So Hard

“The hardest thing in the world is to take Christ alone for salvation and then to return to Christ alone every day of the Christian life.” – Tony Reinke

Our human nature wants to manipulate our salvation. It goes something like this: Christ did the hard part (dying on the cross) so now we’ll take it from here.

Everyone of us desires glory. We were build for it, and one day we’ll experience it, but not here. And yet, every time we use self-salvation strategies to keep God liking us and thinking we’re terrific, we end up in self-worship and self-glory.

We hate, absolutely hate, admitting we can do nothing apart from Christ. We pay lip service to that truth.  photo (36)

We long to be something apart from him.

Have you noticed how burdened we feel most days with the many pressures and layers of life?

We’re addicted to living that way. We don’t understand any other kind of life.

But what would happen if we truly knew ourselves from God’s vantage point and realized we are nothing? And then be glad that Jesus is all we ever need or want?

What would our lives look like with that mindset?

“When our self-evaluation is emptied, Christ’s glory weighs heavier in our lives.” – John Newton

We need to be people like those who go to AA meetings. We need to say to ourselves in the mirror every morning, “My name is Bub, and I’m a sinner addicted to myself.”

I think we need to confess that everyday to the Lord.

He might even say to us, “Now you’re getting it. I’m here to help.”

What do you think?

 

 

 

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.

How Not to Climb the Corporate Ladder

You know the bible is real when you read verses 35-37 in Mark 10.

Jesus has just finished telling his disciples the horrible death that awaits him in Jerusalem, but instead of sympathy or concern, James and John ask for a promotion. They want the power seats in heaven. When the others find out what they’re up to, they become indignant because they didn’t think of it first most likely. Bible4

The focus is ripped away from Jesus’ death and lands on human ambition. It affords Jesus an opportunity to teach his disciples what it takes to live in his kingdom.

To be a bully, to seek your own status, and to be only interested in your own agenda is the world’s way.

As a disciple you seek to be nothing, a servant ready to help others. Just like Jesus. Why was he on his way to Jerusalem? So he could die in our place on the cross for our sins. The sins of James and John. The sins of all his people.

I’m amazed at Jesus’ patience with his own.

Thank God because I’m just like James and John.

I’m committed to me. My goals. My honor.

Every once in a while I catch myself serving others.

I wish it was the reverse.

That’s why I need a Savior.

And that’s why he’s given me his perfect record.

Because I need it!

Talk to me.

 

 

Turnstile Trickster

There’s a new cheating trend I’ve noticed lately at the subway station.

There’s a few seconds delay at the turnstile after you’ve swiped the transit card to exit. And it’s just enough time for a quick footed-hoodlum to follow behind you and exit for free before the gate closes.

I’ve seen it happen several times now, especially when there aren’t too many riders at the turnstile.

Today was my turn. I approached the turnstile with transit card in hand and noticed out of the corner of my eye a tall, lanky, jeans-down-the-hips, baseball capped young man waiting for me to swipe my card.

No way, I thought.

I took a few paces back and looked at him.

In a flash he moved over to the next unsuspecting rider and followed behind her and got out for free. The maneuver was done in a blink of an eye. Talk about quick footed. He’s missed his calling. He should be a dancer.

I noticed he took the same path I take out of the station and we ended up at the same curb waiting for the light to change.

“Good morning,” I said looking up at him. He looked down at me from the corner of his eye.

“You think you can get away with cheating, but God sees everything you do, and you will have to give an account to him one day. Do you know that?”

“I wasn’t cheating,” he said.

“Really? What do you call what you just did in the station down there?” I asked.

“I paid for a ticket, it’s just I didn’t have money to add a fare to it,” he said.

“So robbing from somebody else’s ticket is okay?”

He smirked.

“Do you know who God is?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“And what about the Lord Jesus Christ?”

“Sure.”  Wall2

“Well, you have some talking to do then,” I said.

The light had changed to green and it was time to cross.

While he shuffled away, I prayed for him.

In a way I was sorry for him, who knows what life he’s living.

On the other hand, I hope my words stung his conscience and he’ll think about them.

But probably not.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

Time to Pray to God About God

The first thing we notice in the Lord’s Prayer is this:

“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.”

He’s our Father, not our own personal possession.

He’s a Father, perfect in all aspects of fatherhood, completely different from all earthly fathers. Discover who he is by reading your bible every day.

We are to hallow his name. What does that mean?

It’s a petition. God himself is our priority. He is not a means to any end. He is the end of all ends.

How often do we pray to God about himself?  Lamb of God

Ouch! I confess it’s rarely, if ever. I’m more eager to unroll my long list of petitions that center on me and my desires.

Hallowed means to make holy, to recognize his holiness, separation, not common.

God is unlike his created beings.

There is an unbridgeable gap between him and me and you.

God wants us to recognize and treat him as uncommon.

He’s not our buddy.

He wants us to think worthy thoughts of him that reflect what he has revealed himself to be. (Have you noticed how often the devil gets you thinking unworthy thoughts of him, especially in the midst of trials?)

God wants you to live in his presence every day.

How do we do that?

By fixing our eyes on the cross. It’s there where we see his infinite hatred of sin and his justice.

Christ was overwhelmed by the wrath of God on the cross. And at the same time the cross proves God’s infinite mercy.

We are debt-free with God on account of Christ. Hallelujah!

Now we are fully accepted in the favor of God. Praise him!

We pray because we have tasted that the Lord is good. Yes!

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

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Even Think About It

We’re inching closer to 2015 by the day.

And the gurus are marketing their webinars, books and videos to show us how to make new year’s resolutions. And then charging us for their experience!

Are you kidding me? I can make resolutions galore for free! IMG_0436

What they’re peddling is a self-help course for those of us who make goals and don’t keep them.

And there’s millions of us out there.

So how do they fix us? By giving us more rules!

Here are some examples of the course titles:

A Goal-Setting Course

Live with Intention

Create Your Life Plan

You get the idea.

It makes me want to laugh or cry.

This doesn’t make sense for anybody, and especially for Christians.

First of all, the one life plan you need comes free – God gives it to you. It’s to glorify him and enjoy him forever.

Second, goal setting is fine if you set the right ones. Jesus had one goal when he lived here, to please his Father. And he did it spectacularly well. And as a free gift to you, he gives you that successful record as if you had lived it perfectly yourself.

And third, you can live with all the intention you have and still blow it. What is intention but purpose and drive. But those are traits for those who don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside them. The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to reveal Jesus to us. He directs our lives, so we don’t have to worry about it. What we must do is obey and rest.

So don’t fall into the temptation of changing yourself next year.

That’s God’s job and he does it really well.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Rights of Being Wrong

How many times have you valued being right, having the last word, being firm and in control?

If you’re like me, many times.

Has anyone told you that sounds an awful lot like self-love?

We are born legalists. We love law. We delight in being right.

“That’s not fair!” shouts a crying child when another yanks her toy away.

How does a 2-year old know what’s fair? Who taught her? child

Our legal hearts demand what is right and fair. And where does that come from? From God’s law. We’re all born with an innate sense of right and wrong. That’s because God stamped his image on us, and even though we are sinners and live with a distorted view of God, remnants of it are still there like a shattered mirror.

Satan takes full advantage of our dilemma and, as a cunning rascal, pronounces us guilty every chance he gets and demands payment for our sins. And if we’re not watchful, we’ll fall into the trap and believe it’s up to us to fix ourselves.

This can happen a million times a day.

If your thoughts are negative, accusatory, pointing out other people’s faults, blaming others, devaluing the people in your life, dishonoring them, and demanding your rights and your way, you’re listening to the devil.

Resentment and bitterness produce a heavy heart and a broody attitude, all of which indicate you’ve moved away from the gospel – Christ’s righteousness for you.

Remember, Christ showers you with grace and mercy every moment of every day because he’s paid for your sins.

We’re happy and grateful to accept that truth for us, but what’s shocking is he also gives that same grace and mercy to the people around us that are hard to live with!

So instead of resentment and bitterness, let’s give forgiveness and peace; instead of rehearsing our wounds, let’s release them to the Lord at the cross, and walk away; instead of blaming others, let’s talk about our faults first and see what happens. Since the judge of the universe has declared us righteous in Christ, we can be vulnerable with others and not be afraid of their response.

Make these your Christmas presents this month!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com