Oh the Shame!

The word shame is mentioned so many times these days it seems there’s no other word in the English vocabulary. It’s talked about so often in sermons, books, lectures and therapy sessions that it has lost its meaning. We’re supposed to believe everyone feels shame and it’s the biggest problem out there that people are grappling with.

That might be true if you’re trying to restore someone’s self-esteem. If it’s meant to describe feelings of embarrassment, then everybody has felt it one time or another. For example, at not being prepared for an interview and you were caught off-guard with a question. Or when you forgot your lines in the school play. Or when you weren’t dressed appropriately at a gathering. These are common experiences that make people feel insecure and unacceptable.

But nowadays shame is being used in a therapeutic sense. It’s the popular word for feeling you’re not enough, you’re wrong as a person, you’re unwanted.

Someone gave you the message and you believed it. And from that moment on you made it your life’s mission to find ways to overcome it.

While this might be true of you, it doesn’t go deep enough. God says real shame is refusing to believe who he is for you. You prefer living in unbelief instead of embracing the God who loves you. You’re holding on to the message your parents or peers gave you from the past.

Everyone has those messages living in their heads. They’re common to the human race because sin is common to the human race. 

You can overcome these messages, but that won’t win the war for your soul. Only by turning to God, the author of your life, and believing his love for you, by giving you Christ to redeem you and bring you back to your true home, will you be right with him and your own soul. 

Christ took your shame (your unbelief) on the cross and it died there. And it was buried in the tomb with him. It’s dead. And when Christ was resurrected he gave you his new life. There is no shame mixed in there. Look all you want. It’s gone. You’re now free from those condemning voices to follow only one voice – the Father’s. And his voice is affirming, loving, and gracious. 

Talk to me.


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.


Talk to me.



What Sin?

I was in the office kitchen this morning and a co-worker asked me, “How are you?”

Without thinking I usually say, “Fine.” Nobody really wants an honest answer. The few times I’ve tried it, the other person feels responsible to respond in a meaningful way, and who has insights to give that early in the morning when you can barely pour a cup of coffee? So I’ve learned to answer in a neutral way. wool

But this morning I said, “I’m rejoicing that all of my sins are forgiven.”

And that opened up a beautiful gospel conversation.

I continued, “Did you know your sins are finite in number, and God knows every one of them, and they were all forgiven in Christ from the moment you were born?”

That lead to other comments about the wonderment of what God has done for us in his Son.

God purchased your soul before you were even conceived. Ephesians 1:4

God saw every one of your sins before you existed. Psalm 139

Each one was completely paid for before you committed any of them. Ephesians 1:7-10

Even those you haven’t committed yet, every one of them is already paid for, atoned for, and you are declared forgiven.

You’ve been forgiven in Christ from before the foundation of the world right through to eternity. Ephesians 1

What scandalous love!

Questions: How does that truth impact your struggles with sin today? How does it change your concept of who God is?

Talk to me.





















No Place But Christ

“How shall I look up to God? The answer is—In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I have any communion with a holy God in this world? The answer is—In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I find acceptance with God? The answer is—In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I die? The answer is—In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I stand before the judgment seat? The answer is—In the righteousness of Christ. photo (26)

“Your sure and only way under all temptations, fears, conflicts, doubts, and disputes, is by faith to remember Christ, and the sufferings of Christ, as your mediator and surety, and say, ‘O Christ! you are my sin—in being made sin for me; and you are my curse—in being made a curse for me. Or rather, I am your sin—and you are my righteousness; I am your curse—and you are my blessing; I am your death—and you are my life; I am the wrath of God to you—and you are the love of God to me; I am your hell—and you are my heaven.’”

– Thomas Brooks

How To Have a Winning Resume

Have you read some online resumes lately?

The candidates sound like they walk on water.

By the time they’re 25, they have a Master’s degree and a PhD, with work experience since kindergarten.  photo(66)

And let’s not overlook the myriad of tech certificates that make them eligible for the most exciting jobs out there.

Have you ever read a resume that included a person’s failures? Of course not. That would be suicide.

Everybody wants to be perfect.

Some people want it so badly they’re willing to lie and cheat to appear that way.

In today’s competitive job market, unless you dazzle and out-perform your competitors, you could end up on the street before you even get a chance to start.

In case you’re thinking this is only true for recent college graduates seeking employment, the truth is all of us are crafting our resumes internally so we look our best.

The fact is we’re addicted to perfection.

You and I know we can’t be perfect, but we try anyway. We labor for a verdict of approval from all who matter in life.

Except there’s a huge problem with that.

Our mothers might give us high marks because they love us no matter what, but if we look to God, who is the ultimate approval giver, his verdict is not so good.

In fact the verdict stinks.

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12 ESV

We’re in deep weeds and no amount of charitable deeds is going to convince God otherwise.

The truth is we were made to live with God’s acceptance.

“Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God…” – Psalm 146:5 NKJV

Who you are in Jesus defines you.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” – Ephesians 1:3 NKJV

By accepting God’s provision for sin in Jesus,

God smiles on you.

God welcomes you.

And Jesus’ perfect record becomes yours.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a winning deal to me.

How To Ditch the Pitch for New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again.

I’m talking about those pesky New Year’s resolutions.

This year I’m staying clear of them.

I’ll let you make them.  IMG_0704

I’m not going on a diet, buying a gym membership, eating healthier, or being nicer to my brother.

I am staying just the way I am. Plump, self-indulgent, and cranky.

I don’t like failure. Who does? I don’t want to start the New Year in the negative. I want a few weeks of blissful self-illusion.

Have you noticed as the year begins how your inbox expands with tips for improved living? How to speak Italian in six weeks. How to find the mate of your dreams online. How to improve your relationship with your therapist. How to write a memoir.

All it takes is money. And sweat.

No thanks.

You’d think everyone would see the hype, but every year there are enough desperate people who believe the gimmicks.

The truth is we all want hope. Every one of us wants to be thinner, healthier, younger, and wealthier.

But have you noticed how these things promise results but deliver disappointment?

The gym banks on you dropping out.

The recipe you’re making only works on TV.

Last year’s fashions are this year’s thrift store deals.

Nothing changes, and everything changes.

If we put our hope in things, we’ll soon discover we’re bankrupt.

There’s only one place to put our hope and it’s in a person— Jesus. When he makes a promise, he delivers it. And he promised that if anyone puts their trust in him as Savior, he will forgive their sins and give them eternal life.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. – John 6:40 NKJV

Now that’s my idea of success. The sure kind.

Why bother with lesser promises that don’t deliver when you can have God guaranteed-ones?  Instead of self-improvement propaganda, find the lasting improvements only God can offer.

I’d rather be chunky and happy in Jesus than nasty and model-thin without him.

How about you? Are you ready to put your hope in Jesus?

Leave me a fat comment.


How To Pray Really Badly

The Lord has heard my supplication; The Lord will receive my prayer. – Psalm 6:9

The experience here recorded is mine. I can set to my seal that God is true. In very wonderful ways He has answered the prayers of His servant many and many a time. Yes, and He is hearing my present supplication, and He is not turning away His ear from me. Blessed be His holy name!

What then? Why, for certain the promise which lies sleeping in the psalmist’s believing confidence is also mine. Let me grasp it by the hand of faith: “The Lord will receive my prayer.” He will accept it, think of it, and grant it in the way and time which His loving wisdom judges to be best. I bring my poor prayer in my hand to the great King, and He gives me audience and graciously receives my petition. My enemies will not listen to me, but my Lord will. They ridicule my tearful prayers, but my Lord does not; He receives my prayer into His ear and His heart.

What a reception this is for a poor sinner! We receive Jesus, and then the Lord receives us and our prayers for His Son’s sake. Blessed be that dear name which franks our prayers so that they freely pass even within the golden gates. Lord, teach me to pray, since Thou hearest my prayers.

– From Faith’s Checkbook by C.H. Spurgeon

When I read this I was reminded of my sin of unbelief. I know God hears my prayers. I understand that much. But where I lose it is when he doesn’t answer them in the way I want him to. And when that happens, I immediately conclude he’s not listening to me, or worse, caring about me.

That’s utterly sinful because it maligns the character and promises of God. 

Truth is I want my prayers answered now and according to my will, not his.

Upon further reflection, I realized, too, that God is answering my prayers all around me, as well as in the lives of the people I pray for, but I don’t have eyes to see that because I insist on having the answers my way.

Just today a friend told me he had sold his last painting, the one that nobody wanted.

“You prayed for that, remember?” he said.

I hadn’t remembered.

That was another indictment. I  had prayed without expectation. My expectations of God were little, if they existed at all.

I was seeing things about my prayer life that were not pretty.

But instead of flogging myself and telling myself to do better next time, which I know I will fail at, I reminded myself of the gospel.

Jesus prayed perfect prayers, full of hope and faith and belief in God.

And God has put his perfect praying record to my account.

That’s my only hope. His prayers, not mine.

I can rest in that and keep praying!






Christians Are Human, Too

Have you had days when you feel despairing and without hope? You wallow in unbelief and self-pity accompanied by great heaving sobs? And to top things off,  you know those thoughts don’t honor the character of God, which makes you feel even more wretched.

Does God still love you in times like these?

Did God love David, Job, Jeremiah, and countless others who poured out their feelings in times of crisis and suffering? Some, like Job, even took God to task.

The answer is a resounding YES! He does love you.

You know what? Christians are human, too.

Just read the Psalms. Every emotion is there. The ups and downs, the anger, the confusion, the despondency, the hurt and the suffering.

There isn’t a human emotion that isn’t recorded there. And aren’t you glad. You serve a God who isn’t turned off or shocked by your raw feelings.

And he still loves you.

Jesus understands. He faced it all. And he suffered perfectly, without sin. And that perfect record has been given to you!

“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (New Living Translation)

Whatever else you do while the going is rough, remember to run to Jesus, your sympathetic High Priest, and tell him how you feel, and  he will comfort and give you grace.

Whose Virtue Are You Trusting In?

There are three levels of authentic faith:

1) you start with the historical facts and the creeds concerning Jesus

2) you believe these facts to be true

3) you cast yourself dead on the floor, trusting solely in Christ; his death on the cross will save you.

The moral plan is bankrupt!

The difference between law & gospel:

law = your obedience in order to win God’s acceptance – self-righteousness

gospel = Jesus obeyed for you and died for you; believe that and you have God’s approval

Your daily “spiritual” experience is captive to your diet, sleep habits, health, & emotional state. None of these is to be trusted for your salvation, or your nearness to God, or his love for you.

The apostles had first-hand experiences of Jesus. If there was ever a group of people who could tell their stories, relate their personal experiences with Jesus, it was them. With the exception of Paul, who was compelled to defend his ministry to the Corinthians, none of the apostles spoke of themselves. They spoke only of Christ and his saving work. (See the sermons in the book of Acts.)

When the apostles did speak of their experience with Jesus, they spoke of their doubts. They highlighted their weaknesses. (See Paul in 2 Corinthians 12.)

You have no virtue of your own, so don’t count on it to gain God’s approval.

The only virtue worth having is Christ’s virtue. And he gives it to you as a gift.

Have you received it?

It Doesn’t Get Any Worse

Are you overwhelmed, defeated, rejected, disappointed, and depressed? You’re in good company. So am I.

I wrote to Steve Brown of  http://www.keylife.org/about it. He’s a radio talk show host. He’s always upbeat. Funny. Honest about life. I love him.

Here’s what he said to me:

“As for where is God when you’re feeling like this, there are no easy answers. I wish that there were.

“I see people struggling and in pain every day who, if I loved them, I would treat them better than God does.

“Charles Spurgeon said that ‘when you can’t trace God’s hand, trust His heart.’

“The alternative to this is only bitterness, rejection and meaninglessness.

“Always remember that your faith is based on the suffering of Christ on the cross…and it doesn’t get any worse than that.

“God’s tears really do mix with our own and He says, in essence, ‘If I could have done it another way, I would have.’

“One other quote, this one by C.S. Lewis:

‘The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter is hardly less formidable than a cosmic sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed – might grow tired of his vile sport – might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good? The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For not even a modestly good being could possibly inflict or permit them it they weren’t. Either way, we’re in for it.'”

The bottom line is: God loves us so much that he’s determined to make us like Jesus. That’s what we signed up for when he took us out of Adam and placed us in Christ.

“So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” – 1 Peter 4:19 (New Living Translation)