The Big Reason to be Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving this week and the focus around here is turkey and being thankful. The turkey part is easy. You go to the store and select the bird you want and bring it home and prepare and roast it.

It’s the thankfulness part that is trickier. We’re not very good at it. If you’re like me, I frequently forget to thank God from one day to the next, and one week to the next.

That’s shameful considering the very air I breathe is his. IMG_3973

Not only that, God did the most scandalous thing in the world. He rescued us from his wrath and judgment and hell. This he planned long ago, before the world was made. Then he sent his Son in time and space to bring us salvation, a gift we didn’t deserve, all because God wanted us in his family. We didn’t ask to be rescued. We didn’t even think we needed to be rescued. That’s how deep sin goes. But God knew our deepest need was to know him and have him as our God. He chose us. We are now new creatures in Christ. And in the resurrection of his Son he is re-creating the world. And one day God will usher in the new heavens and the new earth where we will live forever.

That’s what we need to be thankful for. It should take our breath away.

Not only this week, but every day.

Talk to me.

 

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You Want Me to Love Who?

I don’t know about you but I’m not very good at the loving your neighbor thing. If I’m honest, I much prefer my own company, my own thoughts and my own projects. Putting others first is like asking a zebra to switch its stripes to polka dots.

But there it is. Jesus said to love one another, and John said it too. In fact, John said something else that’s disturbing. If we don’t love other believers it’s proof we’re not Christians!

Ouch! photo (1)

And not just believers we like, or share the same doctrine with, or understand life in similar ways. We’re called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ who are totally different from us. Those whose politics we hate. Those who barely read the bible. Those who relate to God in emotional ways.

So why such emphasis on this love thing?

Because it’s like God. God is love. After all, he loved us when we were unlovable. He loved us before our sins were forgiven. He served us in our misery and wretchedness. He gave us Jesus before we knew we needed him.

God is always loving, even when we’re not. Jesus suffered the wrath of God for us. He satisfied the justice of God. Jesus is the ultimate proof of how much God loves us.

We do not love well. But Jesus loved his Father and us, his children perfectly. And that perfect record is ours by faith in Christ. Knowing that, we can go out and love others not so well, knowing Jesus covers all our imperfections.

That’s another gift we don’t deserve, but it’s ours because God loves us.

Talk to me.

 

Not So Quick

Have you ever asked yourself, like I have, what was lacking in the rich young ruler’s life that turned him away from following Jesus? Something nagged at him to ask Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He said he kept the commandments and Jesus didn’t fault him in that. What was missing?

He may have been thinking that there was something he needed to add to the rule list. “Just tell me and I’ll be on it.”

Or he may have been thinking that he was doing alright and wanted Jesus to confirm him in his performance.

But that wasn’t it.  FullSizeRender (4)

Just like this blog is fond of repeating that acceptance with God is by Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, this young ruler had everything, including wealth and possessions, but lacked the one thing that could give him eternal life.

Without faith in Jesus he had nothing.

He was a rebel in God’s world. He was spiritually dead. Notice in today’s culture, he would be described as a seeker, someone who was close to God, and whom God was pleased with. But in truth his heart was of stone. His sins were not forgiven. He was under God’s wrath.

So what does Jesus tell him?

To sell his possessions and give his wealth to the poor.

Why would Jesus say that instead of telling him he needed to have faith in him?

No doubt Jesus saw that he trusted in his considerable wealth and put his finger on it to expose it. The young ruler heard that and walked away sorrowful. He was willing to do anything, but part with his riches. He loved them more than God. While being rich he was poor. He failed to realize that eternal life was more wonderful than all the riches in the world.

We see time and time again that those who feel secure in their performance, Jesus refers them to the law, but to those who are a mess, like the woman caught in adultery, he consoles with the gospel.

If you’re keeping the rules without a corresponding love for God inside, you of all people are not keeping any rule. You must be poor and needy inside, a beggar of God’s love and life and then he will grant it to you.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

faith in Jesus, the one person who could give him what he needed.

And notice how Jesus answered him.

 

 

 

 

Stay Needy

How does one live in God’s kingdom? What does that look like?

If you read Matthew 19: 13-15  you’ll see how Jesus responded to his disciples’ rebuke to parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children. Children had no status in those days. The people of respect were the adults, especially the old men. That was the Jewish culture. But Jesus turned that upside down by insisting that his kingdom was for children.

Really? Children are needy and helpless. They frighten easily. They need protection and care. And they’re messy!

God’s kingdom is precisely for those who are helpless and insignificant and marginalized.

The nobodies are more important than the somebodies. God’s kingdom is not for the movers and shakers.

The kingdom is right-side up while the world is upside down, so no matter what the world tells us is important, or who we should be, it’s probably not true. The disciples reacted as the culture of the day demanded, but Jesus reversed that.

So God’s handbook says, “Become like a little child.” We’re not important. We’re unworthy servants at best. We must look out for others first. Esteem them better than ourselves.

Christ showed us how. He was the king serving his subjects. The saint serving sinners.

We can’t to do it by the law. Knowledge is not enough. There’s something broken in all of us. We don’t need a better you. We’ve been promised a new you in the gospel.

Christ covered our sins by his blood. He’s our Passover. All our sins were imputed to him and he died for them on the cross. And all Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us. The grand exchange described in 2 Corinthians 5:21. We no longer carry the burden of sin and death on our shoulders. We can now skip and dance like little children in the playground of God’s kingdom.

Do you believe this?   Related image

If you’re not sure, receive Christ by faith today. It’s not about being smarter. Or stronger. It’s about feeling helpless like a little child and clinging to him for life.

Be helpless. It’s okay.

God’s kingdom is full of needy ones. Stay that way.

Talk to me.

Adoption Matters

I’ve known a few people in my life who were adopted as children and the longing of their hearts was always to meet their real biological parents.

Everyone wants to know where they came from. That’s a common desire.

As a Christian, have you ever asked yourself where you came from? And why was it that God chose you to be in his family?

Let me start by saying that it had nothing to do with you!

Once upon a time, before the world was made, God decided to give his Son a people as a gift.

Those people were known only to God before they were ever created.

These people had one common purpose: they would glorify God by imaging the Son.

If you have faith in Christ today, you are one of those people.

God chose you.  photo-37

God drew you to Christ.

God clothed you in Christ.

For the purpose of being holy and blameless.

It was God’s love to his Son that he adopted us into his family for the glory of his grace.

The fact you love the Lord and believe in him was all God’s plan for you.

Check it out. Read Ephesians chapter 1.

And start praising!

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.

Sprinkle the Conffetti

Christians are not good people while unconverted sinners are bad people.

The only difference between the two groups is that Christians have their sins forgiven.

Jesus did not come to save respectable sinners.  He came for the despicable, the marginalized, the unlovely.

You and me.

There are no good people in this world.

We’re all bad people in need of rescuing.

No matter how polished and well put together on the outside, our sinful DNA is showing.

In Matthew 9 we are introduced to Matthew, the tax collector. A hated and despised man because his presence reminded the Jews they were living in occupied territory. He worked for the Roman government. He also worked for himself – extorting, bullying, and wheedling. He lined his own pockets with the taxes from his own people. He was the kind of sinner Jesus came for. And when Jesus called him, Matthew threw a party in response. IMG_4788

Why did Jesus go and enjoy the party? He could have walked on and met other people who needed him.

It was because Jesus’s coming to earth changed the times they were in.

The Old Testament was a time of waiting for Messiah.

The New Testament was a time of celebration, joy and freedom because Messiah had arrived as promised and he was going to set them free from their sins.

Like Matthew, Jesus changes our glumness to joy.

Matthew was happy. He was a new man. And he volunteered to repay all monies he had taken from his own people.

Jesus wants us to live in rapture that he took our sins on the cross and then we were raised in his resurrection.

Jesus’s preaching had an emphasis of celebration.

Think about the many parties Jesus went to in his lifetime.

Then reflect on the lavish party we’re going to have in heaven at the end our lives.

Are you savoring the party to come?

Is your life a celebration of sins forgiven, and a restored relationship with your heavenly Father?

Are you setting tonight’s dinner table with celebration?

Talk to me.