Pushing Forward

I don’t know about you, but have you noticed the flurry of bad news around Christmas? I’ve seen that pattern over the years too many times. Perhaps it’s because our senses are hightened to the holiday season, our expectations run high, and we hope that maybe this year we’ll experience some satisfaction and love.

We keep doing this. We don’t learn from the previous year.

Nothing and no one in this life can deliver what our hearts long for.

We only find fulfillment in Christ. He’s what we need every moment of every day.

So why do we keep hoping for what doesn’t deliver? Even good things don’t deliver. Once the experience is over, we revert back to feeling empty.

It’s habit, it’s lack of memory, and most of all, it’s sin. We’re wired that way. And that tendency will not leave us until we depart this earth and inhabit our new bodies in the new heavens and new earth. That’s when real life begins.

In the meantime, we must be watchful to expect too much from ourselves and others. We must remind ourselves and our fellow believers whose we are, who we are in him, and urge each other to keep our focus on him.

Talk to me.

Back to Writing

It’s been a long while since my last post. A cancer diagnosis. I’ve been in treatment since December 2020 and I’m living to tell it. I’ll spare you the details since there are so many wonderful blogs that treat that subject better than I could. What I’d like to share is how God has taught me more about himself along the way.

“You have cancer,” said the care team nurse on the phone after the biopsy came back.

“Why not me?” was my first thought. I had prayed with many friends and loved ones over the years who had been stricken with cancer that I thought it wasn’t unrealistic to view this as my turn for it. And so the journey began.

While I was being practical, nevertheless a heart stopping fear descended on me. An avalanche of decisions needed to be made. I had no wisdom. My care team pressured me to come in for treatment right away. I resisted. Instead I insisted on tests. Many of them. “You’re getting the gold standard,” my oncologist told me. After months of research, and second and third doctor opinions, and much agonizing prayer I opted out of conventional treatment for an integrative approach.

Was I doing the right thing? I ran to the Psalms and found every promise God had written there and I put my name in them and declared them out loud. God made me realize that whatever treatment I chose he was with me.

“Call on me Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” – Psalm 50:15. I was certainly in a lot of trouble with no way out and knowing God would deliver me was a relief. I calmed down. A bit.

“In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 56:11. Man can do plenty I thought, but then he’d have to deal with God.

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him, and he will act.” – Psalm 37:5. I was going into my treatment like a blind man but I handed it over to the Lord and rested in this promise. Easier said than done, but God took me by the hand and by little steps led me through the chemo sessions. I was one of seven in the chemo room and soon we were a band of fellow patients in the fellowship of suffering.

Martin Luther said, “In the midst of death we have life.” What a great reminder that in the midst of a cancer diagnosis, I belonged to God, I was righteous in Christ, and I was complete in him. My care team, all of whom were healthy, excellent individuals were dead in their sins while I, who was ill, was full of life in Christ. Over the months God opened up many gospel conversations with them.

Glad to be back writing.

Talk to me.

Change of Address

We tend to forget that Jesus’ mission was to destroy the works of the devil. That’s why he came. See 1 John 3:8

And part of that destruction was the rescue operation of God’s people who lived in darkness and were enslaved by the devil. Jesus came in like a warrior, attacked the enemy, destroyed him, and liberated God’s people.

How did he do it? 

First, by living a perfect life of obedience to God’s laws in our place.

Second, by paying the price for our sins by dying on the cross for us.

Third, by being raised from the dead and taking us with him.

We did not merit any of this.

We are God’s choice. See Ephesians 1 & Romans 9.

It was God the Father who gave us to God the Son before the foundation of the world. It was His choice.

It was God the Son who willingly left heaven and came to earth to be our Substitute.

And it’s God the Holy Spirit who lives in us to unite us to Christ and all his benefits.

We used to live in the world, but God took us out of it and put us in His kingdom. We have a new address. We breathe a new air, live a new life, and love God out of gratitude.

We possess of dual citizenship. Heaven and earth. Blessings now, fulfillment later.

Go out and tell somebody the rescue has happened!

Talk to me.

 

Hybrid

The gospel is not for nice people, but for sinners.

We forget that.

We get disappointed with Christians in the church. We hold them to a higher standard than God does. We expect them to live perfect lives. And when they don’t, we’re crushed. We forget that Christians are sinners too, even as Christians.

Luther said a Christian is both a sinner and a saint.

We’ve been made righteous by an alien righteousness – that is Christ’s – and it had nothing to do with us. It was a gift God gave us in Christ through faith in Him. Even faith is a gift from God.

We bring nothing to the table but our sin. God does everything.

He grabs us out of the world and kills us in Christ on the cross, then buries us in the tomb, and then resurrects us with Christ. See Ephesians 2:1-10.

What part of that process was our contribution? Zero.

But if we’re Christians, then it happened to us. God happened to us. See Ephesians 1.

The gospel is nothing we do.

It’s what God did in Jesus.

Talk to me.

 

Oh the Shame!

The word shame is mentioned so many times these days it seems there’s no other word in the English vocabulary. It’s talked about so often in sermons, books, lectures and therapy sessions that it has lost its meaning. We’re supposed to believe everyone feels shame and it’s the biggest problem out there that people are grappling with.

That might be true if you’re trying to restore someone’s self-esteem. If it’s meant to describe feelings of embarrassment, then everybody has felt it one time or another. For example, at not being prepared for an interview and you were caught off-guard with a question. Or when you forgot your lines in the school play. Or when you weren’t dressed appropriately at a gathering. These are common experiences that make people feel insecure and unacceptable.

But nowadays shame is being used in a therapeutic sense. It’s the popular word for feeling you’re not enough, you’re wrong as a person, you’re unwanted.

Someone gave you the message and you believed it. And from that moment on you made it your life’s mission to find ways to overcome it.

While this might be true of you, it doesn’t go deep enough. God says real shame is refusing to believe who he is for you. You prefer living in unbelief instead of embracing the God who loves you. You’re holding on to the message your parents or peers gave you from the past.

Everyone has those messages living in their heads. They’re common to the human race because sin is common to the human race. 

You can overcome these messages, but that won’t win the war for your soul. Only by turning to God, the author of your life, and believing his love for you, by giving you Christ to redeem you and bring you back to your true home, will you be right with him and your own soul. 

Christ took your shame (your unbelief) on the cross and it died there. And it was buried in the tomb with him. It’s dead. And when Christ was resurrected he gave you his new life. There is no shame mixed in there. Look all you want. It’s gone. You’re now free from those condemning voices to follow only one voice – the Father’s. And his voice is affirming, loving, and gracious. 

Talk to me.

 

Your Problems Aren’t Big Enough

The people I know who have walked away from the Lord share a similar perspective on life. They reduce their explanation to “God failed me.”  They recount how: “He didn’t give me what I prayed for,” one says. “He didn’t show up to change my circumstances,” says another. In other words, God disappointed them by not giving them what they expected from him. So they packed their bags and retreated from the kingdom.

It’s always God’s fault. He didn’t come through, he wasn’t there, he left me alone.

We are creatures stuck in the here-and-now. In some cases we can’t see beyond today, especially if we’re suffering. All we want is for the circumstances to change, or for the people who are causing us pain to treat us better. When that doesn’t happen, we grow bitter and disillusioned. We pull away. And as Christians we blame God. After all, he’s powerful and is able to change anything he chooses in an instant.

We only see our immediate needs while God sees our eternal need. We look for temporary solutions to our problems, while God looks to give us his ultimate and best solution, a solution we didn’t even know we needed because the lesser problems were muddying our vision and distorting our view of life.

How can we say God failed us when he fixed our biggest need? The need for forgiveness of sins, the need of reconciliation with the Father, the need of an inheritance, a new heart, and a new destiny. All because of Christ who purchased it for us because we were helpless to help ourselves.

We look for immediate solutions to the cares of this life, while God sees our eternal need. And he has fulfilled what he promised by giving us a Savior who is the answer to everything we truly need.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

The Secret to Witnessing

The Church is for dirty sinners, not clean sinners.

The only difference between Christians and those who are not, is the fact that God the Holy Spirit paints our hearts with the blood of Jesus. It’s Jesus in us that makes the difference, not what we do, or have, or what other people say about us.

This is important when we witness to others about Christ. Typically our tendency is to impress with our knowledge of the truth, or our accomplishments. We think this will catch their attention. But the apostle Paul says the opposite. “If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.” 2 Corinthians 11:30

It’s sharing our weaknesses that draws people’s attention. Then they are willing to listen to how God changed us. The Father uses our humility to convict Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s a touching point that people can relate to. Weakness, failure, struggle, and pain are the miseries of life that everyone is in touch with. This speaks to people and they see themselves in our humility. And then, Lord willing, they see their need of a Savior.

Here’s a prayer for all of us:

“Father, I confess that I’m naturally self-centered and self-exalting. Any humility I have is the gift of your Holy Spirit. Please, please touch me now with a humble heart, and break my pride and self-dependence. Make me feel my weakness and your strength. Then give me a loving boldness in witness that is only from you.”

God loves to answer this prayer with yes!

– adapted from A Faith Worth Sharing by C. John Miller

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

The Gospel is for Christian Sinners, Too

Has this question ever crossed your mind? “Even when I’m disobedient, does God love me anyway?”

This question has been on my mind lately. I sin everyday, in word, attitude and deed. I’m basically a selfish person. I don’t put others first, I put me first. I don’t love God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. I’m a cynic at heart. The glass is always half empty for me. And, horror of horrors, there’s more unbelief in me than trust and faith in my Savior.

So how can God love me anyway?

A lot of Christians, including pastors, would admonish me to get on with disciplining my life so I can be more obedient. They’d give me a book or a class or a set of disciplines to incorporate into my life.

That’s all well and good, but those remedies don’t address what’s at the core in my understanding of the gospel.

Remember, the gospel changes everything.

So how does it change me here?

No believer in Jesus is dead in sin anymore. Why? Because Jesus took his sin on himself and died for it on the cross.

No believer continues in sin in that way anymore. He died to sin (Romans 6) and he has been resurrected in Christ.

Believers continue to sin (Romans 7) but they are no longer dead in sin.

That’s a huge difference!

So the answer to the question, “Does God continue to love me when I sin?” is a resounding YES!

Because God sees his Son having died to those sins.

That truth will set you free to love God more, be more holy, and go out and tell people what a wonderful God you serve.

Without the gospel informing us everyday, we allow the devil to condemn us and make us miserable. Our health of mind and heart is in what Christ did for us in his life and death to make us complete and perfect in God’s sight. That’s who we are.

Talk to me.

How to Have Abundance

We are people who are always looking for life. We turn to material things or relationships or careers or hobbies. The biggest lie is, “You can have it all!” or “Make this your best life now!” Advertisers know this. The color and smell of a new car. The bigger house with a pool. The trip to an exotic land where you can live like someone else for a while. All these things promise us life, happiness and the satisfaction of our souls.

We don’t give our best to these things. We know them to be imposters of happiness. If we don’t have them, we stay content anyway. Why? Because we have Jesus. He is what we need all the time. Faith is the ongoing movement toward Jesus everyday. He satisfies us with his presence and care. He gives us better food to eat in his Word. He takes us by the hand and gives us rest. He knows us and loves us and delights to call us his friends. And one day we will see him face to face in the new heavens and the new earth.

We can wait for that.

In the meantime we stay busy telling others how wonderful he is.

Talk to me.