The Beauty Of The Broken

The Japanese Art of Kintsugi

 The Beauty Of The Broken

God never throws away the broken pieces of our lives; He redeems all of them.

Not too long ago, I dropped one of my favorite coffee mugs and broke it into several pieces. I was quite frustrated because it happened to be a sentimental heirloom to me—one that I purchased on our honeymoon twenty years ago. I swept up the shards in frustration and tried to piece the cup back together. That disappointment led me to a discovery into the 500­year­old Japanese art of kintsugi.

In Japan, rather than tossing broken pieces of ceramics in the trash, craftsmen often practice the art of kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” which is a method of taking broken pieces and restoring them with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.

The story of kintsugi is said to have begun in the 15th century when Japanese military commander Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke one of his beloved Chinese tea bowls and, disappointed with the shoddy repair job it was treated to, urged Japanese craftsmen to come up with a more pleasing method of repair. Thus the art of kintsugi was born. Collectors soon became so enamored with the new art that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so it could be repaired with the gold seams of kintsugi.

As an art, kintsugi will make a mended vessel look more aesthetic and become more valued than it was before it was fractured. As a philosophy, kintsugi treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, something of a redemptive beauty, rather than something to disguise, cover up, or replace altogether. It has similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi­sabi, an aesthetic worldview that sees beauty in the flawed, the damaged, or the imperfect. The idea behind the technique of kintsugi is to recognize the entire history of the object, with all of its cracks and flaws, and to visibly incorporate the repaired fissures into the new piece. It beautifies the breakage and treats it as an important part of the object’s history, thus valuing the fractures instead of disguising them or glossing over them. The process typically results in something far more beautiful and elegant than the original.

To throw the broken pot away is to destroy its unique story. To repair it the kintsugi way is to continue its tale of adventure, triumph, and redemptive beauty.
 
The world is full of people with broken hearts, broken spirits, and broken relationships. We see damaged goods all around us. And we see it in ourselves when we are courageous enough to go there.

In fear of rejection, we’d rather cover up the damaged parts of our lives and work harder at putting our best pieces out front for others to see. We feel ashamed of our weaknesses and fear that if people really knew us they wouldn’t have anything to do with us. This is because we are keenly aware that we live in a culture that rejects broken things too easily rather than one that embraces the value of damaged goods.

Think about some of the cracks and fractures in the lives of the men and women God used throughout the Bible: Moses had a speech problem. Jonah was self-absorbed. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Samson was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. The Samaritan woman had a whole string of divorces. Zacchaeus had engaged in extortion. Peter was hotheaded, impulsive, and temperamental. Naomi was a bitter widow. Elijah was suicidal. Leah wasn’t attractive enough. Joseph was abused and abandoned. Jacob was a liar and a schemer. Martha worried about everything. Timothy had an ulcer and Noah got drunk.

What’s significant is that none of these things defined these people. What defined them was their relationship with God. But what I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t omit their weaknesses and their failures when it describes their victories. Just like in the art of kintsugi, the broken pieces weren’t something to be thrown out, they were a part of the whole redemptive story—one that God gracefully wrote despite their flawed personalities, their broken humanity, and their obvious weaknesses.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul was struggling with an antagonizing “thorn” in his life. We’re not sure exactly what it was but we do know that it bothered him so much that he pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away. But the only response he got was: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That response caused Paul to become good with the weaknesses in his life because he realized that Christ would be glorified in all of them. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)

There is truly a beauty waiting to be discovered when we begin to realize that God is using everything in our lives, including our brokenness, our pain, our failures, our weaknesses, our fractured relationships, our shattered dreams, our disappointments, and our cracked personalities, to bring about a very, very, beautifully redemptive story. He assuredly is making all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

Remember that as you take time to abide in Him today.



3 Things Christians Do That Non-Christians Despise

3 Things Christians Do That Non-Christians Despise

By Carey Nieuwhof

                Spend two minutes talking to almost anyone outside the Christian faith and you’re almost certain to hear a list of complaints they have about Christians. The problem has been around awhile.  As Mahatma Gandhi famously (and sadly) said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” He’s not alone. The problem with many non-Christians isn’t that they don’t know any Christians. The challenge is they do.

                So what gives? Many Christians would tell you we have an image problem: we’re treated unfairly, we’re being persecuted, or we’re just badly misunderstood. I’m not so sure. It’s not so much that Christians have an image problem. It’s far more likely that we have an integrity problem. Do we get misunderstood on some issues? Of course. But that’s outside our control. There are more than a few issues entirely within our control that give us a bad name with people outside Christianity.

                Here are 3 things Christians do that non-Christians despise.

  1. JUDGE:
    1. It doesn’t take long for non-Christians to tell you how much they hate the way Christians judge other people. Another two minutes on social media will reveal Christians and preachers condemning unchurched people for their sexual habits and preferences, life-style choices and even political views. I doubt this is what Jesus had in mind when he gave his life in love for the world.
    2. Disclosure: without the mercy and intervention of Christ, I’m very judgmental. And years ago, I realized how devastating judgment and criticism can be to others. So I’m waging a life-long battle against it. Confessing it, repenting of it almost daily.
    3. I realized years ago that very few people get judged into life change. Far more get loved into it.
    4. It also occurred to me that the presence of judgment almost always guarantees an absence of love. Think about it through the lens of your marriage, a friendship or even someone you work with: it is virtually impossible to love someone and judge someone at the same time.
    5. But wait, you ask: what if they’re making a mistake and I need to correct them?
      1. First of all, look at your mistakes and the depth of your sin, and deal with your issues first. In the process, you’ll encounter a loving God who forgives you despite your rather egregious sin.
      2. And having been loved, you can love others.
    6. I try to remember this rule: If I’m judging someone, I’m not loving them. You can’t judge someone and love them at the same time. What would happen if Christians stopped judging the world (isn’t that God’s job?) and started loving it instead? I believe that’s what Jesus did.

 

  1. BE HYPOCRITICAL:
    1. There’s a word for Christian who say one thing and do another. The word is hypocrite. It’s far easier to call someone else a hypocrite than it is to admit you’re one.
    2. The truth is, that as much as I hate it, I’m a hypocrite. My walk doesn’t always match my talk. That’s why I don’t have a fish on my car. When I’m in a hurry and my natural impatience surfaces, the last thing some person God loves needs to see is a Christian cut him off. Of course, it’s worse than that. I’m not always a loving husband, kind father, steadfast son, patient boss, or even compassionate friend. Like you, I’m a mixture of good 
    3. What did Paul say? Nothing good lives in me. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:18). That could be a life-verse for me. Well, actually, it kind of is.
    4. Sanctification is a process that never ends. I am not who I want to be (yet). I am not who God wants me to be.  But I’m different. I’m changing. And Christ is at work in me. I believe that’s the reality for every person who calls Jesus Savior.
    5. So what do imperfect Christians do? I mean just deciding you’re not going to make mistakes never keeps you from making mistakes. I think the answer is simple: you watch what you say. Don’t pretend to be something or someone you’re not. I find the more humility I add to my words, the smaller the gap is between who I am and who I say I am.
    6. When you admit your shortcomings, you build a bridge between you and others. Owning your sin is different than living in it; confession is never an excuse for complacency.
    7. So, what do you do if you live in the tension between what you usually say or want to say and what you do? I think you change both. You change how you live through the power of Christ day by day (getting better), and at the same time, you change how you talk about your faith, yourself and how you live (adding more honestly and humility to your words).
    8. Want a quick fix for hypocrisy? Accelerate your walk. Humble your talk. Nothing closes the gap between word and action faster than that.
  2. STINK AT FRIENDSHIP
    1. Friendship is hard. We all have ideas of finding the perfect friends with whom we’ll never disagree, share 1000 common interests and ride off into the sunset with.
    2. Well, very few human relationships ever work that way. Even in marriage, the best marriages are almost always ones in which people have overcome deep and real obstacles to find a powerful love that’s far deeper than emotion.
    3. Perhaps the first obstacle between non-Christians and Christians is that relatively few Christians actively pursue meaningful friendships with people who don’t share their faith. Between churches that offer programs 5 nights a week (leaving little time for Christians to make friends outside the church) and Christians who are afraid of the world, many Christians don’t pursue authentic relationships with non-Christians. Which means much of the interaction non-Christians have is situational and observational rather than truly relational. They observe Christians in life and at work, notices traces of judgment and hypocrisy and draw all kinds of conclusions. I get that.
    4. But Jesus went so much deeper than that. Jesus pursued friendships with people who were different than him. Whose lifestyles were far different than anything God had in mind for them (or for people in relationship with him). Yet Jesus was their friend. He went to their house for dinner. They traveled together. They shared moments and meals and life. It scandalized the religious leaders of Jesus day, and sadly, when it’s practiced authentically, it still scandalizes most of us today.
    5. Think about it. When was the last time you hung out with a sex-worker? When was the last time you had someone who’s not your skin color, not your political persuasion and doesn’t share your value system over for dinner, or when was the last time you broke bread with an addict (who’s not in recovery)?
    6. Often when Christians do pursue ‘friendships’ with people far from God, it’s more of a project than it is a friendship. But people aren’t projects; people are people. People can smell it a mile away if you see them as a project, not a person. Even as you think about expanding the ministry of your church, if you see people as a means to an end, that’s a problem.
    7. Which leads us to another tension in our friendships with those outside the Christian faith. Some Christians do have a relationship with unchurched people. So: how exactly do you talk about faith? Great question!
    8. Most of us swing to one extreme or the other: either we always talk about faith, or we never talk about. Both are mistakes. Always talk about faith, and you’re turning the relationship into a project. Never talk about, and you miss the most important thing in life.
    9. Real friendships always drill down on real issues, and few things are more significant than the meaning of life. How do you talk about? Naturally, organically, in the context of your story is a great place to start.
    10. Real friendships are like that. Want a simpler place than that to begin? Try this. Just like the person. As much friend Reggie Joiner says, people will never believe you love them if they feel you don’t like them.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Anything you see that people who are not Christians despise about Christians?  If you’re a Christian, what helps you overcome these issues, and what other issues do you struggle with?



What Would Jesus Do?

            Do you remember the “WWJD” bracelets of the 90’s?  Those letters stood for the question: “What Would Jesus Do?”  Thirty years later, some think the answer is rioting, looting, and burning.  A tweet from comic book artist Dean Trippe equating the violent riots to Jesus overturning the tables in the temple has gone viral and is (for some bizarre reason) gaining a lot of traction among Christians.

            To make his case, Trippe referenced the accounts in Matthew 21:12-13 and John 2:13-17. When Jesus arrived at the temple in Jerusalem, he found it in bad shape. Money-grubbers had overrun the house of worship and turned it into a marketplace. In response, Jesus drove them out, saying, “My house will be called ‘a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

            There is no similarity between that and the violence happening today.  The comparison is ignorant on a number of levels.  Trying to compare Jesus pointing out and removing the corruption from His temple to what is happening today shows an ignorance of what the Bible teaches completely.  He is God and has every right to clean His own home. He didn’t violate anyone’s rights. It’s Jesus’ house He was cleansing!  The idea that we could then turn that into looters going into other people’s houses and businesses and destroying them is absolute insanity and it shows a total ignorance of the biblical worldview. It was His house. 

            When we see people, that profess the name of Jesus, inciting riots and looting and trying to help with that and trying to put a Christian veneer over it, it breaks our hearts.  God abhors racism and His Word is very clear about victims’ rights.

            The only answer is Jesus!  God is holy; we are sinners. We are rebels against a holy God. We deserve hell. And all these things we see in our nation right now is an expression of the evil and wickedness that comes from within people’s hearts. It’s coming from deep down within and the only escape from that is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

            Would you join with us in praying for a spiritual awakening and revival in the hearts of His people?  Here is a list of Specific Prayers For Revival and Spiritual Awakening:[1]

  1. Ask God to bring deep conviction of sin, spiritual brokenness, a holy fear of God and genuine repentance among His people. There will be no revival without these elements and only God can produce them in His people. After all we cannot program or work up genuine brokenness and repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
  2. Pray for deep cleansing, genuine repentance, and spiritual power to engulf pastors and Christian leaders. Revival and spiritual awakening are extremely unlikely without a mighty move of God in pastors and Christian leaders. Renewed pastors are absolutely crucial to a move of God in our day! (Ephesians 6:14-20)
  3. Pray for God to bestow spiritual hunger in His people and draw them to fervent intercession. God has to grant people the genuine faith and the fervent desire for prayer. With all our promotion and programming, we cannot “produce a genuine prayer movement. (Philippians 2:13)
  4. Pray that God will bring loving unity in our churches and a deep harmony between our churches. Many churches need healing among members and many churches need to stop competing jealously with other churches. (John 13:35)
  5. Pray for God to fill His people with a passion to see people saved. (Only God can give a genuine burden for souls.) Until God’s people intensely pray for the lost and do aggressive soul winning revival will tarry. Be sure you are constantly praying for many lost people by name. (Romans 9:1-3)

[1] https://www.absc.org/articles/10-specific-prayers-for-revival-spiritual-awakening/



My Relationship With God Is Cold

My Relationship With God Is Cold

 

“How did you get close to God again? I’m not sinning, like doing drugs or drinking or swearing, but I get mad easily and don’t feel that connection with God. I just want my relationship with God back.”

If you are a mature believer, questions like this may be familiar. Here is an answer that has worked for me.

Do what the early church did.

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 NASB

  • Devote yourself to the apostles teaching — study the Bible regularly
  • Devote yourself to the fellowship — don’t go it alone. We need one another. We need the accountability of the body and we need to share our time and stuff with one another in sacrificial ways.
  • Devote yourself to the breaking of bread — again, we need to worship the King together. We need to remember the sacrifice of the cross together with other believers.
  • Devote yourself to “the prayers” — the text and most modern translations say “prayers” not “prayer”. The plural is important. Most scholars will say that the meaning is not just to “saying your prayers” or praying and talking to God regularly. The plural has a very specific referent. Either it means the 3x a day pattern of Jewish prayer in the first century or, and more likely, it means they devoted themselves to the prayer book of the Old Testament, the book of Psalms.

My own experience is, that when my walk with God has grown cold or lukewarm, doing these things restores my passion and appreciation for the wonders of the gospel and the beauty of my Savior.

Give it time. Doing these things is not a shot of adrenaline. They are exercises for your spirit and will “pay off” over time (just like physical exercise) as you continually make the “devote yourself” investment.

Ask yourself this question, what commands of Christ am I not doing that I know I ought to be doing? Why this question?

Look at John 14:21

21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” NASB

Jesus ties further revelation of himself, greater intimacy with himself to our obedience to the commands he has given us.

Look at Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and a]the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” NASB

Live your life by faith not by how you feel.

Train your heart to act on truth revealed not how you feel in the moment.

Finally, check out your love life?

Read Luke 7:38–50, especially verse 47.

47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” NASB

“He who is forgiven little, loves little.” Whenever I, or any of us, forget how much we have been forgiven our faith will become stale and inconsequential to our lives; but when we go back to the cross, when we spend time meditating on how much we have been forgiven, new springs of joy will begin to arise in our hearts.



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