Friday, June 28, 2013

Welcome Sinners



I love the juxtaposition of this photo. The foreboding and intimidating stone arch shouting a not so subtle message "Come in to our house of Saints - holy and pure are the marks of our people." It is an impressive structure. And yet, the postscript reads "Welcome All Sinners". As if to say,
you will fit right in with the rest of us."

It is an inexpensive plain sign beckoning beat up and weary people who know their own trouble, who have felt the weight of shame, guilt and regret. It's what Jesus preached as he traveled the countryside;

"When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities...Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:1, 11:28

It is the same message for you and for me today. Welcome sinner. Welcome. All. Sinners. 

Welcome denotes not a mere tolerance, but instead, a warm embrace and a delicious enfolding. An encircling, entwining and enveloping as if to say we've been waiting for you! Come in!

All speaks of grace. Grace, in Chris, that rushes toward everyone. It is one way love that knows no conditions and requires no pre-approval process. No need to wipe the sweat off your brow or the stains off your clothes. For all who are seeking a cool drink and a simple smile, come. This oasis is for anyone who needs the refreshing good news of the gospel.

Sinner calls to mind the worst of the worst. That's you and that's me. The tax evader, the deceitful, the lazy, the snarky, the addicted, the selfish, the religious, the irreligious. The word can sometimes evoke self righteousness in us. We look around at all those sinners and quickly conclude that we are not quite as bad as others. Yes, we have told some white lies, or maybe withheld a bit if information here and there, and maybe even yelled at our kids, but we're not as bad as our neighbors. The beauty however, is that the very requirement of this amazing Welcome, is our sin. Nothing else. My most horrific thought or embarrassing deed today buys me admission because it labels me Sinner.

"By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, 

“He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Luke 15:2

Welcome, old friends. Come in. Jesus has prepared a great feast and there is cause for much celebration! Maybe this could be the banner on our church doors [smile].

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Celebration of Grace


"Too often the church is the gruel sippers who have their faces pressed against the window of the world watching the world celebrate life and they don't get it.

When in reality, the father welcomed the prodigal son home in the gospel of Luke, chapter 15,

and the world pressed its face against that window to see the celebration of grace."

~ Jean Larroux, Pastor (taken from Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace by Cathleen Falsani

"Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found." And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:22-24


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Christ in the Chaos

Book Review of Christ in the Chaos by Kimm Crandall


I remember my friend, Pastor and author Tullian Tchividjian, saying after writing his first book Do I know God; "That was a book I had to write."


I think if you were to ask my friend Kimm Crandall she would say the same thing. Christ in the Chaos was a book she had to write. Kimm has captured the beauty of brokenness and the extravagance of God's grace like few people have because she has lived through the nightmare of depression, isolation, doubt, guilt, and overwhelming feelings of inadequacy.

What compelled this book is an outright crumbling into the hands of an Almighty God who pursued her relentlessly - not by releasing her from her pain, but by meeting her in the midst of her despair. Kimm articulates her attempts to run from God and she is out to prove one thing to her readers - in all of our human-ness and human-mess, God does not run from us.

The glorious truth is that In Christ, all of our efforts to do this thing on our own are always met with love, mercy and grace that know no bounds.



That's good news!

This book has a permanent home on my nightstand because it is a fresh reminder of the gospel and the need that my sin sick soul has to hear it over and over again. One dogeared page reads:
What The Gospel Does
     "How does the gospel make any difference to me when I am in the middle of the real down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty stuff that happens throughout my day?" I ask the same questions, too.
     What we do in the moment is not unimportant. But the gospel is not about what we do. It's about how deeply embedded Christ is in my heart. The gospel won't tell you what to do; it will remind you of what's been done by Christ...
     What the gospel does in my chaos is it tells me who I am. It forces me to get over myself, to be real, and to call on Christ for help because I understand more fully how weak and unloving I am...
     In those moments of chaos, the gospel frees me to believe I am still loved...the gospel frees me to believe there is no condemnation for me because I am in Christ..."
The freedom you will find tucked into every page of this book is life-giving. To the question that lurks, "Does it mean that what we do doesn't matter?", Kimm boldly answers yes, of course it matters. However, she reminds us that coming to an understanding of the gospel makes us stronger in our battle against sin by freeing us from crippling guilt and pointless comparison. For example, she says, wouldn't it be freeing to say "Yes I'm a bad mom. That's why I need Jesus." Or "Yes, I've let you down again, that's why I need Jesus." We can be free to agree with the apostle Paul and exclaim "I am a wretched sinner! Praise God for Jesus! (pg 103-104)

Motherhood is hard. Parenting is difficult. Somewhere along the line we realize we have lost control. It is probably in that moment that we surrender to the truth that we never really had control at all. At that point we are left with clinging to our own efforts and our own "rightness", or we cling instead to the One who made the ultimate effort on our behalf. His righteousness is now ours. His perfection is ours. His record for ours. A glorious exchange has been given - freely.

I commend Kimm's book to you even if you are not a parent. The gospel of freedom in Christ is refreshing good news for everyone. That's exactly what you will find in Christ in the Chaos - cover to cover!


Listen to this outrageously fun interview with Kimm on Steve Brown Etc.
Find Kimm on fb http://on.fb.me/10MfQOu and twitter @big_kimm

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Love

I recently made my way through Elyse Fitzpatrick's book Give Them Grace and read this quote:

"The knowledge of God's Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer." Andrew Murray

As I contemplated God's love as compared to a father's love I began to struggle a bit. I understand that an earthly father's love for his children will always be imperfect even when poured out in the most lavish of ways. I know that the best father on earth is a mere shadow of the perfection of our heavenly Father's love for us.

However, in my attempt to grasp this kind of love I reviewed in my mind my growing up years. I quickly reminded myself of the countless ways I did not experience love from my father. I rehearsed the difficulties, challenges and resentment of growing up in a home that lacked love and affection. I recounted the long years of estrangement with my father, and in that moment I asked God to show me how I could get a glimpse of His love.

It was then that my heart was moved to recall all the times my father reached out to me while we were estranged. My hardened and hurt heart was closed off, not receptive. Despite my unwillingness to open my heart again, my father pursued me. Letters and cards never stopped coming. I would open them, read them and then tuck them away - and they kept coming. His kindness to me and his love for me made it possible to reconcile. I might even say that those loving actions all those years warmed my heart and compelled my response of love, forgiveness and repentance. In those moments that morning, God showed me His relentless pursuit, His kindness and love, and His faithfulness in the midst of my faithlessness.

It was not His cold, distant, conditional love that wooed my heart - rather it was His warm, near, unconditional never giving up love for me that won my heart.

I have always believed that my experience with my earthly father could never reveal to me the love of my Heavenly Father - I was wrong. My childhood was not perfect, a far cry from perfect actually. But, today I can thank my earthly father (who passed away five years ago) for pursuing me unconditionally, even when I wanted to run the other way.

God demonstrated His perfect love for me through the imperfections of my earthly father. I believe that's called redemption.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Be Like Mary, Don't Be Like Martha...Really?!?

If you've been in the church for any amount of time, you've probably heard a teaching or lesson from this passage:
"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Typical interpretations of this portion of scripture go something like this. Mary is devout, Martha is worldly, or, Mary is spiritual, Martha is distracted, or, Mary is better than Martha because Mary is choosing Jesus over cooking and cleaning, or, Mary made sitting at the feet of Jesus her priority and Martha made cooking her priority.

Be like Mary, don't be like Martha.

One commentary put it this way:
Piety is the chief ornament in a female...Nothing is more lovely than a female sitting at the feet of the meek and lowly Jesus, like Mary; nothing more unlovely than entire absorption in the affairs of the world, like Martha. The most lovely female is she who has most of the spirit of Jesus; the least amiable, she who neglects her soul - who is proud, frivolous, thoughtless, envious, and unlike the meek and lowly Redeemer. 
(Jeesh! This leaves me out in the cold - I am not meek and lowly, and I am often proud, frivolous, thoughtless and envious.)

Recent interpretations are a bit more diplomatic. Not wanting to offend anyone we apply it this way: Are you a Martha or a Mary? We need both - some serve with their hands and it's OK if God has given you that gift; others are more reflective and that's OK too.

These interpretations are troublesome on many levels.They almost always pit Mary against Martha pointing out that Mary has achieved some higher level of spirituality. They end with pointing out how we should be like one or the other - it all comes back to us. In this remarkable account, our conversation focuses on what Martha and Mary are doing or not doing, completely missing Jesus and what he has done. (Now is probably a good time to stop and remember that the Bible tells one story of one Hero. The Bible is not a compilation of God making good people better. The Bible is the story of a Redeemer making dead people live.)

Based on the interpretations above, I can go one of two ways with feeling guilty. When I look at Martha and see how her homemaking skills are lauded I often feel inadequate in that department. I confess that my first thought is not necessarily cooking and cleaning. Then I see Mary and her immediate devotion at the feet of Jesus and I am instantly reminded of all the ways I fall short of my devotion to Christ. Is sitting at his feet my first thought in the midst of my busy schedule? I find that I fail at both ends.


Thankfully, the story of Martha and Mary is less about who is doing what, and  more about Christ and what he has done. 

Steve Brown commented on the passage saying. "Martha is not a monster and Mary is not a saint." 

The truth is, Mary lived life just as Martha did. We don't see the times she cooked and cleaned and carried on with the daily needs of living, but I'm sure she did. And, Martha lived life just as Mary did. We don't see the times she attended to devotional practices like church or praying. If we only look at those outward behaviors we miss the point.

Jesus came down to save sinners like Martha and Mary. In Christ, they are free. Free to serve, free to love, free to sit, free to clean, free to worship. By the way, Jesus loved them both. "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." (John 11:5)
                   
I love how Martin Luther puts it;

The grace of God which brings salvation is the one thing needful. It was God's grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ, to both Martha and Mary that prompted their responses of serving and sitting.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Marvelous Liberty

Who can adequately express the boon that comes to a person when he has the heart-assurance that God will nevermore be angry with him, but will forever be merciful to him for Christ's sake? 

This is indeed a marvelous liberty, to have the sovereign God for our Friend and Father who will defend, maintain and save us in this life and in the life to come.
~ M. Luther

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Will Longer Skirts Protect Our Daughters?


Not too long ago the headlines read, "Victoria's Secret to Target Tweens" (tweens is a word that is used by marketers to describe youths between the ages of 10-13). There has been a wave of response to this story. The majority of folks have voiced protest over the controversial direction Victoria's Secret is taking by targeting a younger demographic.

We have seen this tactic used in countless campaigns including tobacco and movies. Reel in the younger audience and they are yours for life. It's effective. It works. I don't have a bone to pick with the marketing plan. It's simple and it makes money.

Maybe I'm a bit naive but I really don't envision the marketing team sitting around the table discussing ways they can sexual little girls or how they can have a part to play in the human trafficking horrors we see these days. I believe they are just in it for the profit. And that's o.k. That's what business is - a money making venture.




Our Fears and Faintings

While I am in complete agreement with the need to train up our children and set good examples for them to follow, I continually have to stop myself and ask these basic questions;

How does the gospel inform this situation, and, how does the gospel empower us to live in light of what Jesus has done for us?

Our fears are real - they are based on what we've seen in our homes and schools and communities. We make the connection between negative cultural influences and the demise of our children. We worry and wring our hands telling ourselves if we could just boycott that company, things would be better. Or, if we could just get our kids to dress a certain way or go to a certain school everything will turn out fine.

The problem comes in when we attribute everything bad to what is happening "out there". We conclude that the solution to our trouble is to "stay in here." It is safe in here. It is a controlled environment. Everyone is accounted for and unharmed.

In his profound film The Village, director M. Night Shyamalan brilliantly captures this truth. Fear has driven this community inside, believing that all of their problems are on the outside. Like The Village, we can easily come to the same conclusion. We are afraid of "out there." We are alarmed. We feel out of control. The only way to calm our fears and gain a foothold is to do something. Anything. We mount offensives and attacks, and all the while we are aiming at the wrong problem.

While there is absolutely no question that we live in a sexualized culture, I am not entirely convinced it is any worse than in years gone by. I have talked about our tendencies to romanticize history here. If we continue to point to all the problems out there (all the while ignoring the problems in our own hearts) we will completely miss the point.

Our children will grow up to believe the lie that the world is bad and they are good. The truth is the world is fallen and they are too.

Arguments, Exhortations and Solutions

Some of the arguments and exhortations go like this:
  • The exploitation of women is rampant and this is another nail in that coffin by targeting young women.
  • This is a slippery slope to the sexualization of our young kids.
  • Keep fighting and be offended. Stand up to Victoria’s Secret.
These arguments are attractive because they give us something to do and a target to aim for, but they are of no help in targeting our children's hearts.

Here are a few of the suggested solutions:
  • Read Romans 12:1-2 with your child and discuss clothing they need to sacrifice.
  • Tell your daughter she is valuable, her worth isn't based on her appearance.
  • Work with her to make a "modesty checklist" to tape inside her closet door.
Reading scripture with your child is a good thing. Validating his or her worth is vital. Helping them to make wise choices is right. However, there is no power in a checklist.

Affirmations of value and modesty checklists cannot protect our children. They live in the world. They are way smarter than we are. They say with their mouths they believe what we're telling them but their hearts are attached to the opinions of their friends.

These arguments and exhortations miss the point because the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.

If we as Christians believe the Bible, then we believe what it says about God and about us. God is holy, perfect and just. We are not. No one is righteous and the heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it? That is why Christ died - to live the perfect life we could not and to save us from our sins. These truths inform our lives and we can now make decisions based on what God says, not the world. Now I can begin to understand why I believe the problem is "out there". My heart is deceitful. The problem is my own selfish and prideful heart which deceives me at every opportunity. I am not down-playing problems in our world - we suffer at the hands of this fallen world and the devil is on the prowl. However, if we believe there is a monster behind every rock waiting to ambush us we will completely miss the point of the Bible -

God came down to rescue sinners - that's all of us.

A Liberating Truth

To the question at hand, "Will longer skirts protect our daughters?" the obvious answer is no. However, we operate like they will in a thousand subtle ways. There is an awful lot of conversation taking place about modesty, especially as summer approaches. I have been guilty of it as well as I recall telling my teen son he had to leave his t-shirt on at the beach.

Only Jesus and the freedom he died to bring us can set us free from trying to save our children. Our countless conversations with our children about their clothing, their music, their friends, their purity - they are all ways we as parents count on to save them. It is exhausting, isn't it? Meanwhile, we've left out the only answer to their deepest desire and their strongest need - to be known in the midst of their sin and to be loved by the Savior of the world. When (not if) they fall, their longer skirts won't protect them. When (not if) they falter, their wrong choices in music won't save them. And, their "right" choices in clothing or music won't save them either.

The question is not "what should they be wearing this summer?" The question is, "Do they know the Savior who comes to them in the midst of all their clothing decisions?"

When our children begin to realize this world is not perfect and neither are they, when things begin to fall apart (and they will) in their safe and protected world, they don't need another lecture on purity and modesty. They need to know the Rescuer who sees them and loves them in the midst of their self-righteous goodness and their licentious badness. They need to know the love of Christ for them, the One who lived perfectly for them because they never would and never could do it on their own. Their only hope for a rescue is my only hope and yours too - Jesus, the rescue for sinners.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Coming to Terms With My "Womanhood"

There are a few truths I can admit about myself now that I have come to terms with being a woman. Don't misunderstand me, I am still coming to terms with everything it means to be a woman created in the image of God. However, more and more these days I am sensing freedom. Freedom to be and to do. That freedom, so unabashedly pure and life giving, is where I want to camp out. And only the gospel offers it full force and undiluted.

A Gospel Foundation

What overshadows my womanhood is the gospel, and the freedom it brings me to be myself. 

I know that sounds simplistic, but the truth is I am caught up in the world's expectations and I get lost in a shadowy image of me. Where is the true me? Will the real Lori Harding please stand up?

There are so many ways that I fail at this female thing, every day. I struggle with being too feminine and not feminine enough. I long to be more straightforward like a man and yet I have compassion and sensitivity and lots of words and emotions. Sometimes I like that about myself and other times I hate it.

There are days I want to climb the "corporate ladder" and other days when I long to nurture, "home-make" and grow herbs. How is it that I can offer gospel encouragement to one hurting friend and act like a jealous schoolgirl with another? I love a pretty dress and a chain of pearls, but there is nothing more comfortable and sexy than a great pair of jeans and suede boots. I am easily scared, incredibly ticklish and horribly impatient. I get cranky for no reason. I am fiercely loyal and I cry a lot. And, and I actually like to cry...a lot. I go from feeling as if no one understands me better than my husband to "How could you not know that about me after 30 years of marriage?"

What can explain the desirable yet insanely hard parts of being a woman?

Only the gospel.

There is no other explanation given on this earth that completely answers the question of why we live tension-filled lives. We live "between the times" caught in this world which was once perfect but is now marred by sin. I battle this fallen world with its corrupted thinking and values. I am faced with a never-ending barrage of expectations. In response, I turn my head towards bright shiny objects and my desires can easily change with every new fangled gadget and thought this world has to offer. I fight my flesh day in and day out as old temptations continue to haunt me and new ones stalk me from every angle. I fear the devil because I know he is prowling and on the hunt looking for someone to devour. God has him on a leash, nevertheless he does his damaging work.

Not Freedom From But Freedom In

The gospel does not free me from the tension and turmoil. The gospel frees me in the midst of the tensions of this life. The gospel is the only place I can run to with all of my neurotic feelings and thoughts. The gospel is the only place where I find acceptance and value in the face of my feelings of unworthiness and insignificance. 

The gospel confronts me as a woman created in the image of God, yet fallen; then rescues and comforts me in all my humanity and weakness.

Just this morning I was quaking in my boots before I hit the send button on an email to some friends. I was nervous about making suggestions regarding a joint project and I hesitated. That's when the gospel reminded me of my infinite and eternal worth.

 In Christ, it is not possible for my worth to be any greater than it is already. 

I have already been given unending love, grace, acceptance and value, and on that, I can rest my weary head. When I spy that shadowy figure of myself or when I give in to impatience for what seems like the millionth time, it's ok. I can face the enemy when he turns to taunt me and say, "You're right about me. I am faced with tension and I struggle with who I am, but in Christ, my struggle ceases because in Him my identity is sure. I am His and not one hair on my head will be harmed as a result!"

All the clamoring this world has to offer has no standing before the Savior and Redeemer of his people. 

Your King Has Come

If you are struggling with all it means to be a woman in this world, rest your weary soul. Christ came to redeem us from all of our striving, hand wringing and second-guessing. You are beautiful, forgiven, loved. Your King has come from that very far country to save you and His mercy now reigns. In freedom, you can rest in the reality of who you are and in the tension of your womanhood, knowing God cannot love you any less. His love for you will never give up and never go away! Amen.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Older Women Teach the Younger - A Gospel Approach


Last year I wrote about discipleship and mentoring and I've been thinking about it again recently. In that post I came clean with the horrible way I had instructed one young woman at my church. I can only pray that she did not turn and run from the church because of my legalistic and discouraging counsel. There are a multitude of voices vying for our attention, and I am speaking mainly about the voices inside the church - sadly, it's not pretty. Their voices place demands and expectations on women that we were never meant to bear. They put us in boxes and neatly draw boundaries. All the while (we) prisoners remain just that - safely behind bars. Freedom is elusive and often it is hard to remember the "joy of our salvation."

This happens in a thousand different ways every day. In the church, you might be expected to dress a certain way, attend specific functions for women, send your children to the Christian school, make sure they are involved in youth and assure that your children can sit through an entire service without disruption. You may be looked down on because you're not involved in missions. In your Christian bubble, you may have been made to feel guilty if you use social media or if you don't use it in the "right" way. How about if you drink? Do you hide the fact that a glass of wine or two is part of your evening? Add to that all of the relational issues in our families and among friends. What is appropriate, acceptable or egregious? What standards have you failed to meet? Setting expectations and placing demands on others is a treacherous path because honestly, we can't keep our own standards or meet our own expectations. The dilemma is clear -  in the face of our own failings, how do we instruct others as we are called to by God?

Older Women Teach

The Bible clearly says older women teach the younger women.


"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women" Titus 2:3-4a

The question is, teach what?

"to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." Titus 2:4b-5

I recently read a women's ministry take on these verses. They exhorted women saying "Older women in the Body of Christ are to have exemplary behavior themselves and they are to model the characteristics of a godly, mature believer...And if we don't do this, then 'the Word of God will be reviled.' We will give a lousy testimony to the world. We won't show the world what the gospel is like if we don't live it out in the context of these relationships." Did you just cringe? I did. The problem is I don't have exemplary behavior. If others are looking to me for their example, we are all in trouble! Further, if the Word of God and it's trustworthiness and value is resting on my shoulders, it will fail. Saying that the gospel is all about behavior is an unadulterated lie. That is emphatically not what the gospel is about. The thinking that says our well behaved lives prove the gospel is wrong thinking. Our lives prove one thing - our desperate need for Jesus in the face of our mess and his rescuing work on behalf of sinners like us.

The question remains; knowing the truth about God, the truth about me, and the truth about what Christ has done - what do I teach younger women? If my behavior (in reality) is not exemplary and if I don't want to come off as some stale bumbling hypocritical church lady, what exactly do I tell them? And how do I reconcile Titus 2:3-5? What exactly have I accumulated in the way of wisdom? Quite frankly, when I look at what I have gathered over the years it's basically a pile of mistakes, wrong choices, huge parenting gaffes and a marriage separation. I have gone places I shouldn't have gone, done things I shouldn't have done and said things I shouldn't have said. And yet, I'm called to teach younger women. So, here it is -

If I have anything to teach the younger generation it is this - I am a great sinner and Jesus is a great Savior. 

The Grace of God Appeared...So That

In answer to the question of what to teach, I believe the answer lies in these subsequent verses from Titus:



"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." Titus 2:11-14

"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people." Titus 3:4-8

God has graciously given us instructive passages in scripture (imperatives). But, in His amazing grace He has grounded them in Good News (indicatives). The only fuel for living this Christian life is the good news of the gospel which assures me that in Christ "it is finished." His love for me has saved me, redeemed me from lawlessness and purified me through the forgiveness of sin so that I now live in light of his mercy and grace. I am free to serve, to work, to love. Rightly motivated by an undeserved Love, I am free to give everything.

Only One Exemplary Life

I can teach younger women what is good, beginning with the gospel good news. In Christ, we have been redeemed. That is the only truth able to change our hearts and transform our lives. My life is not exemplary so do not look at me. Look to the One who lived the only true exemplary life - Jesus, Perfect in power, in love and purity.