Seven Ways We Fail and Get Back Up Again

The first time the word sin is mentioned in Scripture is not at the moment when sin entered the world, but the moment before the fracturing of two brothers, Cain and Abel. After Cain brought his offering to the Lord (which, for whatever reason known to them and not clearly to us, displeased the Lord), the Lord said, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4).

That phrase, "Its desire is contrary for you," has always stuck to me like an autumn burr on a wool sweater.

There are so many things in our lives pressing us back, crouching at our doors, slinking in unforeseen gaps and spaces, taking up room, both invited and uninvited. Sin is not a passive agent, but if we are passive, it can rule over us. There are so many areas in my life where I am the passive agent regarding sin. I say something smartly but intended to get my point across: sin. I leave something unfinished in hopes someone else will notice and do it: sin. I cite needs and desires as my primary motivator: sin. I avoid dealing with my emotions, letting them build and bubble over: sin. Wherever I look, sin is crouching at my door. 

A pastor at our church once said, "We don't get over our sin by constantly looking at our sin, we get over it by looking at the work of Jesus on the cross." This sounds really good, but if we don't make the cross both deeply personal and deeply practical, it can be difficult to see the ramifications of the work of Jesus in all the small places where sin reigns supreme in our lives. We can apply the gospel to the Big Sins, but overlook its power over the "little foxes that ruin the vineyards" (SoS 2:15).

Nate and I have been talking about some work God did in us as singles and now as a married couple, ways we have recognized the power of sin to creep in and the ways it has ruled us (and still does in so many ways), and exercises we do to press back and bounce our eyes to the cross. These are not grand theological gestures, they are small things designed to teach us restraint, remind us to submit, to fear God, of the bounty of God, and of the joy found completely in him. 

Over the next few weeks I'll be doing a series of posts on seven ways we try to rule over the crouching presence of sin in our home. I'll expound on our methods for engaging the gospel in these areas of our lives, the ways we fail, and our hope for the Church more and more. 

None of these things are done perfectly. In none of these areas have we arrived. And in every one of these areas we are prone to wander, to fail, and to forget. One of the best blessings of the gospel, I think, is the fact that it never changes. When I fail, forget, and wander—the cross and the empty tomb never change. The point is not to do these things perfectly, but to actually let the imperfection of my doing them remind me of how much I need Jesus every single day. We fail often and regularly at all of these, but: 

1. We choose reading, writing, and talking instead of screen-time in order to engage and flourish as flesh and blood humans. 

2. We practice not a work/life balance, but a work/rest model in order to see God as our Creator, Redeemer, and Joy. 

3. We eat whole foods, in-season, and locally if possible, in order to care for our bodies and the earth well. 

4. We practice hospitality not as an event or social engagement, but as a way to sacrifice ourselves, our time, and our energy, for the flourishing of others.

5. We choose the way of peace instead of violence and listening over making ourselves heard, as a way to remind ourselves we are not omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient. 

6.  We eat meals together in order to press back against the culture of busy, quick, fast, and convenient. 

7. We endeavor to live using restraint in our finances, not so we can build bigger savings accounts or retirement funds, but so we can serve others more freely today.

I often get questions about the way we practice Sabbath as New Testament Christians or why we choose to have a young man living with us or what made us decide to not have a television, and more, and my hope is that in writing more on these specific intents, I will be able to answer those questions more fully. None of these things are without theological purpose and very real—sometimes painful—sacrifice. That's on purpose. Not because we're masochists, but because we're Christians living in a hostile-to-the-way-of-Jesus-environment. It's never been easier, more convenient to not carry the cross and follow Him. So how, in 2017, in the suburbs, without children, with paying jobs, with every gadget available to us, do we say, "No, sin, you will not rule over us. We're already the children of a King." 

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The series will be tagged: Seven Ways so if you're looking for the whole thing at some point, just click on that tag at the bottom of the page. 

I am by nature a preservationist. I think we all are. Oh, I don't mean that we save and horde and reuse. I mean when it comes to self, I am a master preservationist.

I pretend to be all open and honest, living life bare in front of you, and perhaps I have succeed in my ruse only. But deep down in, I preserve.

Living a life that invites is a challenge for me because...

Read the rest of this entry over at The Organic Bird.

Part I: On Reputations
Part II: On Small Talk and Public Hiding
Part III: The Open Door Policy

God doesn't do small talk.

He doesn't get around to the deep subjects eventually and He doesn't skirt around difficult issues. God always goes after the heart.

Sometimes it doesn't seem like this, like when He asked Adam where He was in the garden. "Adam, where are you?" (As though He didn't already know...) But in the heart of that question, He was holding a mirror to the deepest inclination of the natural man: to hide.

...continue reading over at The Organic Bird

Part I: On Reputations and the People We Pretend to Be:
Andrea Levendusky from The Organic Bird

"So, what brought you to Texas?"

This was the question that would send nerves in my knees shuddering into my throat. A harmless one, on the surface. But the kick of the anthill to my soul.

Inevitably, this was the first thing most people would ask me when I moved to Texas. When I ran from God. When I indulged in sin and found myself in a "foreign land". This question haunted me as I walked a long road, found redemption, and started the beautiful journey of restoration. At first, I didn't want people to know my "stuff" because it might mean they wouldn't accept me. And even after restoration, I was scared if people knew, they wouldn't accept me.

The question would come, I'd dodge it and internally want to shout, "I am not a colossal failure at life!" Questions in community come quickly — and if a girl is going to save face, she better be on her toes with quick and witty answers. Because saving face is what it's about...right?

*crickets*

I used to, and sometimes still, do this a lot. To old friends. Family. Strangers. New friends. My pastor's wife.

Something in me wants to defend my reputation, salvage what's left of her feeble frame. Prop her up with words and excuses, stories and claims. Dress up her skeleton and hide her macabre cry. Make her look less like what she actually is — me without Christ.

Here's the thing — in order for any of us to have the kind of relationships that actually serve their purpose (to build up, encourage, exhort), we're going to have to stop trying to preserve our reputation.

You are not better than me. I am not better than you.

I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with friends where I would say, "There is nothing you can tell me that will shock me." Because I had been there? Not necessarily, but maybe. Because I was ok with their sin? Nope, but Christ died for the sick, not the healthy.

But because we are all broken skeletons walking straight to the grave without Christ. No propping up or vain accolades needed.

Let's just be honest.

We all equally, desperately need Jesus. The thing that separates us from God is not how much sin we have committed. It's the existence of it. One stain separates us from him entirely. Christ's death covers us fully.

The most powerful, life-changing moments inside of a healthy community have been when people finally stop trying to impress everyone, or protect themselves. When those things stop, something real happens. We allow room for honesty. For love. Rivalry and conceit scatter into the shadows as humility and grace rush in. We allow truth to bleed, someone grabs a bandage, someone grabs the water and next thing you know, true community is turning from bone to flesh.

And that reputation you so desperately wanted to preserve? Let those bones crumble. Let Christ be what you're known for.


Almost ten years ago, in a small upstate New York town, on a cold snowy night, I met a girl in a green woolen hat.

As with any kindred soul you meet, you might not know upon meeting that they will change your life, and so I didn't then. Though the details are many, change my life she did. And she continues to. I am forever grateful for her, for the simple community we have in just each other, how she has taught me about redemption and faith and grace. How she sharpens me and soothes me and strengthens me. I'm so grateful to share Andrea Levendusky with you over the next week or so and I hope you'll meander on over to her blog as well to read the other half of this series!


Lo: When did you feel a real birthing in your heart for community?

Andrea: I can't say I've always really loved people. Community wasn't something we really experienced growing up, in a real, cross-centered way. In fact, I didn't really come to appreciate the value of community until I moved to Texas about 7 years ago. At first, I blamed the lure of it on southern hospitality. The believers I began to meet were so incredibly gentle, broken, honest and took me in like a long-lost friend. I started spending time with people who were so contagiously authentic and real. It was then I realized how amazing and dangerous (in a good way) community can be.

Lo: What have been the greatest challenges for you as you pursue community?

Andrea: Oh man. I have a long list for this one. First would probably be my pride. Community requires a certain level of discomfort. We, as people, so commonly want to put "the best foot forward." But a healthy community really requires that you don't do that. The goal is that God be glorified, not us. That the story of the cross be the pinnacle, not our own stories. That Christ is the hero, not myself. I still to this day find myself in situations where I want to defend my reputation. That might fly in casual relationships, but not with the people who I'm walking in life with. So secondly, would be embracing humility :) Tim Keller said "Humility is so shy. If you begin talking about it, it leaves." So see? I'm even failing now. *sigh*

Lo: What are a few good ideas to give our readers as they seek community?

Andrea: I would just start by saying that the best thing anyone can do is recognize that in Christ, we are all on the same page. You're good. You're covered. You don't need to prove anything to anyone. So that goes both ways. You don't need to be embarrassed about your past, and no one can boast in anything but the finished work of Christ.

Lo: What advice can you give someone who tends to be shy about finding or being community?

Andrea: This is hard, because the truth is, communities vary in character and language. So, I'll tell you this — there's a good chance it's going to take a few misses before you really find a community that you feel at home in. AND even then, that community might change in a matter of months. I would say, find a friend you trust or just one name of someone you can link an arm with, and start there. You don't need to be everyone's best friend. Even among Jesus' disciples, we hear about some a lot more than others. But they were all there, together. That's the key. God will give you grace, even to be bold.

Lo: How do you feel that the gospel is more clearly displayed when you live life in community?

Andrea: I think about some of the people I would consider a part of my "community." We have given each other a mutual responsibility to build one another up. To call each other out on sin when we're hiding it. Have those awkward conversations. To love unconditionally, by grace. To help keep our hearts soft before the Lord. To pray. Bear burdens. Celebrate. To lift each other's eyes back to the cross. Without them, I am prone to drop my vision back to myself and lose direction entirely. My community plays an active role in my "working out my salvation".

Lo: As you parent Maddie, what are some areas concerning community where you feel like you might be living contrary to normal standards for society?

Andrea: I always tell people that community is one of the most beautiful, inconvenient things you'll ever do. Sometimes, community supersedes my own wishes. Doorbells ringing at midnight. Empty fridge. Long phone calls. I always want my daughter to see that we are not living life just for ourselves. I think there is a large percentage of parents who want to control what their kids see, hear, etc. And for the most part, I agree with them. But when it comes to community, I have an opportunity to show my daughter, safely, that people are hurting. I don't want her growing up "shocked" at the state of the world and human brokenness. I don't want her hoarding her things. I pray for her salvation, and hope that she will see, with my arms around her, that everyone is in desperate need of Christ, including us.

Check back over the next 12 days as Andrea and I share about what living a gospel-centered community looks like in our lives, some practical tips, some stories, or just general encouragement to be living lives that communicate grace and life to others! And pop on over to her blog to see my answers to her intro questions.