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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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.

Out of Breath

In the span of two days I received an onrush of bad news that swept me up and took my breath away.

A friend’s brother died in his bed yesterday. A colleague’s brother was discovered dead in a field. My son’s mentor was rushed to the ER for colon surgery. My neighbor is battling lung cancer.

This leaves me bewildered and numb.

What do we make of trials? If you’re like me, I’m never prepared for them. They always surprise me and yet they shouldn’t because Jesus warned us we would have them in this life. fullsizerender-21

I was looking at quotes from John Newton and found this one:

“Trials remedy fictional escapism. Trials are the onrush of stinging realism crashing the idealized party we call ‘life.’ When these serious trials interrupt our lives, we ‘run simply and immediately to our all-sufficient Friend, feel our dependence, and cry in good earnest for help.’ But when all is well, when life seems peaceful and prosperous, and when the difficulties in life are small, then ‘we are too apt secretly to lean to our own wisdom and strength, as if in such slight matters we could make shift without him.’ We lose out on communion with Christ when we gorge on entertainment.”

What a commentary! Life as fictional escape, a movie of our own making filled with a diet of entertainment. With technology at our fingertips, this indicts everybody.

I’m guilty. I’ve either reading a book, watching TV, or living in my own head. And I think this is life. No wonder I need shaking up and waking up. I need to remember I’m a clay jar with a lot of cracks in it.  And I need to live close to the potter, otherwise I’ll dry up and smash to pieces.

What about you?

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Jesus in the Storm

Everybody loves the story of Jesus calming the storm. And everyone loves to say to anxious and despairing people, “See, Jesus can calm the raging waters of your soul, too.”

Except that’s not what the story is about.

According to the narrative in Matthew 8, this was not your ordinary storm. It had the force of the devil behind it. It was the equivalent of an earthquake in power and force. No wonder the disciples, experienced fishermen who knew those waters, were terrified. They didn’t know what to do, so they told Jesus.

“Save us, we’re perishing!”   

This woke Jesus up from his nap and he was annoyed with them. He was surprised they weren’t calm.

Instead they were afraid and not trusting God for their safety.

I would have been among them.

With just a word, Jesus rebuked the storm and the disciples marveled at this. They wanted to know who they had in the boat with them.

Didn’t they already know?

Apparently they were suffering from dementia. They had forgotten their Old Testament lessons of God creating the oceans in Genesis, and controlling the seas in Jonah, Job, and the Psalms.

Jesus rebuked the storm like he would a demon and it obeyed immediately.

The seas have one master, the Lord. The sea is his servant. He’s king of the ocean and rules it by his word.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus did not pray or ask his Father to handle the storm. He did it himself.

He is God.

He created the oceans.

He is God with us in the storm.

He will not leave us.

This is a promise.

If he didn’t run away from the cross, he will not leave us in our circumstances.

Are you really believing he is with you today?

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.

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.