A Warm Embrace

Praying is hard.

I fail at keeping a warm devotional life.

I forget what I asked God for as soon as I pray my requests.

How about you? embrace

I know a few Christians whose gift is prayer and really love it, but for the rest of us, prayer is a struggle.

Our hope, however is knowing that our prayers don’t have to be perfect to please the Lord.

They can be downright messy.

And having a poor prayer life doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us anymore.

He can’t possible think that, and neither can we.

Here’s why:

1. We are never going to be perfect in this life because we still wrestle with remaining sin in our lives.

2. All our prayers, our good works, everything in our lives is mediated through Christ and he makes them perfect and therefore acceptable to God.

God does not find fault with us because we are in Christ.

So prayer instead of being an excruciating exercise is instead a conversation with our Father in heaven who loves us.

Remember that next time you pray.

You come to a Father who is eager to hear you.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing Good Comes from Inside

How do you handle remaining sin in your life?

What does it look like? It’s what the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 7:15.

“For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

And then again in verse 19: White

“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

That pretty much summed up my Christmas vacation.

Stick around long enough with family and friends and eventually you’ll find yourself in Romans 7.

So what’s the solution?

Here it is:

Keep your eyes on the completed work of Christ on the cross for you.

Once that melts your heart, then confess your sins to him.

And don’t look inward for your sanctification – something I do frequently – because it’s not there. You’ll only find a mess.

Glue your sight onto Christ who is your righteousness, sanctification and salvation.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

Don’t Even Think About It

We’re inching closer to 2015 by the day.

And the gurus are marketing their webinars, books and videos to show us how to make new year’s resolutions. And then charging us for their experience!

Are you kidding me? I can make resolutions galore for free! IMG_0436

What they’re peddling is a self-help course for those of us who make goals and don’t keep them.

And there’s millions of us out there.

So how do they fix us? By giving us more rules!

Here are some examples of the course titles:

A Goal-Setting Course

Live with Intention

Create Your Life Plan

You get the idea.

It makes me want to laugh or cry.

This doesn’t make sense for anybody, and especially for Christians.

First of all, the one life plan you need comes free – God gives it to you. It’s to glorify him and enjoy him forever.

Second, goal setting is fine if you set the right ones. Jesus had one goal when he lived here, to please his Father. And he did it spectacularly well. And as a free gift to you, he gives you that successful record as if you had lived it perfectly yourself.

And third, you can live with all the intention you have and still blow it. What is intention but purpose and drive. But those are traits for those who don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside them. The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to reveal Jesus to us. He directs our lives, so we don’t have to worry about it. What we must do is obey and rest.

So don’t fall into the temptation of changing yourself next year.

That’s God’s job and he does it really well.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Rights of Being Wrong

How many times have you valued being right, having the last word, being firm and in control?

If you’re like me, many times.

Has anyone told you that sounds an awful lot like self-love?

We are born legalists. We love law. We delight in being right.

“That’s not fair!” shouts a crying child when another yanks her toy away.

How does a 2-year old know what’s fair? Who taught her? child

Our legal hearts demand what is right and fair. And where does that come from? From God’s law. We’re all born with an innate sense of right and wrong. That’s because God stamped his image on us, and even though we are sinners and live with a distorted view of God, remnants of it are still there like a shattered mirror.

Satan takes full advantage of our dilemma and, as a cunning rascal, pronounces us guilty every chance he gets and demands payment for our sins. And if we’re not watchful, we’ll fall into the trap and believe it’s up to us to fix ourselves.

This can happen a million times a day.

If your thoughts are negative, accusatory, pointing out other people’s faults, blaming others, devaluing the people in your life, dishonoring them, and demanding your rights and your way, you’re listening to the devil.

Resentment and bitterness produce a heavy heart and a broody attitude, all of which indicate you’ve moved away from the gospel – Christ’s righteousness for you.

Remember, Christ showers you with grace and mercy every moment of every day because he’s paid for your sins.

We’re happy and grateful to accept that truth for us, but what’s shocking is he also gives that same grace and mercy to the people around us that are hard to live with!

So instead of resentment and bitterness, let’s give forgiveness and peace; instead of rehearsing our wounds, let’s release them to the Lord at the cross, and walk away; instead of blaming others, let’s talk about our faults first and see what happens. Since the judge of the universe has declared us righteous in Christ, we can be vulnerable with others and not be afraid of their response.

Make these your Christmas presents this month!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Rest

photo (45)

You have been given Christ, and in being given Christ, you have been given life.

  • You don’t need to search for meaning and purpose.
  • You don’t need to search for identity.
  • You don’t need to look for something to give you the inner sense of well-being that every person wants.
  • You don’t have to wonder if you’ll ever be loved.
  • You don’t have to worry that your life and work will result in nothing.
  • You don’t have to wonder if you’ll have what you need to face what will be on your plate today.
  • You don’t have to worry about your future.You will never be left to the limited range of your own resources.
  • You will never, ever be left alone.
  • There is always someone who understands you and offers you the help that you need.
  • You don’t have to worry about whether your wrongs will be forgiven and your weaknesses greeted with patience and grace.
  • You don’t have to worry because you have a Savior who has invaded your life with his grace and has made you the place where he dwells.
So you have been freed from the endless quest for life that consumes so many people. So many look for life where it cannot be found. They hope their marriages will give them the happiness they have not yet found. They look to their jobs to give them identity. They look to people and possessions to give them peace. They don’t know it, but they are asking the situations, locations and relationships of everyday life to be their saviors. Sadly, they’re drinking from wells that are dry and eating bread that will never satisfy. The situations, locations and relationships of daily life are wonderful to enjoy, but we must understand that they will never, ever satisfy our hearts. For that, we have been given a true Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So instead of wasting your time on that endless quest for life, you have been invited to enter into God’s rest for the rest of your life. Rest in your identity as his child. Rest in his eternal love. Rest in his powerful grace. Rest in his constant presence and faithful provision. Rest in his patience and forgiveness. Rest.
- from New Morning Mercies, a Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp

A Lesson from a Priest

December is the month when we hear a lot about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

She was an unwed mother who gave birth to the Savior of the world.

Those two things don’t belong together, do they? You’d think God would have chosen a woman from the ruling class in a palace with a jeweled cradle.

In fact, he chose the opposite. IMG_7835

Mary was ordinary.

Mary was poor.

Mary was humble.

And she was chosen.

God chose her. Of all the women in that day, he chose her. Why? For the same reason he chooses us. Because he wanted to. Out of love. To show forth his glory.

And what made Mary stand out was her faith. She believed the angel Gabriel’s outlandish message that she, a virgin, would conceive and bear a son and he would be “great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

I wish I could be more like Mary and say everyday, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

But I’m more like Zechariah, the priest when the angel told him he was going to have a son. (Luke 1)

If only Zechariah had noticed the parallels of his angel’s visitation and announcement with the one Abraham had back in Genesis 15 when God promised him an heir. And buoyed up by Abraham’s faith Zechariah should had followed suit. After all he was a Jew. He was clergy. It says he and his wife, Elizabeth were both righteous before God, but they had no child because Elizabeth was barren and now they were well advanced in old age.

The story begins when Zechariah’s shift came up and he was in the temple serving God. His assignment was to burn incense while the multitudes outside the temple were praying. How much more spiritual can you get? (Incense is mixed with the prayers of God’s people. See Revelation 8:3-4) That’s when Gabriel showed up, Zechariah was paralyzed with fear, and Gabriel told him to relax. Perhaps Zechariah thought he wasn’t adhering to the rules of burning incense quite right. Or maybe he was scared Gabriel would find him unworthy for the duty he was performing. Instead, Gabriel reassured him that he had come to deliver a pretty cool message. That God had heard his prayer. What prayer? The man was old. He must have prayed a zillion prayers in his lifetime not only for himself and his wife but for the nation of Israel. No, it was one specific prayer that was in view here – that of having a son. Now, I’m sure at both his and Elizabeth’s old age, they had given up praying for a son. When you’re old and grey and your bones creak, you don’t keep praying for things that are way past your prime. And yet here we hear Gabriel telling Zechariah that he and his wife would conceive and bear a son. (As an aside, God doesn’t forget any one of your prayers! However, don’t expect his timing to necessarily fit your calendar.) So does Zechariah jump up and do a dance? No. He questions Gabriel and wants to know the details. Just like me. Instead of clinging to the promises of God by faith, no matter how many examples I have in Scripture of others having done so, I question God. So Gabriel mutes Zechariah for his unbelief and during his wife’s last trimester he’s forced to communicate in hand motions and a tablet. I should be living life flailing my arms and writing text messages, too.

But God loves me. He chose me like he did Mary to be filled with a new life in Christ. Mary gave birth to the Son of God so that the Son of God could give birth to me. And you. And then give us his perfect record. And die for our sins. And clothe us in his righteousness. And adopt us. And love us. Forever!

Go out and tell somebody and dance with them!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Not This Time

This past Sunday the sermon was brilliant but wrong.

While the pastor hit all the high points, he missed the intent of the passage.  Cross & Church

Instead of leaving us with the joyful reminder that through faith alone in Christ we are forgiven and loved by God, he left us with an application to live better as Christians.

We got good advice instead of good news.

I went home feeling heavy. The law does that to me. I walked away from church with the weight of my sins on my mind and felt wretched because my joy had left me.

It wasn’t until the next day that I went back to the same passage to read it in its context (rule #1 of bible study), and then I carefully read the verses that were the theme of the sermon. When I read the last verse of the chapter, the truth of the gospel exploded in my heart and I was set free again. The entire point of the passage was having faith in Christ!

The pastor longs to shepherd a healthy church. I get it. We can all improve, I know that, too. But the only way to do that is to go deeper in the gospel, marvel more at what Christ has done for us which would lead to loving him more.

We didn’t need an application lesson.

That’s the Holy Spirit’s job anyway.

I tell this story because if you’re not watchful, you might go home with law instead of gospel. It happens in most churches these days. There’s a huge push to be relevant, practical and captivating. People expect a take-away every Sunday.

What is more significant?

Coming to church to serve others or coming so God can serve you from his Word, bread and cup?

Coming for the fellowship with other Christians or communing with God through Word, sacrament and prayer?

Opportunities to work and serve abound, but on God’s day, he summons us to sit and listen and eat and take delight in him. He has prepared a table before us and he is host and server.

Don’t let anybody take that away from you.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com