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.

 

 

 

 

 

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I Can’t Hear You’re So Loud

I got off the phone with a caller that never stopped talking. He’s someone I’ve never met and yet he felt the need to tell me about his life, never taking a breath to see if I was interested or even listening.

I’m sure you’ve had those experiences with people.

As much as that caller irritated me, I had to admit I had done the same thing over the years.

I’m a fix-it-all kinda person. You come to me with a problem and I have a solution for you and I’m happy to tell you about it.

Don’t we all.  painting24

I’ve realized over the years that maybe that’s not what people really need. Maybe it’s something else.

Maybe Jesus is calling us to a different kind of help. Help as in listening to the person. We’re so prone to listen with a mind that is more attentive to what to say next to the person. We miss the cues, the body language and facial expressions that way.

Even more importantly, we miss what God is showing us about himself in that person’s life.

I often forget that when someone asks for my counsel, she comes to me with Jesus in her life. It’s my job to listen well. I’m quick to fix, he’s not. I want to come across as helpful, when Jesus is already her helper.

What people need most of all is someone who will listen to them with a full heart that is not rushed, and who can help locate God in their lives so they can rest in him. This won’t happen if we’re preoccupied with what to say next, or if we’re in a hurry to get the visit over with.

We all need to enroll in the school of active listening. I know I do.

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.

 

 

Lonely No More

I read a recent article titled, The Lethality of Loneliness by Judith Shulevitz in the New Republic. In it she examines the damage loneliness creates on the body and brain.

She cites Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, German psychiatrist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud; who immigrated to America during World War II to escape Hitler.

Fromm-Reichmann believed that loneliness was “a want of intimacy” that lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness. In her estimation,

“the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world.”

I think Fromm-Reichmann’s observations were profound, but she didn’t take them far enough.  IMG_2472

Loneliness entered the world when Adam and Eve ditched God’s oversight of them and forged an independent path for themselves. (See Genesis 3)

Since then men and women are born with separation anxiety.

We come into the world separated from the One who created us and loves us.

It’s part of our DNA.

No one is exempt.

The symptoms are all around us:

Fear, insecurity, self-absorption, lack of trust, and depression just to name a few.

What can we do about it?

The truth is no amount of therapy will do the job.

Ignoring the symptoms won’t make them go away.

Drugs and alternative therapies, including alcohol, chocolate and high-risk sports, only mask the problem.

So what’s left?

Every one of us has a longing to be known and to be loved, and that is precisely what Jesus gives us.

In all our disjointed attempts at intimacy, there is only One who can bring us into the harmony and approval we crave.

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12 (New Living Translation)

It was Jesus who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (our estrangement), and was raised to new life to bring us to God.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. – Romans 8:38 (New Living Translation)

We don’t know if Fromm-Reichmann ever knew there was a solution to loneliness. Probably not.

But we do.

Are you ready to trade your life apart from God and embrace the One who loves you and gave Himself for you? This goes for the Christian, too!

Talk to me.

Re-Booting Is Not Just for Tech Devices

Everything needs a re-boot every once in a while. I had to do that with my smart phone. It got so hot I could grill a lamb burger on it, so I shut it down, and gave it a rest. It had traveled internationally with me and the time change may have confused it coming home. Like me. I returned home from a month of travel and got sick. I slept for three days.

I’m always surprised when I can’t keep going with infinite energy. I forget my inside age (17) doesn’t match my outside age (39 and holding).  I forget that everything, including me, is on a wind-down. The re-tooling of heaven and earth, including us, happens when Jesus comes back with his tool belt around his waist and sets up shop once and for all. painting24

In the meantime, we live with the tension of our sighs and the reality around us. We put one foot in front of the other, keeping our eyes on Jesus, who went before us and showed us the way. It’s not easy. It wasn’t easy for him either. It cost him his life but he knew that. Nothing took him by surprise, whereas it does for us. He had one advantage though – he was both human and divine so when he willingly took up this assignment he did it with eyes open. It was his devotion to his Father that propelled him.

“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” – Psalm 40:7-8 ESV

He decided it was worth his time to leave home, come to earth as a human being in order to restore sick and dying people to their birthright, that of glorifying God and enjoying him forever. And this he did, with a full heart.

“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” – John 17:4 ESV

Did you know you were meant to find your purpose in God? He’s the one you miss and long for. Everything in life is broken, fragmented and in disrepair. That means life isn’t going to work out. Your dreams will be shattered. Because what your heart yearns for is God and he’s the only one who can make your life good.

That’s why we need Jesus. His life was perfect. He knew no sin. He lived for God. He loved God the way you were meant to. And on top of that, he died on the cross to pay the penalty for your not loving God, for going your own way and resisting him. When you believe what Jesus has done, God exchanges your failed record for Jesus’s perfect record. It is yours as a gift, and you take it with gratitude and awe.

How’s that for a re-boot?

Talk to me.

 

 

The Bondage of Being Free

Freedom is not an end in itself like everyone seems to think.

Think it through with me for a minute.

Let’s say you are free to commit adultery.

It might feel good for a while, but then something begins to change.

You discover your freedom consists in lying about the affair.

You’re now covering your tracks.   Guilty

You’re having difficulty remembering what you said to whom and keeping the lies straight so you don’t contradict yourself.

There’s the fear of being caught.

There’s the unknown reaction of your spouse if he or she finds out.

Before you know it you’re living like a criminal.

You thought you’d feel alive and young again. Instead you’re walking around with the burden of your guilty conscience and it’s a heavy weight.

Where’s the freedom in that?

In truth, freedom from God’s law means bondage.

We all live guilty lives. We were born guilty, did you know that?

That sweet little baby, all wrapped up in his mother’s arms, has a label on him.

Guilty!

That’s why we need a Savior.

Christ came and died on the cross in our place, bearing our punishment, absorbing the fullness of divine justice for us.

He died so he could free us, not to indulge the flesh,  but to delight in serving God.

God has no slaves, only grateful sons.

Now that’s a life of true freedom.

Talk to me.