Adoption Matters

I’ve known a few people in my life who were adopted as children and the longing of their hearts was always to meet their real biological parents.

Everyone wants to know where they came from. That’s a common desire.

As a Christian, have you ever asked yourself where you came from? And why was it that God chose you to be in his family?

Let me start by saying that it had nothing to do with you!

Once upon a time, before the world was made, God decided to give his Son a people as a gift.

Those people were known only to God before they were ever created.

These people had one common purpose: they would glorify God by imaging the Son.

If you have faith in Christ today, you are one of those people.

God chose you.  photo-37

God drew you to Christ.

God clothed you in Christ.

For the purpose of being holy and blameless.

It was God’s love to his Son that he adopted us into his family for the glory of his grace.

The fact you love the Lord and believe in him was all God’s plan for you.

Check it out. Read Ephesians chapter 1.

And start praising!

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.

 

 

 

The Gospel is for the Heart

Psychologists and motivational speakers claim that a person has six basic needs in life. If these aren’t being met, then the person is living a life of misery.

Here are the six:

Security – financial and emotional
SignificanceIMG_4606
Connection/Love
Variety
Growth
Contribution

Let’s see how the gospel speaks to these:

Security – you can’t find any in this fallen world because security is subject to change and decay – remember the dot.com and real estate bust – real security comes from belonging to Christ.

Significance – all of us want to be noticed and recognized and applauded – however, there’s been only One Significant Man worth our attention – Jesus Christ – and if you belong to him then you share in his significance. You can’t get any more significant than that.

Connection/Love – fallen creatures can’t offer the life you crave, they can’t fill you up with love and joy and intimacy, they can only offer self and that fluctuates every minute – only God’s love in Christ for you is the true connection you long for that stays steady forever.

Variety – fallen man seeks entertainment to be stimulated whereas following Christ everyday and doing his will is never boring.

Growth – growing in a skill or talent is temporary, whereas growing in the love that Christ has for you brings you increased joy and happiness.

Contribution – the best man can do is social work for the less fortunate – i.e. Tom’s Shoes – whereas your highest contribution is having faith in God and loving your neighbor out of a grateful heart for what God has done for you.

If all your basic needs are met in Christ, then how should you then live?

1. Stop looking to sinners and the world to fill you up – you are filled already in Christ.

2. Learn to be content with what you have and where you are right now – be thankful to God.

3. Serve others out of a grateful heart for God’s gift of his Son for you.

There’s one more thing. I believe there’s a seventh basic need that trumps all six, and it’s this:

How do you escape the wrath of God? How do your sins get wiped away?

Isn’t it interesting that nobody asks that anymore?

Talk to me.

An Awesome Name

Did you know God is the only one who names himself?

El means power. Elohim. Pushing back the chaos and establishing order. You see this on display in the creation of the world. God can push back the chaos in your life. Nothing is beyond his power.

Yahweh is used 5,000 times in the bible. It’s his most important name.

Think Passover. The parting of the Red Sea. The drowning of the Egyptians.

He is a face-to-face promise-keeping God. The burning bush. Moses on the mountain. Jacob wrestling with the angel. IMG_8004

God wants us to think of him as the trustworthy God.

He’s not Mr. God, formal and aloof in a black suit behind a desk.

He’s known as Yahweh Jireh. The Lord sees and provides. The ram in the thicket. Manna in the wilderness. Jesus on the cross.

Yahweh Rapha. The Lord heals you. He turns your Marah into sweet water. Jesus heals you body and soul.

Yahweh Nissi means God is your banner. You cannot be defeated. God went to war for Israel. He stands shoulder to shoulder with you today.

Yahweh Sabaoth. He is the host of heaven. He brings the armies. He defends you.

God has now visited you in Jesus. It’s permanent. He didn’t slip out of his body like a garment when he returned to heaven. He stays a man forever and lives there. He remains a man who sympathizes with you and prays for you.

Celebrate his name today!

 

 

 

 

 

This Is Not Our Best Life

Nobody wants to die.
We cling to life like a drowning man on a splinter of wood in a vast ocean.
But if our best life is not here but in the new heavens and the new earth, we should be willing to die when our times comes.
We all have expiration dates, but they’re for others, not us. For some reason we can’t really believe we have one, and so we don’t think about it.
Today a young friend of mine, 30 years old, a husband and a father of two little girls, is dying of leukemia. It’s over for him here on earth. IMG_1685
I’m finding it difficult to talk to him. Instead of reaching out even more, I’m pulling away. Instead of ministering to him and offering him hope, I’m fighting thoughts of my own death in his dying. Watching someone you love die brings up your own mortality, no matter your age. I’ve seen both my parents die, two uncles, and several friends. You’d think these experiences would have tenderized me and the impact of the reality of death would have made me that much more compassionate and understanding. Instead, after the shock wears off, I eat ice cream.
We believe we’re going to live forever.  In a sense that’s true if we’re  Christians. In another sense it’s not true if we don’t know Jesus as our Savior. Then our hope for the future is bleak. We have no future. It’s as simple as that.
Now’s the time to think deep thoughts about where we’re headed. Are we in Christ? Is he our Savior? Do we believe he lived and died for us on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins? Have we given up our self-salvation strategies and embraced Christ by faith as the only Savior we’ll ever need?
Believe and live!
That’s what my dying friend is doing.
What about you?
Talk to me.

Remember

I have the tendency to identify with my sins. If things go wrong in a relationship, or there’s some misunderstanding, or even worse, if I am criticized, I tend to brood over that to the exclusion of everything else. In other words, I’m completely self-absorbed. Even on good days, I’m focusing on myself and keeping Christ at the fringes. Living like this gives me a level of depression. I’m often broody and serious. Being joyful, thankful and seeing things to praise God for are rare. I’m more comfortable in the valleys and among the shadows of life. Even in pictures of myself as a child I see that dark expression on my face.

I’m aware that some of it is due to how I’m wired. I’ve never been the life of the party or the kind of person that draws everyone to herself. And the older I get the less likely I will ever want to be that sort of person. I’m very happy with myself.

But is God? IMG_1238

I may identify myself with Paul as the chief of sinners, but indwelling sin is not my chief identity as a Christian. My identity is is my union with the Chief Shepherd.

That’s what saves me.

God won’t credit my sin to me or deal harshly with me because he credited my sin to Christ and dealt harshly with him.

So while I groan over my narcissistic tendencies and broodiness, (even that is self-focus) I need to remember to yank myself out of the pit and look at my Savior. And I need lots of reminders to do that, so while I’m reminding myself today, I’m reminding you, too.

Talk to me.

Nothing to Say

I’ve been reading the Old Testament, book by book, and then it came time for Job.

I groaned.

I didn’t want to read it.

Some of my friends and relatives were suffering and I didn’t want to hear about one more.

But I knew I’d regret it. It had been a long while since I’d read the book, so I took a deep breath, held my nose, and plunged in.

Here are some insights from my reading:

I was surprised at the many verses I recognized that come from Job.

“For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.” 3:24 It echoes Psalm 22.

“Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” 4:17 The psalmist in 119: 9 asks the identical question.

“For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” 5:6 The psalms are full of the woes of man in sin, and so are the Proverbs.

I was also shocked at some of the wisdom that came from Job’s friends. Things like, “I too, was pinched off from a piece of clay.” 33: 6 It reminded me of when God made Adam.

“Where is my Maker who gives songs in the night?” 35:10 That’s from Job in his suffering and confusion. It’s reminiscent of Zephaniah in 3:17 when he tells Israel, as they face judgment, that God will restore and rejoice over them with loud singing.

Towards the end of the book, God finally addresses Job. What astonished me was how God described himself to Job. He could have shamed him into realizing his frailty in comparison to God’s power or verbally whipped him with his wisdom. Instead he asked him questions like, “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?” or “Who has let the wild donkey go free?” or “Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?”

These are rhetorical questions and Job knows it.

God continues to the end of the book to describe the creatures he has made, just as he did man, and no one can take credit but him.

By the time God finishes, Job is speechless.

And I was given a shot in the arm. I came away realizing since God is the creator and caretaker of everything the eye can see, he certainly will take care of me and my loved ones. It’s laughable to think he’d forget me and my prayers.

The only reason I’m still around today is God’s faithfulness to me. I earned none of it. I fail him more than I care to admit. And everything I am and have he gave me as a gift because of his Son.

I’m left speechless, too.

So really my life needs to be a showcase of gratitude.

Talk to me.

Shout!

If you think the bible is about good people doing wonderful things for God, you ought to read it sometime!

The fact is, the bible is about a wonderful God doing good things for bad people.

The only good guys in the bible are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Everybody else is bad.

That includes you and me.

There is none righteous, no not one.” – Romans 3:10

The truth is not a single soul can stand before God and say, “I’ve done my best.”

We haven’t done our best, not even on our good days.

If God is going to save us and use us and make something of us, He’s going to have to do it in spite of ourselves. Not because we read the bible every day; not because we give thanks before every meal; not because we never miss church; and not because we try to be good parents, friends and neighbors.

We are promise breakers, we’re not people of integrity, and we don’t measure up to our own standards let alone God’s.

We need a God for failures.

And that’s exactly what we have.

Jesus Christ joined the human race so he could become our substitute.

He lived the life we should have lived, obeying every one of God’s commands from the heart.

That means he won God’s favor and secured a place in heaven for us.

His righteousness was charged to our accounts, so that we with all our sins and failures are declared righteous.

What happened to our sin?

God charged it to Jesus’s account, he absorbed the penalty, and died in our place on the cross.

It’s all paid for.

We stand forgiven and accepted because of the work of our Savior.

HappyNow if that’s doesn’t put a smile on your face, sit down right now and read your bible!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

The Many Disguises of the Devil

Have you noticed how subtle the devil can be in your life?

He never attacks straight on. He’s too clever for that. It’s always sideways or from the back.

He offered Eve an apple in exchange for Paradise. (Maybe God gave us apples to eat as a reminder?) apples2

He comes camouflaged as a sheep, but if you look closely, you’ll see the razor-sharp teeth of a wolf waiting to pounce and devour.

He shines bright as an angel of light. He’s prepared to take you on sublime flights of mystical fantasy, but does that light speak of Jesus as your only source of satisfaction and peace?

The devil paints sin in spellbinding colors. He minimizes the horrors of following God-substitutes by suggesting ways to inflate your potential, live your dreams, and squeeze all the gusto out of life.

What he fails to disclose is that all his ways lead to the four D’s:

  • disappointment
  • discouragement
  • death

In contrast, God and his love for you in Christ is the answer to all your needs. His kingdom is Paradise on earth, and the new heavens and the new earth he promises to send will be Paradise throughout eternity.

He is all your heart’s desire whether you are single or married or divorced. He is the perfect Parent, Spouse, and Friend.

He is your identity because he has placed you in Christ. You don’t need another. Now you’re free to love your neighbor by serving him through your calling in life as firefighter, nurse, garbage collector, teacher, or artist.

Next time you find yourself under attack, say this:

“Devil, if you can’t do better than that, kiss my backside. I have no time for you now.” – Martin Luther

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Warm Embrace

Praying is hard.

I fail at keeping a warm devotional life.

I forget what I asked God for as soon as I pray my requests.

How about you? embrace

I know a few Christians whose gift is prayer and really love it, but for the rest of us, prayer is a struggle.

Our hope, however is knowing that our prayers don’t have to be perfect to please the Lord.

They can be downright messy.

And having a poor prayer life doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us anymore.

He can’t possible think that, and neither can we.

Here’s why:

1. We are never going to be perfect in this life because we still wrestle with remaining sin in our lives.

2. All our prayers, our good works, everything in our lives is mediated through Christ and he makes them perfect and therefore acceptable to God.

God does not find fault with us because we are in Christ.

So prayer instead of being an excruciating exercise is instead a conversation with our Father in heaven who loves us.

Remember that next time you pray.

You come to a Father who is eager to hear you.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com