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.

 

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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.

 

Not Today

I got on the subway this morning and had an option of seats. To sit alone in a one seat with no seatmate or in a two-seat. I chose the one-seat. I could be alone and not have to accommodate anybody. Yay! Usually big, burly construction workers sit next to me leaving me with an inch to breathe. Not this morning. I was going to relax all the way into city. As soon as I sat down and settled my bags, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. “So. You don’t want to speak this morning about Christ?” Gulp. Before I could argue with him, I said, “Okay. I’ll move.”  Bible4

So I did. At the next stop a young Asian woman sat next to me. So this must be who I’m supposed to talk to, I said to myself. She whipped out a cosmetic sponge with make-up on it, held up the dark screen of her iPhone as a mirror, and put her face on. (Note to self: iPhone screens make good mirrors in a pinch.) I began to read field reports from a missionary agency I support that take the gospel into unreached people groups. I was totally absorbed. When I finished, I looked and my seatmate was sound asleep. Must not be her then, I thought.

We arrived into the city and she woke up. It’s now or never, I said to myself. I pulled out a gospel of John and handed it to her.

“Would you receive this as a gift?” I said.

She looked at the booklet in bewilderment. “No,” she said.

“Have you ever read the bible?” I said.

She shook her head no.

“Try it, you might enjoy it. It changed my life,” I said.

“Okay, I’ll read it,” she said and took it. She got up and left the train at her stop.

I felt accomplished.

Not.

I was prepared to ignore the world this morning. That’s the truth. But the Holy Spirit is always on duty.

Talk to me.

The Solution to Our Need

The bible teaches us everywhere that we are sinners and that we owe God our devotion. The truth is, not one of us has made good on our obligation. The main thing we owe God is to love him with all our hearts, souls and minds. This is our baseline responsibility. How are we doing with this? If you’re like me, not so good. In fact, most days my heart, soul and mind is riveted on me. My feelings. My expectations. My wants. Even at my best, which doesn’t exist, I have never loved the Lord this way. I break the first commandment  every hour of every day. FullSizeRender (42)

What can be done for this kind of life? Never mind the really bad things we’ve done, but even the good things we’ve done, which aren’t really good enough. Our warmest and most heartfelt moment with the Lord falls short of the standard of perfection that God requires.

If we can’t even live up to our new year’s resolutions – in my case I don’t make them anymore because of past failures – what hope do we have to do better in the sight of God? Self-improvement won’t get us nearer to God. Despair isn’t the answer either.

The only solution is to run to Jesus who purchased our acceptance with God through his perfect life of obedience lived for us, and his death on the cross in payment for all our sins. Both have been credited to our account in God’s eyes.

Even if we can’t live up to our best intentions, Jesus has for us. He’s all we need!

Talk to me.

Not Here

I have two friends who are suffering physically and mentally. One suffers excruciating pain down her right leg as the result of a stroke. The other is bipolar and refuses to take any medication for it. Both insist that God heal them directly. So far he hasn’t even though they pray fervently for it.

Both suffer from believing a lie. That type of mental anguish is worse than the physical ailment. This lie is dispensed every Sunday in church like the drinks at the coffee bar. It’s called having your best life now. It’s a theology of glory. God is supposed to keep us healthy, wealthy, and satisfied Christians.  Broken

But God has promised no such thing this side of heaven. What we long for – perfect health, perfect harmony in our relationships, perfect families and perfect joy – will be a reality when we’re living in the new heavens and the new earth, but not here.

While the longings of our hearts are right, our timing is off. This is the wilderness we’re trudging through, just like the Israelites did. Canaan was their destination, not some plot of sand with a well and a palm tree. Like them, we are headed to where all our longings will be fulfilled, but at the moment we keep our sandals on and keep walking.

The only one who had his best life was Jesus because he lived in heaven. But he willingly left that behind to live his worst life for 33 years. There’s reason why Isaiah describes him as a Man of Sorrows. We never read of Jesus laughing or telling a joke. He lived with suffering every day. The worst kind in the rejection of his own people he came to save. Day in and day out he suffered with people’s unbelief and hatred.

He owned nothing except the clothes on his back. He went hungry. He wept. And yet with this example we’re taught to expect God to give us everything he never gave his Son.

We hate living ordinary lives. We crave notoriety, we demand to live our potential, we love unearthing the divine spark within. Except there’s nothing biblical in any of it. It’s worldliness disguised as philosophical fast food.

The only Person who lived up to his potential was Jesus. We can’t because sin holds us back.

The only One whose life was not ordinary was Jesus’s. Ours are routine and unexceptional every day.

The One who lived by God’s every law was Jesus thereby meriting heaven. We live to break every law and merit hell.

Knowing this, we still demand our best life now. It’s insanity. No wonder we’re depressed and despairing.

The only course correction is to read the bible with fresh eyes and ask God for new understanding of life under heaven. Who is with me?

Talk to me.

 

Ode to Joy

I find joy to be something I long for and never quite grasp. It’s like running after a kite in the wind. I’m much more comfortable with gloom, that settled state of mind of pessimism and cynicism, with that I am well acquainted.

Joy, on the other hand, is something I know I don’t have. It’s required of the Christian and therefore I sin at it. I certainly don’t have it inside me. So where is it?

Like in everything else, it’s found in God. He owns it and it’s his to give out.

God is happy with himself, his Son and his Spirit. Theirs is a fellowship of joy. It’s pure. It’s unadulterated. And they’re eager to share it.

Can you and I be joyful in a fallen world? Yes. FullSizeRender (33)

Joy looks like Sarah’s laughter, Paul’s contentment in prison, and it ends in the book of Revelation where we can say with certainty, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Joy starts in confessing we don’t have it. Then we need to ask for it. It’s an essential ingredient for living.

It’s for our peace of mind and our witness to the world. It makes God look good to our unbelieving neighbor.

By presenting God as the source and giver of our joy, who knows we might provoke the people in our lives to want God, too.

Lack of joy dishonors God.

Think about it. He died for you in order to bring you to God. He wraps you in his righteousness, he cares for you, protects you, leads you into maturity and then takes you home. Oh, and did I mention all your sins are forgiven you?

Knowing all this, how can we walk around gloomy and broody? It’s disgraceful.

So what are you and I going to do to show off God’s joy today?

Talk to me.