What Breaks Your Heart?


“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” – Nehemiah 1:4.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? For most, it’s a self-improvement type dealio. Wake up early every day and workout. (Mine… Already broke it.)

After listening to this sermon, however, I was challenged to think differently on New Year’s resolutions. I was challenged to shift the focus from “How can I improve me?” to “What breaks my heart?”

The truth is, a lot of things break my heart. But my heart is rarely broken enough to the point of getting off my butt and doing something about it, like it was for Nehemiah.

So, I’ve been thinking today, what breaks my heart? At this stage of the game, the things that break my heart are things that usually revolve around misconceptions people have about Christians and God, the consequences of those misconceptions, and the places/situations from where those misconceptions stem. That was a mouthful, so I’ll give you some examples…

It breaks my heart when people want nothing to do with God because of how they were treated by those who follow Him.

It breaks my heart when people view Christianity as nothing more than a list of do’s and don’ts; as a religion rather than a relationship.

It breaks my heart when people feel like they can’t attend church (because if they do, the building might burn down!) simply because they haven’t been in awhile. And it breaks my heart if when they do attend, they feel unwelcomed or shunned.

It breaks my heart when people (including myself) use God as a weapon against other people; when God is used as an excuse to build walls instead of an opportunity to build bridges. (Unless you’re Nehemiah, of course. Then it’s okay to build a wall!)

It breaks my heart when people have a skewed view of what’s in the Bible (and what the Bible is, for that matter) simply because they were given a simplistic view of it.

It breaks my heart when policy becomes more important than people.

It breaks my heart when we choose small hills to die on.

It breaks my heart when we become more known for the things we don’t do than the things we do do. (ha ha. do do! 🙂 )

It breaks my heart when people see faith and reason as mutually exclusive.

It breaks my heart when we get so uncomfortable that we can’t live in the tension. That we can’t hold A in one hand and say, “Yes, this is true” and B in the other hand and say, “But this is also true, even though it seems to conflict with A…” and live in that tension.

It breaks my heart when people don’t understand that it’s okay to be broken and messed up because we’re all broken and messed up, and God is in the business of redeeming all things. 

And yet, this is all still just talk. I pray that I can be like Nehemiah, and my broken heart will lead me to an adventure.


Confessions of Angry (And Justifiably So) Brothers

Today I Read: Genesis 37.


(“Gee… Maybe I shouldn’t
have been such a jerk to
my brothers…”)

Gregory Maguire (author of Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, among others) has a knack for flipping well-known fairy tales on their head.  The lines begin to blur and you wonder, “Who’s really the good guy and bad guy here?”

If there’s one thing I hope people get from this blog, it’s that the Bible is full of stories of broken, messed up people that God chooses to love and work through.

I really admire Joseph. He trusted God in the darkest of times. He had integrity. He stood strong in the face of sexual temptation (and was promptly punished for it). But… He was also kinda a punk.

Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. He really couldn’t help that, given that he was the firstborn of Jacob’s favorite wife. But he sure did know how to add wood to the fire.

When we first meet Joseph he is tattling on his brothers. From there, he brags about dreams he has – dreams of him being in power over his brothers. It seemed he loved to strut his stuff and flaunt. His brothers are so enraged that they hatch a plan to kill him. They don’t end up going that far… They just sell him into slavery.

Were they right in doing so?


Can I understand their anger?


For those who don’t know, I have Cerebral Palsy. Admittedly, my disability has led to many people going easy on me or giving me the upper hand. Just today, I spilled my sweet tea at a movie theater and some lady got up and bought me a new one (for the entire movie I was petrified that I would spill it again and cause a raucous.)

I’m sure that for my 2 sisters, growing up with me as their brother made things difficult at times. Like Joseph, some of it was out of my hands. People will react however they will react. But also like Joseph, there were [are] times I strutted, taking advantage of my situation.

This chapter shows me how damaging pride can be. I really do believe it was pride that made Joseph a showoff. Pride wrecks relationships. And I’m so prone to it.

When pride creeps up, I want to kill it.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Today I Read: Luke 1:26-56

Since it’s Christmas week I figured I should post something Christmas-y…

(Best Christmas movie ever!
Know what I mean, Vern?)

I think Protestants try to steer clear of Mary… Because we don’t want to “Hail Mary”, we go to the other extreme and overlook her.

 I don’t believe Mary was without sin. I don’t believe we need to pray to her as an intercessory. I don’t believe we should look at Mary at being any better or ‘holier’ than any other human.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a lot from the girl! Mary was a wonderful woman, and I want to be like her in the way I respond to God’s call on my life.

Mary was quite contrary in the way she reacted to the news that she would be the mother of Jesus. The angel Gabriel came to both Zechariah (father of John The Baptist) and Mary with news of an unexpected child. They both had legitimate questions about how this was possible. Zechariah’s wife was old (but he was smart enough not to call his wife old. He says she was “well along in years”. 🙂 ) and Mary was a virgin. But Gabriel reacted negatively to Zechariah’s question. Why?

Zechariah’s question seemed to be drenched in doubt, much like Abraham’s. He wants proof. “How can I be sure of this?” he says.

Mary question seems to be just that. A question. “How can this be when I am a virgin?” Gabriel patiently gives Mary an answer and, knowing that this may sound crazy, ends with “Nothing is impossible with God.”

And then Mary does something that very few people in Scripture (and life) do. She says okay. No hemming or hawing like Moses or Gideon or Jonah did. Okay, let’s do this. Mary considered herself blessed to be chosen by God to do something wonderful.

Question I’m Pondering: When God calls me to do something, how do I typically respond? What prevents me from responding like Mary?

Song of The Day: Mary Did You Know? Just kidding. How ’bout… Christmas Is My Favorite Time Of Year from Catch Me If You Can.

The Lord Is In This Place

Today I Read: Genesis 28

I’ve heard the story of Jacob many times, but I don’t think I’ve ever realized or appreciated how much of a redemption story it is.

As I’ve said before, Jacob was a scoundrel. He tricked his brother out of a birthright and blessing. He’s the kind of person that makes non-Christians want to steer clear of Christians. But here’s something I never really considered: I’m not sure if ol’ Jake really cared much for God in his early years.

When Jacob robs Esau of his blessing by duping his father, he doesn’t just lie. He uses God in his deception. Look at this exchange in Chapter 27:

18 He went to his father and said, “My father.”

“Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”

19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

20 Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

“The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied.

Ouch. Jacob knew dad was the religious type, so he just used God to explain everything away… As one commentary I read says, this was clearly using the Lord’s name in vain.

Jacob gets the blessing, but is then forced to flee from an angry Esau. He sets off for his uncle’s and has to travel through a desert. When it becomes night he stops for a rest. He puts a stone under his head and lays down to sleep.

I wonder if, as Jacob looked up at the stars that night, he had one of those “How did I get here?” moments. All his tricks had finally caught up to him. He got what he wanted, but his future was now looking bleak.

It was in that moment that God tenderly came to him. Not with a punishment, but with a promise. God was still with him. God still chose Jacob, even when Jacob didn’t choose God. God was still with him.

Jacob woke up a changed man. He knew something he never knew before. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it,” he says.

I wonder how many people are not aware that God is with them.

I wonder how many people forget that God is with them. I know I do.

My heart breaks for people who are in the desert and are about to give up. Please don’t.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you find yourself, or how bleak things may seem. The Lord is in this place.

Song of The Day: Seasons Of Love.

The God of Liars, Cowards, & Deceivers

I’m halfway through my reading of Genesis and one thing is clear: God sure knows how to pick ’em.

Genesis often refers to God as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” This was the patriarch that God chose to build a nation through – a nation He would use to bless all other nations. But these guys hardly seem deserving. You might as well say, “The God of Liars, Cowards, & Deceivers.”

A quick rundown: Abraham was impatient and literally laughed in God’s face. He also was in the habit of tricking other men into believing his wife was his sister so that if they wanted her, they wouldn’t kill him (real chivalrous…). Isaac was passive and let his wife and kids push him around constantly. His conflict-avoidance tendencies led to much family drama. And Jacob was a straight up scoundrel who was constantly deceiving others to get his way.


(“Hungry? I’ll make ya some stew!“)

The fact that God used these 3 clowns to bring about His plans gives me great comfort, because I’m certainly no better than them. In fact, there is one quality in them that I greatly admire and want to cultivate in myself: They continued to follow God, even when they messed up. God kept pursuing them, and they kept pursuing God. Abraham kept believing God’s promises. Isaac kept praising God. Jacob kept wrestling with God. In their brokenness, they still allowed God to use them… And God did!

Christian Bale made waves and caused some frowns in the Christian community a few weeks ago when he gave his opinion on Moses. “I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life,” he said.

Was Moses a barbaric schizophrenic? I don’t know.

If he was, then it gives me hope. If God used a barbaric schizophrenic to save a nation, then what will he do with me?

You Don’t Have To Lose Your Mind Up In Here, Up In Here

Today I Read: Acts 17

Acts 17 tells of Paul’s adventures (and misadventures) as he traveled around telling people about Jesus. Paul used to hate Christians. Some people wish they could feed Christians to lions (and yes, sometimes I understand why)…


Paul shared that sentiment at one point in his life. There’s no evidence that Paul actually killed Christians, but he did throw them in jail, and certainly didn’t object to other people doing the killing. Then something wild happened and he became a Christian, but that’s another story.

As Paul traveled and spread the message, he received a myriad of responses. Some people believed, some didn’t. Some were outraged and wanted to feed Paul to lions. Some were stunned. Some were confused. Some were amused! Some were skeptical, but invited Paul to keep talking. But as I read, the thing that stuck out to me was this line:

11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Paul told the Berean Jews about Jesus, and they decided to investigate the facts for themselves to see what the deal was. It says, “they received the message with great eagerness”. It doesn’t say they believed it. It says they received it. And “as a result [of checking things out for themselves], many of them believed.” (v. 12, emphasis and bracketed comments mine.)

When Andy Stanley encourages people to read the Bible, he says, “You don’t have to believe the Bible in order to read it. We read things all the time that we don’t believe.”

You don’t have to throw logic out the window in order to pursue Jesus. He invites a thorough examination of the facts.


Question I’m Pondering: When have I been tempted to dismiss something without examining it to see if it was true?

In Other News: Ever nod off in church? Just thank God you weren’t near a window.

Song of The Day: If I Only Had A Brain from The Wizard of Oz.

Abraham Has Ants In His Pants

Today I Read: Genesis 16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram (later called Abraham) was a man of great faith, but even he got antsy.


Abram and Sarai were childless. That can be a heartbreaking reality for couples even today. Abram seemed resigned to this fate, but in Genesis 15 God promises him a son – an heir of his own flesh and blood. And, to Abram’s credit, he genuinely believes this promise.

But 10 years pass and things haven’t changed. Abram and Sarai are growing restless. So Sarai hatches a plan to “help” God out. She tells Abram to conceive a child with Hagar, her maidservant (how desperate must she have been to suggest to her husband to sleep with another woman?). And Abram, being the strong leader he is [sarcasm!], sits on his hands and complies.

[BTW, some people think the Bible is just a book full of heroes who did everything right. It mostly gives us examples of what not to do.]

This decision had disastrous consequences. It led to jealously and abuse toward Hagar. It led to a broken home for Ishmael, the baby. It led to further delay of a promise, like when you take a shortcut to your friend’s birthday party and get so lost that by the time you arrive all the ice cream cake is gone. You should have stuck to the main roads. But I love that in His grace, God showed tenderness to Hagar and blessed Ishmael.

This story is a great reminder to me of how fickle I can be. I can believe God – genuinely, truly believe him – yet still get ants in my pants and try to control outcomes.

Questions I’m Pondering: How have I tried to “help” God out in the past? What blessings did it delay?

In Other News: This happened. Really.

Song of The Day: Say Goodbye To Hollywood by Billy Joel.

A Sweet Escape

Today I Read: Acts 12

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him…

 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her.

It sounds like something out of a slapstick comedy movie…

Peter is arrested and thrown in jail. No less than 16 soldiers guarded him. His friends pray like there’s no tomorrow. They need a miracle. They hope for a miracle. But I guess they really weren’t expecting one.

Then it happens. Peter makes his sweet escape. He shows up on his friends’ doorstep and knocks. Rhoda answers it, and the poor girl is so stunned that she slams the door in his face. When she tells the others, they don’t just doubt the possibility that God came through for them. They literally question Rhoda’s sanity…

We prayed for something and God answered it? You’re out of your mind…

Question I’m Pondering: Where do I underestimate God?

In Other News: When I found out that snickerdoodles did not involve Snickers in any way, I was thoroughly disappointed.