The Craving of Dreams

Do you know people who say they can’t believe in God because they hold a list of grudges against him?

The list goes something like this:

God didn’t deliver what he promised.

God didn’t heal my loved-one.

God didn’t give that promotion I asked for.

The list goes on and on.

It’s a list that produces a brittle and bitter heart.

Underneath the reasons for this refusal is anger at God, and then disappointment with God, and finally a willful decision to not believe in God, an attitude of revenge.

But is it justified to have a grudge against God? Do we have any examples in Scripture?

We do. The people who left Egypt and moved into the wilderness give us an example. Never mind that they were slaves and mistreated by the Egyptians. Never mind that they were spared the death of their first-born son while everyone around them was wailing their misfortune. Never mind that God gave them a leader to bring them out unscathed through the Red Sea crossing. Never mind that God protected them by day and by night. That he fed them. He gave them water to drink. He gave them himself in the wilderness and was leading them to the Promised Land.

They did nothing to deserve being rescued.

What was their response? photo(73)

“They spoke against God. ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? Can he give bread also? Can he provide meat for his people?’ They tested God in their hearts by asking for the food of their fancy.” (Psalm 78:18-20)

Note the phrase, “the food of their fancy.” That’s  where the problem lies. Just like the people in the wilderness, who had experienced firsthand God’s deliverance from Egypt, they were bristling against the conditions of life in the desert and wanted to return.

Their expectations didn’t match their experience. They didn’t like living in tents, nor trudging through the heat, nor eating manna everyday, and being thirsty. So they complained and demanded the type of food they left behind in Egypt.

Their real problem was not having a correct view of God.

God was giving them a new life, but they wanted the old one. He was giving them an intimate relationship with him, but they preferred the Egyptian idols. They were happy to use God as their butler for their cravings, but were unwilling to submit to the new life he had prepared for them.

Could it be that people with grudges against God are really saying the same thing? That God didn’t deliver on the goods they envisioned for themselves? And since he didn’t deliver, they were leaving and going home?

God does not promise the things we want in this life. He certainly gives us more than we deserve, but not everything. He prefers we get to know him, and love him whether he gives us our dreams or not. Ultimately, we will have everything our hearts desire and more when we’re in the new heavens and the new earth, but in the meantime, our greatest craving should be a deeper knowledge of him.

Therefore, give up your grudges against God. God gave up his grudges against you when he put Jesus on the cross in your place. Let that bathe your heart today. God’s love for you in very great.

Keep God’s love fresh in your faith.

Talk to me.

 

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You’re in the Army

There are two aspects to the church. One is local like the church in your city, the one you are a member of. The other is universal. It’s the church in heaven made up of Christians who have died and gone to be with the Lord. It’s also the church of the ones who are yet to be born, but will one day be born and come to believe in the Savior.

The church that exists today all over the world is called the militant church. It’s made up of fighting men and women. It means we’re at war with the flesh, the world and the devil.

There’s a war going on inside of us because of remaining sin. Our mind, body and emotions don’t always submit to Christ. We fall into wickedness.  photo39

We’re at war with the world, it’s ways and the way people think, feel and act outside of Christ. The world is upside down. We, as Christians, are running toward salvation while the world is running toward destruction.

And the devil is there to destroy God and his people. He discourages our faith and hope in the gospel. He causes us to sin. He loves to create unbelief in the goodness of God. And he is particularly skilled at having us look inward for our holiness, and when we don’t find it there, he causes us to despair. Anytime he’s able to get our eyes off Christ, he’s thrilled.

How do we respond?

First, don’t expect an easy time in this life. Expect a hard life since you’re a soldier. Be disciplined. Know your bible. Pray. Be thankful.

Second, fight and endure with hope and confidence in the promises of God. He won’t let you down.

Third, remember you’re assured of victory because Christ won it for you.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Exile No More

This is so good, I must share it with you.

“He spares not His Son, but sends Him in quest of the exiles. He comes into the land of banishment, lies in an exile’s cradle, becomes a banished man for them, lives a banished life, endures an exile’s shame, dies an exile’s death, is buried in an exile’s tomb. He takes our place of banishment that we may take His place of honor and glory in the home of His Father and our Father.  photo(43)

“Such is the exchange between the exile and the exile’s divine substitute. Though rich, for our sakes He becomes poor. Though at home, He comes into banishment, that we may not be expelled forever.”

— Horatius Bonar

Mind the Gap

If you’ve been to London and taken the tube you’ve heard the recording that says, “Mind the Gap” that comes on at every stop. It’s a mantra. That’s because there is a space between the subway car and the platform large enough to lose a shoe in. I’ve seen it happen.

The idea of a gap between two realities is also prevalent in the bible, and it’s not a tiny space like the London tube. It’s immense. It’s as large as earth to Mars, only bigger. It’s the tension of the now and not yet. We are saved now but the reality of its fullness is not ours yet. That comes when Jesus returns or we die and go to be with him, whichever comes first. photo (8)

We see this tension fleshed out in the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 16. Here we see Sarah’s impatience with God to give her a son, so she takes matters into her own hands by suggesting to Abraham that he sleep with Hagar, her maid, and produce the child that way, something that Abraham did not resist, by the way.

We see Sarah’s struggles with God’s timing, which reveals Sarah’s doubt of God’s character. Why is he taking so long? It’s been ten years already and nothing’s happened. Can I continue to trust him? Underneath it all is a suspicion of God’s goodness. Can’t you hear the same echos of the devil saying the same thing to Eve in Genesis 3?

Here we see Abraham and Sarah living in the gap between what God had promised and their unfulfilled expectations.

I see this played out in my life and in the lives of family and friends. We long for close, intimate and satisfying relationships. Instead we live with distance, misunderstandings, and heartache. We long for satisfying work. Instead we grumble and complain because of the boredom. We want glory here and now, but God says not yet, it’s coming soon.

What can we learn from this? Here are three insights:

1) Living in the gap of the now and not yet tempts us to take matters into our hands. The underlying assumption is that we can fix the problems ourselves like Abraham and Sarah did. But instead of fixing things, we make a mess of things.

2) While living in the gap, we continue to be faithful to what God has called us to. We trust God’s faithfulness. That doesn’t mean we take no action, but it does mean we do things believing God is for us and not against us.

3) God doesn’t go AWOL in the gap and in our messes. He doesn’t flee to heaven and wait for us to figure out ways to make it home. If he did that, nobody would get home. He’s there working in the gap. He’s a God who sees and hears and is in the middle of the mess. That’s what he has promised to do. And ultimately he will fulfill all his promises to us. We don’t know how or when, but it will happen.

You won’t lose God in the gap. There is joy, freedom and laughter there if we trust him for the reality that’s coming.

Question: What are some of the ways you take matters into your hands while living in the gap?

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

 

 

 

Are You Perplexed About God’s Will?

If I were God, and I wanted to get my message to the people I’ve created, I certainly wouldn’t put my best men in prison for years, mistreat them, put them through hurdles, and even kill my best man on the job.

But that’s exactly what God did with Elijah, Moses, Abraham, David, Paul, Peter, John, and of course, Jesus.

“I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” – Jeremiah 10:23 ESV 

That’s an understatement.

It is my experience that God leads and directs in mysterious ways.

The things I most pray for don’t come to fruition in the way I ask.

In fact, oftentimes God keeps me waiting or answers me in opposite ways.

And his answers can be risky and perplexing. They make me ask what God is up to.

They also produce fear in me, and then I realize I can’t fix the outcome, and then I am forced to trust him.

I am no longer in control.

Martin Luther experienced the same thing.

“We need to learn how God guides his people as they grow and develop. I too have often tried to dictate to our Lord God a certain way in which I expect him to run things. I have often said, ‘O Lord, would you please do it this way and make it come out that way?’ But God did just the opposite, even though I said to myself, ‘This is a good suggestion that will bring honor to God and expand his kingdom.’ Undoubtedly, God must have laughed at my so-called wisdom and said, ‘All right, I know that you are an intelligent, educated person, but I never needed a Peter, a Luther, or anyone else to teach, inform, rule, or guide me. I am not a God who will allow himself to be taught or directed by others. Rather, I am the one who leads, rules, and teaches people.'”

I am reminded that since God is taking care of every detail of the universe, surely he will take care of me.

I am learning to rest in that truth.

The Howling Wilderness of our Lives

In the middle of a grueling week of work, a friend of mine stopped by and asked, “How’s it going?”

“Things could be better,” I said. I hurt all over from hours of standing on my feet. My head throbbed from lack of sleep. And I was fighting a cold.

“Listen,” he said looking at me. “This is as good as it gets. Things don’t get any better.”  

Most people would have thought my friend was way off-base. Negative. Cynical even.

For me, what he said was just what I needed to be reminded of.

Living in the wilderness is just that – journeying through a dry and thirsty land where there is no water, no oasis, and no rest.

Think Abraham.

Think the Israelites in their 40 years of desert wandering.

Even Jesus, when he was here in the flesh, lived his life in the wilderness.

He died in the wilderness, just like Abraham did, just like the first generation of Israelites did, just like you and me.

The wilderness is a pilgrimage, where we are not at rest. In fact, it’s a place of hardship and testing.

Wilderness and rest structures the life of the Church.

The First Coming of Jesus accomplished redemption by his death and resurrection.

His Second Coming brings in the Sabbath rest for all God’s people.

In between those two events, is the wilderness journey, in which we all pass through.

No one is exempt.

Not even Jesus.

He experienced the journey for us. He lived it perfectly for us. And that record is put to our account.

So then how are we to live our lives in the wilderness?

First, by not expecting it to be a life of comfort and rest. Just the opposite.

Second, it’s our time to do good works out of gratitude to God for saving us and giving us a future Sabbath rest that is as certain as God himself.

This is the time we tell others the good news of the gospel, where we love one another as the body of Christ, where preaching and teaching and training in righteousness is a daily and weekly habit.

Our happiness is not here.

It’s in a future rest in heaven with our God.