaches us to walk in his ways by the power of his Spirit.

"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." -Hebrews 10:14

For by a single offering, we were made free.

Let us live in the joy and the hope of that freedom.

Happy New Year... Happy eternity!

When Sins Go Public

Jessalyn Hutto

There was once a king.

He was admired by all for his wisdom, courage, and devotion to the Lord.

He was an accomplished musician, a brave soldier, and a spiritual leader to his people.

And then one day he found himself caught in a terrible web of sin.

He became infatuated with another man's wife and almost before he knew what had happened, he'd used his power and influence to take this woman as his own. Enjoying the taste of this fruit as much for its forbidden nature as for its beauty.

Fearing that his sin would come to light and that all would know of their king's disgusting fall into sexual immorality, he began to grasp at ways to keep it hidden. When nothing else seemed to work - no lie and no clever scheme - he foolishly multiplied his guilt by doing the only thing he believed would secure the safety of his secret: He used his station as sovereign to secure the death of his mistress' husband.

And so the king became an adulterer who became a murderer.

If not for the grace of his God, he would have continued on this dark path: for leaving it would have meant being found out for what he truly was.

But the Lord was kind to the king and did not allow his sins to remain hidden - rotting away at his soul.

The Lord loved him and reproved him just as an earthly father would his own child.

The king was disciplined severely and forgiven completely

This king continued his rule for many years afterward, his image forever sullied by his sins, his character forever humbled by his fall, and his soul forever cleansed by the mercy and forgiveness of his God.

And we, the children of his King (Psalm 110:1), hold both his sins and his redemption close to our hearts.

We read his story and remember that this king was a man - a man who loved God, but simultaneously loved his sin.

We look to his tremendous fall as a humbling monument to our own fallenness, and we look to his restoration as a brilliant example of our God's abounding grace.

Never has a man's private sins been more public - passed down in the recorded history of mankind from generation to generation - and yet at the same time, never has a man's private sin been more of a blessing to the generations to follow as his. For they serve to warn and humble us. 


Peddling Shame

We live in an age of connectedness. Somehow, as if by magic, the internet takes the entire world and smashes it into one small device, no bigger than a king size Hershey's bar. In this new reality we find that we are able to know details about people and places that we would never have dreamt of knowing just 10 years ago.

Indeed, in our handheld devices, it is as if we are given little windows into the most intimate details of strangers' lives. These are people we wouldn't previously have known about, much less shaken hands with or muttered a "good morning" to as we passed by them in a coffee shop. But now it is not unusual to know their children's names, their political stances, or even the gritty details of their divorces. The internet, has taken the place of the greasy grocery store tabloids. Its unending nature has given us the ability to look into more people's lives in more countries of the world than ever before. 

But not all details are created equal in our consumer-driven economy. We've all heard the phrase, "there's no news like bad news," and at times it truly feels as though news outlets and blogs survive on one thing: revealing the horrendous sins and failings of others. Painful, shocking, and scandalous stories produce more clicks, and more clicks produce more revenue.

If our media is even a slightly accurate barometer, we humans seem bent on destroying ourselves and those we love, while simultaneously paying to be entertained by the ensuing devastation. 

Indeed, at the rate these stories attract digital traffic, we can only surmise that we have an unhealthy obsession with our own brokenness. We can't help but be curious about the horrifying carnage of each train wreck. Perhaps because deep down we have a terrifying hunch that we're all traveling on similarly defective trains.

The digital news media serves its consumers' curiosity like a Chinese buffet serves the bellies of it's guests: with an unending supply of soul-deadening MSG. There is no lack of scandal to be served. On the contrary, the more we consume, the more they dish out. And the more we consume, the more we slumber through the beautiful, good, and honorable things of this world.

Our pallets become unrefined.

We salivate over each new scandal to cross our Facebook feeds.

A famous family values advocate's entire life was built on a disgusting lie.

A mother absentmindedly left her helpless child in a locked car on a hot summer day - how could she forget? 

A "conservative" senator is revealed as a homosexual.

An ordinary parent finds out their son just became the latest mass murderer - was is something they did or didn't do?

Thousands of "normal" husbands are exposed as having sought out affairs through an adultery website. 

A child accidentally kills his sibling because his parents didn't properly store their loaded gun.

A celebrity pastor's marriage and ministry is ransacked by an affair coming to light.

The list goes on and on...

Before the internet and cable news outlets came into being, these people's failures would have been limited in their publicity. Those in your family, your city, or your church, would have been the primary audience for your sin. Your shame - while still severe - would have been limited to those immediately affected by your failings.

But now, when sin comes to light, its ramifications often include national and global attention. When you err in our infinitely connected world, you run the very real risk of suffering the shame of the entire human race.

Scripture warns, "be sure your sin will find you out." In a world where your sins can bring a monetary profit to media outlets, this truth has never carried more immediate ramifications.

In the School of Failure

I've thought about this often as I've seen the headlines of ordinary people who've made grave mistakes. To be sure, I'm absolutely horrified and disgusted by their sins, and yet a part of me can't help but sympathize with them. Their public image has been forever altered; their name forever connected to the scandal. For these people there is no going back to before the incident. More heart wrenching still is the truth that their sin has forever altered the lives of those closest to them. Their spouses, their children, their parents, and their friends are all brought into the gross lime light of a salivating public ready to consume a new scandal.

It sends shivers down my spine.

Their failures serve as ominous danger signs for my soul. They reminding me of the true and often tangible, here-on-this-earth wages of our sin.

Death takes many forms in this life and the sin that brings it should never be underestimated.

I must be vigilant to guard my own heart from impurity - to continually seek to abide in the Savior's purifying embrace. For as John Bradford is credited to have said upon seeing a criminal walk to his execution, "there but for the grace of God [go I]."

Rather than reveling in these people's failures and seeking to fish out the grittiest of details, I must instead encourage my heart to take careful notes as the Holy Spirit faithfully uses their shame to instruct my soul. This moment of their lives is meant to be a parable of warning to me.

Like David's horrendous fall and subsequent restoration, these people's sins provide an opportunity for Christians like myself to rehearse the gospel message. 

Lesson 1: Our Common Shame

As their sins are tantalizingly dished up for hungry consumers, I can't help but be reminded of the utter depravity of God's created beings. We are all so hopelessly lost apart from him. I'm reminded that I am one of those broken people. For "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

Our sin runs deep, to the very core of our being, and affects every aspect of our lives. I can't look at another human's sins and not be reminded of my own, for the same sin sickness that made their great fall possible runs through my own veins. I suffer from the same fallen condition that they do.

We are all capable of sinning greatly, because we are all great sinners. 

Therefore, I must be sober-minded and watchful. For our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) 

Lesson 2: Our Common Shame-Taker

But at the reminder of this horrifying reality, the Spirit also assures me of his unending love and grace. Yes, my sin runs deep, but his grace is more.

He is the forgiving God, and the one who will stick with us when everyone else gives up hope. To those who are currently being destroyed by their choices, he offers salvation. To those who desire purity and holiness, he offers sustaining grace. Though I am affected in every way by my sin, I am simultaneously being affected by something much, much more powerful - the blood of the Shame-taker. 

This Shame-taker took the place of his filthy, scandalous, and corrupt people. He was perfectly pure and holy, but in love, willingly took on our filth so that we could be counted clean.

The blood he poured out on Calvary is full of powerful, healing stuff. It is full of forgiveness and justification. It is full of purity for me and you.

Yes, there is a lion, prowling about, looking for ways to wound and kill the Savior's blood-bought sheep. Yes, my sin-nature makes me vulnerable to his attacks, but the Spirit reminds me of this world-altering reality: there is a faithful Shepherd who holds that devil's leash.

This Shepherd has made a promise: "My sheep will never perish; They will NEVER be snatched from my hand." (John 10:28)

"You, daughter, will never parish. You will never be snatched from my hand."

Can I not trust the one who holds the planets in their orbits with the safety of my soul?

Yes, I can rest in him.

Beauty for Ashes

Somehow, all of these years later, the story of David and Bathsheba is made beautiful by God's inconceivable grace. But in the midst of David's sin, it was anything but.

Consider the disgusting nature of his adultery and of planning out the slaughter of an innocent man. Consider what must have been Bathsheba's experience. Was she complicit? Was she coerced? Was she forced? How devastating were the consequences of their sin! Her husband's death, their baby's death, his nation's military security, David's wives being taken from him, familial unrest...

And yet, ultimately, their is great beauty in God's forgiveness of David, because it reveals the beauty of God himself.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness
— Psalm 86:15

Let us pray for each new scandal that crosses our newsfeed. Let us pray for the repentance of every sinner whose failures are splashed across our television screens. Let us beg the Lord to reveal his grace to them - our fellow fallen brothers and sisters.

May his salvation be sweet in the midst of their bitterness, and may their stories not end in failure, but in beautiful displays of gospel victory.

Let us learn from their mistakes. Let them warn and humble us. Let them drive us to the Savior.

For one day all of our sins will be laid bare before creation. In that moment, when our private sins go public, the only thing that will matter is whether or not they are covered by the Holy One's blood. 

Will yours?

He is Not Just God

Jessalyn Hutto

It is always startling when one of my children calls me by my first name. The sound of their tiny voices, saying the word "Jessalyn" or the more familiar "Jess" catches me off guard. They've only recently begun to experiment with names in this way as they've only recently begun to understand that their mommy and daddy have proper names just like they do.

Of course, as they've dipped their toes into the exciting waters of proper name usage, we've had to remind them that they are not to call us by our first names, they are to continue calling us Mommy and Daddy. "But everyone else gets to call you Jess!" my middle son pleads.

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The Lord Who Provides

Jessalyn Hutto

Just a few days ago I wrote, "I cannot allow myself to create imaginary hurdles before those who are lost when God has created a simple and easy means of salvation." 

The words still echo in my mind.

I wonder in the depths of my soul: is it really so easy to be saved? is it really so simple?

For our means of salvation was not in the least bit easy or simple for Jesus.

It was not with a word or with a look that Jesus accomplished the salvation of man. It was with pain, humiliation, and death.

Indeed, as our holy God voluntarily stretched out his arms and feet to be nailed to beams of wood, and as he hung there, voluntarily suffocating in his own lung fluid, I'm certain it never once felt easy or simple to him.

And as the eternal Son of God experienced his Father's complete withdrawal of affections and in their place appeared the full, horrifying wrath of the Holy One against sin, our spotless lamb accomplished the most complex and difficult thing imaginable: the work of atoning for his people's sins and bridging a chasm of infinite width between God and man.

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A Simple Call

Jessalyn Hutto

Here we have a marvelously simple and straightforward explanation of what it means to become a Christian: you must call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just call.

For belief in Jesus is not a work, it is a recognition of need.

There is an interesting story in the book of Numbers that Jesus uses to illustrate the simplicity of saving faith. It is a story of the ungrateful, complaining, and quarrelsome Israel, just brought out from their slavery in Egypt, just saved from the sword of Pharaoh, and just released from their chains of torment.

But they were not happy with their gracious and loving God who had so recently walked them through the Red Sea on dry ground. Their new life didn't suit their suddenly high standards. Apparently, freedom was not all that they had hoped it would be. Yes, God miraculously provided food for them from heaven - food meant to perfectly sustain them on their journey to the promised land, but it was not good enough. They would have preferred the food they ate as slaves. Or so they complained.

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Called Together

Jessalyn Hutto

...called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours...
— 1 Corinthians 1:2

Strangely, the idea of living in community with other believers can be both exciting and frightening for Christians. On the one hand, we long for people to understand us, to care for us, and to faithfully walk with us through the highs and lows of life. We enjoy true, good friendships and long for our churches to feel more like families than social clubs. 

On the other hand, we bristle at the thought of people getting involved in our messes.

We want them to be a part of our lives, but only up to a certain point. Certainly, we don't want them to know our weaknesses, see our faults, or - heaven forbid - be the ones to kindly point them out to us.

We want good friends, but in our minds "good friends" are those who think highly of us, who will further our cause, and who will meet our needs.

We don't typically go out of our way to find people who need us. We don't make a point of spending time with those people whose personalities grate against our own. We don't naturally seek to build bridges between strange (to us) cultures and our own.

Rather, we naturally search for a group of people who look like us, sound like us, and behave like us, and then enjoy our artificial "unity" as we worship, learn about, and serve the Lord in ways that we are all comfortable with.

We like this group of friends who are just like us, partly because we all have a similar understanding of what the boundaries are.

Yes, we've all politely decided that our friendships should go "deep," but not quite to the point where the digging hurts. When it begins to hurt and things get awkward, we will all kindly pull back a little until time has had a chance to fill in the wound.

Or we'll just find other friends who don't require so much work.

We long for something bigger - something that resembles the sweetness of genuine fellowship and unity between believers in the Bible - and yet, we find it difficult to abandon the "safe" boundaries we've set between us and the rest of our brethren.

We have lives to live, after all! We've got to work, take care of our families, and make time for ourselves... it seems all but impossible to add the needs and struggles of our church family into the mix. Going out of our way to know and understand and love people who are different than us as well? 

Well that's just above and beyond!

What is the cure for this?

How can I push my soul into a deeper and harder form of friendship - a fellowship between believers that relies upon the gospel of Jesus rather than a similar skin tone, a comparable income, or shared interests? How can I remove the self-serving motivations I have for friendships and replace them with a Christ-like love that dies for others.

I must reorient myself.

Every day.

Because every single day I wake up thinking that the world revolves around me when it revolves around the Son.

I must challenge my mind to see all of life through the one great story that has been unfolding throughout history - the story that causes all creation and all people from all nations to glorify and magnify the holy Christ.

I must see myself as one tiny, blessed player in God's perfect and marvelous plan - a player who has been carefully set in this time and in this place to serve him and glorify him in specific ways, and with specific people.

I must see myself as one who has been called out of the darkness and into the light. 

And in the light, I see a vast multitude of blood-drenched saints surrounding me. 

Yes, on every side there are people from all nations, all cities, all neighborhoods, all backgrounds, all ethnicities, all incomes, and with all different kinds of personalities, talents, and shortcomings who have likewise been called out of their former ways and into Christ's holiness. People who don't deserve God's love anymore than I do, but who have been given the gift of grace.

All around me are my brothers and sisters - we are all adopted siblings who've been made a part of God's family.

I see that in choosing each of us for himself, he has chosen each of us for one another.

With this mindset, I cannot look at another believer and be ambivalent to them. I must be concerned for them, I must love them, I must care about their well-being because they are united to my Savior, and thus they are united to me.

We are a part of one body, and no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.

All of us, are called to live in this unifying reality together.

We were not merely saved into a personal relationship with Jesus. No we were saved into so much more!

We're not meant to enjoy and serve Christ in isolation. We're not meant to struggle and toil alone. We're not meant to fight this epic battle of faith as lone, terrified soldiers, but as a part of a mighty, Holy Spirit-empowered army!

We've been saved to experience the glories of true communion - Communion with God and communion with my fellow man. A communion that is free from the barriers of sin and guilt and shame.

Hallelujah! 

As we see other Christians in our cities, in our churches, or on the news, let us not see them merely as people who've made a similar mental assent to Jesus' gospel, but as family members whom we are eternally bound to through the precious blood of our Savior.


Father, will you grant me the humility and the courage and the diligence to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy the glorious family you have adopted me into. Would you give me a genuine love for all the brethren - the same love that you have had for your Son since eternity past and the same love that he so graciously spilled out upon us at the cross. Help me to do the hard work of cultivating the seeds of friendship, so that I might enjoy the fruit of heavenly fellowships that are ripe with the Spirit's blessings.

In Christ's name, Amen

 

Those Sanctified Saints

Jessalyn Hutto

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints...
— 1 Corinthians 1:2

Unless you are a naturally optimistic - the birds sing you awake - type of person, Monday mornings tend to arrive with a weight to them. They are just hard. Sure, there is a great sense of hope that accompanies the beginning of a new work week and all of the opportunities it represents (cue the blue jays making my bed), but often that sense of hope is overshadowed by the Goliath-sized list of things that need to get done.

It's 7:30 a.m and already my head is swirling with a host of things I failed to cross off my list last week, and that ominous knowledge is somehow being squashed by an even heftier load of tasks I need to accomplish this week.

We are busy people, and the implications of our busyness can often take our minds captive, threatening to steel the simple joy of living.

But there is another - more deflating - type of siege that likes to take place in my mind on Monday mornings. This army is in alliance with the first. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it employs the army of busyness to distract me as it attempts to flank the forces of my mind each and every day. It is the army of condemnation and its captain is Satan, himself.

He is a skilled opponent whose battle experience goes back to the beginning of creation. He understands humans, knows our weaknesses, and exploits them to the fullest extent. He  will do anything to keep us from living to the fullest - for truly living is life in God, life aware of his love and dependent upon his grace.

Living brings glory to the Life-giver, and Satan's great aim is to steal our great God's glory. 

And so, on Monday mornings, I find myself thinking not only of the many, many things I need to accomplish and in reality will probably not be able to bring to completion, but I'm thinking of the many ways in which I sinned last week.

I'm thinking of the ways that I allowed anger and pride and discontentment to fill my mind, to pour out of my mouth, and to hurt the ones I love. I'm thinking of all the ways I failed to live for others, of the may ways I jealously sought to take care of me and not my husband, my children, my parents, my friends, and my church.

I look back on last week, and wish I could look forward to the upcoming week with pure, unadulterated hope. I wish I could say, "Last week I really messed up, but this week I will make it right," and genuinely believe it, but I know my heart. I know that no matter how hard I try, I will still fail.

Unkind words will still pour from this sinners mouth in moments of weakness.

The bubbling frustration that arrises from caring for four little children day in and day out will eventually give way to me to popping and my self-serving soul being exposed - yet again. 

And I will still find myself desperately looking for ways to feed my own ego rather than pointing those around me to the all-glorious, worship-worthy King of the universe. 

I will be found worshipping myself, while the nail-pierced Savior looks lovingly on, and I will hate myself for it.

Mondays are hard.

Because with the buzz of the alarm clock comes the the trumpeting of a new battle in the war against sin and Satan. In this war, sin has had many victories and Satan has had many opportunities to glory in his accomplishments.

I've given up much ground.

But our gracious God, he does not leave his soldiers alone to fight by their faltering strength and their own faulty logic.

The battle may seem hopeless and pointless and all-together too much to logically continue fighting, but onto this hopeless morning's battle field he lays the bloody words "sanctified" and "saint." 

He tells me the story again: The story of his son's love, of his son's bravery, of his son's battle, of his son's victory. He tells me to rest, to have hope, and to be filled with joy because I've already been sanctified. I've been made a saint. In Christ, I am holy. In Christ, the battle is already won.

And so,

when Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see him there
who made an end to all my sin.

 

On Monday mornings as the battle draws near, I look not to myself for hope - because there is none to be found there - I look to my Savior. I look to the one who has sanctified me and set me apart, for his purposes and for his glory.

I resolve to live fully, to fight with all my might against the enemy, to put to death the sin that remains within me. Not because I can win every battle, but because I've been called out to fight.

I've been made holy in the court room of the one great Judge, and his verdict of "guiltless" frees me from the tyranny of my accuser. It robs the enemy of all his weapons.

I'm protected from his arrows of condemnation by the grace of my perfect Substitute and given strength to fight his forces by the power of my glorious Resurrection.

What I am in Christ, allows me to face who I am on my own with patience, humility, and even joy.

Because my failures remind me of his perfection.

My guilt reminds me of his love.


This summer, during our family vacation at the beach, my son and I were riding in an inflatable raft as my husband pulled us through the crashing waves. My son found this romping ride to be exhilarating and  terrifying all at once. With each new wave, we asked if he'd like to go back, but he would beckon us to go on through an enormous grin and nervous giggles. And so we'd continue, with me clinging to his five year old frame with a mother's steady grip. 

Eventually one wave got the better of our raft and turned us completely over. Out we went into the swirling current, turning head over heal in the salty water. When I could catch my footing, I stood out of the waist-deep water with my little boy safely secured to my chest with my viselike grip. 

But my precious boy was overwhelmed by our battle with the current. He'd never spent so long submerged in water before. Though I was securely holding on to him and he was completely out of the water, his arms and legs continued to flail and his little voice screamed, "Mom! Mom! Mom!" 

"It's ok, Hudson, I've got you," I soothed over and over again, "I've got you."

It took a few minutes for him to feel confident in my grip, to understand that I had never let him go and that there was nothing to fear. "I've got you," I continued to say, "You're safe."

These are the words our God wants me to hear this morning as I head into another week.

Yes, sin will come and swirl dangerously all around me. I will lose my footing every so often. I will be overwhelmed at times. 

But he's got me.

I'm his.

And I'm safe.

There is nothing to fear.

This is the hope for Mondays, can you hear the birds singing?

The One Who Holds the Needle

Jessalyn Hutto

nick-casale-47586.jpg
...being knit together in love...
— Colossians 2:2

During my husband's seminary days, I tried - with little success - to take up the hobby of crocheting. A few of my dear friends were great crocheters and made the most beautiful creations: colorful blankets, sweet baby hats, and cozy scarves. They made their work look easy as they twirled their crochet hook around the yarn, pulled it through a loop and then quickly repeated this process over and over again. They were so skilled at this art that the repetitive motion it required was, for them, somewhat of a leisurely activity. Their hook, yarn, and hands seemed to work together almost without conscious effort.

I, on the other hand, would have to sit there and laboriously wrap the thread around my hook (with it often coming unravelled and needing to be re-twirled). I'd then have to stop every few moments to ponder what the next step I needed to perform was, before attempting it. Finally I would ever so carefully pull my hook through the loop and, feeling like Napoleon after a successful conquest, move on to the next one. Often this process was performed with my tongue unconsciously sticking out of my mouth as I focused my full attention on the yarn that was determined to escape my hands. 

It truly felt as if the yarn simply didn't want to be attached to my creation. It didn't want to fall in line with the other loops. The tool I was using - that terribly big hook - seemed so unnatural in my hand and would often end up catapulting itself across the room in revolt to my fumbling efforts. Getting a full row of  loops attached to each other was a monumental accomplishment for me. So much so that I felt content to stop my adventures in the world of crocheting after about five successful (yet terribly crooked) rows. 

When I read Paul's words in Colossians I am reminded of this painful experience. He says that he desires for Christians' hearts to be "knit together in love." He longs for the church to be a unified being that is functionally and emotionally connected. Elsewhere he uses the metaphor of a body to describe the church - each of us playing the role of different parts, but being absolutely necessary for the entire body to function properly. Our talents and gifts, he says, are given to us for the good of the whole church. They are not to bring glory to ourselves, but rather, are meant to be used to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

But being knit together into one unified being, isn't an easy task for sinners. Our natural tendency is to care more about our own individual needs being met by the church than for the Church's needs to be alleviated by our humble service. Nor do we easily bond with people who are unlike us - people whose odd quirks annoy us or whose background cultures are completely foreign and strange to us. Indeed, it is hard work to live in unity and be knit together because we are all so very different and we are all so very selfish.

Our sinful desires encourage us to act like rebellious yarn in an unskilled knitter's hands: unwilling to connect, unwilling to be a part of a whole. Rather than practicing the humility and service necessary to live in unity, we'd rather go our own way and do as we like. It's much easier to do so.

But God calls us to something higher and harder. He calls us to lay down our rights and likes and desires and preferences for the good of his church. He calls us to do so in love.

Be "knit together in love," Paul says in Colossians. We see this exhortation in 1 Corinthians as well. After speaking about the members of the body serving one another and using their gifts for the good of the whole, he explains that the only way to submit to the Spirit's dispersal of various gifts is to walk in love. Nothing - not the gift of prophecy, not the gift of tongues, not the gift of knowledge or faith - means anything of it is not practiced through love.

The practice - not the feeling - of love is what allows us to serve one another in humility and to bear with one another when we begin to feel as though we simple cannot stand a particular member of the body. It causes us to rejoice when the other parts of our body rejoice, and it causes us to mourn when the other members of our church mourn. Spirit-wrought love is the  invisible glue that knits broken, rebellious sinners to one another.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we don't always love our church body, much less the individual members within it. We find it easy to love ourselves, but altogether unnatural to love those who are unlike us. Thankfully, there is something altogether unnatural occurring with in us.

We are indwelled by the Spirit of Love, himself.

God's love - that remarkable, holy, and altogether giving attribute - "has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5)." Incredible! This is what allows us to fight for unity. It is what gives us the ability to deny our self-serving tendencies. It is what knits us together as one body.

Our daily battle as members of Christ's church is to step aside and allow the Spirit of God to work through us. Our prayer must continually be for his love to eclipse and transform our natural selfishness. And we needn't fear that he will deny us. For he cares for his sheep and their well-being. He who died for us will not forget about us.

In the end, we rebellious loops of yarn are no match for his skillful hand. He will sanctify his church.

And so, just as our creator God knit each of us together in our mother's wombs, so too is he knitting us together as a church. Joyfully, we concede that he is the one holding the needles and we wait with great anticipation for the revealing of his masterpiece.

For he is the master of his craft.

Is Miscarriage Divine Punishment from God?

Jessalyn Hutto

In the third interview question I received from Rachel at The Purposeful Wife in regard to my book, we tackled a very important question:

"You discuss how miscarriage is never God's punishment of our personal sin, because of our standing in Christ. While I am 100% in agreement here, I couldn't help but think of David and Bathsheba's infant dying as a result of their sin. How do you understand this story within your theological framework? How could we give Gospel hope to a woman who brings it up in concern that her miscarriage was divine punishment?"

Inheritance of Tears is a short book, and purposefully so. We wanted it to be resource that could easily be handed out to grieving women--both to those who have a theological foundation and those who do not. For this reason, many of the topics I cover in its 100 pages, can certainly be studied in greater depth. This topic is one of them. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to further explore this idea with Rachel: that while death and suffering are a result of sin, we shouldn't immediately link a specific sin to a specific trial.

You can read my full response here.