How I Apologize to My Kids

*There seems to have been some interest in these practical family and parenting posts.  I do not write as an expert in anything.  This is simply one sinner saved by grace explaining his best approach to those awful 5 minutes after slamming a door or yelling at his children, when he realizes he behaved like a fool.


The screaming starts.  Almost always over a toy.  If it’s not that, it’s that somebody hit somebody.  

Then Daddy throws open the door, angry that his 9:30 PM peace and quiet is being interrupted.  

He isn’t angry because his children have sinned against God and each other by stealing or hurting each other.  Well, maybe a little, but not primarily.  Primarily he’s angry because the created thing he wanted (peace and quiet, food, TV) was disrupted.  That’s what has his fingers digging into his palms.  

And do you know what we call it when a created thing is so important to you that you freak out if you don’t get it?

Idolatry.  

So, now Daddy’s idolatry play out in all its ugly glory, here.  He clenches his teeth and points with his finger at Kid #1’s bed.  “Get.  In.  Bed.”  He raises his voice a few decibels to Kid #2.  “If you do anything to him again I will spank your butt.”  Then he shouts over the crying of Kid #3.  “Enough!  I don’t want to hear it!  All of you:  Be quiet.”  He turns on a dime and slams the bedroom door.  

And now sin has wrapped its poisonous vine around these four souls.  Three children sinned against each other out of idolatry, and their father responded with anger at his own idol being threatened.  None of these four souls were, at that moment, resting in the Lord Jesus Christ and savoring Him.  That would’ve resulted in joy, forgiveness, peace, and patience.  

Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out yet:  This Daddy is me.  

So, after a few minutes, I open the door, and tell the two who are old enough to get down out of bed to sit down with me.  The other can listen from the crib.  And then I say the following.  

  • “Daddy sinned.”

Before you apologize for a sin, you need to acknowledge that it was sin.  It was not merely a “mistake,” it was not that you “lost your cool,” it was not that someone “made you” do it.  Jesus did not die on the Cross to redeem good people for their “aw shucks” mistakes.  He died to save sinners from their sins.  

I sinned. Period.  No excuses, no qualifications.  

My kids need to know that sin is serious.  If they don’t see Daddy taking his sin seriously, they’re less likely to take their sins seriously.  And to live a Gospel life, a true Christian life, one must take sin seriously.  

  • “Daddy is sorry.”

If I’ve sinned, then I have at least two parities I need to apologize to, two people with whom I need to reconcile.    

  1. The God whose Law I broke
  2. The person I sinned against

These apologies are essential for these relationships (mine to God and mine to the person I sinned against) to be restored.  In general, if I am not a person who confesses my wrongs from the heart, I will not be a person who has healthy relationships.  

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 

Matthew 18:15

My kids need to hear me grieve my sin, hear me say that I am sorry that I did such a thing to God and to them.  I realize that to some people this may sound like overkill for something as “small” as angrily raising your voice, but I firmly believe that that sentiment is usually arising from the flesh.  

See, our flesh always wants to minimize our own sins and magnify others’ sins against us.  We understand that it’s good for someone to apologize to us when he has committed even some “small” sin against us (and we are usually unhappy or feel slighted if he doesn’t).  But because of our flesh and our pride, we often think that it isn’t necessary for us to apologize for our own “small” sins. 

But it is.  Jesus died to bear God’s wrath for every instance of bad anger I’ve ever committed, every harsh word and bitter thought and nursed grudge.  Those sins are no small matter.  

And, hear me on this part, too:  Sin brings death.  And so if I want life flowing through my relationships, I must confess my sins in those relationships and receive the grace and restoration of God.  

  • “Do you forgive me?”

Say what?  You’re going to ask your kids to forgive you, dude?   

Yes, because I (almost always) make them ask my wife or I to forgive them after they have sinned against us.  

So, obviously we are in authority over our children, authority given to us by God for their good and His glory.  They answer to God and to us.  But one of the truths of the Bible is that authority comes with responsibility.  I have a responsibility to God and to the children He’s given me to love them selflessly.  When I treat them, even for a moment, as an impediment to my own pleasure, as an annoyance keeping me from TV or a snack or a good book, I am breaking that God-given responsibility.  I am putting my own good ahead of theirs.  And after acknowledging that sin and then grieving it, I need to give them the opportunity to forgive me.  

Now, until children are born again through faith in Jesus Christ (something I hope all you parents pray for for your own children), they cannot forgive like a Christian can.  They aren’t able to forgive from the bank of grace they have received in Christ Jesus, because they haven’t received that grace.  But they can begin to see how important forgiveness is.  And they can also begin to see how impossible it is to truly and humbly forgive without being made a new person.   

See, one of the best things I can do to drive my children to the Cross is to make them try to forgive from the heart.  Because in time, they will see how weak and selfish their hearts are.  And so, I pray, they will call upon Jesus to change them and save them.  

So, there you have it.  That’s how this one Christian father does it.  Daddy sinned.  I’m sorry.  Do you forgive me?”  

They’re no magic words, and it doesn’t always go smoothly.  But often enough it builds trust, and it shows them just a little bit of what Christianity is, of who Daddy is, and of who Jesus is:  The God who saved sinful father.  

It’s no silver bullet.  But I can honestly say that they increasingly feel comfortable enough to tell me if they think I’ve sinned, and they also feel a little more comfortable with owning up to their own sins.  

Which is the point.  

Because by God’s grace, I pray, someday each of them will come to Christ’s Cross on their knees and say to Him, in faith, words they once heard from their imperfect Daddy.

“Jesus, I sinned.  I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?”



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10 Seconds On Joy


Just straight Scripture, here.  

Jesus, to His disciples the night before He was led to the slaughter to save His people: 

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 

John 16:21-22

No one will take your joy from you.  

Amen and amen.  

Maundy Thursday

 

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.  He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’  Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’  Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’  Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’  Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’  Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.  And you are clean, but not every one of you.’  For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’  When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.  But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.’

John 13:13-20

We who are Christians worship a Servant in a culture that worships self.  Self-expression, self-identification, self-gratification.  And the poisonous root under all that 2017 selfie soil is the same one that was buried underneath Adam’s sin:  Self-salvation.  We sinful humans want to stand in the place of God.  We want to be at the center.  We are, to borrow from C.S. Lewis, adjectives who want to be nouns.

And yet here, in Jerusalem on Passover, is Jesus.

Here stands the One through whom all things, visible and invisible, were created.  Except, wait, He’s not standing. No, He’s starting to kneel.  Wait, what?  What is He doing?  He can’t be…  The towel, the bowl of water…  No.  No way.   Like a slave?  He’s putting the towel around his waste and washing their feet like a slave?

God.  The Lord.  Rinsing off feet as though he were a bondservant.

We worship a God who was made, for a little while, lower than the angels to rescue us from our own filth.  A God who died that the dead might live.  A God who knelt to raise others up.  We who trust in Jesus live differently from the world because the One we love and praise is Himself different from the world.  The heartbeat of this darkened place, and of Hell itself, is self-worship leading to self-destruction.   But our rhythm is better, freer.  We lose ourselves as we kneel at His Cross, His feet, and in service to others, and as we do we find who we were always meant to be.

We have a beaitiful story to share as Christians this Maundy Thursday.  We are free to do the jobs no one else wants to do, pray the prayers no one else has time for, love the outcasts everyone else snickers about.  We can love because we are the beloved.  We can serve because we have been served.  We are free to look foolish because we know the God of all wisdom.

We are free to stoop like slaves because we have been made sons and daughters.

Today is a day for kneeling.

For 3:  Contemporary False “Christian” Teachings

  
1) Prosperity Theology

I grew up around this one.  Its sheen is appealing, right?  Come on, who doesn’t want to have money?  Who doesn’t want to be healthy?  Who doesn’t want to avoid rigorous Bible study and prayer and instead simply think positive thoughts and smile a lot?

Prosperity theology is prevalent in the inner city, which is where I currently worship and serve.  The promises of physical healing and financial reward (in return for faith and donations) are very attractive to people in chaotic or desperate situations.  Single moms, people who haven’t seen their grown children in years, people who hear voices or can’t stop shooting heroin.  A man or woman on TV offering health and wealth will usually be well-received in those settings.  But the New Testament does not tell us God is building a financially prosperous people who can cast out cancer like Jesus cast out Legion or create wealth with positive speech and thoughts.  The New Testament tells us we have inherited eternal life, and all things in the Heavens, and will be raised to live with and enjoy Him forever, but that we will also have trouble in this life.  It tells us some of us will be persecuted, and then encourages us to hold fast.  It tells us that though some of us are outwardly poor, we are in inwardly rich.  It tells us that Stephen and James and Antipas were murdered for faith in Christ, but were faithful through that pain and unto death.  

God does sometimes bless us financially and physically.  And God does sometimes allow us to undergo intense financial and physical pain.  But He also tells us why He does both, and everything else He ever does anywhere else in Creation:  To work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, conforming each of them to the image of His Son.  

To tell people God definitely wants them to be wealthy or well is to speak with a certainty the Bible doesn’t authorize.  You don’t know God wants them to wealthy or well.  And neither do I.  I know He wants them saved and confirmed to the image of His Son, though, and I’ll shout that from the rooftops.  

And to seduce them to crave wealth or wellness is lure them into a trap that has snared souls for centuries.  

Beware this theology.  

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 

1 Timothy 6:9

2) The Sin-Free Gospel

It seems to me that it shocks people in some circles to say that we are not owed love or salvation from God; that the only thing we are owed is judgment.  

That’s an incredibly sad thing when it’s a Christian circle, because the fact that we, in our own rights, deserve God’s wrath, not His grace, is basic Gospel doctrine.  It’s also common sense, considering the Bible wouldn’t call it “grace” if we deserved it.  

But I see the presupposition, both implicit and explicit in certain Christian materials and conversations:  We are not moral rebels against God but merely neutral or perhaps even flawed but basically good people.  

It’s false, it’s spiritually deadly, and it tries to rob the Cross of Christ of its power.  Other than that, no big deal.  

The Bible is clear that each and every human being not named Jesus of Nazareth is a spiritually dead sinner who, until he or she is justified by grace, is under the wrath of God.  To leave out that truth is to leave out the Gospel.  To let people think they’re not sinners is to let people think they don’t need a Savior.  

If you encourage people to think that they’re flawed but good you are encouraging them to believe the lie that what they need is to trust themselves, not the tortured and risen Messiah who died and rose to ransom wretches.  

There is no salvation apart from the Gospel of Christ, and part of that Gospel message is that human beings are each sinners.  If you leave out sin, you leave out salvation.  

If you won’t diagnose the disease, you’ll end up showing the patient the door without ever ever offering the remedy.  

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:1-5

3) Misidentifying the Kingdom You’re In

My primary identity is not American.  

My primary identity is not white.  

I am not first a Cincinnatian or Republican or Democrat or middle class.  Before any other such identity I am in Christ.  I am a member of His body, a citizen of His eternal and ever-advancing Kingdom.  

With some potential qualifications, I can say that in this particular conversation (thanks for pulling up a chair and talking, by the way), I don’t much care who you voted for.  But I witnessed a Christian or two in this past election excuse awful moral behavior from a candidate because the candidate was the representative of the Christian’s political party of choice.  I didn’t say I saw them vote for the candidate despite the behavior; whether or not I agree with that conclusion, I can sympathize with it.  I said I saw them excuse the behavior.  And what that tells me is that the kingdom most at rule in the person’s heart, at least in that moment and context, was not the Kingdom of God.  When you are willing to adjust what you call sinful based on the political persuasion of the perpetrator, politics is more important to you than the Author of right and wrong.  

We are citizens of Christ’s Kingdom first, not Rachel Maddow’s, Sean Hannity’s, Jon Stewart’s, or Donald Trump’s.  If we have trusted in Jesus and are true Christians, then our actions and philosophies and spending habits and leisure time, all our beliefs and actions and priorities, should be run through the rubric of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  The question shouldn’t first be “is this conservative” or “is this liberal” or “is this what _______ would say” but “is this pleasing to my King?”

We should not mortgage our faith or our faithfulness for any other kingdom’s victory.  If I get my candidate elected or my culture back at the expense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I’ve leveraged what should be most important to me for a smaller prize.  

A Christian is a stakeholder in the only eternal Kingdom.  He does both God and himself a disservice to think he’s anything else first

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. 

Galatians 3:27-29

Parting shot: The church is the buttress of truth, the fortress where what the world needs is guarded and administered and celebrated.  Here is where we guard the antidote to the world’s most deadly pandemic:  Sin. 

I hope all of us stay more mindful about what it is the world needs than what it wants.  

Truth in love.  

Good motto for 2017 : )

Christian Grief

  
Christian grief always has hope buried deep inside it.  The reason for this is that a Christian is waiting for the returning King, and the King loves him and knows him by name.  Earth, spoiled as she is, is His countryside, and He rules her, and He is coming to throw out all the monsters and tyrants, chief among them Satan and death.  

So it isn’t that a Christian’s grief feels any less like grief.  It’s that it feels less like despair.  Martha wept fiercely not too far from the corpse of her brother Lazarus, and she did this while telling Jesus that she knew her brother would be raised to eternal life on the last day.  Martha was certain the best was yet to come for her brother, and yet she was still heartbroken that she wouldn’t see him (or so she thought) there in Bethany, there in their home again for Passover dinner.  Her sadness was intense, piercing.  It drove her to Jesus’ arm in passionate mourning.  Her sadness was great.  But it wasn’t bleak.  

And of course Jesus grieved with her.  

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.  And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’  They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’  Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 

From John 11

A Christian has the freedom to grieve like Jesus. 

For the Christian, hope and heartbreak aren’t like summer and winter.  You don’t make it to the one after bearing up under the long discomfort of the other.  No, for the one who knows the Holy Spirit hope and heartbreak are like seed and soil.  The one was always there, living and sprouting and taking strong root, but it was just under the surface, just beneath the blanket of the ground. 

There’s no two ways about it:  Grief has been spun into this story.  God has allowed it.  Our fleshly father Adam and our mother his beloved Eve trusted the whispered lies of Satan, and they waved death and pain and groaning right up onto the front porch and offered them sweet tea.  Death was invited in to God’s astonishingly good world.  And Heaven grieved.  

And then right there in Eden He told the Deciever that a Son of the woman would crush his head, though the crushing would bruise Him.  And so God the Son was bruised for us by God the Father, tortured and killed in shame for sin on a Jerusalem hill.  And Heaven grieved.  

No two ways about it.  Grief is here in the house with us.  

But its seat at the table is not permanent.  

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

From Revelation 21

Bear with some poetry for a moment.  

Daylight will chase down this dusk, because the Son is returning.  And when He arrives again, and sunlight spills over the hills and puts every shadow to flight, grief’s evening is over.  God Himsef will be His people’s light, strong and bright enough to make this burning star named Sol above our heads seem to memory’s eyes to be a halfhearted firefly.  And all our old tears will find their place in a song of praise to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  

And the  death’s last echoes will be like those of a drunken man falling down stairs.  All its power sapped, all its sting left hollow by the glory and might of God.  

Grief is an intense thing.  I know.  But it’s also a temporary one.  

Jesus is coming.  

And I’ve never been much of a dancer, but if I’m given the chance I’d love to slow dance on death’s grave to Amazing Grace.

Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’  Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’

From John 11

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 

From Revelation 21

A PSA On Suffering

  
If you want do your heart a favor, prepare it now for where it should run when sorrow comes.  Because if you live past the age of 40, it is going to come.  

There’s a radio PSA I hear every once in a while that uses humor to make the point that families should have plans about where to go in the event of an emergency situation.  A dad asks each of his kids where the meeting point is and what they’re supposed to do, and each kid fires back a different and increasingly ridiculous answer.  The father then praises everyone for sticking to “the plan.”  Point taken, Ad Council.  I should have a plan for where my kids should go in case there’s a tsunami.  Got it.  

But after I’m done telling them to go the basement if and when they ever hear sirens, I’m going to sit for a second and give my heart a talking to about where it is to go when I am diagnosed with terminal cancer, or I lose a family member, or we go broke.  

Because this side of the return of Jesus is laced with all kinds of shadows for all kinds of people.  Pain is not restricted to those who self-inflict it.  

Good, God-believing people wrote into the book of Psalms (as they were moved by the Holy Spirit) their tears to God.  For instance, Psalm 123 (in its entirety):

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

The Psalms are threaded through and through with this sort of thing.  So is Lamentations.  And Ecclesiastes.  And Job.  The sorrows of people who love God and trust in Him, and whose hope in the middle of pain and sadness is Him and Him alone. 

The Christian is going to suffer in this life.  Maybe not always, and maybe less than a brother or sister nearby him, but he will suffer and struggle.  At some point, God’s hand will bring about some affliction for him.  

At some point God will allow something awful to happen to me.

I want to plan now for where I’ll run to.  

I don’t want to make a good thing an idol on that day.  I don’t want to just work a bunch of hours to drown out my pain, or go for a hundred hikes all over tri-state parks while praying little and worshiping less.  I don’t want to (merely) cook or write or play games.  

I want to prepare myself now to run to my Father on that day.  

The promises of God in the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ are the purest hope for a Christian who just found out he has brain cancer.  They are what sustained Paul awaiting his execution, what gave Peter and John boldness to proclaim the Good News though they were threatened with death by the authorities in Jerusalem, and what sent our Savior to the Cross on our behalf.  

The promise of rescue and eternal life for all who trust in Jesus.  

When I’m told terrible news or drowning in terrible thoughts, I want to flee to the certain promise of God that when I die I will be with King Jesus.  That when He returns, my body will be resurrected, shed of all its rust and bruises and glistening like clear dew under a new sun.  

Sure, I might write and take a hike and learn to cook a new dish, too.  But the only thing that’ll slow my heart in the middle of the night, the background music that’ll make the worst of my sufferings less terrifying, is the promise of God in Christ.  

After all, if Christ isn’t resurrected, then I of all men should be most pitied when that terminal diagnosis comes.  

But praise be to God that lying is one thing this Father can’t do. 

Don’t Hold On to Your Buts

  
Samuel L. Jackson said it in Jurassic Park, if you were wondering.  
I have a list of “buts” that my flesh, my fears, and my foe the Devil try to get me doubt the Gospel of our Lord with.  

“But what about that sin last night?”

“But what about your past?”

“But you don’t look or sound like _____________. Now he (or she) is a real Christian.”

“But you still have problems. The Gospel hasn’t fixed ___________. What are you going to do about that?”

Sound familiar to any of you? Think the Gospel of Jesus’ unfathomable love, transformative grace, and body-resurrecting power can’t possibly be for somebody as lousy as you? Or do you think that rescue from the hands of Jesus of Nazareth can’t really help you with (or free you from) your money crises, work stresses, or insulting family members? Think your sins are too big or the Gospel too small?

There was a lady who ran into our Savior, one time. She thought she was getting some water. Pretty normal errand. This woman was living with a man who wasn’t her husband, by the way. She’d actually been married five times before getting with her current boyfriend. Her little life was cracked with sin and busted by all of her idolatries. 

But what she really needed was some water.

What do you think the “Yeah, but…” mindset would say was essential to fixing this broken girl’s life? Self-control, maybe. Or self-esteem. She should probably leave her trashy circle of mischievous and rowdy pals and replace them with a support system of good, solid people. Maybe night school and an associate’s degree in nursing.  

The “Yeah, but…” heart that springs from (a) the Satan who hates God and (b) the flesh that’s both terrified of and angry at Him says that the saving power of Jesus Christ in the Gospel is cute, but we’ve got real problems here, thank you very much. The “but…” heart denigrates Christ and exalts sins, problems, or self. It magnifies the very things Christ went to the Cross to crush and destroy (death, sin, fear, the Devil) and it downplays Him, and His power. To say “Yeah, but…” to the Gospel is to doubt the Jesus who hung, died, rose, and is returning.  

I’ll never know that Samaritan lady’s name, at least not until we’re both standing on the recreated and deathless soil of the new Earth. But even though I only know of this one afternoon in her earthly life, I’m sure about what she needed.  

From John chapter 4:

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.'”  

Yeah, Jesus, but I really need water.  

“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.'”

See, Jesus knew what she really needed. And He knows what you really need. It’s fine, good even, to ask for food and clothing as we need them, and He cares for us by giving them, along with many other sweet blessings. It’s fine to ask for guidance or deliverance through our day-to-day trials.  But the deepest impoverishment we suffer from is one that only the Spiritual power of Jesus Christ’s grace can solve. We are, before we are anything else, busted sinners in need of a healing Savior.  

And Jesus specializes in saving sinners. Which is good, because that’s all there are, here.  

This redeeming King offers a Gospel for all people and all problems.  

“Yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve done.”  Well, Saul imprisoned Christians and handed them over to death. Peter deserted Jesus Christ on the night of His crucifixion right after loudly proclaiming he’d follow Him through anything. Our Samaritan sister above was committing five kinds of adultery when the Shepherd found her. You tell me about how big your sins are and I’ll tell you about how deep His mercies are. If the contest is between Christ’s blood and your treacheries, I’m betting the house on the blood.  

“Yeah, but I’m going through _______________.” I get it. I sympathize with your pain, if this is you. I’ve had children have health scares and I’ve been backed into financial corners and I’ve felt like the world was crushing me under the weight of its responsibilities or my own failures. But He is the answer. He just is. The hope that flows from knowing I am secure forever in the grasp of the Messiah, that my body will be raised and my trespasses erased, that is the underpinning of good courage and joy in the midst of terrible tragedy or crippling anxiety. The Good News is where you can draw the best sort of strength.  

“Yeah, but I’ve been trying to be a good Christian and it just isn’t working.” Again, I can feel your frustrations. The muscles and the heart do get tired, because we’re flawed and frail creatures. But Jesus never stops being good even when we get tired. He is just as awesome, magnificent, merciful, holy, and beautiful now as the moment when we first tasted His glories and grace. And in the exhausted moments, if you’ve truly trusted in Jesus, then keep in mind: We’re fighting and warring and sweating in a war He has won and will win. We are finishing a race of which Jesus the Christ is already victor. Your eternal destiny was never ultimately in your hands, so fight with urgency but never despair. None of us are the truly pivotal pieces in this war. And as for the demons and the sins that assail you while you fight? Just remember that the Lion of Judah will take no prisoners. Satan, sin, and death will sting us no more once they’re in the lake of His holy judgment. We have a vapor of earthly life to struggle in, and then comes neverending peace with our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.  

Let go of the “but”s. They’ll kill your hope and drain your joy. Instead, cling with faith to the Jesus who ransoms and cleanses murderers and cowards and adulteresses. The Jesus who makes them better as He takes them home.  

You have two hands. Use both to grasp Him, and you won’t have anything left to clutch your doubts with.