Not Here

I have two friends who are suffering physically and mentally. One suffers excruciating pain down her right leg as the result of a stroke. The other is bipolar and refuses to take any medication for it. Both insist that God heal them directly. So far he hasn’t even though they pray fervently for it.

Both suffer from believing a lie. That type of mental anguish is worse than the physical ailment. This lie is dispensed every Sunday in church like the drinks at the coffee bar. It’s called having your best life now. It’s a theology of glory. God is supposed to keep us healthy, wealthy, and satisfied Christians.  Broken

But God has promised no such thing this side of heaven. What we long for – perfect health, perfect harmony in our relationships, perfect families and perfect joy – will be a reality when we’re living in the new heavens and the new earth, but not here.

While the longings of our hearts are right, our timing is off. This is the wilderness we’re trudging through, just like the Israelites did. Canaan was their destination, not some plot of sand with a well and a palm tree. Like them, we are headed to where all our longings will be fulfilled, but at the moment we keep our sandals on and keep walking.

The only one who had his best life was Jesus because he lived in heaven. But he willingly left that behind to live his worst life for 33 years. There’s reason why Isaiah describes him as a Man of Sorrows. We never read of Jesus laughing or telling a joke. He lived with suffering every day. The worst kind in the rejection of his own people he came to save. Day in and day out he suffered with people’s unbelief and hatred.

He owned nothing except the clothes on his back. He went hungry. He wept. And yet with this example we’re taught to expect God to give us everything he never gave his Son.

We hate living ordinary lives. We crave notoriety, we demand to live our potential, we love unearthing the divine spark within. Except there’s nothing biblical in any of it. It’s worldliness disguised as philosophical fast food.

The only Person who lived up to his potential was Jesus. We can’t because sin holds us back.

The only One whose life was not ordinary was Jesus’s. Ours are routine and unexceptional every day.

The One who lived by God’s every law was Jesus thereby meriting heaven. We live to break every law and merit hell.

Knowing this, we still demand our best life now. It’s insanity. No wonder we’re depressed and despairing.

The only course correction is to read the bible with fresh eyes and ask God for new understanding of life under heaven. Who is with me?

Talk to me.

 

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Ode to Joy

I find joy to be something I long for and never quite grasp. It’s like running after a kite in the wind. I’m much more comfortable with gloom, that settled state of mind of pessimism and cynicism, with that I am well acquainted.

Joy, on the other hand, is something I know I don’t have. It’s required of the Christian and therefore I sin at it. I certainly don’t have it inside me. So where is it?

Like in everything else, it’s found in God. He owns it and it’s his to give out.

God is happy with himself, his Son and his Spirit. Theirs is a fellowship of joy. It’s pure. It’s unadulterated. And they’re eager to share it.

Can you and I be joyful in a fallen world? Yes. FullSizeRender (33)

Joy looks like Sarah’s laughter, Paul’s contentment in prison, and it ends in the book of Revelation where we can say with certainty, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Joy starts in confessing we don’t have it. Then we need to ask for it. It’s an essential ingredient for living.

It’s for our peace of mind and our witness to the world. It makes God look good to our unbelieving neighbor.

By presenting God as the source and giver of our joy, who knows we might provoke the people in our lives to want God, too.

Lack of joy dishonors God.

Think about it. He died for you in order to bring you to God. He wraps you in his righteousness, he cares for you, protects you, leads you into maturity and then takes you home. Oh, and did I mention all your sins are forgiven you?

Knowing all this, how can we walk around gloomy and broody? It’s disgraceful.

So what are you and I going to do to show off God’s joy today?

Talk to me.

 

 

Talking to Strangers

I handed a man a gospel of John this morning. He was my seatmate on the subway. He was reading a book about health and whole foods, so I wrote down Dr. John McDougall’s web address (https://www.drmcdougall.com/) and told him to look him up. I have no idea why I did that. I just felt compelled. He said he had heard about Dr. McDougall recently, and here I am telling him the same thing. I was going to leave it at that, but felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. Didn’t God just open up that conversation? Hadn’t God put this man in the seat next to me? I had traveled with an empty seat almost to my stop, which in morning commute hours is unheard of, so clearly this was a divine appointment. Did I think all these thoughts right on the spot? No, not one of them. I’m reflecting on the encounter as I write this. I got up to get ready for my stop. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me, so I whipped out the gospel of John (https://www.ptl.org/) and handed it to him. He said he had never read the bible. He didn’t know what to do with it. I told him it was better than anything he was reading. He was stunned and looked at me suspiciously. One minute he was animated about being healthy and the next it was like I handed him a disease, but he took it. I prayed for him as I left the station. seed

Are you ready to witness for the Lord? Have materials in your pocket ready to give away and pray for encounters. He will give them to you. Nobody’s going to hug you for it, but you know God will be pleased. Who knows how many people will end up in heaven as a result of your encounters.

Talk to me.

How to Be Happy

I’m always taken aback when I’m reminded that God wants happy people around him. I’m generally not a happy person. Nobody would call me a bubbly personality. Just the opposite, I tend to brood and be serious about practically everything in life.

So to call me to be happy is a tall order, one which I fail at. photo(43)

That’s because sin damages happiness. It’s twisted, mangled and polluted. The world is choked with sin, but thank God, there’s always a flash of glory we experience every so often. We see this is the narratives of the bible. God covered naked Adam and Eve with animal skins. He preserved Noah and his family during the flood of judgment. He gave Esther favor and audience with the king, which ultimately saved the Jews from extinction.

His greatest flash of glory was sending Jesus, his Son to be our sin bearer so we could be reconciled to him. God didn’t have to do it, but he did because he wanted a people for himself to share his glory.

The world knows nothing about this. Instead it pins its happiness on things – possessions, wealth, health, leisure, and good relationships – but these are fleeting as most people eventually discover. There is no anchor for the soul here. Only a series of missteps that run into a dead end. However, when we realize that everything our hearts long for is found in Jesus, then he becomes our treasure, and as we live our lives in his presence, we are drawn into the happy fellowship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

What could be more sublime than that?

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Life in an Upside Down World

I’ve been writing about the upside-down kingdom of God. Losers will be winners, the last will be first, and the marginalized will fit in.

The biggest loser in the history of this world is Jesus Christ. He was poor, rejected, beaten, buried in a borrowed tomb, but now he is seated on the throne in heaven directing the affairs of this world and waiting for us to come home.

In the meantime, what are we to do?

For starters, we shouldn’t look down on people. We don’t have a full picture of their lives and kindness goes a long way to lifting them up a bit.

Everyone lives on God’s grace, sinner and saint alike. God’s blessings fall on both the righteous and the evil doer. We’re all takers. The only thing we’ve earned  is the wages of sin.

Be grateful. We once were alienated from God, but now we have been drawn near by sheer grace. God set his love on us, not because we were great human beings and deserving to be in the family, but because he chose us, pure and simple. We’re just as nasty as the next guy.

Tell others about this wonderful God we love and serve. That’s our reason for living. To glorify God and enjoy him forever. There’s nothing that gives more joy than witnessing for Christ. Even if we do it badly, it’s worth it, and God takes the mistakes and turns them around for good. So forget about feeling like a failure. There are no failures if you’re telling someone about Jesus.

Talk to me.

 

Not So Quick

Have you ever asked yourself, like I have, what was lacking in the rich young ruler’s life that turned him away from following Jesus? Something nagged at him to ask Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He said he kept the commandments and Jesus didn’t fault him in that. What was missing?

He may have been thinking that there was something he needed to add to the rule list. “Just tell me and I’ll be on it.”

Or he may have been thinking that he was doing alright and wanted Jesus to confirm him in his performance.

But that wasn’t it.  FullSizeRender (4)

Just like this blog is fond of repeating that acceptance with God is by Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, this young ruler had everything, including wealth and possessions, but lacked the one thing that could give him eternal life.

Without faith in Jesus he had nothing.

He was a rebel in God’s world. He was spiritually dead. Notice in today’s culture, he would be described as a seeker, someone who was close to God, and whom God was pleased with. But in truth his heart was of stone. His sins were not forgiven. He was under God’s wrath.

So what does Jesus tell him?

To sell his possessions and give his wealth to the poor.

Why would Jesus say that instead of telling him he needed to have faith in him?

No doubt Jesus saw that he trusted in his considerable wealth and put his finger on it to expose it. The young ruler heard that and walked away sorrowful. He was willing to do anything, but part with his riches. He loved them more than God. While being rich he was poor. He failed to realize that eternal life was more wonderful than all the riches in the world.

We see time and time again that those who feel secure in their performance, Jesus refers them to the law, but to those who are a mess, like the woman caught in adultery, he consoles with the gospel.

If you’re keeping the rules without a corresponding love for God inside, you of all people are not keeping any rule. You must be poor and needy inside, a beggar of God’s love and life and then he will grant it to you.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

faith in Jesus, the one person who could give him what he needed.

And notice how Jesus answered him.

 

 

 

 

Stay Needy

How does one live in God’s kingdom? What does that look like?

If you read Matthew 19: 13-15  you’ll see how Jesus responded to his disciples’ rebuke to parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children. Children had no status in those days. The people of respect were the adults, especially the old men. That was the Jewish culture. But Jesus turned that upside down by insisting that his kingdom was for children.

Really? Children are needy and helpless. They frighten easily. They need protection and care. And they’re messy!

God’s kingdom is precisely for those who are helpless and insignificant and marginalized.

The nobodies are more important than the somebodies. God’s kingdom is not for the movers and shakers.

The kingdom is right-side up while the world is upside down, so no matter what the world tells us is important, or who we should be, it’s probably not true. The disciples reacted as the culture of the day demanded, but Jesus reversed that.

So God’s handbook says, “Become like a little child.” We’re not important. We’re unworthy servants at best. We must look out for others first. Esteem them better than ourselves.

Christ showed us how. He was the king serving his subjects. The saint serving sinners.

We can’t to do it by the law. Knowledge is not enough. There’s something broken in all of us. We don’t need a better you. We’ve been promised a new you in the gospel.

Christ covered our sins by his blood. He’s our Passover. All our sins were imputed to him and he died for them on the cross. And all Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us. The grand exchange described in 2 Corinthians 5:21. We no longer carry the burden of sin and death on our shoulders. We can now skip and dance like little children in the playground of God’s kingdom.

Do you believe this?   Related image

If you’re not sure, receive Christ by faith today. It’s not about being smarter. Or stronger. It’s about feeling helpless like a little child and clinging to him for life.

Be helpless. It’s okay.

God’s kingdom is full of needy ones. Stay that way.

Talk to me.