Jesus Won the War

A war movie is an apt metaphor for life because we’re all prisoners of war. Everyone of us, from the rich and famous to the homeless person sleeping in a doorway. We are born in bondage to sin. There is no other identity. We can thank our first parents for that. They threw us under the bus when they chose to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit. Ever since that day all of us are born broken, needy and rebellious.

The bible calls it bondage to sin, Satan and the wrath of God. The trio of horror, except we don’t recognize it as such. We think it’s normal. We have no other reality to compare it to.

Self exacts a gravity that pulls us deeper and deeper into itself. We are the compass we live our lives by. The darkness is light to us. Selfish behavior is the stuff of life. The only god that rules is ourselves.

But God. He has redeemed us. FullSizeRender (53)

He’s pulled us out of our misery.

Sin no longer has dominion over us.

Satan’s slavery is broken.

We’re free from the wrath of God.

Jesus paid the price for our freedom.

He has given us his nature.

We live our lives in His light now.

Hallelujah!

Talk to me.

 

 

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The Solution to Our Need

The bible teaches us everywhere that we are sinners and that we owe God our devotion. The truth is, not one of us has made good on our obligation. The main thing we owe God is to love him with all our hearts, souls and minds. This is our baseline responsibility. How are we doing with this? If you’re like me, not so good. In fact, most days my heart, soul and mind is riveted on me. My feelings. My expectations. My wants. Even at my best, which doesn’t exist, I have never loved the Lord this way. I break the first commandment  every hour of every day. FullSizeRender (42)

What can be done for this kind of life? Never mind the really bad things we’ve done, but even the good things we’ve done, which aren’t really good enough. Our warmest and most heartfelt moment with the Lord falls short of the standard of perfection that God requires.

If we can’t even live up to our new year’s resolutions – in my case I don’t make them anymore because of past failures – what hope do we have to do better in the sight of God? Self-improvement won’t get us nearer to God. Despair isn’t the answer either.

The only solution is to run to Jesus who purchased our acceptance with God through his perfect life of obedience lived for us, and his death on the cross in payment for all our sins. Both have been credited to our account in God’s eyes.

Even if we can’t live up to our best intentions, Jesus has for us. He’s all we need!

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The Pain of More Fruit

Being a pilgrim and a stranger in this world is totally biblical. As Christians we are resident aliens. We are out of step with the world. We will never fit in so we should quit trying. If we feel homeless, that’s okay. We are strangers in a strange land. The world tells us to place our hope here, but we can’t because our hope lies elsewhere. This world is not our home and we will always feel like outsiders. We need to get used to it.

Hope is not a positive disposition towards life. It’s not Disney or Hollywood or your latest music video. If that were the case, very few could say they feel happy. Most people are fighting their demons. A lot of people are struggling and suffering. Even those who look on the outside as having everything. Even they are miserable.

Our hope as Christians is wrapped up in the blood of Christ, which transforms us and makes us new people. Our hope comes from the resurrection of Jesus. It draws us to heaven. There is where our true inheritance lies, never to be stolen or damaged or taken away. God himself guards it. Image result for vineyard

Our daily trials become bearable because we have this hope waiting for us. We will suffer here and may not know the reason why, like Job, but we know this, that no suffering occurs without purpose. There is no senseless suffering for the Christian. It is God ordained. It connects us to Jesus. We might feel God is against us in our suffering, but that’s not true. Our trials expose our faith – is it false or is it genuine? Do we cling to God or walk away? Are we real or a faker?

Suffering produces growth. God is removing everything false and superficial. He’s pruning us like branches in a vineyard. It’s not meant to kill us, although it feels that way. On the contrary, it’s meant to produce more fruit. And when he’s done, we will be amazed. We will live with stronger faith and hope in what awaits us.

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The Cross – a Culmination of the Bad and the Good

Have you every wondered what Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane? It certainly wasn’t about showing us how to pray better. Nor was it an example of humility for us to follow.

For Jesus it was about suffering. He suffered his whole life, as Isaiah tells us, from men and from devils. Judas, Peter and Satan himself.

The cross was going to be a level of suffering like no one had ever experienced before. It was where Jesus would receive from the hand of his Father all his wrath for sin. It would also be the place the Father would turn his back on Jesus and abandon him.

Think about that. It would be the first time in Jesus’s life where the Father would disengage with his Son.

Jesus did not die for God, he was no martyr. He died under God’s wrath, the justice of God being poured out on him for the sins of the world. It was at the cross that Jesus became responsible for sin. Yours and mine.

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Knowing this, it moved Jesus to pray. He asked his closest friends – Peter, James and John – to pray with him so he would not be alone in his agony. But they failed him. They slept for sorrow because it finally dawned on them that he would not usher in their hopes for a restored Israel. Their dream was shattered. There was no crown for Jesus or for them. Instead there was a cross and death.

Jesus’s prayer included the removal of God’s wrath from him. He hoped for a reprieve. But no matter what, he was willing to submit to his Father’s will. What anchored him was the promise of the resurrection. This hope was Christ’s by right. He earned it. We don’t have that right, nor do we earn it. We have the same hope by faith.

Adam started in a garden that was a paradise, but then he ruined it. Jesus lived in a ruined world, and ended his life in an olive grove where olives were pressed to give their oil. A fitting location in preparation for the Second Adam to be crushed in order to restore us back to God and eventually to a new heavens and a new world.

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It’s Yours for the Taking

Christ died so we could be justified. We have all our sins forgiven. He has made us new creatures in our union with Christ, and now God sees us like we had never sinned or had a sin nature. This change allows us to come home to the Father, where we stay forever. God never kicks us out.

Now, as wonderful as this is, I still had a nagging question: Why couldn’t I trust these truths about me? Why couldn’t I settle into God’s love and stay there? What happens to me when I sin again, which I do all the time? Does God stop loving me? Is he disappointed in me? Does he pull out my picture from his wallet and tear it up?

lily12I asked the Lord these questions recently, and this is what the Holy Spirit brought to mind:

If God held even one of my sins against me, he’d be declaring the blood of his Son to be insufficient to cover and blot out that sin. God can never go back on his Word because then he’d be saying his Son’s sacrifice was not good enough, that there was something lacking that I would have to make up for.  And he cannot do that. It cost the Father everything to send Jesus to the cross where all of God’s wrath for sin and sinners was poured out on him. The Father crushed Jesus for me. Everything I deserved from God’s hands was put on Jesus. How then could God hold any sin against me?

Not believing this with my whole heart is the greatest sin. It reeks of unbelief. My flesh wants to participate in self-salvation strategies. It wants to contribute to my salvation. It wants me to despair, fear and struggle. It delights in doubt.

But faith says otherwise. The greatest act of faith is to believe God and the Son he has sent! He is the solution to our estrangement from God. He is the answer to our love problems. The longing of our heart is fulfilled in accepting what the Father says of us – we are his beloved children.

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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.

 

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.