Sprinkle the Conffetti

Christians are not good people while unconverted sinners are bad people.

The only difference between the two groups is that Christians have their sins forgiven.

Jesus did not come to save respectable sinners.  He came for the despicable, the marginalized, the unlovely.

You and me.

There are no good people in this world.

We’re all bad people in need of rescuing.

No matter how polished and well put together on the outside, our sinful DNA is showing.

In Matthew 9 we are introduced to Matthew, the tax collector. A hated and despised man because his presence reminded the Jews they were living in occupied territory. He worked for the Roman government. He also worked for himself – extorting, bullying, and wheedling. He lined his own pockets with the taxes from his own people. He was the kind of sinner Jesus came for. And when Jesus called him, Matthew threw a party in response. IMG_4788

Why did Jesus go and enjoy the party? He could have walked on and met other people who needed him.

It was because Jesus’s coming to earth changed the times they were in.

The Old Testament was a time of waiting for Messiah.

The New Testament was a time of celebration, joy and freedom because Messiah had arrived as promised and he was going to set them free from their sins.

Like Matthew, Jesus changes our glumness to joy.

Matthew was happy. He was a new man. And he volunteered to repay all monies he had taken from his own people.

Jesus wants us to live in rapture that he took our sins on the cross and then we were raised in his resurrection.

Jesus’s preaching had an emphasis of celebration.

Think about the many parties Jesus went to in his lifetime.

Then reflect on the lavish party we’re going to have in heaven at the end our lives.

Are you savoring the party to come?

Is your life a celebration of sins forgiven, and a restored relationship with your heavenly Father?

Are you setting tonight’s dinner table with celebration?

Talk to me.

 

 

How to Be Happy

Why are so many people unhappy?

Why do so many people say they hate their jobs?

Why do others break off relationships, some of which have lasted a lifetime?

And why do others become slaves to alcohol and drugs?

At the bottom of their reasons is a desire to be happy.

Everybody wants to be happy. No matter who you are, where you are, or what you do.

I believe God wired us for happiness. This is not something we have invented. It’s part of our DNA as God’s image bearers.

But, as we all know, sin has marred everything, including this longing for happiness. Now we look for it in all the wrong places, especially in other people, only to be disappointed in the long run.  IMG_7161

Real happiness comes from knowing and enjoying Christ. Everything else is Hollywood. You have a choice – it’s a question of lavish feasting with him or settling for scraps the world offers.

We are born craving approval, acceptance and love and resisting the one Person who can give it to us. What fools we are. It can be ours in Christ. We don’t have to earn it, grovel for it, or hope for it. It’s ours the moment we believe.

We are wired for intimacy and we have it in Christ, as a gift. God has placed us in Christ’s kingdom and we have been drawn into the fellowship not only our Savior, but God the Father and the Holy Spirit. What can be more amazing than that? As C. S. Lewis said, it’s time to drop those mud pies in the gutter and take that holiday by the sea.

What are you doing about being happy today? Looking at your career, your marriage, your retirement, your shattered dreams, your own heart? Don’t waste your time. Look to Christ and you’ll find it there.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-Write Your Story

Once upon a time stories were for children. Now they seem to be usurped by almost everybody – big business, airlines, pharmaceutical companies, the automobile industry, everything is fair game even down to the toothpaste yuo use.

The truth is we’re wired for story. Our brains respond to them. And for some of you, you are a slave to your story. It’s the one you play in your head everyday. It can be a traumatic event, an emotional decision, a deep hurt, an unfairness, whatever it was that left a wound in your soul.

Instead of replaying it over and over again, replace it with a better story.

Sounds crazy?

It’s not.

What better story, you ask?  IMG_1415

The one that has you in Christ’s story. It’s the one that starts like this:

Once upon a time God created a perfect world and handed it over to his children, Adam and Eve to take care of it, but then they disobeyed him and plunged themselves and everybody after them into sin. When God saw the mess they had made, he realized only he could fix it. So he sent his perfect Son to earth in the form of a perfect man to live and do what Adam and Eve and the rest of us failed to do. Jesus lived to please God and then died on the cross to pay the price for your sins. His perfect life and record is now yours as a gift from God to you. All you need is faith in Christ to get it. The moment you receive that gift you step into Christ’s story.

What is true of you now?

You have a new Father who loves you. He is unlike any earthly father you’ve ever known.

You have a Savior who fixed your biggest problem – your sin that kept you from God.

You have a new identity – you are a child of God with all its privileges, including an inheritance.

You have a new family – your brothers and sisters in Christ.

You have a new future – living in the new heavens and the new earth for an eternity.

You have new support – the church.

You have a calling – the Holy Spirit has given you spiritual gifts to serve God with.

So what are you waiting for?

Dump the old story today and start telling yourself the new one!

Talk to me.

The Gospel is for the Heart

Psychologists and motivational speakers claim that a person has six basic needs in life. If these aren’t being met, then the person is living a life of misery.

Here are the six:

Security – financial and emotional
SignificanceIMG_4606
Connection/Love
Variety
Growth
Contribution

Let’s see how the gospel speaks to these:

Security – you can’t find any in this fallen world because security is subject to change and decay – remember the dot.com and real estate bust – real security comes from belonging to Christ.

Significance – all of us want to be noticed and recognized and applauded – however, there’s been only One Significant Man worth our attention – Jesus Christ – and if you belong to him then you share in his significance. You can’t get any more significant than that.

Connection/Love – fallen creatures can’t offer the life you crave, they can’t fill you up with love and joy and intimacy, they can only offer self and that fluctuates every minute – only God’s love in Christ for you is the true connection you long for that stays steady forever.

Variety – fallen man seeks entertainment to be stimulated whereas following Christ everyday and doing his will is never boring.

Growth – growing in a skill or talent is temporary, whereas growing in the love that Christ has for you brings you increased joy and happiness.

Contribution – the best man can do is social work for the less fortunate – i.e. Tom’s Shoes – whereas your highest contribution is having faith in God and loving your neighbor out of a grateful heart for what God has done for you.

If all your basic needs are met in Christ, then how should you then live?

1. Stop looking to sinners and the world to fill you up – you are filled already in Christ.

2. Learn to be content with what you have and where you are right now – be thankful to God.

3. Serve others out of a grateful heart for God’s gift of his Son for you.

There’s one more thing. I believe there’s a seventh basic need that trumps all six, and it’s this:

How do you escape the wrath of God? How do your sins get wiped away?

Isn’t it interesting that nobody asks that anymore?

Talk to me.

Getting Down on Yourself

The essential mark of a Christian is love. Love for Christ, church members, neighbors, family, authorities and people who don’t know the Lord yet.

But let’s be honest. We don’t do this very well.

I don’t. You don’t.

Why do  I say this with such confidence?

Because we are lovers of ourselves first. I prefer myself over you, and I suspect the same is true of you.

Unfortunately we deceive ourselves into thinking we love better than we do, and our friends will do everything they can to convince us we’re doing okay.

Try this experiment next time you’re in a group: Say something that lowers yourself in your own eyes, like, “I wasn’t very patient with my mother the other day.” Then wait for people’s responses. Several will try to rescue you from your low-self esteem. Why? Because if they didn’t attempt the rescue operation they would have to face their own lack of love for others.

We settle for half-hearted attempts. Listening with half an ear; putting off calling that pesky friend who talks too much; holding on to revenge because the person who hurt you still hasn’t admitted it. IMG_6921

Our hearts are deceitful and compromised by the world, the flesh and the devil. If one doesn’t cause us to trip, the other will. Maybe all three at the same time.

And the biggest trap we fall into is looking inside our hearts to find those evidences of love, good feelings and caring.

Except that’s the wrong direction.

Nothing good resides there.

Love must come from the outside. Not as a sensational feeling that sweeps us off our feet, but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are members of his body and united to him. Love flows down from him to us and then out to our neighbor.

That’s why the apostle Paul exhorts us to put on Christ. Not once or twice but everyday.

What does that look like?

It’s realizing his love is 100% perfect and it’s ours as a gift.

It’s being grateful that he loved perfectly when he was here on earth and his perfect record God has been put into our account.

From God’s perspective, we love perfectly because it’s Christ’s love he sees there.

From our perspective, we live a life of transparency before the Lord, where no secrets are tolerated. We no longer give ourselves permission to sin. We throw out old grudges and hatred and forgive the other person, a hundred times if we have to.

Sounds impossible?

It is!

It reveals how much we need Christ, which is exactly where we need to be. It’s confessing our sins and admitting our inadequacy. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And what does God think of this display of lowliness?

Take a look.

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
‘I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite'”. – Isaiah 57:15 ESV

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

Jesus in the Storm

Everybody loves the story of Jesus calming the storm. And everyone loves to say to anxious and despairing people, “See, Jesus can calm the raging waters of your soul, too.”

Except that’s not what the story is about.

According to the narrative in Matthew 8, this was not your ordinary storm. It had the force of the devil behind it. It was the equivalent of an earthquake in power and force. No wonder the disciples, experienced fishermen who knew those waters, were terrified. They didn’t know what to do, so they told Jesus.

“Save us, we’re perishing!”   

This woke Jesus up from his nap and he was annoyed with them. He was surprised they weren’t calm.

Instead they were afraid and not trusting God for their safety.

I would have been among them.

With just a word, Jesus rebuked the storm and the disciples marveled at this. They wanted to know who they had in the boat with them.

Didn’t they already know?

Apparently they were suffering from dementia. They had forgotten their Old Testament lessons of God creating the oceans in Genesis, and controlling the seas in Jonah, Job, and the Psalms.

Jesus rebuked the storm like he would a demon and it obeyed immediately.

The seas have one master, the Lord. The sea is his servant. He’s king of the ocean and rules it by his word.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus did not pray or ask his Father to handle the storm. He did it himself.

He is God.

He created the oceans.

He is God with us in the storm.

He will not leave us.

This is a promise.

If he didn’t run away from the cross, he will not leave us in our circumstances.

Are you really believing he is with you today?

Talk to me.

 

 

 

How to Spot a Comfortable Religion

Religion is for good people.

It has one central characteristic – to give you a bunch of laws to make your life work and to gain approval from its god. And the burden is on you. You have make it work. It’s your discipline and commitment that makes it or breaks it for you.

For example, meditation just doesn’t float down like a cloud and take you by the hand to your happy place. You have to work it. You have to set aside the time, roll out the mat, sit Buddha-style, inhale and exhale, clear your mind, breathe in, breathe out, and keep your back straight. After twenty minutes you get up, roll up the mat, tuck it under your arm and now you’re ready to check that off your list for the day.

On the other hand, Christianity is for bad people. That’s me. I have the mat, the exercise ball, and the twister thing, all with a heavy layer of dust on them in the corner of the room. I’ve walked away from many schools of discipline. I’m sure they would have worked had I been more consistent. But consistency eludes me, along with daily bible reading, prayer, and keeping my eyes glued to Jesus every day.

I can’t do it. IMG_5938

The slightest distraction draws me away from him. The weather. My spiritual temperature. The latest conflict with my husband. The boring aspects of my job. Those capture my heart faster than everything Jesus has done for me.

I tell others to be aware of looking inward because there’s nothing good there. Just sin and failure. That joy in life is found in keeping a closeness with Jesus. Except I don’t do it.

That’s why I’m a bad people. Even on my best days, my life is shot full of sin. That’s why Christianity is my kind of religion. It tells me I am bad, that I have no hope, and that I am lost and without God in the world. Sounds very orphan-like to me. No Father is heaven looking after me. No church to nurture and raise me. No brothers and sisters to live with. That’s as bad as it gets.

That’s why I need Christianity. That’s where I discover Jesus. He came to rescue me because I was that bad. He merited righteousness through his perfect obedience, and paid the price for my sins through his death on the cross. And both are credited to me through faith in him alone.

That’s it. It’s that simple, and yet it cost Jesus everything. My job? To believe him. If he said he did this, then you can trust him.

Which would you rather do? Believe in Jesus or roll out that dusty exercise ball?

Talk to me.