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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Untwist Yourself

Jesus is my Sabbath rest. I have ceased from my own works to gain God’s acceptance. (Hebrews 4)

Christ earned God’s acceptance for me by living a perfect life of obedience to God’s law on my behalf, and by dying a death on the cross in order to pay for my sins.  woodduck

Since he accomplished this when I wasn’t even aware of my desperate need, how much more do I need to stop accepting burdens that only he can carry.

My burdens are my anxieties about my children and family members and their future, illnesses of friends, my own calling and vocation, and so on. These are burdens that disturb my rest in Christ.

They also point to pride in my life.

I think I can carry these cares!

The truth is I can’t. They weigh me down, they make me into a person who rarely has a lightness of heart over anything.

What to do about them? Pray as often as the Spirit leads me to, but then leave the care with him.

“Casting all your anxieties on him; for he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7 ESV
casting – to throw upon, to place upon God
all – everything
care (burden) – distractions & anxiety about things pertaining to this earthly life
cares – to care about, have regard for
God calls me to leave everything with him.
As a Christian I am to be care-free!

Help for a Struggling Prayer Life

If you’re like me, you struggle with your prayer life.

I go from faith to unbelief every day.

It’s an all out war that wages in my mind.

God calls me to prayer, I pray, and then I don’t expect anything to happen.

That’s disgusting.  photo(199)

It’s also sin. It disgraces God who tells me he’s the God who hears prayer – Psalm 65:2.

So what do I do about it?

I need to understand God better.

God is not a Buddha statue who dispenses favors for the best tummy rub.

Nor is he a short-order cook writing down my laundry list of wants.

He’s also not a jolly grandpa in a rocking chair waiting to indulge me.

He’s God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, who, if I am his child in Christ, is my Heavenly Father, and as such he pledges to be my Covenant God.

What does that mean?

It means that God is ready to hear my prayer, like a father is eager to hear what his son has to say.

He is ready to hear and grant my prayers.

My problem is that I may not perceive his answers.

By giving me a heart to pray and inflaming my desire to pray is an answer to prayer. Psalm 138:3

Also, I do not pray alone. Christ, my mediator, prays over my prayers. He takes the dross out of my prayer and presents it as pure gold to the Father, making my prayer powerful and mighty.

Just like a farmer who sows seed into the ground and then waits for the harvest, my prayers are the seeds I sow in faith and I wait in anticipation for God to send me a harvest of blessing, knowing he has heard and acknowledged each prayer.

If I remind myself of these truths, I have hope my prayer life will improve and the Lord will be pleased with me.