All posts in the salvation category

Easter: A Reason to Rejoice

Published December 15, 2013 by joypatton

Easter LilyHave you ever had one of those seasons in life where  “the hits keep coming?”  It feels like lately every time we turn around, it’s something else.  A kid that needs eye therapy or an expensive car repair.  Employees that leave and clients who decide not to be clients any more.  Rejections from publishers or, even worse, being rejected by friends.  Having to decide whether to pay your taxes or pay your mortgage.  Days when you don’t feel good at any of your jobs, and you feel like a failure.  Sometimes the hits just keep on coming.

But even when everything falls apart, I am reminded that my greatest affliction, my biggest problem, has already been taken care of.  All of the other problems are small compared to my biggest problem.  Sure, those other issues make life difficult and very uncomfortable, but because my greatest affliction has been removed, I have hope that it won’t always be like this.  I can know for sure that things will change; I will experience peace and rest.  My greatest affliction, the problem I can not solve on my own, is my sin.

When I approach God with my list of all the things that I think I need…better health, more money, more time with friends, more wisdom in parenting…I am reminded that my greatest need, the thing I need the most to make it through this life, has already been provided for.  My greatest need, the deepest ache of my soul, is peace with God.

This Easter I remember that my greatest affliction has been removed…permanently.  That my greatest need has been fulfilled…once and for all.  Because of the work of Christ on the cross, my sins can be forgiven.  I don’t have to be good enough to be in a right relationship with God.  Because Jesus chose to be the sacrifice that would atone for the sins of the world, I can be at peace with God.  He loved us so much that He made a way for us to be with Him forever.

So when I stand in worship, singing of his love, I will look at all of this week’s “hits” from a different perspective.  I will remember that my greatest affliction and my greatest need have been provided for.  If He is big enough and loving enough to take care of those great problems, then surely He is able to take care of all the “hits” that come my way.  I will be grateful for his love; I will rejoice in his provision; I will know that he is with me; I will trust Him more.


Good vs. Bad

Published July 16, 2013 by joypatton


I’ve been realizing lately that I have two columns running through my head all day long. One column keeps all the good things I’ve done and one keeps all the bad. Mostly it’s good mom vs. bad mom. I have been realizing how often I tell myself I’m a bad mom in one form or another. (See last week’s post.)

For example, this morning started off with the good mom column. I spent time checking my kids “work boxes,” giving points for yesterday’s chores and loading them up with chores for the day. I even included “fun chores” like playing UNO Attack together. But this could turn out to be an item in the bad mom column if they actually attack each other during the game. You see, I’m a bad mom because I haven’t taught my children how to play together without fighting. Then at work I realized I didn’t have my phone within ear shot. Bad mom. Fortunately when I checked it, there were no urgent messages, so the work boxes must be working. Good mom.

This afternoon I came home and the girls wanted to go to the pool. But I couldn’t take them because I had to take Connor to the doctor. This is bad mom because I let him play in the woods, and he got poison ivy because I didn’t make him shower when he came in. Every time he gets poison ivy it takes over, and we can’t get rid of it until he gets a steroid prescription.  Bad mom.

While at the doctor’s, my dear husband texted to say he was taking the girls to the pool. Bad mom because he had to stop working to take care of the kids. When I got home, I made a good mom choice…I think. Andrew stayed at the pool with the kids and I mopped the floor. It could be bad mom for not choosing to spend time with the girls or it could be bad wife for not spending time with the husband.  But it could also be good wife because he came home to a clean house.

Tonight the boys went to a baseball game, so I was trying to find something fun to do with the girls. We decided to go to the mall and ride the little train. Bad mom for teaching my girls that shopping is what girls do for fun. Bad mom for not being content to spend the evening at home. Good mom for spending time with the girls.

When we got there, I had no cash. Bad mom. After the train ride, I let them pick the restaurant in the food court. Of course, it was pizza again. Bad mom. I picked the salad. Good choice. But also ate a big helping of pasta. Bad choice. I did have a diet Pepsi that I split with my daughter. Now this one could go in either column depending who you talk to. Bad for the caffeine and letting my daughter have it and that all diet drinks are just bad for you and you should just have water. Good because it was diet and had very few calories?? So confusing. I realized that pasta was a really bad choice when I went to try on clothes and everything made me look fat. Very bad choice.

Then we went to the playground at the mall. Good mom. And I just removed the sucker from my daughter’s mouth so as not to worry other moms that she would get a sucker stick through her brain. Good mom. But then again, I’m sitting here typing a blog instead of engaging with them. Bad mom.

Maybe your columns are different. maybe your day is measured by smart vs. dumb or cool vs. lame. Do you think that God keeps this kind of record of your day? If he did, would his record match yours?

As I have considered it, I think the answer to both of those questions is no. When God looks at me he doesn’t see two columns. He has no cosmic scale. When he looks at the chart of my day, the current of his thought is love. His abundant, free-flowing grace covers my day. His mercy is new every morning. He keeps no record of wrongs. It has all been forgiven. He is far more concerned with my heart because when my heart is turned toward him, the choices that matter fall into place. My heart turns toward him because of his great love for me, not because I’m trying to keep points in the good column. I also don’t avoid him because I’m afraid the bad column will bring his wrath, which is completely deserved. Instead I turn toward him because of his steadfast, everlasting love.

When I judge my day according to columns, it also affects those closest to me. They get columns too: good kid vs. bad kid, good husband vs. bad husband, good friend vs. bad friend. But when I learn to accept the grace and mercy God pours on my day, I am free to pour out grace and mercy on those around me. And they feel loved.

Consider this question: how many checks in the bad column could your child have before you stopped loving him or her? This is a ridiculous question because I simply can’t come up with a number. No matter how full the bad column was this good mom would always love her kid. So then if we know how to love our children in spite of poor choices, how much more does our Father in heaven?

I’m learning to replace two words, good and bad, with one word… LOVE. To receive it from the Father and to give it to others.

What are your columns today? Will you believe in and accept the Father’s love?


Lessons from the Wasteland: Saturday

Published March 29, 2013 by joypatton

“I get Friday, and I get Sunday. But why Saturday?” This was the question Pete Wilson proposed in his sermon at Cross Point Church last week. We understand clearly from Scripture why Jesus had to die on Saturday. He was the perfect blood sacrifice that covered the sin of the world. And we understand why Easter Sunday was the best day for all of humanity.  It meant that Someone had the power to overcome death once for all. But why Saturday? Why didn’t Jesus raise from the dead on Saturday morning? Why leave the ones he loved the most in that dark space of waiting?

On Friday they watched all their hopes and dreams die. They realized this was not going to end the way they thought it would. In fact ever since the crazy events in the garden, things felt horribly out of control. The ending was coming much sooner than they thought it would. The end was much more difficult and disastrous than they could imagine. Friday ended with the hasty burial on their most beloved Rabbi. The one they had watched heal others and raise others from the dead seemed incapable of saving himself. No one understood.

As dark as Friday was, I imagine that Saturday was even darker. In God’s perfect timing it was the Sabbath, and even though there was much work to do, nothing could be done.  Having nothing to distract your mind from the pain only makes you more aware of how much your heart hurts.  I wonder if the Ice Queen side of the disciples kicked in.  I imagine one of them suggesting they send for a prophet who could lay on his body like Elisha had done.  But no messages could be sent.  The women worried about all the things they should have done to the body yesterday , but didn’t have time to do.  But they could go nowhere and buy nothing.  Maybe some suggested war and taking up arms, but it was a holy day and everyone was scattered.  Maybe instead of fighting they would organize a peaceful protest, a march or a sit in.  But then they remembered what had just happened to their peaceful Teacher.  But every idea fell apart when they asked, “What’s the point?”  The world marched in Sabbath tradition as they sat still in fear and sadness.

The disciples searched their feeble memories trying to make the pieces fit, but their light was gone. The darkness had come. And silently it held them captive.

I looked in the gospel accounts to see what was said about Saturday. All it says is “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56)  Nothing much is said about the longest day in history. But based on where we find the players on Sunday, we can assume that they had lost it.  They were filled with fear, not faith.  They woke up Sunday not expecting a miracle, but expecting to find a dead body.  Even after the women had seen him on Sunday morning, “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8)  When the women returned with the good news, it did not go into hearts eager and willing to believe.  “And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.  Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” (Mark 16:13-14)

On Saturday they did not remember the words of Jesus.  They didn’t remember until they the angel on top of the empty tomb reminded them. (Luke 24:8) “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24:12)  Jesus says to the two on the road to Emmaus, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25)  He says to the disciples, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38) “For as yet they did not understand the Scriptures.” (John 20:9)  “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45)  Even after many disciples saw him standing there in the flesh, the Bible says “but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17)

Sometimes in my waiting, in my long Saturday, in my wasteland, I have lost it.  I have doubted what God has said.  I have dared God to prove himself.  I am not a stellar example of faith in the midst of trial.  In fact, I have failed the test miserably.  But the Resurrection didn’t happen because of the disciples’ perfect faith.  It didn’t happen because they prayed so much and believed that everything would work out for good.  It didn’t happen because they held fast to their faith.  It didn’t come because they wouldn’t stop hoping for a miracle.

The Resurrection came because God keeps his promises.  It came for the glory of God.  It came because God so loved the world that he sent his Son into it to redeem it.  Christ is the only person to have ever raised himself from the dead with no outside help.  He didn’t need the faith of the disciples.  He didn’t need their prayers or good deeds to overcome death.  He was God.

Because of Saturday, no one could say “He wasn’t really dead.”  Because of Saturday, none of the disciples could say “I knew it, and I prayed for this to happen.”  Saturday was there so that everything could die and be really dead.  In the wasteland, everything must die.  My pride, my dreams, my hopes, my selfish desires, my idols, my good deeds.  But Saturday is good because without complete death, there is no resurrection.

So the really good news is that my complete lack of faith and utter disbelief can be forgiven because of the work Jesus did on the cross.  As I sat in church last Sunday, I wept because I felt him compassionately put his arm around me and say, “You are forgiven.  Come home.”  He knows how dark the darkness is.  He knows that I am weak and not perfect.  And I know this is exactly why I desperately need him in my life.

As we walk through Saturday and we lose faith and doubt and dare and tremble with fear, let us take comfort that God is bigger and greater and more powerful than our doubts and our fears.  The Resurrection will come, not because of me, but because God keeps his promises.

Free Advice Friday: I need more patience.

Published March 22, 2013 by joypatton

I’ve heard a lot of people say this.  I recently even heard Jeff Probst admit that he wasn’t a very patient person on his show.  (This, by the way, is what I love about the show.)  Inevitably when someone realizes they lack patience, they next phrase is “I need to be more patient.”

However I would argue that this isn’t really what you need.  More patience isn’t something you can order off the cosmic menu and have show up at your door.  Neither is being more gentle or being more joyful.  I’ve found from personal experience you can’t will yourself out of  depression, nor can you will yourself to be more patient.

One thing that is helpful is getting to the root of the issue.  I bet that if you dig deep enough you will find that the behavior you are trying to prevent begins with not acknowledging your heart.  Your impatience with your husband comes out because you lack compassion for whatever he is dealing with.  Your impatience with coworkers who have bad ideas comes from the pride in your heart that your ideas are the best or your unwillingness to be honest with them about how you feel about their ideas.  My impatience with my kids comes because I think that guarding my reputation and being on time is more important than their hearts.  Often I find an idol or an even uglier sin that needs to be confessed and brought into light.  And when you do, confess it.  It’s just that simple.  Confess it to God and then if needed, confess to the people affected by your actions.  Yes, true repentance is painful, but it’s that pain that ultimately helps change my behavior.

The second thing is to realize that you can’t be more patient.  Do you know where patience comes from?  In Galatians 5:22, patience is listed as a fruit of the Spirit.  Fruits grow because they are attached to a tree that gives them what they need to grow.  God grants sun and rain to grow the fruit.  The fruit doesn’t decide in which season it will grow or how big it will get or how sweet it will be.  The best thing the fruit can do to promote its growth is to remain attached to the tree.

How do you stay attached to the tree that produces the fruits of the Spirit?  By believing that Jesus died on the cross to cover all your sin, including my impatience and whatever ugly thing is driving it.  Paul also encourages us to “keep in step” with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).  To me this also sounds a lot like the “abiding” Jesus encourages us to do in John 15.  It sounds a lot like how a fruit grows in a tree.

So instead of needing more patience, we really need more Jesus.  He is the source of all of those things.  Truthfully I have no ability to be more patient on my own apart from him.  If you see me being patience with my kids, giving my husband grace or being joyful on a bad day, it’s because of the Spirit at work in my life.  And on the days my abiding is less than stellar, you know what I need to do more?  Confess it.  And it all leads to more humility, more grace,, more patience because I realized that Jesus was humiliated on my behalf and has given infinite grace and patience to me on my worst days.  How could I withhold that from anyone else?

What would it look like to “abide more” today?

Lessons from the Wasteland: It’s not about the swag

Published March 4, 2013 by joypatton

Recently we had a conversation with my oldest son about the possibility of cutting back on some of his activities because of time and money.  As we talked about his involvement in his travel baseball team, a major factor for playing on this team became apparent…the swag.  We have a team parent who is awesome at getting sponsorship for the kids and they get some pretty nice stuff.  Baseball bags, jackets, pants, Under Armour shirts and hats.  This team looks good wherever they go.  Connor looked at us and said, “You wouldn’t buy me a baseball bag that nice.”  He’s right; we wouldn’t.  So he was willing to sacrifice a lot of time and money to get the swag.

The truth is I like swag too.  I’m willing to give up a lot as long as I get some swag out of it.  As a Christian, I’ve gotten used to getting “swag” from God.  I’ve got a nice house in a quiet town.  I’ve got four beautiful, healthy, smart, talented kids, and a great husband who works really hard to support our family.  He has his own artist management company, and every day he goes to a job he loves doing, helping Christian artists.  We’ve had opportunities to serve at our church and use our gifts in the kingdom.  We are in good health and physically capable of doing a lot of things.  I’ve had people who have affirmed my spiritual gifts and given me many places to use them.  I’ve had the luxury of pursuing dreams and investing in people.

But happens when God messes with my “swag?”  What happens when the perks of being on God’s team disappear?  Will I still want to play on his team?  Will I still trust him to be my coach?  Have I been playing the Christian game just to get the swag?

In John 6, Jesus fed 5,ooo people in one sitting.  If you’ve ever tried to cook for a large group of people, you know what a miracle this is.  Of course, immediately his Klout score went up and his Twitter page was overwhelmed.  I mean, he had a lot of followers who decided to keep following Jesus.  They followed him overnight all the way to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  But soon the true motives for their dedication were revealed.  “You are seeking me not because saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:26)  They were following because they found a guy who could make bread, and they thought they would never have to work for bread again.  They wanted a bread machine, not true bread.  Later Jesus explains, “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  I am the bread of life.” (John 6:33,35)

I must confess that I often want Jesus to be my bread machine and fill my belly and make my life comfortable and easy.  I don’t want the bread he has to offer.  I don’t want to do the hard faith work of trusting, resting, abiding and believing.  I just want him to give me the swag.  And when the wasteland comes and all the perks disappear, I don’t think it’s so cool to follow him.  In fact, I throw a temper tantrum and refuse to follow until he gives me what I want.

But following Jesus and being on his “team” is not about the swag.  It’s not about how cool you look or how great your life becomes when you obey all his commands.  I don’t follow him because of the blessings or the miracles.  I follow him because he is God, and I am not.  He can make bread from nothing, and I can’t.  I follow because God gave his one and only Son to show how much he loved me.  He paid a debt he didn’t owe, so I could have an eternal life I don’t deserve.  He owes me nothing, and I owe him everything.  It’s not about the swag; it’s about following one step at a time.

Heavenly Father, forgive me for throwing a fit when some of my blessings fade.  When life gets hard and I’m uncomfortable, forgive me for not believing that you are all I need.  Forgive me for wanting to make you my personal bread machine.  Help me to be satisfied with true bread from heaven.  Help me follow you more closely.  Forever grateful, Your Princess.


Where I want to Live

Published February 12, 2013 by joypatton

This last weekend I was in Los Angeles to attend our first Grammy Awards. It was my first time in L.A. and my first time to the Grammy’s. I realized just how white and how small my little corner of the world is. That’s what I love about traveling, seeing new places and meeting new people.

On the flight out, we met a young woman who used to live in L.A. We talked about the differences between L.A. and Nashville. She confirmed what I suspected about life in L.A. That religious life didn’t intersect with real life. That there was pressure to always look like you had it together, to keep working harder and more to reach the bigger, better life.

I felt this pressure even before we left. The last few weeks, I found a BCBG dress and Chinese Laundry shoes. I had my highlights done and got a spray tan to hide my winter white. I ran out of time and money or I would have gotten a mani/pedi and had my teeth whitened. I had carefully planned outfits that only including skinny jeans. It was lot of work. My sister saw a picture and told me I looked good. Of course, I did. If I could keep up that kind of beauty and shopping regimen and my real life, I would definitely look better.

But life isn’t about just looking the part. That’s the lie we have believed. That if everything looks good on the outside, then it must be good. It’s a lie that runs rampant in the church as well. We want to put a pretty bow on every story and let everyone think that we are strong, in the Lord of course. But when we are just looking the part, we often neglect our hearts. They become another part of us to manage and control and make pretty.

My friend said that in LA going to church was just another thing you did to make yourself look good. If you had time, you went on Sunday. But if you could find something else to do, you did. It’s not something you want to do or look forward to or even miss. I have fallen into that trap before too. My faith became just another accessory to my image, another part to play, something else to put on.

When this was all that my faith was to me, it was no wonder that I still felt empty inside. I couldn’t experience all that the gospel had to offer because I was busy using it to make myself look better. It was just another accessory in my closet to make me look cool. I could leave it at home or check it at the door if I wanted to.

But I dare you to truly believe the gospel. Don’t just use it to make yourself look good or sound cool. Let it into every part of your life. Let it affect every thought and everything you do and say. The great thing about Jesus is that he loves broken people, not just the ones who look like they have it all together. When I let him see the broken places, I invite him in to work. He brings compassion and grace and mercy to all the ugliest parts of me. Instead of hiding and covering them up, I can be true.

When your life is perfect, you don’t really need Jesus. When you can get everything you need on your own, you don’t need a Provider. When you can be good enough at keeping the rules, you don’t need a Savior. But when you can’t keep up your L.A. look and your life falls apart, Jesus will be there. The gospel is for people who aren’t perfect. When you come to the end of your resources, Jesus has exactly what you need. When you realized you have broken more rules than you could ever keep, you know you need his precious blood to cover it all.

I’m so glad I get to go home. I have a place where people love me even when I’m not perfect. I have kids who think I’m the best even when I’m the worst. I have a husband who loves me all dolled up or just plain old me. I have a God who is more concerned about my heart than about my look. He is there waiting for me to turn to him on the good days and on the bad days.

To get to him, I don’t have to own the right clothes, say the right things or keep all the rules. To get to him, I just have to be true. I have to honestly admit how desperately I need him and then accept his provision. The gospel becomes part of my every day life, not just my Sunday life. That is where I want to live, in the center of his grace.

The Truth about my Dark Side

Published January 15, 2013 by joypatton

The other morning I was on the treadmill shuffling through songs on my iPod.  In Kelly Clarkson’s “Darkside,” she sings, “There’s a place I know; it’s not pretty there and few have ever gone.  If I show it to you now, will it make you run away?  Will you stay even if it hurts?  Even if I try to push you out, will you return?”

She also speaks truth when she says “Everybody’s got a dark side; nobody’s picture perfect.”  We all have parts of ourselves that we would rather leave in the dark.  Things that we live with in the dark, but know would be repulsive in the light.  Things that we work hard to hide so that no one ever sees how ugly we are.  The Bible actually calls it sin, missing the mark of perfection.  And we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect best (Romans 3:23).  Since Adam and Eve took their first bite of the forbidden fruit, everyone is born with a dark side.

The questions that Kelly asks in the song are the questions we all long to know the answers to: “Do you love me?  Will you love me even with my dark side?”  I’ve been in relationships where my sin has been exposed, and they have decided to walk away.  My dark side was too much.  I was too scary.  In any relationship, you run the risk of being hurt.  My dark side could come out and do some serious damage.  It has and it probably will again.  I want to know that I am worth the risk.

This is where pop culture and theology collide.  As I listened to Kelly sing these words I was reminded of something I had read in Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child.  “Only in a relationship of the deepest intimacy can we allow another person to know us as we truly are.  It is difficult enough for us to live with the awareness of our stinginess and shallowness, our anxieties and infidelities, but to disclose our dark secrets to another is intolerably risky…The greatest fear of all is that if I expose the imposter and lay bare my true self, I will be abandoned by my friends and ridiculed by my enemies…I cannot admit that I have done wrong, I cannot admit that I have made a huge mistake, except to someone who I know accepts me.  The person who cannot amidst that he is wrong is desperately insecure.  At root he does not feel accepted, and so he represses his guilt, he covers his tracks.”

What I’m learning is that the only way to experience true intimacy in a relationship is to let them see your dark side.  If you don’t, you are always questioning whether the other person just loves the pretty parts, the parts you know they will like and accept.  We are afraid to completely be ourselves because the dark side just might scare them away.  But when I know that someone loves me, that they will forgive me, that I am accepted and worth the risk, I am free to be completely myself.  Only when I bring my dark side to the light can it begin to heal.  There is no healing in the dark, only death.  In order to heal, it must be brought into the light.  In order to experience true, authentic love, it must be brought to the light.  In order to be fully known and fully loved, it must be brought to the light.  This is the path to the authentic relationships we all say we want.  This is the painful path that my husband and I have walked together.  He is Jesus “with skin on” to me.

Jesus came as the remedy for the dark side.  Without the work of the cross, my dark side keeps me from the presence of a holy and perfect God.  Darkness cannot dwell with the light.  What happened at the cross was that God made a way for my dark side to be forgiven, for all my sin to be paid for.  Because Jesus lived a perfect life and died an innocent death, there was a way for my sin to be accounted for, so that I could dwell with God in the light of his love forever.  Jesus overcame the darkness when he overcame death.  Because he lives, I can live in the light.  Because I know that he accepts me, I can risk rejection in my human relationships as I learn to tell the truth.

Even if other people reject me, the truth is that Jesus decided that I was worth it.  He saw my dark side, and he didn’t run away.  He didn’t run, and so I don’t have to run away either.  I can bring my sin to him knowing that it has been forgiven and always will be.  I’m not too much for him; my dark side doesn’t scare him.  When I run toward him instead of away from him, he reminds me who I really am, a beloved daughter, a Princess.  He reminds me that I am uniquely designed for a specific purpose (Psalm 139:16); that I am not big enough or powerful enough to ruin his good and perfect plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11); that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:39).  He reminds me that I can’t use up all of his grace and that I will always have a way back into his arms.  He promises to stay with me.  The only question is will I stay with him?  Or will I let shame, guilt and fear push me back into the dark?

“You know that we’re worth it. Don’t run away.  Promise you’ll stay.”

What would it take for you to share your “dark side”?

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