Are You Listening?

Most of us are familiar with Psalm 23, with Jesus as our good shepherd. But how many of us understand sheep? Here are some characteristics that might surprise you.

Sheep are not clean. They can carry fleas, mites, maggots and lice.

They’re stupid. They get into messes and can’t get out. Image result for sheep with their shepherds

They’re defenseless. When in danger their only defense is to flee.

When isolated or under stress, they are prone to depression, hanging their heads and avoiding positive actions.

They get lost easily. They wander off and lose their way.

They bond with other sheep. This is their way of protecting themselves. Community is everything.

No wonder God calls us sheep.

Jesus did not come for the squeaky clean, the hipster, the glamorous, the popular, or the celebrity.

He came for those who are mired in sin, covered in wickedness, lost and depraved.

Sheep’s only redeeming quality, besides being meek and gentle, is that they recognize their shepherd’s voice. They do not follow strangers. The shepherd knows each sheep and the sheep know him.

If the Holy Spirit has called you to Jesus, then you are in his flock, and Jesus is your good shepherd, and he knows you by name. He doesn’t value you for all your good and wonderful traits – you have none – but because he knows you.

Jesus left heaven to come to earth to become your shepherd, to guide you, take care of you, through thick and thin, all the way home.

You are no longer alone in the world. You are a member of God’s flock. You have a trusted guide through life.

Are you listening to his voice?

Talk to me.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Tent Living is a Temporary Affair

“By faith he (Abraham) made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” – Hebrews 11:9 NIV

I read that verse this morning and thought about how this applies today. Nothing came to mind and then, Pow! The Holy Spirit opened up the heavens.

Here’s what he taught me:  Tents

This is true of us post-moderns as much as those tent dwellers in Abraham’s day.

Abraham and his family made their home in the promised land like strangers in a foreign country. While they lived there, they didn’t belong there. Their citizenship was in the new heaven and the new earth, just like ours is. Whatever country we live in, that’s not home. Home is with Christ.

Abraham and his family lived in tents. They were mobile homes, able to be set up and taken down whenever necessary. We live in tents, too. Paul calls the body a tent, and when we die we step out of our tent and into a new immortal body, just like Christ’s. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)

We, along with Abraham, the father of the faithful, and everyone who calls upon Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, to be living one day in the new heaven and the new earth, in new bodies, breathing pure air.

And where is this new world going to be? Right here! Every step we take on this solid ground we call earth will one day be renewed, made clean and pure and holy, inhabited only by saints washed in Jesus’s blood and sacrifice.

Don’t think of your salvation as an individual gift only. Salvation embraces the entire universe! Jesus’s perfect life of obedience and death on the cross restored the created order, including you and me.

Question: When you groan in your tent here what do you do about it?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

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