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 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.

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.

What Sin?

I was in the office kitchen this morning and a co-worker asked me, “How are you?”

Without thinking I usually say, “Fine.” Nobody really wants an honest answer. The few times I’ve tried it, the other person feels responsible to respond in a meaningful way, and who has insights to give that early in the morning when you can barely pour a cup of coffee? So I’ve learned to answer in a neutral way. wool

But this morning I said, “I’m rejoicing that all of my sins are forgiven.”

And that opened up a beautiful gospel conversation.

I continued, “Did you know your sins are finite in number, and God knows every one of them, and they were all forgiven in Christ from the moment you were born?”

That lead to other comments about the wonderment of what God has done for us in his Son.

God purchased your soul before you were even conceived. Ephesians 1:4

God saw every one of your sins before you existed. Psalm 139

Each one was completely paid for before you committed any of them. Ephesians 1:7-10

Even those you haven’t committed yet, every one of them is already paid for, atoned for, and you are declared forgiven.

You’ve been forgiven in Christ from before the foundation of the world right through to eternity. Ephesians 1

What scandalous love!

Questions: How does that truth impact your struggles with sin today? How does it change your concept of who God is?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sinning but Forgiven

“Christians live in an atmosphere of perpetual forgiveness.” – B.B. Warfield

Read that again. It’s a stunning quote.

It’s Romans 8:1, that you are no longer condemned because you’re in Christ and he was condemned for you.

Your justification is not just for past sins only but for continued sins all life long.

Christians are sinners!  oh cat

How many years I sat in church listening to pastors tell me all the things I needed to do in order to please God. Read the bible, pray, go on a missions trip, serve on the church committee, be a usher, help in the children’s Sunday School. The list grew longer and so did my guilt. I was twisted like a pretzel. I was either self-righteous because I managed to do some of these things, or I felt guilty and depressed because I wasn’t doing enough.

Rubbish!

God in his mercy has shown me otherwise.

God calls me to church every week to receive from him, not do things for him. Why? Because he’s done everything for me! I come in gratitude for everything he has given me in Christ. And he continues to feed me through the worship, the preaching of the Word, and the sacraments.

I’m not saying reading the bible, praying, and going on a missions trip are things to avoid. Not if you do them out of gratitude to God. But if you do them because you feel obligated, or you’re doing them to feel better about yourself, or call attention to yourself, then think again. Those aren’t good motivators. They don’t adorn the gospel. They’re sin!

Our lives must be gospel-centered. We live for God out of gratitude for Christ, and we love our neighbor out of gratitude for Christ.

The minute self inserts itself into the picture, we’re sinning. And that happens every day. That’s why we live in an atmosphere of constant forgiveness, all because of Christ.

How joyful does that make you? Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Good Read

Dear Friends,

I invite you to read another blog: http://leapyearluncheon.wordpress.com/

You’ll find stories about what it looks like to witness for Christ as you go about the ordinary things of life. oh cat

As you read, it’s my hope you will be infected with the same virus to do the same.

And if you do try this, keep a journal of the stories. Even the ones that don’t turn out so well.

And then share them with the rest of us!

 

 

 

 

Are You Ready to Take a Risk?

On the subway last week, I noticed a Hispanic woman get on, in her 50’s, sit down and pull out a book in Spanish with a kneeling picture of a praying Jesus on the cover. The title of the book was, “How To Move Away from Depression.” She read it with her lips moving. I began to pray for her. I was two rows behind her. The car was packed. I told the Lord if he wanted me to give her a gospel of John he’d have to clear the decks. We got through the tunnel and at the first stop in the city, everyone in my way got up and got off, leaving an empty seat right by her. I  photo(44)chuckled. I got up, sat in the empty seat, pulled out my gospel, leaned over and in Spanish said good morning, I have a gift for you. She looked at me, saw the booklet, took it, and smiled. I explained the booklet, especially the first three pages. I told her to read them and make that prayer of receiving Christ as her Savior. I asked her if the book she was reading was helping her. She said yes, that she had bought it at her church’s bookstore. I said the secret of getting rid of depression is knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. She said she thought so, too. Then she got quiet. A few seconds went by. Then she leaned in and said, “My son was murdered three years ago. I have been depressed ever since.” I was stunned. I told her how sorry I was, and that God wanted to carry her burden, that she didn’t have to anymore. She thanked me. At that point I got up to get off at my stop. I’ve been praying for her ever since.

This is an example of what I am praying to do every day. We see and meet many people with wounds so deep that only God can heal them. So I ask God to make me alert to the needs of others, to give me the faith to engage them even if it’s risky, and to use me as his ambassador of hope and encouragement to them.

What about you? Would you join me this year? I hope to write my adventures here when I have them.