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.

 

The Craving of Dreams

Do you know people who say they can’t believe in God because they hold a list of grudges against him?

The list goes something like this:

God didn’t deliver what he promised.

God didn’t heal my loved-one.

God didn’t give that promotion I asked for.

The list goes on and on.

It’s a list that produces a brittle and bitter heart.

Underneath the reasons for this refusal is anger at God, and then disappointment with God, and finally a willful decision to not believe in God, an attitude of revenge.

But is it justified to have a grudge against God? Do we have any examples in Scripture?

We do. The people who left Egypt and moved into the wilderness give us an example. Never mind that they were slaves and mistreated by the Egyptians. Never mind that they were spared the death of their first-born son while everyone around them was wailing their misfortune. Never mind that God gave them a leader to bring them out unscathed through the Red Sea crossing. Never mind that God protected them by day and by night. That he fed them. He gave them water to drink. He gave them himself in the wilderness and was leading them to the Promised Land.

They did nothing to deserve being rescued.

What was their response? photo(73)

“They spoke against God. ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? Can he give bread also? Can he provide meat for his people?’ They tested God in their hearts by asking for the food of their fancy.” (Psalm 78:18-20)

Note the phrase, “the food of their fancy.” That’s  where the problem lies. Just like the people in the wilderness, who had experienced firsthand God’s deliverance from Egypt, they were bristling against the conditions of life in the desert and wanted to return.

Their expectations didn’t match their experience. They didn’t like living in tents, nor trudging through the heat, nor eating manna everyday, and being thirsty. So they complained and demanded the type of food they left behind in Egypt.

Their real problem was not having a correct view of God.

God was giving them a new life, but they wanted the old one. He was giving them an intimate relationship with him, but they preferred the Egyptian idols. They were happy to use God as their butler for their cravings, but were unwilling to submit to the new life he had prepared for them.

Could it be that people with grudges against God are really saying the same thing? That God didn’t deliver on the goods they envisioned for themselves? And since he didn’t deliver, they were leaving and going home?

God does not promise the things we want in this life. He certainly gives us more than we deserve, but not everything. He prefers we get to know him, and love him whether he gives us our dreams or not. Ultimately, we will have everything our hearts desire and more when we’re in the new heavens and the new earth, but in the meantime, our greatest craving should be a deeper knowledge of him.

Therefore, give up your grudges against God. God gave up his grudges against you when he put Jesus on the cross in your place. Let that bathe your heart today. God’s love for you in very great.

Keep God’s love fresh in your faith.

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.

 

Lonely No More

I read a recent article titled, The Lethality of Loneliness by Judith Shulevitz in the New Republic. In it she examines the damage loneliness creates on the body and brain.

She cites Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, German psychiatrist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud; who immigrated to America during World War II to escape Hitler.

Fromm-Reichmann believed that loneliness was “a want of intimacy” that lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness. In her estimation,

“the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world.”

I think Fromm-Reichmann’s observations were profound, but she didn’t take them far enough.  IMG_2472

Loneliness entered the world when Adam and Eve ditched God’s oversight of them and forged an independent path for themselves. (See Genesis 3)

Since then men and women are born with separation anxiety.

We come into the world separated from the One who created us and loves us.

It’s part of our DNA.

No one is exempt.

The symptoms are all around us:

Fear, insecurity, self-absorption, lack of trust, and depression just to name a few.

What can we do about it?

The truth is no amount of therapy will do the job.

Ignoring the symptoms won’t make them go away.

Drugs and alternative therapies, including alcohol, chocolate and high-risk sports, only mask the problem.

So what’s left?

Every one of us has a longing to be known and to be loved, and that is precisely what Jesus gives us.

In all our disjointed attempts at intimacy, there is only One who can bring us into the harmony and approval we crave.

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12 (New Living Translation)

It was Jesus who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (our estrangement), and was raised to new life to bring us to God.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. – Romans 8:38 (New Living Translation)

We don’t know if Fromm-Reichmann ever knew there was a solution to loneliness. Probably not.

But we do.

Are you ready to trade your life apart from God and embrace the One who loves you and gave Himself for you? This goes for the Christian, too!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Condition Alert!

Have you struggled like me with knowing how to respond to the circumstances in your life? How you’re never prepared really even if you think you are? And how shocking sometimes they can be and you ask yourself the question, “How did I get here?”

Well, you’re not alone. The Apostle Paul faced the same thing, but he didn’t stay stuck there. He learned some valuable lessons. He said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:10-12 ESV

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book Spiritual Depression says, Van Gogh2

“Paul had come to learn this great truth by working out a great argument. I think that the Apostle’s logic was something like this. He said to himself:

“1. Conditions are always changing, therefore I must not be dependent upon conditions.

“2. What matters supremely and vitally is my soul and my relationship to God – that is the first thing.

“3. God is concerned about me as my Father, and nothing happens to me apart from God. Even the very hairs on my head are all numbered. I must never forget that.

“4.God’s will and God’s ways are a great mystery, but I know that whatever he wills or permits is of necessity for my good.

“5. Every situation  in life is the unfolding to some manifestation of God’s love and goodness. Therefore my business is to look for this peculiar manifestation of God’s goodness and kindness and to be prepared for surprises and blessings because ‘His ways are not my ways, neither His thoughts my thoughts’. What, for example, is the great lesson that Paul learned in the matter of the thorn in the flesh? It is that, ‘When I am weak than I am strong’. Paul was taught through physical weakness this manifestation of God’s grace.

“6. I must regard circumstances and conditions, not in and of themselves therefore, but as a part of God’s dealings with me in the work of perfecting my soul and bringing me to final perfection.

“7. Whatever my conditions may be at this present moment they are only temporary, they are only passing, and they can never rob me of the joy and the glory that ultimately await me with Christ.”

It took Paul a lifetime to learn this and it will take that long for you and me, too, but we can trust God to teach us this secret of contentment while the chaos swirls around us.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com