What Sin?

I was in the office kitchen this morning and a co-worker asked me, “How are you?”

Without thinking I usually say, “Fine.” Nobody really wants an honest answer. The few times I’ve tried it, the other person feels responsible to respond in a meaningful way, and who has insights to give that early in the morning when you can barely pour a cup of coffee? So I’ve learned to answer in a neutral way. wool

But this morning I said, “I’m rejoicing that all of my sins are forgiven.”

And that opened up a beautiful gospel conversation.

I continued, “Did you know your sins are finite in number, and God knows every one of them, and they were all forgiven in Christ from the moment you were born?”

That lead to other comments about the wonderment of what God has done for us in his Son.

God purchased your soul before you were even conceived. Ephesians 1:4

God saw every one of your sins before you existed. Psalm 139

Each one was completely paid for before you committed any of them. Ephesians 1:7-10

Even those you haven’t committed yet, every one of them is already paid for, atoned for, and you are declared forgiven.

You’ve been forgiven in Christ from before the foundation of the world right through to eternity. Ephesians 1

What scandalous love!

Questions: How does that truth impact your struggles with sin today? How does it change your concept of who God is?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Slave Trader to Singer

I know. This makes two quotes in a row. This one is outstanding, too and so I wanted you to have it.  John Newton

“We want victories without conflicts and the crown without fighting for it. And while we lament many evils, we overlook the chief of all – the impatient workings of self, which wants everything it’s own way. We are, we must be, sinners while we remain here, but if we are sinners believing in Jesus we may rejoice and sing. We must fight, we may be wounded, but we cannot be overcome. We may complain to the Lord, but when we write or speak to our fellow Christians, we should encourage each other and say, ‘Let us love and sing and wonder.'”

– John Newton (1725-1807)

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Weakness Is Better Than Strength

I just returned home from doing a week’s worth of ministry in New York City. I was training a group of people how to do evangelism to Jewish people. Not an easy task since most Jewish people are programmed from birth not to believe Jesus is the Messiah.

I’ve done this enough times to know that as soon as I get home the devil will hurl his fiery darts my way to demoralize me and get me off track.  Charlie2

Sure enough, this time he stirred up my sister and husband to blow-up at each other. It was so bad that by the end of the day everybody headed to their respective bedrooms, slammed the door and stayed there until the next morning.

The next day wasn’t much better. My husband left the house early and went hiking. My sister woke up angry. Her husband didn’t know what to do.

I like to fix things, so here was a grand opportunity to plot and strategize a way to end the war. As I thought I kept hearing the phrase I often tell others: the gospel changes everything. Oh yeah? How’s the gospel going to change two believers who hate each other right now?

I took a quick inventory of my successes in meddling in the Lord’s business. I didn’t like what I saw. Instead of finding faith, I found fear, embarrassment, shame – in other words, unbelief.

The war between my husband and sister was nothing new, so how was I going to bring reconciliation this time when I hadn’t succeeded in the past over lesser battles?

I chose to not get involved. I prayed instead. I told the Lord I was empty, that I was inadequate, incompetent, lacking in wisdom, and if he didn’t show up and do something to set these two stubborn people straight, it was going to be a fiasco and I would lose a sister.

Then I went to lunch with my sister and her husband while my husband continued to let out his frustrations on the mountain.

My husband returned home, showered, dressed and joined us in the living room. For two hours, we talked about the dynamics of our relationship and what it was that made it go off the rails so often. And what did we find out? That none of us listens well, that we need to be loved and not judged, and that there are huge areas in our lives that need cleaning up. In other words, we’re messy Christians and the Holy Spirit is still chiseling the image of Christ in us.

We came away with a renewed love for one another and a deeper understanding of who we were as people.

I could never have accomplished that with my fix-it tool belt.

The gospel indeed changes things!

How about you? Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Father Is The Best

Do you realize you have a Father in heaven that never dies?

My earthly father died ten years ago, and I was left with a big hole in my heart.

My mother died when I was 15, and that was devastating.

But my Father is heaven is always with me. He never leaves me, disappears, or goes AWOL.

God lives forever and his love for me in Christ is unchangeable.  photo(179)

I can rest in it.

I can trust it.

I can lean on it.

He won’t disappoint me, and I will never be ashamed of him.

And I am his heir in Christ!

He bestows on me everything he owns.

If earthly fathers gave away riches the way God does, they would have nothing left to give.

Not so with my Father. He is always giving to me and yet he is never depleted.

He gives more to me than any father or king can bestow.

Praise his name!

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Really See You

My husband and I celebrated a milestone anniversary this past week. Our children had a lot to say about it.

“Thank you for being imperfect parents. You have shown us  God sticks around as He promised,” our daughter said.

At first I didn’t know how to respond, but then I laughed out loud.

That was the best compliment she could have given us.

“Your marriage is an amazing testimony of God’s faithfulness, love and perseverance in bringing you together and keeping you together all these years for His glory and your continued sanctification,” our son wrote in a text message.

When did he become the theologian? Oh wait. We pounded it into his head while he was growing up.

We told them the credit was all God’s. That we had done our share of sinning and fighting and getting angry, but God had always been there to dust us off, forgive us, and keep us going.

It humbled us to hear how God had shown his grace and mercy to us and to our children who have been watching all these years.                             Commandments

Perfect we’re not. Having it together – no way. Failing frequently, you bet. That’s really all we’re capable of doing. That’s why we cling to the gospel, knowing our righteousness is a borrowed righteousness from Another.

Thanks be to God!

 

 

 

Messy Christians on the Go

For those of you who would like a handy reminder of the truths contained in this blog, you can buy it as an eBook on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Gospel-Therapy-ebook/dp/B00BQ37HFQ/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1374455373&sr=8-4&keywords=gospel+therapy%27

After you’ve read it, send us your comments. We promise to respond!

How To Ditch the Pitch for New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again.

I’m talking about those pesky New Year’s resolutions.

This year I’m staying clear of them.

I’ll let you make them.  IMG_0704

I’m not going on a diet, buying a gym membership, eating healthier, or being nicer to my brother.

I am staying just the way I am. Plump, self-indulgent, and cranky.

I don’t like failure. Who does? I don’t want to start the New Year in the negative. I want a few weeks of blissful self-illusion.

Have you noticed as the year begins how your inbox expands with tips for improved living? How to speak Italian in six weeks. How to find the mate of your dreams online. How to improve your relationship with your therapist. How to write a memoir.

All it takes is money. And sweat.

No thanks.

You’d think everyone would see the hype, but every year there are enough desperate people who believe the gimmicks.

The truth is we all want hope. Every one of us wants to be thinner, healthier, younger, and wealthier.

But have you noticed how these things promise results but deliver disappointment?

The gym banks on you dropping out.

The recipe you’re making only works on TV.

Last year’s fashions are this year’s thrift store deals.

Nothing changes, and everything changes.

If we put our hope in things, we’ll soon discover we’re bankrupt.

There’s only one place to put our hope and it’s in a person— Jesus. When he makes a promise, he delivers it. And he promised that if anyone puts their trust in him as Savior, he will forgive their sins and give them eternal life.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. – John 6:40 NKJV

Now that’s my idea of success. The sure kind.

Why bother with lesser promises that don’t deliver when you can have God guaranteed-ones?  Instead of self-improvement propaganda, find the lasting improvements only God can offer.

I’d rather be chunky and happy in Jesus than nasty and model-thin without him.

How about you? Are you ready to put your hope in Jesus?

Leave me a fat comment.

 

Everybody Deals With God

We are not thinking accurately if we believe that it’s only when a person comes to faith that he then has a relationship with God.

The truth is everybody has a relationship with God.

The unbeliever is experiencing God’s wrath.

The believer is experiencing God’s forgiveness.

Both kinds of people are dealing with God.

It’s not just the Church that God pays attention to.

It’s his world, and therefore he’s involved with everybody.

No one escapes his notice.

If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, then God has delivered you from the domain of darkness and translated you into the kingdom of his beloved Son. (Colossians 1:13)

Now turn around and tell others what God has done for you!

How else will they hear?