Jesus Won the War

A war movie is an apt metaphor for life because we’re all prisoners of war. Everyone of us, from the rich and famous to the homeless person sleeping in a doorway. We are born in bondage to sin. There is no other identity. We can thank our first parents for that. They threw us under the bus when they chose to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit. Ever since that day all of us are born broken, needy and rebellious.

The bible calls it bondage to sin, Satan and the wrath of God. The trio of horror, except we don’t recognize it as such. We think it’s normal. We have no other reality to compare it to.

Self exacts a gravity that pulls us deeper and deeper into itself. We are the compass we live our lives by. The darkness is light to us. Selfish behavior is the stuff of life. The only god that rules is ourselves.

But God. He has redeemed us. FullSizeRender (53)

He’s pulled us out of our misery.

Sin no longer has dominion over us.

Satan’s slavery is broken.

We’re free from the wrath of God.

Jesus paid the price for our freedom.

He has given us his nature.

We live our lives in His light now.

Hallelujah!

Talk to me.

 

 

The Cross – a Culmination of the Bad and the Good

Have you every wondered what Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane? It certainly wasn’t about showing us how to pray better. Nor was it an example of humility for us to follow.

For Jesus it was about suffering. He suffered his whole life, as Isaiah tells us, from men and from devils. Judas, Peter and Satan himself.

The cross was going to be a level of suffering like no one had ever experienced before. It was where Jesus would receive from the hand of his Father all his wrath for sin. It would also be the place the Father would turn his back on Jesus and abandon him.

Think about that. It would be the first time in Jesus’s life where the Father would disengage with his Son.

Jesus did not die for God, he was no martyr. He died under God’s wrath, the justice of God being poured out on him for the sins of the world. It was at the cross that Jesus became responsible for sin. Yours and mine.

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Knowing this, it moved Jesus to pray. He asked his closest friends – Peter, James and John – to pray with him so he would not be alone in his agony. But they failed him. They slept for sorrow because it finally dawned on them that he would not usher in their hopes for a restored Israel. Their dream was shattered. There was no crown for Jesus or for them. Instead there was a cross and death.

Jesus’s prayer included the removal of God’s wrath from him. He hoped for a reprieve. But no matter what, he was willing to submit to his Father’s will. What anchored him was the promise of the resurrection. This hope was Christ’s by right. He earned it. We don’t have that right, nor do we earn it. We have the same hope by faith.

Adam started in a garden that was a paradise, but then he ruined it. Jesus lived in a ruined world, and ended his life in an olive grove where olives were pressed to give their oil. A fitting location in preparation for the Second Adam to be crushed in order to restore us back to God and eventually to a new heavens and a new world.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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 Funeral Is Better Than a Party

I attended a funeral yesterday for a church friend who died last week.

I was struck by this thought: Funerals are better than parties.

Why would I say that?

They remind me that I, too must die.  funeral

We all have expiration dates, but we don’t like thinking about those.

But it’s good for us. It forces the subject even for a little while.

The mortality rate has always been at 100%.

It doesn’t change from generation to generation.

We cannot mastermind our own exits.

That’s because there’s a time to be born and a time to die, and God holds the calendar on both.

So today is the only time we can be sure of. The past is gone, and the future is not certain.

Now is the time to renounce every hope of saving yourself and turn to the One who saved you. He did it 2,000 years ago on a cross outside Jerusalem. His name is Jesus and he paid the penalty for your sins and mine so we could be forgiven of our sins and given life.

That’s why you need a funeral.

We need that reality slap in the face.

According to Ecclesiastes, life under the sun doesn’t end well.

But life over the sun ends in triumph. It’s called eternal life and it’s a free gift if you believe in the work of Christ for you.

Won’t you take that step today?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Does God Like Social Media?

Face-to-face is the original social media.

Conversations that used to take place over a meal or drinks after work is now happening on Facebook, Skype and Tweets.  tweet2

Whatever the delivery system, online gurus say it has to have at least these 4 components to be meaningful:

  1. relevant
  2. practical value
  3. emotion
  4. stories

But even if all these components are there, I’ve noticed something – people are hungry for human interaction, not just cyber chats. They want face-to-face. They need to feel connected to others they can see, hear, touch and laugh with.

And no online delivery system can deliver what a personal encounter can.

And God knew that.

God, with all his supernatural abilities, could have designed a mechanism whereby he could communicate with us without leaving heaven to do it.

He could have sent angel messengers.

He could have boomed his voice from heaven.

He could have scared the life out of us with flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.

Instead, he sent his own flesh and blood Son to live among us, suffer alongside us, and then die a horrible death.

Where’s the value in that?

God knew the kind of mess we were in – we were dead in our sins and unable to rescue ourselves. So he fixed the problem by sending his Son Jesus to live a life of perfect obedience to the law of God for us, and then die in our place in order to pay the price for our sins.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2: 4-7 ESV

So how is that relevant to me?

If Jesus hadn’t done that, you would have no hope of measuring up to God’s standards and being loved by him.

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5: 7-8 ESV

Only Jesus measured up and secured your relationship with God, so when you place your faith in his finished work for you, God fully accepts you as his cherished child.

By taking that step, for the first time in your life you have face-to-face communication with God through Jesus.

Now that beats anything you can have online!

Want to plug into the best conversation today?

“Dear Jesus,

Thank you for living a perfect life for me, and for dying to pay the price for my sins on the cross. I receive you as my Lord and Savior. Fill me with your love and let me live from now on for you. Amen.”

If you’ve prayed this today, would you let me know?

The Sympathy and Tears of our High Priest

I took notes on a sermon I heard recently on that two word description of our Lord’s  in John 11:35 –  “Jesus wept.”

Christ’s goal at Lazarus’ tomb was to glorify God. See verses 38-44.

Jesus in life and death lived for the glory of God. I exist for the glory of God.  photo (53)

My life is custom made in the wisdom of God to conform me to the image of Christ.

God’s no’s in my life are a comfort to me if my goal is the glory of God. 

The dead man obeys the voice of Christ, sometimes better than those who don’t come to Christ.

Why did Jesus weep at Lazarus’ death? He’s not a cold, distant God. He is a compassionate Savior who sympathizes in my grief and sorrow, and in my trials and distresses.

I cannot understand my blessings any more than I understand my trials.  

Jesus burned with anger in his spirit at Lazarus’ death, and he wept. (verse 33) Why? Lazarus reflected a spoiled creation that wasn’t meant to be. The nations were destined for Christ. He was deeply offended. Sin ruined everything. He was angry at sin and Satan.

Death is a disturbing, shocking interruption against the natural process of life. Death always puts an end to life.

Praise God that for the Christian death is a gateway into eternal life where there is no more sin and death.

Be encouraged by the future, read Revelation 21.