Pain is a Gift

According to John Newton, legalism is weariness. Justification is joy. We are forgiven and accepted through the work of Another. It’s done. Our job is to rejoice in that truth and serve God out of gratitude.

I think he was onto something. Paul expressed the same sentiments.

Even though we may know this, we don’t live this way. Instead we live in the mirage of self-sufficiency. It’s our default position. We really do believe there’s something we can do without God’s help. A lot of things. Broken

It starts in childhood. Babies learning to walk shove their parents away and tumble. Toddlers running into furniture when they think they have a clear path for wandering. High-schoolers who think they have the future mapped out only to make huge course corrections when they get to college.

Never mind the daunting tasks of choosing a spouse, the right job, buying a home.

Do we consult God?

No, we’ve been told it’s up to us to hit these milestones.

Some people succeed but many don’t. How many people do you know who are doing everything they want in life? Who are the happy ones in their work, with their children, and their body image?

Maybe you’re one of the unhappy ones. Have you settled in a job because of the security it gives you more than anything else, but now it’s strangling the life out of you? Are you in a loveless marriage with no way out? Or maybe you’re struggling with your health? As a friend told me recently, “I want my old life back.”

Life rarely turns out the way we envisioned it.

Thank God for that.

It’s God’s gift to us. If life turned out just as we wanted it to, we wouldn’t turn to him for anything. It’s a mercy that we struggle and suffer. It’s God’s language reminding us we were made to turn everything over to him because he cares for us. It’s his way of saying that what we long for is not here, but in the new heavens and the new earth, when Jesus comes back.

In the meantime, even as forgiven sinners, we suffer with our fellow human beings, knowing that Jesus himself also suffered for us so we could share in his glory one day.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

The Solution to Our Need

The bible teaches us everywhere that we are sinners and that we owe God our devotion. The truth is, not one of us has made good on our obligation. The main thing we owe God is to love him with all our hearts, souls and minds. This is our baseline responsibility. How are we doing with this? If you’re like me, not so good. In fact, most days my heart, soul and mind is riveted on me. My feelings. My expectations. My wants. Even at my best, which doesn’t exist, I have never loved the Lord this way. I break the first commandment  every hour of every day. FullSizeRender (42)

What can be done for this kind of life? Never mind the really bad things we’ve done, but even the good things we’ve done, which aren’t really good enough. Our warmest and most heartfelt moment with the Lord falls short of the standard of perfection that God requires.

If we can’t even live up to our new year’s resolutions – in my case I don’t make them anymore because of past failures – what hope do we have to do better in the sight of God? Self-improvement won’t get us nearer to God. Despair isn’t the answer either.

The only solution is to run to Jesus who purchased our acceptance with God through his perfect life of obedience lived for us, and his death on the cross in payment for all our sins. Both have been credited to our account in God’s eyes.

Even if we can’t live up to our best intentions, Jesus has for us. He’s all we need!

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.

 

The Needy Life

The success-driven life is a cancer to your Christian life, like smoking to your lungs, alcohol to your liver, and drugs to your veins.

Am I against succeeding in a career, a personal goal or a dream you’ve had all your life? No, unless you’re achieving it by your own will and determination. And that’s the point. As a Christian, whose life are you living?

“You are not your own, you were bought with a price,” Paul says to the Corinthians. (See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) In context Paul was urging holiness, but since the Holy Spirit lives in us we can also say that looking for soul satisfaction in broken cisterns, relying on Brokenrule keeping for God’s approval, and battling our demons by our own efforts is just as repugnant as unholiness.

Neglecting our true dependence on Christ is equal to living in unbelief.

It makes the Christian life a burden. By looking inward I kill myself. John Newton calls it “soul weariness.” There’s nothing there to commend itself to God.

So get used to being needy. Learn to feel weak. Become helpless like a little child. The world will scream at you, “No! You can’t do that. Flee from such beliefs, instead believe you have the potential to achieve anything you want!”

Jesus was the ultimate little one. He was 100% dependent on his Father. He did nothing on his own accord. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” John 5:19 NLT

We must do the same if we expect to “succeed” as Christians. That’s why Jesus tells us that apart from him we can do nothing. John 15:5

By looking to Christ for everything and in everything we will be released from ourselves and be put into joy and freedom.

We are needy.

We are weak.

Hooray!

Boast in that because you have a Savior who will take care of you!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

No Despair

Jesus has removed your burden of striving for God’s approval. He has taken away your self-help attempts of winning God’s love. You don’t have to clean yourself up to be presentable and acceptable to God. The world wrestles with that. It battles guilt and shame and an over-burdened conscience of law keeping, whether it’s one of its own making, or the real list of moral commands from the bible.

There are really only two camps to be in: the one of self-effort, like a gymnasium, full of sweat and exertion, or the one of surrender because you can’t conform to any of it.

There is more hope of finding the gospel in the camp of the dejected than in the camp of the proud. FullSizeRender (21)

Today, if you find yourself feeling hopeless, you’re in a good place. It means you know you don’t have the answers or the strength for living life well.

None of us do. It just takes some of us longer to realize it than others.

Don’t despair.

Look up.

Jesus lived life well for you.

He obeyed God for you.

He loved God with all his mind, heart, will and strength for you.

He served God perfectly for you.

He also paid the price for your sins on the cross.

He was the Perfect Man who was well pleasing to God.

And if you believe in him, then God has given you his Son’s perfect record as your own.

That means when God looks at you he sees you as never having sinned, ever, and as never having had a sin nature.

He only sees Jesus in you.

You need joy today? Read this post again!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re in the Army

There are two aspects to the church. One is local like the church in your city, the one you are a member of. The other is universal. It’s the church in heaven made up of Christians who have died and gone to be with the Lord. It’s also the church of the ones who are yet to be born, but will one day be born and come to believe in the Savior.

The church that exists today all over the world is called the militant church. It’s made up of fighting men and women. It means we’re at war with the flesh, the world and the devil.

There’s a war going on inside of us because of remaining sin. Our mind, body and emotions don’t always submit to Christ. We fall into wickedness.  photo39

We’re at war with the world, it’s ways and the way people think, feel and act outside of Christ. The world is upside down. We, as Christians, are running toward salvation while the world is running toward destruction.

And the devil is there to destroy God and his people. He discourages our faith and hope in the gospel. He causes us to sin. He loves to create unbelief in the goodness of God. And he is particularly skilled at having us look inward for our holiness, and when we don’t find it there, he causes us to despair. Anytime he’s able to get our eyes off Christ, he’s thrilled.

How do we respond?

First, don’t expect an easy time in this life. Expect a hard life since you’re a soldier. Be disciplined. Know your bible. Pray. Be thankful.

Second, fight and endure with hope and confidence in the promises of God. He won’t let you down.

Third, remember you’re assured of victory because Christ won it for you.

Talk to me.