Oh the Shame!

The word shame is mentioned so many times these days it seems there’s no other word in the English vocabulary. It’s talked about so often in sermons, books, lectures and therapy sessions that it has lost its meaning. We’re supposed to believe everyone feels shame and it’s the biggest problem out there that people are grappling with.

That might be true if you’re trying to restore someone’s self-esteem. If it’s meant to describe feelings of embarrassment, then everybody has felt it one time or another. For example, at not being prepared for an interview and you were caught off-guard with a question. Or when you forgot your lines in the school play. Or when you weren’t dressed appropriately at a gathering. These are common experiences that make people feel insecure and unacceptable.

But nowadays shame is being used in a therapeutic sense. It’s the popular word for feeling you’re not enough, you’re wrong as a person, you’re unwanted.

Someone gave you the message and you believed it. And from that moment on you made it your life’s mission to find ways to overcome it.

While this might be true of you, it doesn’t go deep enough. God says real shame is refusing to believe who he is for you. You prefer living in unbelief instead of embracing the God who loves you. You’re holding on to the message your parents or peers gave you from the past.

Everyone has those messages living in their heads. They’re common to the human race because sin is common to the human race. 

You can overcome these messages, but that won’t win the war for your soul. Only by turning to God, the author of your life, and believing his love for you, by giving you Christ to redeem you and bring you back to your true home, will you be right with him and your own soul. 

Christ took your shame (your unbelief) on the cross and it died there. And it was buried in the tomb with him. It’s dead. And when Christ was resurrected he gave you his new life. There is no shame mixed in there. Look all you want. It’s gone. You’re now free from those condemning voices to follow only one voice – the Father’s. And his voice is affirming, loving, and gracious. 

Talk to me.

 

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I Can’t Hear You’re So Loud

I got off the phone with a caller that never stopped talking. He’s someone I’ve never met and yet he felt the need to tell me about his life, never taking a breath to see if I was interested or even listening.

I’m sure you’ve had those experiences with people.

As much as that caller irritated me, I had to admit I had done the same thing over the years.

I’m a fix-it-all kinda person. You come to me with a problem and I have a solution for you and I’m happy to tell you about it.

Don’t we all.  painting24

I’ve realized over the years that maybe that’s not what people really need. Maybe it’s something else.

Maybe Jesus is calling us to a different kind of help. Help as in listening to the person. We’re so prone to listen with a mind that is more attentive to what to say next to the person. We miss the cues, the body language and facial expressions that way.

Even more importantly, we miss what God is showing us about himself in that person’s life.

I often forget that when someone asks for my counsel, she comes to me with Jesus in her life. It’s my job to listen well. I’m quick to fix, he’s not. I want to come across as helpful, when Jesus is already her helper.

What people need most of all is someone who will listen to them with a full heart that is not rushed, and who can help locate God in their lives so they can rest in him. This won’t happen if we’re preoccupied with what to say next, or if we’re in a hurry to get the visit over with.

We all need to enroll in the school of active listening. I know I do.

Talk to me.

You Are a Good Seed

As we read the gospels we soon run into the parables of Jesus. Why did he teach that way? Even the disciples wondered about that.

Jesus said that parables were meant to hide the truth from those who didn’t want to hear it, but revealed to those who belong to God.

The most famous of the parables is the one about the seed and the four soils. It’s message is relevant for every generation.

Was Jesus really talking about soil that gets under your fingernails and green shoots poking out of the ground? No, these were pictures of spiritual truths. The seed was the gospel, the Good News about Jesus taking our place for us in order to bring us to God.

The sower was Jesus, the Son of Man, a king who shared in the humanity of his people and who carried the image of God. seed

Jesus with a bag of seeds.

What were those seeds producing? Wheat, lettuce, figs? Or some intellectual understanding or religious insight?

No, they were producing believers.

Of course the enemy was right there working his evil in people as they listened. But notice Jesus didn’t interrupt him. He let him be. Only the fourth soil produced good fruit. The other three soils were left in enemy hands.

Jesus knew the harvest would be gathered in in spite of the enemy’s tactics, that’s why we, like him, can go about spreading the Good News of Jesus knowing with confidence God will be at work producing believers.

Makes being a sower a joy, doesn’t it? And you’ll always be surprised at God’s work in people. It’s the best assignment on earth!

Talk to me.

 

 

What’s in Your Church Lately?

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the church is? Is it a place to get your needs met? A place to hang out with like-minded friends? A place to get a shot in the arm for the week ahead?

Nowadays more and more churches are like that.

I hate to say it but we’re not allowed to re-purpose the church to our liking or to meet the needs of the culture. God didn’t give us pastors to be inspirational speakers, or comedians, or storytellers. And he certainly didn’t give us pastors to be our life coaches either.  For that you have movies, TV shows, and TED Talks.

So what’s the purpose of the church anyway if they’re not clubs for the cool, support networks for tech families, or places for therapy?

According to the bible, God has given the church three mandates:

  1. The worship of God
  2. The maturing of believers
  3. Bringing sinners to faith  img_8865

If our churches aren’t doing this, then we need to ask if it’s a true church.

What tools is the church to use for the worship of God, maturing the saints, and bringing sinners to faith?

The gospel.

The teaching and preaching must be the gospel. It’s the only tool God promises to use that is powerful and accomplishes its purpose.

The gospel is not inside of us by nature. That’s why we need to hear it from the outside. The church is where this is done in song, in prayer, and in preaching.

It’s not only the pastor’s responsibility, it’s all of ours. We need to be specialists in the gospel so we’re able to share it, counsel it, and tell it to others.

As private Christians we have many assignments in life, but the church has only one: the preaching of the gospel.

And we need to be reminded of the gospel every week, no matter how old we are in the Lord.

The gospel is not only for sinners but for Christians as well.

Talk to me.

I Will Pray Even If It Kills Me

Here are some thoughts on prayer. If you’re like me, you need them.

I find prayer a mystery.

I’m always shocked when God answers my prayers and I’m always disappointed when he doesn’t or keeps me waiting.

I say regardless of how complex the subject of prayer is, don’t give up. Keep on praying. It’s the only thing to do. What is the alternative? Unbelief? Bitterness? Indifference? Those are sins and that will make you more miserable than you may be already. It’s better to be disappointed in your prayers than to disappoint the Lord.20150316_154108

Prayer is not a waste of breath. God will answer in his own time.

So often I am discouraged by constant prayer. Instead I should be energized by it. I’m talking to God, after all.

Western society is characterized by hustle. We forget our dependence on God and need that daily reminder when we pray.

Praying is not the opposite of doing work. Prayer drives the work. The armies of the Lord advance on our knees.

Prayer is the centerpiece of discipleship. God will answer. He gives us his promises for that. What we’re learning while we wait is patience, endurance and perseverance – all the things we hate. It breeds in us a longing for heaven.

The more holy we are, the more we will pray. We want to be in God’s presence, we long for his companionship and conversation.

God gives us a million things every day without us asking for them. Why not the things we do ask for?

Pray with confidence in your Father. He has a proven character and an unblemished record.

Let’s continue to pray!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Are You Listening?

A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ.

Are you?

Take a look at Matthew 4. Jesus called Peter and Andrew and then James and John. All four were fishermen. What did he tell them?

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” v.19

Jesus didn’t say, “Come to church, read your bible, witness, and above all be nice.”

He just said, “Follow me.” Simple. IMG_1193

And they did. They dropped everything.

Have you?

Granted they were going to be apostles and their new calling would be something beyond their wildest imagination.

In those days to be called by a rabbi was considered a great privilege. And Jesus’s reputation was that of a rabbi.

The two sets of brothers no doubt had heard the kingdom was near and they wanted in on the action.

But the real reason they so readily dropped their work to follow Jesus was because God drew them to Jesus. He enabled them to hear the call and respond.

Can you say the same? Or are you so caught up with the business and busyness of the church, or your work, or your family that Jesus’s calling you gets fainter every year?

Maybe it’s time for a re-calibration of your life where Jesus is always in front of you.

Ask him for that.

I will also.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shout Out!

Rev. William Willimon said in reference to the resurrection, “A dead body got loose.”

I love it.

Not only did a dead body get loose, but the only body to walk out of the grave.

Have you spent time thinking about the resurrection lately? I have. Maybe because it’s springtime and all the blossoms and tender green shoots are shouting at me. It’s God social media to a dying world.

I was on a hike last week surrounded by brilliant blue skies, a gurgling creek, and trees bursting with new life.

IMG_0427

I found myself looking around at the breathtaking scenery, taking in the magnificence of God’s handiwork. Who but God could have designed green and blue and yellow and put them together.

I stumbled across a baby rattle snake with skin that rivaled anything in today’s fashion styles.

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And yet most of my fellow hikers were plugged into their headsets with their eyes on the ground.

The outdoors is speaking God’s message for all to hear.

There’s life to be embraced in the one who got away from death.

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As C. S. Lewis put it, “Christianity is a world that is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going around the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.”

Look up and think about that today.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com