Exile No More

This is so good, I must share it with you.

“He spares not His Son, but sends Him in quest of the exiles. He comes into the land of banishment, lies in an exile’s cradle, becomes a banished man for them, lives a banished life, endures an exile’s shame, dies an exile’s death, is buried in an exile’s tomb. He takes our place of banishment that we may take His place of honor and glory in the home of His Father and our Father.  photo(43)

“Such is the exchange between the exile and the exile’s divine substitute. Though rich, for our sakes He becomes poor. Though at home, He comes into banishment, that we may not be expelled forever.”

– Horatius Bonar

Tent Living is a Temporary Affair

“By faith he (Abraham) made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” – Hebrews 11:9 NIV

I read that verse this morning and thought about how this applies today. Nothing came to mind and then, Pow! The Holy Spirit opened up the heavens.

Here’s what he taught me:  Tents

This is true of us post-moderns as much as those tent dwellers in Abraham’s day.

Abraham and his family made their home in the promised land like strangers in a foreign country. While they lived there, they didn’t belong there. Their citizenship was in the new heaven and the new earth, just like ours is. Whatever country we live in, that’s not home. Home is with Christ.

Abraham and his family lived in tents. They were mobile homes, able to be set up and taken down whenever necessary. We live in tents, too. Paul calls the body a tent, and when we die we step out of our tent and into a new immortal body, just like Christ’s. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)

We, along with Abraham, the father of the faithful, and everyone who calls upon Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, to be living one day in the new heaven and the new earth, in new bodies, breathing pure air.

And where is this new world going to be? Right here! Every step we take on this solid ground we call earth will one day be renewed, made clean and pure and holy, inhabited only by saints washed in Jesus’s blood and sacrifice.

Don’t think of your salvation as an individual gift only. Salvation embraces the entire universe! Jesus’s perfect life of obedience and death on the cross restored the created order, including you and me.

Question: When you groan in your tent here what do you do about it?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

Mind the Gap

If you’ve been to London and taken the tube you’ve heard the recording that says, “Mind the Gap” that comes on at every stop. It’s a mantra. That’s because there is a space between the subway car and the platform large enough to lose a shoe in. I’ve seen it happen.

The idea of a gap between two realities is also prevalent in the bible, and it’s not a tiny space like the London tube. It’s immense. It’s as large as earth to Mars, only bigger. It’s the tension of the now and not yet. We are saved now but the reality of its fullness is not ours yet. That comes when Jesus returns or we die and go to be with him, whichever comes first. photo (8)

We see this tension fleshed out in the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 16. Here we see Sarah’s impatience with God to give her a son, so she takes matters into her own hands by suggesting to Abraham that he sleep with Hagar, her maid, and produce the child that way, something that Abraham did not resist, by the way.

We see Sarah’s struggles with God’s timing, which reveals Sarah’s doubt of God’s character. Why is he taking so long? It’s been ten years already and nothing’s happened. Can I continue to trust him? Underneath it all is a suspicion of God’s goodness. Can’t you hear the same echos of the devil saying the same thing to Eve in Genesis 3?

Here we see Abraham and Sarah living in the gap between what God had promised and their unfulfilled expectations.

I see this played out in my life and in the lives of family and friends. We long for close, intimate and satisfying relationships. Instead we live with distance, misunderstandings, and heartache. We long for satisfying work. Instead we grumble and complain because of the boredom. We want glory here and now, but God says not yet, it’s coming soon.

What can we learn from this? Here are three insights:

1) Living in the gap of the now and not yet tempts us to take matters into our hands. The underlying assumption is that we can fix the problems ourselves like Abraham and Sarah did. But instead of fixing things, we make a mess of things.

2) While living in the gap, we continue to be faithful to what God has called us to. We trust God’s faithfulness. That doesn’t mean we take no action, but it does mean we do things believing God is for us and not against us.

3) God doesn’t go AWOL in the gap and in our messes. He doesn’t flee to heaven and wait for us to figure out ways to make it home. If he did that, nobody would get home. He’s there working in the gap. He’s a God who sees and hears and is in the middle of the mess. That’s what he has promised to do. And ultimately he will fulfill all his promises to us. We don’t know how or when, but it will happen.

You won’t lose God in the gap. There is joy, freedom and laughter there if we trust him for the reality that’s coming.

Question: What are some of the ways you take matters into your hands while living in the gap?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

How to Live the Future Today

This morning I read Isaiah 65.

I was struck by two thunderbolts.

1) The chapter is directed to Israel as a nation. And how does God describe them?

As those who do not ask for him, do not seek him, a rebellious people who follow their own devices, who provoke God continually, serving idols, and worst of all, God describes them as “a nation that was not called by my name.”

Israel has become worse than the unbelieving nations all around them.

That’s a horrible indictment.  Strategy2
2) Further into the chapter God, in his mercy, tells them that he will bless his servants while the rest will face destruction. Who are these servants? People of faith!

And what awaits them?

Everything their hearts longed for – pure joy, satisfying relationships, gladness of heart, eternal life, fellowship with God and one another – but they won’t have these things until they are living in the new heavens and the new earth.

So what does that mean for us?

It means we should not look for perfection in our work, our relationships, our purpose in life while we still live on this planet.

The world has not been redeemed yet.

We continue to wrestle with sin.

We don’t have our new bodies yet.

All that we crave will be ours after we die or when Jesus comes back again, whichever comes first.

So how should we live then?

We live in the tension of the now and not yet.

We keep our eyes on the future while we live and love and serve our Lord in the present.

We do this because we know where we’re headed and what awaits us.

Our future is secure!

These truths were a great reminder for me after a tumultuous weekend. (See blog post Weakness Is Better Than Strength)

Question: How does knowing that God will give you all your heart’s desires help you live today?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

Weakness Is Better Than Strength

I just returned home from doing a week’s worth of ministry in New York City. I was training a group of people how to do evangelism to Jewish people. Not an easy task since most Jewish people are programmed from birth not to believe Jesus is the Messiah.

I’ve done this enough times to know that as soon as I get home the devil will hurl his fiery darts my way to demoralize me and get me off track.  Charlie2

Sure enough, this time he stirred up my sister and husband to blow-up at each other. It was so bad that by the end of the day everybody headed to their respective bedrooms, slammed the door and stayed there until the next morning.

The next day wasn’t much better. My husband left the house early and went hiking. My sister woke up angry. Her husband didn’t know what to do.

I like to fix things, so here was a grand opportunity to plot and strategize a way to end the war. As I thought I kept hearing the phrase I often tell others: the gospel changes everything. Oh yeah? How’s the gospel going to change two believers who hate each other right now?

I took a quick inventory of my successes in meddling in the Lord’s business. I didn’t like what I saw. Instead of finding faith, I found fear, embarrassment, shame – in other words, unbelief.

The war between my husband and sister was nothing new, so how was I going to bring reconciliation this time when I hadn’t succeeded in the past over lesser battles?

I chose to not get involved. I prayed instead. I told the Lord I was empty, that I was inadequate, incompetent, lacking in wisdom, and if he didn’t show up and do something to set these two stubborn people straight, it was going to be a fiasco and I would lose a sister.

Then I went to lunch with my sister and her husband while my husband continued to let out his frustrations on the mountain.

My husband returned home, showered, dressed and joined us in the living room. For two hours, we talked about the dynamics of our relationship and what it was that made it go off the rails so often. And what did we find out? That none of us listens well, that we need to be loved and not judged, and that there are huge areas in our lives that need cleaning up. In other words, we’re messy Christians and the Holy Spirit is still chiseling the image of Christ in us.

We came away with a renewed love for one another and a deeper understanding of who we were as people.

I could never have accomplished that with my fix-it tool belt.

The gospel indeed changes things!

How about you? Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sinning but Forgiven

“Christians live in an atmosphere of perpetual forgiveness.” – B.B. Warfield

Read that again. It’s a stunning quote.

It’s Romans 8:1, that you are no longer condemned because you’re in Christ and he was condemned for you.

Your justification is not just for past sins only but for continued sins all life long.

Christians are sinners!  oh cat

How many years I sat in church listening to pastors tell me all the things I needed to do in order to please God. Read the bible, pray, go on a missions trip, serve on the church committee, be a usher, help in the children’s Sunday School. The list grew longer and so did my guilt. I was twisted like a pretzel. I was either self-righteous because I managed to do some of these things, or I felt guilty and depressed because I wasn’t doing enough.

Rubbish!

God in his mercy has shown me otherwise.

God calls me to church every week to receive from him, not do things for him. Why? Because he’s done everything for me! I come in gratitude for everything he has given me in Christ. And he continues to feed me through the worship, the preaching of the Word, and the sacraments.

I’m not saying reading the bible, praying, and going on a missions trip are things to avoid. Not if you do them out of gratitude to God. But if you do them because you feel obligated, or you’re doing them to feel better about yourself, or call attention to yourself, then think again. Those aren’t good motivators. They don’t adorn the gospel. They’re sin!

Our lives must be gospel-centered. We live for God out of gratitude for Christ, and we love our neighbor out of gratitude for Christ.

The minute self inserts itself into the picture, we’re sinning. And that happens every day. That’s why we live in an atmosphere of constant forgiveness, all because of Christ.

How joyful does that make you? Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living with a Broken Heart

Contrary to every thing you hear in the media, your life is not your personal possession to do with as you please.

If you’re a Christian, you belong to Jesus. You we were bought with a price – his blood – to no longer serve yourself, but him.

How are you doing with this?

If you’re like me, not so good.  love

I’d rather continue being addicted to myself. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. I’ve been doing it all my life.

I also like burrowing into my world of entertainment – my favorite TV shows, sports, painting, writing and photography. None of those things are sin in and of themselves, but when they push out Jesus in favor of them, then I have a problem.

And I push out Jesus a lot.

I can spend a whole day without thinking about him or talking to him.

I don’t do that with the people I love, but I do it with him.

I don’t keep short accounts of my sins with him either. I tend to bunch them all together at the end of the day, if I remember, and then confess them. When I think about it, that’s pretty stupid and laughable. What I’m doing is just discharging a duty without any heart work, and I know it and so does Jesus.

I’m reminded in the gospels, Jesus was not autonomous. He could have been. He didn’t need help from anybody, he knew who he was and where he was going. And yet he was 100% dependent on his Father, from what to say to people to what to do for them. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.'” – John 5: 19

That dependency led him to the cross to die for me and you.

And I’m pierced through the heart.

I admit I fail miserably to live a dependent life. It’s foreign to me. But I don’t despair because I have hope. First, God makes me aware of my sin and depravity and I getting better at talking to him about it. Second, I don’t want to be like that any more and I tell him so. And third, in Christ I am becoming more like him. He’s doing the work he promised to do even if I don’t see it. “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” -Philippians 1:6. And for that I rejoice!

Where are you on this road? Talk to me.