Need to check out a church, a bible study, or a community group and you’re not sure what they’re teaching is even in the bible? Take this book with you!
God doesn’t deal with us according to our sins. Why? Because he paid the price for our redemption in his Son. He held him responsible for them, therefore he doesn’t hold us. He lets us go free. That’s the Good News of the gospel. If you aren’t hearing this in church, in the books you’re reading, among your friends, you’re missing the joy of this glorious truth.
Dance instead of mourn!
God’s grace is bigger than your sin. You can’t be guilty enough. You can’t resolve to do better. Therapy won’t get you out of the hole either. It will just stir things up and muddy your heart.
Instead, look upward. “It is finished,” Jesus cried on the cross. For you. For me.
God put us on the cross with him, then in the grave, and then raised us with him on the third day.
The trash heap of our former lives is gone.
We are new in Christ. Our lives are wrapped in Christ now. That’s our identity.
His forgiveness is what is true of us today, tomorrow, and every day.
Go out and tell others today! Especially other Christians.
Talk to me.
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.
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.
I got on the subway this morning and had an option of seats. To sit alone in a one seat with no seatmate or in a two-seat. I chose the one-seat. I could be alone and not have to accommodate anybody. Yay! Usually big, burly construction workers sit next to me leaving me with an inch to breathe. Not this morning. I was going to relax all the way into city. As soon as I sat down and settled my bags, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. “So. You don’t want to speak this morning about Christ?” Gulp. Before I could argue with him, I said, “Okay. I’ll move.”
So I did. At the next stop a young Asian woman sat next to me. So this must be who I’m supposed to talk to, I said to myself. She whipped out a cosmetic sponge with make-up on it, held up the dark screen of her iPhone as a mirror, and put her face on. (Note to self: iPhone screens make good mirrors in a pinch.) I began to read field reports from a missionary agency I support that take the gospel into unreached people groups. I was totally absorbed. When I finished, I looked and my seatmate was sound asleep. Must not be her then, I thought.
We arrived into the city and she woke up. It’s now or never, I said to myself. I pulled out a gospel of John and handed it to her.
“Would you receive this as a gift?” I said.
She looked at the booklet in bewilderment. “No,” she said.
“Have you ever read the bible?” I said.
She shook her head no.
“Try it, you might enjoy it. It changed my life,” I said.
“Okay, I’ll read it,” she said and took it. She got up and left the train at her stop.
I felt accomplished.
I was prepared to ignore the world this morning. That’s the truth. But the Holy Spirit is always on duty.
Talk to me.
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!
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.
A war movie is an apt metaphor for life because we’re all prisoners of war. Everyone of us, from the rich and famous to the homeless person sleeping in a doorway. We are born in bondage to sin. There is no other identity. We can thank our first parents for that. They threw us under the bus when they chose to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit. Ever since that day all of us are born broken, needy and rebellious.
The bible calls it bondage to sin, Satan and the wrath of God. The trio of horror, except we don’t recognize it as such. We think it’s normal. We have no other reality to compare it to.
Self exacts a gravity that pulls us deeper and deeper into itself. We are the compass we live our lives by. The darkness is light to us. Selfish behavior is the stuff of life. The only god that rules is ourselves.
But God. He has redeemed us.
He’s pulled us out of our misery.
Sin no longer has dominion over us.
Satan’s slavery is broken.
We’re free from the wrath of God.
Jesus paid the price for our freedom.
He has given us his nature.
We live our lives in His light now.
Talk to me.
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.
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.
The essential mark of a Christian is love. Love for Christ, church members, neighbors, family, authorities and people who don’t know the Lord yet.
But let’s be honest. We don’t do this very well.
I don’t. You don’t.
Why do I say this with such confidence?
Because we are lovers of ourselves first. I prefer myself over you, and I suspect the same is true of you.
Unfortunately we deceive ourselves into thinking we love better than we do, and our friends will do everything they can to convince us we’re doing okay.
Try this experiment next time you’re in a group: Say something that lowers yourself in your own eyes, like, “I wasn’t very patient with my mother the other day.” Then wait for people’s responses. Several will try to rescue you from your low-self esteem. Why? Because if they didn’t attempt the rescue operation they would have to face their own lack of love for others.
We settle for half-hearted attempts. Listening with half an ear; putting off calling that pesky friend who talks too much; holding on to revenge because the person who hurt you still hasn’t admitted it.
Our hearts are deceitful and compromised by the world, the flesh and the devil. If one doesn’t cause us to trip, the other will. Maybe all three at the same time.
And the biggest trap we fall into is looking inside our hearts to find those evidences of love, good feelings and caring.
Except that’s the wrong direction.
Nothing good resides there.
Love must come from the outside. Not as a sensational feeling that sweeps us off our feet, but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are members of his body and united to him. Love flows down from him to us and then out to our neighbor.
That’s why the apostle Paul exhorts us to put on Christ. Not once or twice but everyday.
What does that look like?
It’s realizing his love is 100% perfect and it’s ours as a gift.
It’s being grateful that he loved perfectly when he was here on earth and his perfect record God has been put into our account.
From God’s perspective, we love perfectly because it’s Christ’s love he sees there.
From our perspective, we live a life of transparency before the Lord, where no secrets are tolerated. We no longer give ourselves permission to sin. We throw out old grudges and hatred and forgive the other person, a hundred times if we have to.
It reveals how much we need Christ, which is exactly where we need to be. It’s confessing our sins and admitting our inadequacy. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
And what does God think of this display of lowliness?
Take a look.
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
‘I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite'”. – Isaiah 57:15 ESV
Talk to me.
Have you ever felt the desire to do something spectacular for God? I have.
That’s my attitude for most everything I do.
Who wants to be a nobody missionary, or a parent raising a family in obscurity, or a computer programmer locked in an anonymous cubicle somewhere?
We have this burning desire to make a splash. To be known. To be admired.
“Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to do something so spectacular that we could brag and say, ‘See what I’ve done for God.’ This religious fanatic, if not watched, will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works. God’s approval does not come to us through good works, but through Christ whose works are perfect. And He did them for us. We own his perfect record. It’s a gift God has given to us, his saints. – Martin Luther
How would our lives change if we really believed all our works were perfect, that we’ve already done the big splash because we’re in Christ? And that God is pleased with us?
For me, it took the weight of the mountains off my shoulders. I was able to breathe and relax. The performance was over. What joy!
Knowing that everything I do in Christ is mediated through him and therefore acceptable to God was revolutionary.
Even my best works require Christ’s mediation.
Can you imagine what my sloppy, lazy works require?
We don’t do perfect this side of heaven.
Everything we do is mixed in with remaining sin.
That’s why we need a Savior at all times.
That’s why he’s in heaven interceding for us and mediating everything we do.
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Talk to me.
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.
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.