Not Yet

Indwelling sin, and we all have it, is not the chief identity of the Christian. Our union with Christ is.  We belong to him and he belongs to us. And the Holy Spirit keeps us together. It takes his power to keep us united.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to keep teaching us about Christ, helping us in our prayers, and empowering us to serve the Lord. He’s got a lot to do. That’s why Paul says not to quench or grieve him. IMG_0985

What’s the key to all this? It’s faith. Faith in Christ our Savior, faith to keep believing he’s paid all our sins, faith that he took us with him in his resurrection, and faith to rely on the fact we have already arrived in heaven. Wherever Christ is, we are. And since he’s in heaven, that’s where we are.

Hard to believe. Especially when life gets in the way with its struggles, hardships and trials. Most days I don’t feel forgiven or resurrected. I live in the trenches with my fellow Christians. Our dreams are shattered. The attacks of the devil get nastier by the year. I know I’m not living up to my potential. And this is not my best life now. Thank God.

The wilderness journey – our life from the day God rescued us to the day to we enter heaven – is not meant to be a cruise vacation. And yet that’s what we expect. We want luxuries, comforts, successes, and ease. Where do we get that idea? Was that Paul’s life? How about Peter’s? How wonderful was the life of Jesus, the designer of the universe? If anyone deserved applause, honor and glory, it was him. Instead, he got rejected, slapped in the face, and crucified.

God knows our longings. He’s not going to shortchange us. It’s just that our timing is off. All our heart’s desires will come true when we live in our resurrected bodies in the new heavens and the new earth.

Until then, we wait, and sing with our Savior.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Oops! That Burden Just Crashed

I’ve been thinking about some of the things people tell me about themselves, mostly about how angry they are. I’ve learned over the years that anger very often comes from shattered expectations. Boy do I know about those at work and family. A day doesn’t go by when I’m not disappointed by someone.
I thought you might want to do an interesting assignment that has helped me. Most of the time those expectations live in our minds leaking their poison into our hearts. Instead label them and write them down in a list. Get them down on paper even if you fill an entire notebook! Then make a cup of coffee and come back and take a hard look at them. Is there a common theme? Write that down too.  Igor Mitoraj
Then ask yourself, How has Christ given me what I need?

We tend to expect people we care about to live up to their potential (as we see it) and to reciprocate in kind the investment we’ve given them. It’s especially true in a spouse, a parent or a child.

At the root we are demanding they give us life, fill us up, and satisfy us. But the people in our lives are just sheep, just like we are, and they aren’t beasts of burden. Our expectations load them down for failure because they can’t deliver what we want, and we end up disappointed because we stay empty. God is the only agent of change, and our job is to ask him and leave him to it.
At the core we have a worship-disorder. We have been created to be faith-in-God beings, but we are drawn away by our flesh to become faith-in-anything-but God-beings. Our core identity is as a beloved child of God. Since we belong to him, he has already given us everything our hearts long for, but we find it in Christ.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – Colossians 1:27

Talk to me.

A Major Difference

Jesus is the face of God. That is what everyone is looking for.

We’re hungry to be seen. He knows you by name. He knows all about you.

We’re craving comfort. He is the Great Comforter, full of grace and peace.

We want acknowledgement. He gives it by dying on the cross for you. Broken

We long to be understood. He knows everything about you, what makes you tick, how you think, the pain you feel, the rejection.

But what do we typically do? We turn away from God and turn toward other people and demand they give us what we want. That’s why marriages don’t work. Our jobs don’t satisfy. Our hobbies get boring. Our children become work instead of pleasure. Nothing we touch fills us.

It was never meant to.

The fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore are only found in Christ.

Until we realize it, we’re doomed to traveling in the wrong direction, where the gravel pits are, where there is no water.

Idols take everything, and give nothing back except pain and disappointment.

Only Jesus is the fountain of life.

What are you waiting for?

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but in other things like lovers, friends, hobbies, travel, power, money, you name it.

 

Not Your Dream Job

Even if God never gives you your dream job, he has given you everything.

Even if you never have the opportunity to use your considerable gifts, he has given you everything.

Even if you do use your gifts and the job is falling short of expectations, he has given you everything. Your marriage, your kids, your parents. They could be nothing but trouble, but God has given you everything.

Even if what you want for your life doesn’t match reality, he has given you everything.

What’s the everything? Christ!

By giving you Christ to suffer and make satisfaction for your sins, God the Father has poured out his heart of love for you.  IMG_4214

You need to see that what your heart longs for is found in Christ. You long for a father who notices you, who is kind and loving, who adores you. God the Father does!

In Christ, the Father has scooped you up and brought you into his arms and showers you with kisses. He has called for the caterers so he can throw you a party.

You are no longer an orphan in the universe. You belong to the God of the universe who happens to be your Father.

Coram Deo.

We live everyday in the face of such love.

Talk to me.

The Big Reason to be Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving this week and the focus around here is turkey and being thankful. The turkey part is easy. You go to the store and select the bird you want and bring it home and prepare and roast it.

It’s the thankfulness part that is trickier. We’re not very good at it. If you’re like me, I frequently forget to thank God from one day to the next, and one week to the next.

That’s shameful considering the very air I breathe is his. IMG_3973

Not only that, God did the most scandalous thing in the world. He rescued us from his wrath and judgment and hell. This he planned long ago, before the world was made. Then he sent his Son in time and space to bring us salvation, a gift we didn’t deserve, all because God wanted us in his family. We didn’t ask to be rescued. We didn’t even think we needed to be rescued. That’s how deep sin goes. But God knew our deepest need was to know him and have him as our God. He chose us. We are now new creatures in Christ. And in the resurrection of his Son he is re-creating the world. And one day God will usher in the new heavens and the new earth where we will live forever.

That’s what we need to be thankful for. It should take our breath away.

Not only this week, but every day.

Talk to me.

 

The Dark Side of Shame

Have you noticed how much the word “shame” is used in sermons, counseling and bible teaching these days?

All of a sudden it’s the word of the day, as if we’re walking around with a dark cloud over our heads feeling shame for all sorts of things, especially our past.

That may be true since we’re sinners and we don’t do life very well.

Each one of us can probably remember many situations that make us cringe and wish they had never happened. IMG_E0687

As I was reading Jeremiah, it struck me how many times the word shame came up in the book. And what impacted me even more was the fact that the real definition of shame is not what we call it today. Today the word has come to mean guilt, dishonor, and a bad conscience. All of which is true because we are sinners. But most of time shame is self-focused, it’s all about me and my feelings.

In Jeremiah the word means walking away from the God who loves you and has redeemed you at the cost of himself. See Jeremiah 13:26-27. The nation of Jews were always turning their backs on him in favor of other gods, which were no gods at all. And it’s that behavior that God calls shameful.

We’re no different. We turn away from God throughout the day in favor of our idols, too. And it’s that which should create real shame in us, knowing that the God who redeemed us is standing right here to help us at every moment of the day and night. That everything we need he’s willing to give us if we would just ask him.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

The Law Has No Life

We were designed to live by the law before we fell in Adam. Had he kept it God would have given us eternal life. There would have been no sin and misery, only grace and approval.

After Adam’s fall we still want to keep the law, it’s the natural man’s default position, but now we can’t because of sin.

There is no way to be saved by the law. It has no life. It can only point the finger and denounce us for our sins.

It’s meant to do us in and draw us to Christ, who was the only man who kept the law after Adam. FullSizeRender (62)

He obeyed it perfectly.

He fulfilled it perfectly.

He earned salvation for us, in our place, because we couldn’t do it.

So it’s true we’re still saved by the law, but it’s Jesus’s obedience to it that saves us.

Now that is the best news you’ll ever receive. Today and forever.

You want freedom? Here it is.

Talk to me.

 

Oh for the Love of God

How do you know you are born again?

Some people think it’s because they said a prayer. Or they raised a hand in a service. Or they called out to Jesus in the midst of turmoil in their life.

So many people are trusting in the church. Their leaders. The sacraments.

All of these things spell trouble. love

How to know you’re born again is simple: you believe in Christ.

You believe in him because you are born again, otherwise he’s the furthest thing from your mind and heart.

Faith that believes that Jesus is the Christ produces love for God and love for others.

But love for others is the difficult part. People are a problem. Let’s face it, some Christians can be boring, depressing, unattractive, wet blankets, repellent, and pains in the neck.

And then throw in the devil, the world and your flesh and the mix will keep you from loving others. Culture becomes more important than Christ. Popular opinion, too. Laziness sets in. And narcissism takes over.

But loving others is sweet when you know God wants you to do it. And he will give you the heart for it.

The truth is we’re all depraved. We share an equality in guilt. And an equality in grace.

The one place where everybody is equal is at the cross. Even the cool people.

If you don’t have a love for other Christians, especially inside the church, then you’re presuming you love God. You can’t love God without including his people.

Ask him to give you his love for the family. You’ll be glad you did.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Listening?

Most of us are familiar with Psalm 23, with Jesus as our good shepherd. But how many of us understand sheep? Here are some characteristics that might surprise you.

Sheep are not clean. They can carry fleas, mites, maggots and lice.

They’re stupid. They get into messes and can’t get out. Image result for sheep with their shepherds

They’re defenseless. When in danger their only defense is to flee.

When isolated or under stress, they are prone to depression, hanging their heads and avoiding positive actions.

They get lost easily. They wander off and lose their way.

They bond with other sheep. This is their way of protecting themselves. Community is everything.

No wonder God calls us sheep.

Jesus did not come for the squeaky clean, the hipster, the glamorous, the popular, or the celebrity.

He came for those who are mired in sin, covered in wickedness, lost and depraved.

Sheep’s only redeeming quality, besides being meek and gentle, is that they recognize their shepherd’s voice. They do not follow strangers. The shepherd knows each sheep and the sheep know him.

If the Holy Spirit has called you to Jesus, then you are in his flock, and Jesus is your good shepherd, and he knows you by name. He doesn’t value you for all your good and wonderful traits – you have none – but because he knows you.

Jesus left heaven to come to earth to become your shepherd, to guide you, take care of you, through thick and thin, all the way home.

You are no longer alone in the world. You are a member of God’s flock. You have a trusted guide through life.

Are you listening to his voice?

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Pain is a Gift

According to John Newton, legalism is weariness. Justification is joy. We are forgiven and accepted through the work of Another. It’s done. Our job is to rejoice in that truth and serve God out of gratitude.

I think he was onto something. Paul expressed the same sentiments.

Even though we may know this, we don’t live this way. Instead we live in the mirage of self-sufficiency. It’s our default position. We really do believe there’s something we can do without God’s help. A lot of things. Broken

It starts in childhood. Babies learning to walk shove their parents away and tumble. Toddlers running into furniture when they think they have a clear path for wandering. High-schoolers who think they have the future mapped out only to make huge course corrections when they get to college.

Never mind the daunting tasks of choosing a spouse, the right job, buying a home.

Do we consult God?

No, we’ve been told it’s up to us to hit these milestones.

Some people succeed but many don’t. How many people do you know who are doing everything they want in life? Who are the happy ones in their work, with their children, and their body image?

Maybe you’re one of the unhappy ones. Have you settled in a job because of the security it gives you more than anything else, but now it’s strangling the life out of you? Are you in a loveless marriage with no way out? Or maybe you’re struggling with your health? As a friend told me recently, “I want my old life back.”

Life rarely turns out the way we envisioned it.

Thank God for that.

It’s God’s gift to us. If life turned out just as we wanted it to, we wouldn’t turn to him for anything. It’s a mercy that we struggle and suffer. It’s God’s language reminding us we were made to turn everything over to him because he cares for us. It’s his way of saying that what we long for is not here, but in the new heavens and the new earth, when Jesus comes back.

In the meantime, even as forgiven sinners, we suffer with our fellow human beings, knowing that Jesus himself also suffered for us so we could share in his glory one day.

Talk to me.