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.

 

Oh for the Love of God

How do you know you are born again?

Some people think it’s because they said a prayer. Or they raised a hand in a service. Or they called out to Jesus in the midst of turmoil in their life.

So many people are trusting in the church. Their leaders. The sacraments.

All of these things spell trouble. love

How to know you’re born again is simple: you believe in Christ.

You believe in him because you are born again, otherwise he’s the furthest thing from your mind and heart.

Faith that believes that Jesus is the Christ produces love for God and love for others.

But love for others is the difficult part. People are a problem. Let’s face it, some Christians can be boring, depressing, unattractive, wet blankets, repellent, and pains in the neck.

And then throw in the devil, the world and your flesh and the mix will keep you from loving others. Culture becomes more important than Christ. Popular opinion, too. Laziness sets in. And narcissism takes over.

But loving others is sweet when you know God wants you to do it. And he will give you the heart for it.

The truth is we’re all depraved. We share an equality in guilt. And an equality in grace.

The one place where everybody is equal is at the cross. Even the cool people.

If you don’t have a love for other Christians, especially inside the church, then you’re presuming you love God. You can’t love God without including his people.

Ask him to give you his love for the family. You’ll be glad you did.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The Gospel is for the Heart

Psychologists and motivational speakers claim that a person has six basic needs in life. If these aren’t being met, then the person is living a life of misery.

Here are the six:

Security – financial and emotional
SignificanceIMG_4606
Connection/Love
Variety
Growth
Contribution

Let’s see how the gospel speaks to these:

Security – you can’t find any in this fallen world because security is subject to change and decay – remember the dot.com and real estate bust – real security comes from belonging to Christ.

Significance – all of us want to be noticed and recognized and applauded – however, there’s been only One Significant Man worth our attention – Jesus Christ – and if you belong to him then you share in his significance. You can’t get any more significant than that.

Connection/Love – fallen creatures can’t offer the life you crave, they can’t fill you up with love and joy and intimacy, they can only offer self and that fluctuates every minute – only God’s love in Christ for you is the true connection you long for that stays steady forever.

Variety – fallen man seeks entertainment to be stimulated whereas following Christ everyday and doing his will is never boring.

Growth – growing in a skill or talent is temporary, whereas growing in the love that Christ has for you brings you increased joy and happiness.

Contribution – the best man can do is social work for the less fortunate – i.e. Tom’s Shoes – whereas your highest contribution is having faith in God and loving your neighbor out of a grateful heart for what God has done for you.

If all your basic needs are met in Christ, then how should you then live?

1. Stop looking to sinners and the world to fill you up – you are filled already in Christ.

2. Learn to be content with what you have and where you are right now – be thankful to God.

3. Serve others out of a grateful heart for God’s gift of his Son for you.

There’s one more thing. I believe there’s a seventh basic need that trumps all six, and it’s this:

How do you escape the wrath of God? How do your sins get wiped away?

Isn’t it interesting that nobody asks that anymore?

Talk to me.

The Bondage of Being Free

Freedom is not an end in itself like everyone seems to think.

Think it through with me for a minute.

Let’s say you are free to commit adultery.

It might feel good for a while, but then something begins to change.

You discover your freedom consists in lying about the affair.

You’re now covering your tracks.   Guilty

You’re having difficulty remembering what you said to whom and keeping the lies straight so you don’t contradict yourself.

There’s the fear of being caught.

There’s the unknown reaction of your spouse if he or she finds out.

Before you know it you’re living like a criminal.

You thought you’d feel alive and young again. Instead you’re walking around with the burden of your guilty conscience and it’s a heavy weight.

Where’s the freedom in that?

In truth, freedom from God’s law means bondage.

We all live guilty lives. We were born guilty, did you know that?

That sweet little baby, all wrapped up in his mother’s arms, has a label on him.

Guilty!

That’s why we need a Savior.

Christ came and died on the cross in our place, bearing our punishment, absorbing the fullness of divine justice for us.

He died so he could free us, not to indulge the flesh,  but to delight in serving God.

God has no slaves, only grateful sons.

Now that’s a life of true freedom.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

Shout!

If you think the bible is about good people doing wonderful things for God, you ought to read it sometime!

The fact is, the bible is about a wonderful God doing good things for bad people.

The only good guys in the bible are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Everybody else is bad.

That includes you and me.

There is none righteous, no not one.” – Romans 3:10

The truth is not a single soul can stand before God and say, “I’ve done my best.”

We haven’t done our best, not even on our good days.

If God is going to save us and use us and make something of us, He’s going to have to do it in spite of ourselves. Not because we read the bible every day; not because we give thanks before every meal; not because we never miss church; and not because we try to be good parents, friends and neighbors.

We are promise breakers, we’re not people of integrity, and we don’t measure up to our own standards let alone God’s.

We need a God for failures.

And that’s exactly what we have.

Jesus Christ joined the human race so he could become our substitute.

He lived the life we should have lived, obeying every one of God’s commands from the heart.

That means he won God’s favor and secured a place in heaven for us.

His righteousness was charged to our accounts, so that we with all our sins and failures are declared righteous.

What happened to our sin?

God charged it to Jesus’s account, he absorbed the penalty, and died in our place on the cross.

It’s all paid for.

We stand forgiven and accepted because of the work of our Savior.

HappyNow if that’s doesn’t put a smile on your face, sit down right now and read your bible!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

How to Live the Future Today

This morning I read Isaiah 65.

I was struck by two thunderbolts.

1) The chapter is directed to Israel as a nation. And how does God describe them?

As those who do not ask for him, do not seek him, a rebellious people who follow their own devices, who provoke God continually, serving idols, and worst of all, God describes them as “a nation that was not called by my name.”

Israel has become worse than the unbelieving nations all around them.

That’s a horrible indictment.  Strategy2
2) Further into the chapter God, in his mercy, tells them that he will bless his servants while the rest will face destruction. Who are these servants? People of faith!

And what awaits them?

Everything their hearts longed for – pure joy, satisfying relationships, gladness of heart, eternal life, fellowship with God and one another – but they won’t have these things until they are living in the new heavens and the new earth.

So what does that mean for us?

It means we should not look for perfection in our work, our relationships, our purpose in life while we still live on this planet.

The world has not been redeemed yet.

We continue to wrestle with sin.

We don’t have our new bodies yet.

All that we crave will be ours after we die or when Jesus comes back again, whichever comes first.

So how should we live then?

We live in the tension of the now and not yet.

We keep our eyes on the future while we live and love and serve our Lord in the present.

We do this because we know where we’re headed and what awaits us.

Our future is secure!

These truths were a great reminder for me after a tumultuous weekend. (See blog post Weakness Is Better Than Strength)

Question: How does knowing that God will give you all your heart’s desires help you live today?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

Does God Like Social Media?

Face-to-face is the original social media.

Conversations that used to take place over a meal or drinks after work is now happening on Facebook, Skype and Tweets.  tweet2

Whatever the delivery system, online gurus say it has to have at least these 4 components to be meaningful:

  1. relevant
  2. practical value
  3. emotion
  4. stories

But even if all these components are there, I’ve noticed something – people are hungry for human interaction, not just cyber chats. They want face-to-face. They need to feel connected to others they can see, hear, touch and laugh with.

And no online delivery system can deliver what a personal encounter can.

And God knew that.

God, with all his supernatural abilities, could have designed a mechanism whereby he could communicate with us without leaving heaven to do it.

He could have sent angel messengers.

He could have boomed his voice from heaven.

He could have scared the life out of us with flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.

Instead, he sent his own flesh and blood Son to live among us, suffer alongside us, and then die a horrible death.

Where’s the value in that?

God knew the kind of mess we were in – we were dead in our sins and unable to rescue ourselves. So he fixed the problem by sending his Son Jesus to live a life of perfect obedience to the law of God for us, and then die in our place in order to pay the price for our sins.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2: 4-7 ESV

So how is that relevant to me?

If Jesus hadn’t done that, you would have no hope of measuring up to God’s standards and being loved by him.

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5: 7-8 ESV

Only Jesus measured up and secured your relationship with God, so when you place your faith in his finished work for you, God fully accepts you as his cherished child.

By taking that step, for the first time in your life you have face-to-face communication with God through Jesus.

Now that beats anything you can have online!

Want to plug into the best conversation today?

“Dear Jesus,

Thank you for living a perfect life for me, and for dying to pay the price for my sins on the cross. I receive you as my Lord and Savior. Fill me with your love and let me live from now on for you. Amen.”

If you’ve prayed this today, would you let me know?

A Bottomless Pit of Longings

I spent an hour with a friend who was mourning the loss of a love in her life.

The pain she was experiencing was real. photo (14)

She was also depressed because God did not give her what her heart longed for.

I’ve been through that many times.

It’s called discontent.

It resides in the heart, and only the gospel can change it.

Here’s the real truth about you and me in times like these:

We have God and having God we have enough.

We belong to God and God belongs to us.

Since we have everything in Christ, we are rich in companionship and love with Jesus by our side.

What is showing in my friend’s life and in mine are the sins of ingratitude for all the blessings God has showered us with in Christ.

Every blessing comes from his grace, not our works.

We are surrounded by God’s lavish gifts.

“Enlarge our hearts, Lord to know you better and love you more deeply! Amen.”