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Even if God never gives you your dream job, he has given you everything.
Even if you never have the opportunity to use your considerable gifts, he has given you everything.
Even if you do use your gifts and the job is falling short of expectations, he has given you everything. Your marriage, your kids, your parents. They could be nothing but trouble, but God has given you everything.
Even if what you want for your life doesn’t match reality, he has given you everything.
What’s the everything? Christ!
By giving you Christ to suffer and make satisfaction for your sins, God the Father has poured out his heart of love for you.
You need to see that what your heart longs for is found in Christ. You long for a father who notices you, who is kind and loving, who adores you. God the Father does!
In Christ, the Father has scooped you up and brought you into his arms and showers you with kisses. He has called for the caterers so he can throw you a party.
You are no longer an orphan in the universe. You belong to the God of the universe who happens to be your Father.
We live everyday in the face of such love.
Talk to me.
I was thinking about the prodigal son. How he asked his father for his inheritance before the father died. How the father gave it to him. How this son of his spent it on his lusts until it was gone. How this son was very far away from home.
Then one day he looked up. That’s always a good place to start a recovery program.
He took stock. Another good decision. Where did he get his wisdom all of a sudden with such a track record of debauchery?
He came to his senses. Now things are coming together.
He was living in squalor, in a foreign country, feeding pigs. It couldn’t get more crazy than this. He started off with a fortune in his pocket and ended up hungry, thirsty and living with pigs, wishing he could eat their food.
He decides to go home.
The Father is waiting.
He runs to meet his son and throws his arms around him and kisses him.
Me? I would tell him he needs a bath.
I’d be offended that it was his growling belly that brought him home and not me.
But God was in the hunger. God was in his thinking. God was where home was.
Home many of us have wanted to come back to, but haven’t been able.
Perhaps for you there’s no home to come home to. No family because they’re dead.
Or maybe you’re the older brother that never left home. You’ve shouldered the responsibility for the family, you’ve been the dutiful one, and your father has never taken notice. You were expected to take the mantle. That’s what older sons are for. To continue running the business you never started. It’s your father’s livelihood you’ve inherited, not your own. Maybe your heart’s not in it, but there you are because you’re the only one left standing. It’s yours by default. Your younger brother never cared to do the right thing. Your faithfulness allowed his unfaithfulness.
The father throws his wayward son a party he’s so happy to have him back.
The elder brother is not happy to see him back. He’s resentful, angry, hurt. Did the father throw him a party because he was dutiful and faithful? No. Did the father throw his arms around him and kiss him out of gratefulness for his obedience? No.
Why not? Remember this parable was directed to the Pharisees and Scribes who were listening.
It’s because real sons of the Father know what pit they were dug from. They know they don’t deserve the Father’s love. They understand the condition of their own hearts and without the Father’s compassion and mercy, they would not be any better than their resentful elder brothers.
It’s the condition of the heart of faith that is the subject of this parable. The Pharisees and Scribes didn’t have it. The elder brother didn’t have it. Only the prodigal in his filthy rags of repentance demonstrated it.
Talk to me.
Have you every wondered what Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane? It certainly wasn’t about showing us how to pray better. Nor was it an example of humility for us to follow.
For Jesus it was about suffering. He suffered his whole life, as Isaiah tells us, from men and from devils. Judas, Peter and Satan himself.
The cross was going to be a level of suffering like no one had ever experienced before. It was where Jesus would receive from the hand of his Father all his wrath for sin. It would also be the place the Father would turn his back on Jesus and abandon him.
Think about that. It would be the first time in Jesus’s life where the Father would disengage with his Son.
Jesus did not die for God, he was no martyr. He died under God’s wrath, the justice of God being poured out on him for the sins of the world. It was at the cross that Jesus became responsible for sin. Yours and mine.
Knowing this, it moved Jesus to pray. He asked his closest friends – Peter, James and John – to pray with him so he would not be alone in his agony. But they failed him. They slept for sorrow because it finally dawned on them that he would not usher in their hopes for a restored Israel. Their dream was shattered. There was no crown for Jesus or for them. Instead there was a cross and death.
Jesus’s prayer included the removal of God’s wrath from him. He hoped for a reprieve. But no matter what, he was willing to submit to his Father’s will. What anchored him was the promise of the resurrection. This hope was Christ’s by right. He earned it. We don’t have that right, nor do we earn it. We have the same hope by faith.
Adam started in a garden that was a paradise, but then he ruined it. Jesus lived in a ruined world, and ended his life in an olive grove where olives were pressed to give their oil. A fitting location in preparation for the Second Adam to be crushed in order to restore us back to God and eventually to a new heavens and a new world.
Talk to me.
Christ died so we could be justified. We have all our sins forgiven. He has made us new creatures in our union with Christ, and now God sees us like we had never sinned or had a sin nature. This change allows us to come home to the Father, where we stay forever. God never kicks us out.
Now, as wonderful as this is, I still had a nagging question: Why couldn’t I trust these truths about me? Why couldn’t I settle into God’s love and stay there? What happens to me when I sin again, which I do all the time? Does God stop loving me? Is he disappointed in me? Does he pull out my picture from his wallet and tear it up?
I asked the Lord these questions recently, and this is what the Holy Spirit brought to mind:
If God held even one of my sins against me, he’d be declaring the blood of his Son to be insufficient to cover and blot out that sin. God can never go back on his Word because then he’d be saying his Son’s sacrifice was not good enough, that there was something lacking that I would have to make up for. And he cannot do that. It cost the Father everything to send Jesus to the cross where all of God’s wrath for sin and sinners was poured out on him. The Father crushed Jesus for me. Everything I deserved from God’s hands was put on Jesus. How then could God hold any sin against me?
Not believing this with my whole heart is the greatest sin. It reeks of unbelief. My flesh wants to participate in self-salvation strategies. It wants to contribute to my salvation. It wants me to despair, fear and struggle. It delights in doubt.
But faith says otherwise. The greatest act of faith is to believe God and the Son he has sent! He is the solution to our estrangement from God. He is the answer to our love problems. The longing of our heart is fulfilled in accepting what the Father says of us – we are his beloved children.
Talk to me.
Once upon a time stories were for children. Now they seem to be usurped by almost everybody – big business, airlines, pharmaceutical companies, the automobile industry, everything is fair game even down to the toothpaste yuo use.
The truth is we’re wired for story. Our brains respond to them. And for some of you, you are a slave to your story. It’s the one you play in your head everyday. It can be a traumatic event, an emotional decision, a deep hurt, an unfairness, whatever it was that left a wound in your soul.
Instead of replaying it over and over again, replace it with a better story.
The one that has you in Christ’s story. It’s the one that starts like this:
Once upon a time God created a perfect world and handed it over to his children, Adam and Eve to take care of it, but then they disobeyed him and plunged themselves and everybody after them into sin. When God saw the mess they had made, he realized only he could fix it. So he sent his perfect Son to earth in the form of a perfect man to live and do what Adam and Eve and the rest of us failed to do. Jesus lived to please God and then died on the cross to pay the price for your sins. His perfect life and record is now yours as a gift from God to you. All you need is faith in Christ to get it. The moment you receive that gift you step into Christ’s story.
What is true of you now?
You have a new Father who loves you. He is unlike any earthly father you’ve ever known.
You have a Savior who fixed your biggest problem – your sin that kept you from God.
You have a new identity – you are a child of God with all its privileges, including an inheritance.
You have a new family – your brothers and sisters in Christ.
You have a new future – living in the new heavens and the new earth for an eternity.
You have new support – the church.
You have a calling – the Holy Spirit has given you spiritual gifts to serve God with.
So what are you waiting for?
Dump the old story today and start telling yourself the new one!
Talk to me.
Did you know God is the only one who names himself?
El means power. Elohim. Pushing back the chaos and establishing order. You see this on display in the creation of the world. God can push back the chaos in your life. Nothing is beyond his power.
Yahweh is used 5,000 times in the bible. It’s his most important name.
Think Passover. The parting of the Red Sea. The drowning of the Egyptians.
God wants us to think of him as the trustworthy God.
He’s not Mr. God, formal and aloof in a black suit behind a desk.
He’s known as Yahweh Jireh. The Lord sees and provides. The ram in the thicket. Manna in the wilderness. Jesus on the cross.
Yahweh Rapha. The Lord heals you. He turns your Marah into sweet water. Jesus heals you body and soul.
Yahweh Nissi means God is your banner. You cannot be defeated. God went to war for Israel. He stands shoulder to shoulder with you today.
Yahweh Sabaoth. He is the host of heaven. He brings the armies. He defends you.
God has now visited you in Jesus. It’s permanent. He didn’t slip out of his body like a garment when he returned to heaven. He stays a man forever and lives there. He remains a man who sympathizes with you and prays for you.
Celebrate his name today!