We are more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, yet more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
We are more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, yet more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
It was late in the afternoon of September 23, 1986. I was just two years old, and my dad had just taken off on a routine training exercise in his F-4 Phantom Marine Corps fighter jet. He was flying over the Atlantic Ocean, not far from our home in Beaufort, South Carolina, when his F-4 crashed into another F-4 during a dog-fight maneuver. Both my dad, Captain Charles Kelly Castleberry, and his navigator, Major Christopher Brammer, were never seen again. Search and Rescue crews scoured the Eastern seaboard for days, but they were never able to locate my father.
Ever since that day, I have had a special place in my heart for the “fatherless” of this world, especially those who have experienced loss through traumatic circumstances. This ache for the fatherless was stirred up again two nights ago, as the news aired the horrific events concerning the giant fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. I was distraught to learn that a crew of firemen had been at the site, trying to put out the fire when the blast exploded. Two thoughts immediately came to my mind: 1) Unless there had been a miracle, the firemen on site would not have survived the blast; 2) Those firemen were never again going to see their wives and children on this earth. It may have been a “routine” call for these trained professionals, but in an instant, it became a deadly tragedy. The lives of their loved ones would never be the same. Their children are left, clinging to every possible memory of their fathers, but they will never again, on this side of eternity, see their dads’ faces or be able to physically talk to them.
Losing a father is unspeakably horrific for all children. The son has lost the one person primarily responsible to train him to be a man, and to help him through that process. The daughter has lost her provider, protector, and teacher of being cherished and valued as a woman. I believe this is one reason why God has such a special, tender heart for the fatherless and the widows of the world. David, by the Holy Spirit, writes in Psalm 68:5,“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
I have experienced this special fatherly love by God in numerous ways. I have genuinely felt God’s special hand of providence guiding me throughout my life, and he really has been a father to me. One way that he has shown this love is through another godly man, Preston Abbott, who was sent to be my earthly dad four years after my first dad died. Another provision from my Heavenly Father is the amazing legacy of my first father, Kelly. God enabled my father to do some extraordinary things in his short twenty-six years on earth. These have shaped and will continue to shape me for the rest of my life.
Three Ways My Father’s Legacy Has Impacted Me
What I’ve learned From My Father About Leaving a Godly Legacy
As we consider the legacies that parents leave for their families, please join with me in praying for the children of the firemen that lost their lives two nights ago. Pray that God would use the legacy of their fathers for good and that they would come to faith in Christ. Also pray that we, like Paul, would be able to say at the end of our lives, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Phil. 3:17).
Not long ago, we learned that Kermit Gosnell had been killing babies in the third trimester and even after they were delivered, for decades. Just this week, we watched as bombs ripped through an unsuspecting crowd in downtown Boston. They’re not the same, but they are horrifying and mouth-stopping evils.
It’s enough to make us cry out to God, “Arise, O Lᴏʀᴅ; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, ‘You will not call to account’?” (Psalm 10:12–13). Why God? Why allow Gosnell to gruesomely murder these innocents? Why allow the explosions to maim so many innocents, and even kill three? You are God, right? You won’t let them get away with this wickedness, will you?
The Psalm goes on, “But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none” (Psalm 10:14–15).
Until you find none, Lord. You have seen the corruption, the crimes against these people, men, women, and children whom you formed in your image. We have seen pictures, but you saw the acts, every pulse of wickedness in Gosnell’s heart and every inch of the bomber’s plan. Hunt it down and erase it, Lord. All of it. Show the world that you really are in control and that what is right will eventually and decisively win.
You watched and waited, “that you may take it into your hands.” You were not absent or unaware, and you will not abandon justice. No one — not Kermit Gosnell, not the nameless Boston bomber — no one can defy you and not be destroyed. And somehow mysteriously, all according to your sovereign wisdom and plan, their destruction will reveal who you are — that you are really, really good.
You are the only safe place for the suffering. You are the helper of the fatherless, children dashed to pieces on the bloodstained table of terror at the Women’s Society in West Philadelphia. You are the helper of the helpless marathon watchers wounded without cause or reason. You are the helper of people all over the globe helpless to understand or explain these massacres. We can’t explain this now, and we’ll never be able to change it, but you,our God, are a God who demands justice and executes it perfectly. You are a safe place for all the sorrowful, confused, and slain, whoever will trust you, even while we can’t see you in the midst of these scary scenes.
“The Lᴏʀᴅ is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O Lᴏʀᴅ, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”
Lord, our hearts are weak with grief, despair, and anger. Now, and with every atrocity, we will ask a thousand questions and wonder how you could possibly be at work in these evils. Strengthen our hearts according to your promises. Give us patience to wait upon your final act of justice, when everything will be made right. In that day, we will watch as you make terror the victim, a story never to appear on another front page.
At the darkest moments of our lives, we can have strength and hope in you because at the darkest moment in history you guaranteed the end of the violence and perversion that fills our news now. As we ask how you could allow nails to take an 8-year-old boy’s life, remind us that you looked on in infinite love for us as nails pierced your precious Son. It was at his cross that you defeated the devil’s hold on this world, ransoming your children from our own wickedness and promising the eradication of all evil. All injustice will be punished, either in Jesus’s wounds or by his sword.
You walked with your Son to Calvary’s hill. You stood beside the bloody table in West Philadelphia. You watched the fatal finish line in Boston. And your love and justice will prevail in every place.
You will destroy every evil until there is none — none in us and none in this world.
Via Dane Ortlund:
We must go back to our Bibles. The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the church–read on–and gave his life for her (Ephesians 5:25).
This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is–in her own mere nature–least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence.
As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labors to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other) never despairs.
–C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 105
It seems that everyone has an opinion about Gay Marriage, and these opinions are rarely ambivalent. Christians have (and rightly so) been outspoken in their opposition to a redefinition of marriage. This recasting of the institution of marriage is not, we would argue, a progressive and healthy advancement but rather a disastrous detour from what biblical, therefore, right and good.
At the same time and while marriage is on the front burner, particularly the undermining of God’s plan for it, let me ask a question. Are Gay and Lesbians the only ones who undermine God’s plan for marriage?
The answer is, “Of course not!” Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God’s plan for marriage. You don’t get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.
This is where it gets quite personal for us inside the Christian camp. God’s plan for marriage includes the following:
Love: Your marriage is to reflect the joyful sacrifice and service of your spouse in order that they might be blessed. This service and sacrifice is to reflect Jesus’ sacrifice and service of you in the gospel. This obviously excludes the selfishness that plagues far too many of our marriages.
Confession: This is the willingness to call sin what God calls it and to admit that we have done it to one another. Confession of sin is the precursor to the display of mercy and grace. Christian marriages are to be characterized by humble confession of sin rather than prideful defending of ourselves.
Forgiveness: This is a hallmark of Christianity and so therefore a hallmark of Christian marriages. How can a marriage that is characterized by anger, bitterness, resentment, and strife be reflective of the gospel of grace.
Distinction of Roles: Husbands and Wives have equal access to God, standing before God, joy in God and acceptance from God. There is no distinction of status (Gal. 3.28) but there are distinction of roles. The Christian husband is the loving leader of his wife who willfully lays his own life down for her while serving his wife in sanctification (Eph. 5.25-33). The Christian wife is to lovingly submit to her husband in a manner that reflects Christ’s willful submission to his Father (1 Cor. 11). This respectful, honoring, posture of love between joint heirs of grace is to be continually reflecting Christ’s love in the gospel.
These are just *some* of the distinctivess of Christian marriage. In so far as we do not love one another, blur roles, or deal unbiblically with sin—then we are undermining God’s plan for marriage. Far too many Christians are sharpshooters, adeptly able to pick off the various cultural perversions upon marriage without taking inventory of their own house. This does not mean that we should be silent until we have the perfect marriage, it just means that we should not act like we are all about God’s plan for marriage when we ourselves, are not. Because it vividly promotes the gospel, Christians are to passionately promote God’s plan for marriage, starting with our own.
From Beth Moore via Lee Anne Young:
Saturday shortly after noon, I filled up the dog bowl on the back porch with water and pitched dishes in the dishwasher so that I could head out with Melissa for a bite to eat and maybe a little shoe shopping. She’d spent the night with Keith and me in the country and we’d had a lazy Saturday morning over coffee and conversation. I’d set out my purse and keys and decided to wipe down the kitchen counter before we walked out the door. Just as I sprayed the cleaner and grabbed the dishtowel, Melissa walked in staring at the screen of her phone with the oddest expression.
“Mom, I don’t know if it’s true or not but I’m seeing references on Twitter to Rick and Kay Warren losing a son.”
She was ashen. My stomach flipped and, over the next few minutes as she read to me bits and pieces of breaking news, we feared the worst. I felt a hot sickness in my throat. My relationship with the Warrens is the same as most of yours. I have simply been served and led well by them. Although I had the joy of ministering to women on the Saddleback campus some years ago, my stay was brief and our schedules were wrapped entirely around the event. I have not had the opportunity to get to know the Warrens in the way that personal friends know one another but I always knew in my heart that I’d like them so much. We’re similar ages and in similar seasons with our families. Meanwhile, I have loved them and esteemed them in Christ as faithful and mighty servants of the living Lord Jesus Christ. And quite possibly, among the mightiest to ever serve this generation.
Within an hour of Melissa walking into the kitchen with those first pieces of news, someone very close to the Warren family confirmed the tragedy on Twitter. We were heartsick and not for media personalities or even public servants. We were heartsick for a family of real people with breakable hearts. And we wept. Many of you undoubtedly did as well.
An odd mix of feelings overtook me with increasing force through the afternoon and into the early evening. The sadder I got, the madder I got. Mad at an astonishing satanic force that stoops viciously and swoops in unscrupulously to attack children and to prey on their weaknesses as they grow up, shooting so relentlessly at one spot that they can barely get to their feet between arrows. I’ve been that child and many of you have, too. Madder still that the devil in all likelihood delights in nothing more than targeting the children and dearest loved ones of true servants of God. Nothing tries our faith like the suffering of our children. At the end of the day, our faith is what the devil is after most. Without it, it’s impossible to please God. This is why Paul could say with relief nearly palpable on the page of his final letter, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”
We’ll all finally make it to our finish lines but the cliffhanger along the way will be this: will we keep our faith? That isn’t the same thing as keeping our salvation. I don’t believe my salvation is something I can give back. I received it by grace through faith from Christ Himself and my works don’t secure it no matter how my woes obscure it. His grip never loosens. Nothing can snatch us out of our Father’s hand. What’s at risk is our active belief in who God says He is, what He says He is like, and what He says He can do.
Is He good? Is He faithful?
So the enemy sets out to knock the feet of our faith out from under our walk. And there is nothing more effective toward that end than targeting the ones we love most on this planet.
I don’t say that to scare you. I say it because I believe it is the hair-raising truth. No, we are not abandoned here as victims on this damaged sod. We are not abandoned at all. Our God is with us. The Spirit of His Son is in us. We are more than conquerors through the One who loves us. We are not at the mercy of Satan. We are at the glorious, life-breathing mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, a mercy that leads, as Jude 21 says, to eternal life and will ultimately spill like a river into a sea of reality where no sufferings of our past will compare with the glory of our present. In the meantime, greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world but make no mistake. This is a vicious world we’ve been left to serve. One God still loves or we would not still be here.
And then, in that mixture of emotions Saturday afternoon, I got madder and madder at the bullies in the Body of Christ. I thought how much it turns out that the Warrens have been through personally and, if they are like most leaders, all the while putting out fires and putting up with a bunch of trash-talk from people who would call the same Jesus Lord.
God help us. In the words of James, These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters.
I don’t believe one of us here in this community thinks that leaders should be immune to questions, constructive criticism, and accountability. That’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about here. I’m talking about bullying. There are Scriptural means for going to a brother or sister to reason with them about matters we genuinely consider to be off base, misleading, or in error. You and I both know that much of what happens out there in public forums is the furthest thing from biblical.
It is slander.
I went on a walk through the woods Saturday late afternoon and did something I don’t often do. I cried angry tears. I got so mad that I could have hit somebody. I kept thinking how believers attack one another and sling stones at each other like the other can’t bruise or break. And all the while that person may be in so much personal pain that it’s nearly unbearable. I’m not transferring this to the Warrens. I do not know them personally. I’m telling you what I know to be true about most people out there. Most of us are in significant pain of some kind. That doesn’t mean defeat necessarily. It just means pain.
Life is hard enough without hatefulness rife in the Body of Christ. We are called to carry one another’s burdens, not pile relentlessly on top of them. We can still hold one another accountable. We can still ask questions. We can still disagree. But we can do it with respect.
I’m sick of the bullying. The mud-slinging and the meanness. I’m sick of careless, idle words thrown out there in the public square and professing believers in Christ standing on the necks of their own brothers and sisters to sound smart and superior. As if it’s not enough that we are surrounded in this culture by Christian haters, we’ve got to have our own hater-Christians. It’s insane.
When we turn people into caricatures, everything’s game. The moment we depersonalize them, our consciences harden and we can mock and slander at will and have a blast doing it. Snide blogs and tweets and Facebook posts about various leaders can also be effective ways to jump in their spotlight. Bullies aren’t just mean. They’re self-serving. They’re platform-hunting. They have to borrow one to perform.
No, I don’t think that saying all of this will change it much but some things still need to be said. Sometimes we need to speak up and call something wrong. There’s a bigger issue in the Body of Christ than immorality. It’s hatefulness. If the greatest priority Christ assigned to us was love, the gravest offender is hate.
Just about the time cynicism threatens to overwhelm us and turn us into the very people we can’t stand, genuine love – the real thing – erupts right here on this earth like concrete breaking open to a spring. Compassion and tremendous affection are pouring forth from the Body of Christ for the Warrens right now. It is right and it is lovely. We have been served well by them and have learned so much from them. To respond with expressions of love, comfort, and intercession is our honor and privilege. We must and we will.
But even now at the hardest moment of their lives the Warrens can teach something vital if we are willing to learn. Their heartbreak demonstrates what has always been true but has never been more profoundly overlooked: these who serve us publicly also suffer privately. They are not caricatures. They are not just personalities. They are people living on a painful planet with the rest of us.
The Warrens will come forth like gold. The enemy will not win. They will fight the good fight. They will finish the race. They will keep the faith.
I love the Body of Christ. I don’t want want to get cynical. I don’t want to sit around and hate the haters or I become one. But this morning I just want to say this. We can love each other better. Let’s do. People have enough hurt. Let’s be careful with one another.