Oh for the Love of God

How do you know you are born again?

Some people think it’s because they said a prayer. Or they raised a hand in a service. Or they called out to Jesus in the midst of turmoil in their life.

So many people are trusting in the church. Their leaders. The sacraments.

All of these things spell trouble. love

How to know you’re born again is simple: you believe in Christ.

You believe in him because you are born again, otherwise he’s the furthest thing from your mind and heart.

Faith that believes that Jesus is the Christ produces love for God and love for others.

But love for others is the difficult part. People are a problem. Let’s face it, some Christians can be boring, depressing, unattractive, wet blankets, repellent, and pains in the neck.

And then throw in the devil, the world and your flesh and the mix will keep you from loving others. Culture becomes more important than Christ. Popular opinion, too. Laziness sets in. And narcissism takes over.

But loving others is sweet when you know God wants you to do it. And he will give you the heart for it.

The truth is we’re all depraved. We share an equality in guilt. And an equality in grace.

The one place where everybody is equal is at the cross. Even the cool people.

If you don’t have a love for other Christians, especially inside the church, then you’re presuming you love God. You can’t love God without including his people.

Ask him to give you his love for the family. You’ll be glad you did.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Want Me to Love Who?

I don’t know about you but I’m not very good at the loving your neighbor thing. If I’m honest, I much prefer my own company, my own thoughts and my own projects. Putting others first is like asking a zebra to switch its stripes to polka dots.

But there it is. Jesus said to love one another, and John said it too. In fact, John said something else that’s disturbing. If we don’t love other believers it’s proof we’re not Christians!

Ouch! photo (1)

And not just believers we like, or share the same doctrine with, or understand life in similar ways. We’re called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ who are totally different from us. Those whose politics we hate. Those who barely read the bible. Those who relate to God in emotional ways.

So why such emphasis on this love thing?

Because it’s like God. God is love. After all, he loved us when we were unlovable. He loved us before our sins were forgiven. He served us in our misery and wretchedness. He gave us Jesus before we knew we needed him.

God is always loving, even when we’re not. Jesus suffered the wrath of God for us. He satisfied the justice of God. Jesus is the ultimate proof of how much God loves us.

We do not love well. But Jesus loved his Father and us, his children perfectly. And that perfect record is ours by faith in Christ. Knowing that, we can go out and love others not so well, knowing Jesus covers all our imperfections.

That’s another gift we don’t deserve, but it’s ours because God loves us.

Talk to me.

 

It’s Yours for the Taking

Christ died so we could be justified. We have all our sins forgiven. He has made us new creatures in our union with Christ, and now God sees us like we had never sinned or had a sin nature. This change allows us to come home to the Father, where we stay forever. God never kicks us out.

Now, as wonderful as this is, I still had a nagging question: Why couldn’t I trust these truths about me? Why couldn’t I settle into God’s love and stay there? What happens to me when I sin again, which I do all the time? Does God stop loving me? Is he disappointed in me? Does he pull out my picture from his wallet and tear it up?

lily12I asked the Lord these questions recently, and this is what the Holy Spirit brought to mind:

If God held even one of my sins against me, he’d be declaring the blood of his Son to be insufficient to cover and blot out that sin. God can never go back on his Word because then he’d be saying his Son’s sacrifice was not good enough, that there was something lacking that I would have to make up for.  And he cannot do that. It cost the Father everything to send Jesus to the cross where all of God’s wrath for sin and sinners was poured out on him. The Father crushed Jesus for me. Everything I deserved from God’s hands was put on Jesus. How then could God hold any sin against me?

Not believing this with my whole heart is the greatest sin. It reeks of unbelief. My flesh wants to participate in self-salvation strategies. It wants to contribute to my salvation. It wants me to despair, fear and struggle. It delights in doubt.

But faith says otherwise. The greatest act of faith is to believe God and the Son he has sent! He is the solution to our estrangement from God. He is the answer to our love problems. The longing of our heart is fulfilled in accepting what the Father says of us – we are his beloved children.

Talk to me.

Life in an Upside Down World

I’ve been writing about the upside-down kingdom of God. Losers will be winners, the last will be first, and the marginalized will fit in.

The biggest loser in the history of this world is Jesus Christ. He was poor, rejected, beaten, buried in a borrowed tomb, but now he is seated on the throne in heaven directing the affairs of this world and waiting for us to come home.

In the meantime, what are we to do?

For starters, we shouldn’t look down on people. We don’t have a full picture of their lives and kindness goes a long way to lifting them up a bit.

Everyone lives on God’s grace, sinner and saint alike. God’s blessings fall on both the righteous and the evil doer. We’re all takers. The only thing we’ve earned  is the wages of sin.

Be grateful. We once were alienated from God, but now we have been drawn near by sheer grace. God set his love on us, not because we were great human beings and deserving to be in the family, but because he chose us, pure and simple. We’re just as nasty as the next guy.

Tell others about this wonderful God we love and serve. That’s our reason for living. To glorify God and enjoy him forever. There’s nothing that gives more joy than witnessing for Christ. Even if we do it badly, it’s worth it, and God takes the mistakes and turns them around for good. So forget about feeling like a failure. There are no failures if you’re telling someone about Jesus.

Talk to me.

 

You Are a Good Seed

As we read the gospels we soon run into the parables of Jesus. Why did he teach that way? Even the disciples wondered about that.

Jesus said that parables were meant to hide the truth from those who didn’t want to hear it, but revealed to those who belong to God.

The most famous of the parables is the one about the seed and the four soils. It’s message is relevant for every generation.

Was Jesus really talking about soil that gets under your fingernails and green shoots poking out of the ground? No, these were pictures of spiritual truths. The seed was the gospel, the Good News about Jesus taking our place for us in order to bring us to God.

The sower was Jesus, the Son of Man, a king who shared in the humanity of his people and who carried the image of God. seed

Jesus with a bag of seeds.

What were those seeds producing? Wheat, lettuce, figs? Or some intellectual understanding or religious insight?

No, they were producing believers.

Of course the enemy was right there working his evil in people as they listened. But notice Jesus didn’t interrupt him. He let him be. Only the fourth soil produced good fruit. The other three soils were left in enemy hands.

Jesus knew the harvest would be gathered in in spite of the enemy’s tactics, that’s why we, like him, can go about spreading the Good News of Jesus knowing with confidence God will be at work producing believers.

Makes being a sower a joy, doesn’t it? And you’ll always be surprised at God’s work in people. It’s the best assignment on earth!

Talk to me.

 

 

What’s in Your Church Lately?

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the church is? Is it a place to get your needs met? A place to hang out with like-minded friends? A place to get a shot in the arm for the week ahead?

Nowadays more and more churches are like that.

I hate to say it but we’re not allowed to re-purpose the church to our liking or to meet the needs of the culture. God didn’t give us pastors to be inspirational speakers, or comedians, or storytellers. And he certainly didn’t give us pastors to be our life coaches either.  For that you have movies, TV shows, and TED Talks.

So what’s the purpose of the church anyway if they’re not clubs for the cool, support networks for tech families, or places for therapy?

According to the bible, God has given the church three mandates:

  1. The worship of God
  2. The maturing of believers
  3. Bringing sinners to faith  img_8865

If our churches aren’t doing this, then we need to ask if it’s a true church.

What tools is the church to use for the worship of God, maturing the saints, and bringing sinners to faith?

The gospel.

The teaching and preaching must be the gospel. It’s the only tool God promises to use that is powerful and accomplishes its purpose.

The gospel is not inside of us by nature. That’s why we need to hear it from the outside. The church is where this is done in song, in prayer, and in preaching.

It’s not only the pastor’s responsibility, it’s all of ours. We need to be specialists in the gospel so we’re able to share it, counsel it, and tell it to others.

As private Christians we have many assignments in life, but the church has only one: the preaching of the gospel.

And we need to be reminded of the gospel every week, no matter how old we are in the Lord.

The gospel is not only for sinners but for Christians as well.

Talk to me.

Re-Write Your Story

Once upon a time stories were for children. Now they seem to be usurped by almost everybody – big business, airlines, pharmaceutical companies, the automobile industry, everything is fair game even down to the toothpaste yuo use.

The truth is we’re wired for story. Our brains respond to them. And for some of you, you are a slave to your story. It’s the one you play in your head everyday. It can be a traumatic event, an emotional decision, a deep hurt, an unfairness, whatever it was that left a wound in your soul.

Instead of replaying it over and over again, replace it with a better story.

Sounds crazy?

It’s not.

What better story, you ask?  IMG_1415

The one that has you in Christ’s story. It’s the one that starts like this:

Once upon a time God created a perfect world and handed it over to his children, Adam and Eve to take care of it, but then they disobeyed him and plunged themselves and everybody after them into sin. When God saw the mess they had made, he realized only he could fix it. So he sent his perfect Son to earth in the form of a perfect man to live and do what Adam and Eve and the rest of us failed to do. Jesus lived to please God and then died on the cross to pay the price for your sins. His perfect life and record is now yours as a gift from God to you. All you need is faith in Christ to get it. The moment you receive that gift you step into Christ’s story.

What is true of you now?

You have a new Father who loves you. He is unlike any earthly father you’ve ever known.

You have a Savior who fixed your biggest problem – your sin that kept you from God.

You have a new identity – you are a child of God with all its privileges, including an inheritance.

You have a new family – your brothers and sisters in Christ.

You have a new future – living in the new heavens and the new earth for an eternity.

You have new support – the church.

You have a calling – the Holy Spirit has given you spiritual gifts to serve God with.

So what are you waiting for?

Dump the old story today and start telling yourself the new one!

Talk to me.