True or False? Denying Abortion Results in Unwanted, Neglected Children

One of the many abortion myths I’ll be addressing in the coming months is this: “Denying abortion results in unwanted, neglected children.” We hear this argument so often that even some Christians believe it. We must stop waffling in regard to the sanctity of life and be able to discuss these lies and offer people the truth. The lives of many, many children depend on it! So please spend the next ten minutes with me as I explain why this particular argument is utterly false.

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Why You Should Pursue the Fear of God

About ten years ago, when I first saw the ocean, the Lord began to show me why we should never shy away from the fear of God. In fact, pursuing the fear of God will allow you to be fearless about the very things that used to cause you to panic. In this video, I discuss this subject along with a few others, including the question, What does God’s wrath have to do with His love?

Are You Burdened by Regret?

When it comes to testimony, there are the Mary Magdalenes (those whose list of past sins could fill a ream of paper) and there are the John the Baptists (those whose past sins are so inconsequential they’re not even mentioned in the course of their story). I know some John the Baptists—people who made good choices even as children and who devoted their lives to the Lord before making the sorts of mistakes that throw one’s life completely off course. I wish I were a John the Baptist, but I’m not. I was Mary Magdalene, racking up sins (starting at the tender age of 15) that had lifelong consequences and leaving a path of debris and pain. I hurt others and myself, and, although I loved God, I wasted years that could have been spent for the Kingdom just trying to survive the fallout of my choices.

But then I remember that all are lost, all are hopeless apart from Jesus. It’s strange to think that Billy Graham was just as lost and hell-bound as the worst of sinners apart from the cross, but it’s true. Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, needed a savior! No one deserves heaven. And those like me, who are ever-aware of the years they squandered and the wreckage they left in their wake—sometimes I think we’re even more mindful that we don’t deserve the mercy we’ve been granted. We don’t deserve those million second chances we’ve been given; we don’t deserve joy and love and beauty. For me, this awareness produces deep, deep gratitude and the determination to spend the rest of my years wisely. It propels me to give my time to the poor, to love the addicts and alcoholics who have (like me) made a mess of their lives. When you see yourself in “the worst of sinners,” there’s no room for smugness or complacency. I am a hair’s breadth away from the prostitute on the corner, and I pray I never forget it.

I’ve been known to throw myself into worship in an undignified way. I’ve danced until my feet were literally blistered. Why? Because, like Paul, I know that “Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, came into the world to save sinners, and I am the worst of them all” (1 Tim.). He didn’t have to save me, but He did. He didn’t have to grant me mercy again and again and again as the years passed, but He did. So when it’s time to worship, how can I do anything less than unleash my love on the One who unleashed His grace on me? I don’t care what the person next to me thinks about me—that person didn’t pluck me out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock, Jesus did. My days are numbered, so each time I worship, I understand it could be the last opportunity to do so while here on earth, and I want to go out while giving Him what He deserves: ALL of me.

Are you a Mary Magdalene too? Don’t waste your energy, much less your time, on regrets. Regarding your past, let it go—but don’t forget it either because those who remember they’ve been forgiven much love much. Love your Rescuer without restraint or limits! Allow your scars to propel you into the heart of God until He turns those scars into gold and you begin to dispel light everywhere you go. Love and serve those who are still floundering and whose scars are still bleeding. Trust that God will redeem the years you wasted if you’ll simply do what He tells you to do from here on.

“But it is for this reason I was given mercy: by displaying His perfect patience in me, the very worst of all sinners, Jesus the Anointed could show that patience to all who would believe in Him and gain eternal life” (1 Tim.).

Brown Bag Sunday

Ever since May of 2016, my husband Kenny and I have been pastoring a little church that meets in a coffee shop. We call it Brown Bag Sunday, and it’s made up of all sorts of people. Roughly 70 percent of them are homeless. Few things have brought me as much joy as this little gathering. We tell people to come as they are, and they do. We tell them they don’t even have to be sober to show up as long as they “behave.” Is that bad? Is that too permissive? I don’t think so. What do you do when you’re tormented by alcoholism or drug addiction but you also know that you need God? You come to Brown Bag Sunday.

Don’t misunderstand me. Not everyone who attends Brown Bag Sunday is homeless, or an addict, or an alcoholic. BBS has its share of hard-working, God-fearing congregants, some of whom are clean as freshly fallen snow (and others of whom are also homeless or addicted. You can’t be saved and addicted at the same time, you say? Puuulleeeeeeesee). Anyway, we’re a motley bunch of ragamuffins— to varying degrees flawed, homeless, employed, unemployed, addicted, straight, gay, victorious, depressed, hungry, full, fat, thin, sober, drunk, and so on. You get the picture.

I do know that we have a pretty high percentage of folks who would never walk into the typical church.

I love the local church. I have such respect for the local church! But one day, years ago, I brought some friends (a married couple) with me to church on Sunday. They didn’t smell very good, and their clothes were ragged. As soon as we walked into the building, one of the deacons offered the husband a clean jacket to put on. My friends were utterly humiliated, and I was appalled. They’d been deemed “not good enough” to be in that building, to be part of the Body of Christ. They were both Christians, both hungry for God, and both deserving of a little hospitality.

But their clothes weren’t fancy enough.

I never forgot that incident.

A handful of years later, around 2002, I was finally part of a church that loved the homeless. One morning, a certain homeless man named Paul walked into the building during the Sunday service and grabbed one of the big cornbread muffins that someone had laid out for anyone who needed a snack. As my pastor preached, Paul stood in the middle of the aisle and rubbed his thumb back and forth across that muffin, watching the crumbs fall to the floor. He didn’t stop till he’d destroyed the whole muffin. And what did the rest of us do? Nothing. We all knew that Paul just did this sort of thing. It was no big deal. Sometimes he talked to himself, but he was never belligerent. If he wanted to butcher a muffin, no one minded. If he talked to himself a little, fine.

As I watched Paul and the rest of my church family, I thought, This is church. This is IT. I knew I’d never again settle for being part of a congregation that didn’t accept the Pauls of this world. Never again would I be satisfied to call myself part of a so-called church that had no room for the mentally unstable, the addicted, the homeless, the “least of these.”

The fact that God is allowing Kenny and me to love, teach, and feed fifty people, some of them just like Paul, is an honor I don’t deserve.

 

The Nature of Grace

There are a variety of opinions in regard to the homeless, and most of us have heard (or even voiced) the following: They don’t deserve a handout. No one is twisting their arms, forcing them to shoot up or buy another bottle. No one forced them to leave their families to go live under a bridge somewhere.

imagesPlenty of people land on the street through little or no fault of their own—yet it’s also true that some are less than model citizens. I learned this early on. Eight years ago, when my husband, Kenny, and I were serving in Tent City in Nashville, there was Howard, the sex offender. Then there was Sarah, a twenty-something girl who made money by posing for online porn photos. And there was Donny, who mentioned the first time I met him that he’d just finished a lengthy stint in prison. Within a month or so he ended up back in jail for threatening to remove a man’s head with a hacksaw. Every town, including Clarksville, has its Howards and Sarahs and Donnies. It’s not uncommon to ask about one of our mobile soup kitchen regulars only to be told, “He’s back in jail, didn’t ya hear?”

I love Kenny’s point of view. He’s convinced that if someone is capable of being a functioning member of society but chooses to live under a bridge, it’s because he believes it’s all he deserves, and therefore that person needs our acceptance even more than most. He needs to know that Jesus died for and loves him. Therefore, whatever the reason for a person’s destitution, it’s our duty to feed, love, and welcome him as much as possible.

Here’s the crazy thing about grace: The model citizen doesn’t deserve it any more than the pedophile or the prostitute or the guy who sells drugs to 12-year-olds. This seems outrageously unfair; surely Mother Teresa was at least a teeny bit more deserving of heaven than the repeat offender who made an eleventh-hour confession, right? Wrong. If grace were about fairness, it would cease to be grace.

Walk to the crossOne of the most liberating things you can do is be brutally honest about your own immense and imminent potential for sin. It will make you acutely aware of God’s mercy and prompt you to extend grace to others without hesitation. You’ll look at the homeless man and see yourself looking back. You’ll look in the mirror and see a thief. The person who lavishly loves others is the one who acknowledges, “I am the worst of sinners. I don’t deserve Jesus. And yet He loves me, and sees me as perfect and beautiful.”

How to Shave $29,852 Off the Cost of a Wedding

According to CNN, the average cost of a wedding has hit the 30-thousand-dollar mark. Someone, please, please tell me …

WHY?

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If you’re a hippie, you’ll love this place. Photo: Nashville Guru

Expensive weddings make me cringe. I understand the desire to gather one’s family and friends, wear a pretty dress, and commemorate the day with quality photos. But this does not require $30,000, or even half that, or even half that.

Kenny has told people that he and I had a “glorified elopement.” I realize we were a little extreme in our money-saving methods, but maybe our story will inspire you to save at least a few thousand dollars: We bought simple wedding bands at Kay Jewelers, a new cotton shirt for Kenny, and a $68-dollar white dress for me from a great little boutique called Scarlett Begonia on West End Avenue. Because I have a habit of kicking my shoes off during holy moments, e.g. prayer or worship experiences, I knew I’d get married barefoot, so shoes weren’t an issue.

We gathered four or five people and our pastor one evening and walked over to a beautiful little garden outside the Upper Room headquarters on Grand Avenue. (No, we did not have permission, and no, I don’t recommend this, but we’d already discovered that typical outdoor wedding places charge roughly ten zillion dollars even if you ask to stand on their property for ten minutes with fewer than half a dozen people—so we decided it was easier to get forgiveness than permission.)

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Nom nom nom.

Aside from the fact that our pastor was so convinced we were going to get kicked out of the garden that he kept taking sidelong glances toward the Upper Room windows (where a few people did, in fact, gather to watch the festivities), the ceremony was perfect. As a symbol of our commitment to protect rather than harm one another, we exchanged swords (yes, real ones, which we’d received at a worship conference). And as a sign of our vow to serve each other, we washed one another’s feet. Afterward, we joined a few dozen friends at our favorite local sushi joint, which had opened after hours specifically for us.

Total wedding cost: $148.

I could list fifty reasons that it’s a bad idea to spend lots of money on a wedding, but I’m going to touch briefly on just three:

  1. An expensive wedding buries a new marriage under the burden of debt. To anyone who overspends on a wedding, may I say, “Congratulations, you just guaranteed that your first several years of marriage will be fraught with stress and arguments focused on money … so that you could spend one day in extravagance.”
  2. Spending the money on the wedding versus the marriage is bass-akwards. A wedding is over in a few hours and doesn’t merit plunging into debt. A marriage deserves all you have to give. (Do you know what you could do with 30 or 20 or 10 thousand dollars that would build up rather than tear down your marriage? For example, if you break $10,000 into 500-dollar weekend trips, you end up with four mini-honeymoons per year for five years.)
  3. A couple that begins their life together by spending lavishly is going to have one heck of a time living simply. Let me explain: A couple that’s unattached to their possessions is a couple that knows the joy of freedom. I know, I know—someone can have a lot of stuff and still be emotionally unattached to it, but how much better to have minimal stuff in the first place? A couple that finds happiness apart from luxury is free to pull up stakes and relocate to the mission field, or give their second car to a single mom whose only car kicks the bucket, or forfeit a well-paying job in favor of one that pays less but allows a person to live out his or her God-given passion. It’s much easier for a couple to drop everything and go where the Lord leads them if they have little to drop.

By the way, today is our sixth anniversary. And if I had to do it all over again, I’d want things to be exactly the same: scrappy little wedding/big, beautiful marriage. 230726_1064889781519_1334990_n

 

 

CNN data: http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/28/pf/average-wedding-cost/

A few related verses (NIV):
Heb. 13:5
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.”
Luke 14:28:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?”
Matt. 6:21
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Lk. 12:33
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”
Rom. 13:8
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”