The Gospel is for Christian Sinners, Too

Has this question ever crossed your mind? “Even when I’m disobedient, does God love me anyway?”

This question has been on my mind lately. I sin everyday, in word, attitude and deed. I’m basically a selfish person. I don’t put others first, I put me first. I don’t love God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. I’m a cynic at heart. The glass is always half empty for me. And, horror of horrors, there’s more unbelief in me than trust and faith in my Savior.

So how can God love me anyway?

A lot of Christians, including pastors, would admonish me to get on with disciplining my life so I can be more obedient. They’d give me a book or a class or a set of disciplines to incorporate into my life.

That’s all well and good, but those remedies don’t address what’s at the core in my understanding of the gospel.

Remember, the gospel changes everything.

So how does it change me here?

No believer in Jesus is dead in sin anymore. Why? Because Jesus took his sin on himself and died for it on the cross.

No believer continues in sin in that way anymore. He died to sin (Romans 6) and he has been resurrected in Christ.

Believers continue to sin (Romans 7) but they are no longer dead in sin.

That’s a huge difference!

So the answer to the question, “Does God continue to love me when I sin?” is a resounding YES!

Because God sees his Son having died to those sins.

That truth will set you free to love God more, be more holy, and go out and tell people what a wonderful God you serve.

Without the gospel informing us everyday, we allow the devil to condemn us and make us miserable. Our health of mind and heart is in what Christ did for us in his life and death to make us complete and perfect in God’s sight. That’s who we are.

Talk to me.

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Not Here

I have two friends who are suffering physically and mentally. One suffers excruciating pain down her right leg as the result of a stroke. The other is bipolar and refuses to take any medication for it. Both insist that God heal them directly. So far he hasn’t even though they pray fervently for it.

Both suffer from believing a lie. That type of mental anguish is worse than the physical ailment. This lie is dispensed every Sunday in church like the drinks at the coffee bar. It’s called having your best life now. It’s a theology of glory. God is supposed to keep us healthy, wealthy, and satisfied Christians.  Broken

But God has promised no such thing this side of heaven. What we long for – perfect health, perfect harmony in our relationships, perfect families and perfect joy – will be a reality when we’re living in the new heavens and the new earth, but not here.

While the longings of our hearts are right, our timing is off. This is the wilderness we’re trudging through, just like the Israelites did. Canaan was their destination, not some plot of sand with a well and a palm tree. Like them, we are headed to where all our longings will be fulfilled, but at the moment we keep our sandals on and keep walking.

The only one who had his best life was Jesus because he lived in heaven. But he willingly left that behind to live his worst life for 33 years. There’s reason why Isaiah describes him as a Man of Sorrows. We never read of Jesus laughing or telling a joke. He lived with suffering every day. The worst kind in the rejection of his own people he came to save. Day in and day out he suffered with people’s unbelief and hatred.

He owned nothing except the clothes on his back. He went hungry. He wept. And yet with this example we’re taught to expect God to give us everything he never gave his Son.

We hate living ordinary lives. We crave notoriety, we demand to live our potential, we love unearthing the divine spark within. Except there’s nothing biblical in any of it. It’s worldliness disguised as philosophical fast food.

The only Person who lived up to his potential was Jesus. We can’t because sin holds us back.

The only One whose life was not ordinary was Jesus’s. Ours are routine and unexceptional every day.

The One who lived by God’s every law was Jesus thereby meriting heaven. We live to break every law and merit hell.

Knowing this, we still demand our best life now. It’s insanity. No wonder we’re depressed and despairing.

The only course correction is to read the bible with fresh eyes and ask God for new understanding of life under heaven. Who is with me?

Talk to me.

 

The Needy Life

The success-driven life is a cancer to your Christian life, like smoking to your lungs, alcohol to your liver, and drugs to your veins.

Am I against succeeding in a career, a personal goal or a dream you’ve had all your life? No, unless you’re achieving it by your own will and determination. And that’s the point. As a Christian, whose life are you living?

“You are not your own, you were bought with a price,” Paul says to the Corinthians. (See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) In context Paul was urging holiness, but since the Holy Spirit lives in us we can also say that looking for soul satisfaction in broken cisterns, relying on Brokenrule keeping for God’s approval, and battling our demons by our own efforts is just as repugnant as unholiness.

Neglecting our true dependence on Christ is equal to living in unbelief.

It makes the Christian life a burden. By looking inward I kill myself. John Newton calls it “soul weariness.” There’s nothing there to commend itself to God.

So get used to being needy. Learn to feel weak. Become helpless like a little child. The world will scream at you, “No! You can’t do that. Flee from such beliefs, instead believe you have the potential to achieve anything you want!”

Jesus was the ultimate little one. He was 100% dependent on his Father. He did nothing on his own accord. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” John 5:19 NLT

We must do the same if we expect to “succeed” as Christians. That’s why Jesus tells us that apart from him we can do nothing. John 15:5

By looking to Christ for everything and in everything we will be released from ourselves and be put into joy and freedom.

We are needy.

We are weak.

Hooray!

Boast in that because you have a Savior who will take care of you!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

Re-Booting Is Not Just for Tech Devices

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. painting24

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.

 

 

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Pray to God About God

The first thing we notice in the Lord’s Prayer is this:

“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.”

He’s our Father, not our own personal possession.

He’s a Father, perfect in all aspects of fatherhood, completely different from all earthly fathers. Discover who he is by reading your bible every day.

We are to hallow his name. What does that mean?

It’s a petition. God himself is our priority. He is not a means to any end. He is the end of all ends.

How often do we pray to God about himself?  Lamb of God

Ouch! I confess it’s rarely, if ever. I’m more eager to unroll my long list of petitions that center on me and my desires.

Hallowed means to make holy, to recognize his holiness, separation, not common.

God is unlike his created beings.

There is an unbridgeable gap between him and me and you.

God wants us to recognize and treat him as uncommon.

He’s not our buddy.

He wants us to think worthy thoughts of him that reflect what he has revealed himself to be. (Have you noticed how often the devil gets you thinking unworthy thoughts of him, especially in the midst of trials?)

God wants you to live in his presence every day.

How do we do that?

By fixing our eyes on the cross. It’s there where we see his infinite hatred of sin and his justice.

Christ was overwhelmed by the wrath of God on the cross. And at the same time the cross proves God’s infinite mercy.

We are debt-free with God on account of Christ. Hallelujah!

Now we are fully accepted in the favor of God. Praise him!

We pray because we have tasted that the Lord is good. Yes!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

Don’t Even Think About It

We’re inching closer to 2015 by the day.

And the gurus are marketing their webinars, books and videos to show us how to make new year’s resolutions. And then charging us for their experience!

Are you kidding me? I can make resolutions galore for free! IMG_0436

What they’re peddling is a self-help course for those of us who make goals and don’t keep them.

And there’s millions of us out there.

So how do they fix us? By giving us more rules!

Here are some examples of the course titles:

A Goal-Setting Course

Live with Intention

Create Your Life Plan

You get the idea.

It makes me want to laugh or cry.

This doesn’t make sense for anybody, and especially for Christians.

First of all, the one life plan you need comes free – God gives it to you. It’s to glorify him and enjoy him forever.

Second, goal setting is fine if you set the right ones. Jesus had one goal when he lived here, to please his Father. And he did it spectacularly well. And as a free gift to you, he gives you that successful record as if you had lived it perfectly yourself.

And third, you can live with all the intention you have and still blow it. What is intention but purpose and drive. But those are traits for those who don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside them. The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to reveal Jesus to us. He directs our lives, so we don’t have to worry about it. What we must do is obey and rest.

So don’t fall into the temptation of changing yourself next year.

That’s God’s job and he does it really well.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com