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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belief Is All

You’ve heard the word legalism many times as I have. But do you know what it means for your life? It means your standing with God is obtained or maintained in something in you. Something you do or don’t do.

The Pharisees were experts in legalism. They were the ones looking down their noses at Jesus and reprimanding him for not keeping the law. He dared to heal people on the Sabbath. He didn’t fast. He touched the leper and the blind man. He ate dinner with sinners.

Legalism is legalism no matter if it’s Jewish or Gentile, it doesn’t matter. All people are legalists if they don’t know God. Everyone has a set a rules for living. That’s why most people live with guilt because they haven’t lived up to their own or somebody else’s expectations. And for the religious it’s Christ plus a bunch of strict behaviors. That’s why Paul rebuked Peter for pulling away from eating with the Gentiles. See Galatians 2:11-14.IMG_7835

Legalism does not keep you in fellowship with God, just the opposite, it is an offence to God. Why? Because by being legalistic you’re saying Christ is not enough, you have to add something of your own to his perfect righteousness.

And here’s another big one: legalism doesn’t make you holy. Only Christ makes you holy.

Christ obeyed and merited God’s favor and fellowship for you. It’s through him that God accepts and approves you.

Christ’s obedience to the law and his death for your sins is imputed to you by faith alone. As Martin Luther said, it is an alien righteousness, it’s outside of you and it’s not based on any holiness that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in you.

By faith alone, in Christ alone, you are counted as righteous as Jesus Christ himself. There is nothing more for you to do, but thank God for such a wonderful gift. The Holy Spirit’s job is to assist you in living it out. So no matter how weak you are or how often you fail, your sins are not held against you because Jesus paid for them all and you continue being righteous in Him.

You want joy today? Read this post again!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Down and Dirty

In Matthew 13:53-58 we see Jesus in his home town of Nazareth. You’d think he’d be a hometown hero, like the Cubs returning from their World Series win. Instead, Jesus was pushed aside. It wasn’t that his miracles weren’t impressive or his preaching compelling. In fact, the people were blown away by both. But it lasted a nano second. What got them was he was unimpressive. They expected Messiah to be a conquering hero and a royal king. A man in authority that would delegate others to do his bidding. Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t put on airs. He wasn’t handsome or strapping. He looked, talked, and acted just like any other man in town. But in the people’s mind, Messiah could not be ordinary. He would fight their enemies, restore Israel, and set up shop as royalty on the throne. But the opposite happened. Jesus was ridiculed, rejected and ignored. Just like the prophets. Why? Because he got down and dirty with them. He was a man. He ate, slept, bathed, worked, probably changed diapers, cooked, swept the house. He did this in order to redeem us in all our weaknesses, including death. img_4606

Jesus is the only Savior God has sent. There is no other.

The longing for glory still awaits us. The impressive. The lavish. The aha. All of that is ours in the new heavens and the new earth.

Until then, as his followers, we get down and dirty like he did. In worshiping God and loving our neighbors.

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.

 

 

 

 

How Big Is Your Love?

Do we believe the cross is our Father’s ultimate expression of his love for us?
Or do we think that having our dreams and desires met is the litmus test of our Father’s love?

If our sin is the biggest impediment to the Father’s love, then the cross is His supreme gift to us. Why is that? Because it’s the only way to his approval. Nothing else will do. Igor Mitoraj2

Our problem is that we don’t fully grasp how sinful we are and how deep sin goes. It has twisted everything about us – our minds, emotions, will, and bodies. We are bent inward on ourselves, which keeps God out.

Each one of us lives in a world of our own making. Whose voice do we hear everyday? What thoughts do we think? What lies and fantasies do we entertain? What willfulness do we exert on others? Every atom of our being cries defiance of the living God. We are rebels in the world God created.

Since we’re as deformed as the Scriptures say we are, then the cross is our only hope of rescue and deliverance. We deserve death, not a make-over. And for that reason God killed us at the cross in Christ. Then he buried us with Christ. And when Christ was resurrected he took us with him so we would live a new life in him. See Romans 6.

We are so united to Christ that we are now new creations made in his image. His holiness and the fruit of his Spirit are now ours. And that pleases the Father immensely.

Christ won it all at the cross.

Thank the Father today!

Talk to me.

This Old House

Sanctification is like being brought up again but this time in Christ. God is your Father, Jesus is your elder brother who has blazed the trail for you, and the Holy Spirit draws you deeper into your new identity in Christ.

You are born again but living inside an old house. Don’t get focused on the rusty hinges, the peeling paint, and the overgrown lawn. Keep your attention focused on the architect and builder of the new house you’ll be living in. Old House

Meanwhile, refuse to participate in the conspiracy of silence. You continue to be a wretched sinner even as a Christian. You have great examples of confession from the apostles. Paul called himself the chief of sinners. So can you. There’s no shame in that.

It is the job of the Holy Spirit to make you more humble and dependent on the Lord, more grateful for his sacrifice, and more adoring of him as a wonderful Savior.

Don’t be surprised at your trials then, Peter said. They’re meant to make your faith like gold. And faith attaches itself to Jesus who was meek and lowly and won salvation for you.

Joy here and now is your birthright and inheritance even when you sin miserably as a Christian.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

How Not to Be Popular

Witnessing for Christ can be a romantic notion for the uninitiated, but it’s a painful reality for those who do it.

If you witness for Christ, you will also suffer for Christ.

That was my experience as a brand new Christian.  photo(44)

I was so excited about finding Christ that I naively believed all I had to do was mail everyone the same book that God used to lead me to faith. So I ordered 80 copies and mailed them to every family member, friend, and neighbor I could think of. To my dismay instead of having people appreciate me, and thank me for my thoughtfulness, I got their anger. Lots of it. To this day there are some family members that won’t stay in the same room with me if we are alone for fear I might bring up the subject of Jesus.

At a recent family reunion where 120 people were present, there was only one family of four that were Christians. I had been praying for these people for more than 30 years! I expected a lot more to know the Lord.

Then in church on Sunday I was reminded of Noah. Only 8 people were saved and the rest of mankind drowned in the flood.

Clearly God isn’t in the numbers.

Peter makes it clear in his first epistle that if you witness then accept suffering as part of the package because you’re living in a world that wants nothing to do with Jesus. Hatred and persecution are the norm. Noah was ridiculed for 100 years while he preached and built the ark. He was the only preacher in his day. Imagine how he felt. Ultimately Noah and his family were vindicated. They were the only ones saved through the flood.

So while I hate suffering and loathe being ignored and avoided by anyone, I know I’m in good company with Jesus and his apostles and host of other saints down through the centuries who have been faithful to stand for God.

What about you? What’s been your experience in witnessing for Christ?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Awful Struggle of Prayer

If you’re like me, you want to know you’re praying biblically and in a way that pleases the One who saved you.

Also, if you’re like me, you struggle with your prayer life. I do all the time. I spend way too much time praying for things that are important to me to the neglect of things that are important to God.

What’s important to God? It’s certainly you and me and our burdens, but it also includes the whole body of Christ – the Church at large. IMG_7835

Most of our brothers and sisters in other countries don’t fare as well as we do. Most barely make ends meet, many have no homes, a lot of them are ill, mistreated, malnourished, persecuted, and in jail.

And what about the hundreds of missionaries serving in obscure outposts nobody has ever heard of? Those who never write a book or a blog? Who prays for them?

You and I may not be called to the field, or to live deprived lives, but we are certainly called to pray for one another.

Here’s a prayer not only for yourself, but for the body of Christ that God will answer:

“Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see myself more clearly and free me from the bondage to myself. Replace my self-deception with your truth. Enable me to understand what you’re showing me when you convict me of sin. Help me to survive the filth of my sin when you show it to me. Help me to be grateful for the revelation. Remind me you do this so I can delight in Jesus who paid the price for that sin.

“Lord Jesus, I pray the same for my brothers and sisters all around the world so we can, together as one body, be more humble and dependent on you and delight more and more in you who rescued us from this world, the flesh and the devil. Enable us to know you more deeply and with greater love and thankfulness. Amen.”

If this resonates with you, talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

How the World Cup Teaches Me about Jesus

Tuesday I watched the US vs Belgium soccer game.

It was intense.

For 90 minutes neither team scored, but they did a massive amount of running across the field.

Belgium had more shots on goal than we did, but because of Tim Howard’s talent, our goalie, we blocked all the shots.

Then came overtime…

That’s when it unraveled.  Brazil Soccer WCup US Portugal

Both teams were exhausted, but nevertheless they rallied for a last ditch effort and with it came the goals.

Things ended up 2-1 in favor of Belgium.

So we’re out, they’re in.

How like life.

It’s in the overtimes of life where you discover if you have what it takes to live with your eyes fixed on the goal and to do it with grace and perseverance.

That’s where most of us fail.

Instead of a fixed gaze, we flounder in our choices.

Instead of grace, we get impatient, or cranky, or downright ugly.

And instead of persevering, we give up.

Just think what would have happened if Jesus hadn’t fulfilled his mission and instead thrown in the towel and walked off the field.

“Looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2 ESV

If Jesus hadn’t lived and died for us, none of us would have a chance at a relationship with God.

And none of us would be forgiven of our sins.

But thanks be to God, Jesus stayed the course, set his mind on completing his mission, and was rewarded by a resurrected life which he now lives in heaven.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:11 ESV

It’s a comfort to know that everywhere we fail Jesus has succeeded for us.

He lived a life of perfect obedience to God’s commandments for us and died a painful death to pay the price for our sins.

By putting our faith in him, we too can score those perfect goals in life.

Want to play the game right?

 

A Better Trade-In

“Selfish ambition should not be part of a Christian’s life,” my pastor said Sunday morning.

Ouch! I’m prepared to pray, serve, read the bible, now I need to watch for this?

I was undone.

“Self-humbling is a privilege,” my pastor said.  photo(29)

That killed me.

“God didn’t pour his Son’s life into you so you can fill your life with amusements, worldliness, and money,” he said.

Where’s the exit?

“Mourn so you can be happy. Being sad over your sins is part of being a Christian. If Jesus submitted himself to the Father, why can’t you?”

Good question. Why can’t I?

It’s because I’m wired to turn inwards like a pretzel. It’s my comfortable place. I’ve been doing it since birth.

It takes the power of God to untwist me, and that hurts. It feels foreign.

And it’s impossible to do apart from the active work of the Holy Spirit in me.

But he is my only hope. I have no one else in heaven or on earth.

Jesus secured that right by giving himself in life and in death for me.  See Galatians 2:20

What’s stopping me from trading my puny ambitions for his all-encompassing vision he has for me?

Faith in the gospel. He died for me so he could live in me.

So what’s more important, my puny desires or embracing his goals for me with gladness?