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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Condition Alert!

Have you struggled like me with knowing how to respond to the circumstances in your life? How you’re never prepared really even if you think you are? And how shocking sometimes they can be and you ask yourself the question, “How did I get here?”

Well, you’re not alone. The Apostle Paul faced the same thing, but he didn’t stay stuck there. He learned some valuable lessons. He said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:10-12 ESV

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book Spiritual Depression says, Van Gogh2

“Paul had come to learn this great truth by working out a great argument. I think that the Apostle’s logic was something like this. He said to himself:

“1. Conditions are always changing, therefore I must not be dependent upon conditions.

“2. What matters supremely and vitally is my soul and my relationship to God – that is the first thing.

“3. God is concerned about me as my Father, and nothing happens to me apart from God. Even the very hairs on my head are all numbered. I must never forget that.

“4.God’s will and God’s ways are a great mystery, but I know that whatever he wills or permits is of necessity for my good.

“5. Every situation  in life is the unfolding to some manifestation of God’s love and goodness. Therefore my business is to look for this peculiar manifestation of God’s goodness and kindness and to be prepared for surprises and blessings because ‘His ways are not my ways, neither His thoughts my thoughts’. What, for example, is the great lesson that Paul learned in the matter of the thorn in the flesh? It is that, ‘When I am weak than I am strong’. Paul was taught through physical weakness this manifestation of God’s grace.

“6. I must regard circumstances and conditions, not in and of themselves therefore, but as a part of God’s dealings with me in the work of perfecting my soul and bringing me to final perfection.

“7. Whatever my conditions may be at this present moment they are only temporary, they are only passing, and they can never rob me of the joy and the glory that ultimately await me with Christ.”

It took Paul a lifetime to learn this and it will take that long for you and me, too, but we can trust God to teach us this secret of contentment while the chaos swirls around us.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

The Steady Hand of Faith

Have you asked yourself, “What is faith and how do I know if I have it?”

So often we confuse faith with feelings and when we do that, we’re in trouble.

Faith is a steady belief in Christ and the work of salvation he accomplished on the cross for you.

Feelings, on the other hand, change like the weather. One minute you’re happy, the next you’re upset.

Here are some good reminders of what faith is: IMG_8004

1) Your spiritual life is a work of God. You didn’t produce it and you don’t maintain it. See Ephesians 2: 8-10

2) Faith is your spiritual DNA. Abraham is your father by faith and you inherit all his promises. See 1 John 3:9

3) Faith is life from the dead. God’s work in you, not what you do for God. If you think you roused yourself from the dead I’d like to talk to you! See Ephesians 2: 1-4

4) Faith sees beyond what is seen physically to the unseen that’s coming. And what’s coming defies imagination. See Hebrews 11:1

5) Faith is strengthened by your trials. Nobody is exempt. Examples abound: Abraham and Sarah without a child, Hannah without a son, Moses delivering the Israelites from Egypt, Esther interceding for her people, David fighting Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, and Mary pregnant before marriage. See Genesis 17:15-21; Genesis 14; Esther 4: 13-17; 1 Samuel 17; Daniel 6; Matthew 1:18-25.

6) Faith glorifies God. It pleases God to strengthen your faith. See Romans 5:1-5

7) Faith justifies sinners. It’s the only means by which you can be saved. See Romans 4:5

No matter what you’re facing right now, know that God has his hand on you, he sees you, knows your every circumstance, and you can rely on him to take you through your trials just like he did Abraham, Moses, Esther, David, Daniel and Mary.

They were in good hands and so are you.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

Dump the Guilt

A friend of mine is fond of saying, “Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.”

He’s right.

We feel it when we violate our own rules. “I should have saved more money this year.”

Or when we don’t do what we know is important. Like go to church. Read the bible. Pray. Igor Mitoraj

How about when we don’t live up to own expectations? That’s a big one. There’s a video making the rounds on social media of a young boy seated at a window seat on a plane. He’s admonishing his father for not living up to his dreams of being a airline pilot. How does the boy know this about his father? “Because I want to be a pilot, and I plan to do it,” he says defiantly.

Wow. I’d spank him for his insolence. But you get the point. We are full of self-salvation strategies, aren’t we? We spend our days doing things to please ourselves in the hope that is also pleases God.

But we know better. Jesus’s perfect life of obedience to God’s law is the only effort that pleases God, and his death on the cross for our sins is the only reconciliation that He will accept.

If you’ve delivered yourself over to God’s plan of salvation for your life, you have nothing to be guilty of anymore. Jesus bore your guilt, your shame, your failure and your sin for you on the cross.

You are set free to love and serve him out of gratitude.

Go out and jump for joy!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com