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.

 

I Will Pray Even If It Kills Me

Here are some thoughts on prayer. If you’re like me, you need them.

I find prayer a mystery.

I’m always shocked when God answers my prayers and I’m always disappointed when he doesn’t or keeps me waiting.

I say regardless of how complex the subject of prayer is, don’t give up. Keep on praying. It’s the only thing to do. What is the alternative? Unbelief? Bitterness? Indifference? Those are sins and that will make you more miserable than you may be already. It’s better to be disappointed in your prayers than to disappoint the Lord.20150316_154108

Prayer is not a waste of breath. God will answer in his own time.

So often I am discouraged by constant prayer. Instead I should be energized by it. I’m talking to God, after all.

Western society is characterized by hustle. We forget our dependence on God and need that daily reminder when we pray.

Praying is not the opposite of doing work. Prayer drives the work. The armies of the Lord advance on our knees.

Prayer is the centerpiece of discipleship. God will answer. He gives us his promises for that. What we’re learning while we wait is patience, endurance and perseverance – all the things we hate. It breeds in us a longing for heaven.

The more holy we are, the more we will pray. We want to be in God’s presence, we long for his companionship and conversation.

God gives us a million things every day without us asking for them. Why not the things we do ask for?

Pray with confidence in your Father. He has a proven character and an unblemished record.

Let’s continue to pray!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Re-Booting Is Not Just for Tech Devices

Everything needs a re-boot every once in a while. I had to do that with my smart phone. It got so hot I could grill a lamb burger on it, so I shut it down, and gave it a rest. It had traveled internationally with me and the time change may have confused it coming home. Like me. I returned home from a month of travel and got sick. I slept for three days.

I’m always surprised when I can’t keep going with infinite energy. I forget my inside age (17) doesn’t match my outside age (39 and holding).  I forget that everything, including me, is on a wind-down. The re-tooling of heaven and earth, including us, happens when Jesus comes back with his tool belt around his waist and sets up shop once and for all. painting24

In the meantime, we live with the tension of our sighs and the reality around us. We put one foot in front of the other, keeping our eyes on Jesus, who went before us and showed us the way. It’s not easy. It wasn’t easy for him either. It cost him his life but he knew that. Nothing took him by surprise, whereas it does for us. He had one advantage though – he was both human and divine so when he willingly took up this assignment he did it with eyes open. It was his devotion to his Father that propelled him.

“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” – Psalm 40:7-8 ESV

He decided it was worth his time to leave home, come to earth as a human being in order to restore sick and dying people to their birthright, that of glorifying God and enjoying him forever. And this he did, with a full heart.

“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” – John 17:4 ESV

Did you know you were meant to find your purpose in God? He’s the one you miss and long for. Everything in life is broken, fragmented and in disrepair. That means life isn’t going to work out. Your dreams will be shattered. Because what your heart yearns for is God and he’s the only one who can make your life good.

That’s why we need Jesus. His life was perfect. He knew no sin. He lived for God. He loved God the way you were meant to. And on top of that, he died on the cross to pay the penalty for your not loving God, for going your own way and resisting him. When you believe what Jesus has done, God exchanges your failed record for Jesus’s perfect record. It is yours as a gift, and you take it with gratitude and awe.

How’s that for a re-boot?

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

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