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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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.

 

 

 

I Can’t Hear You’re So Loud

I got off the phone with a caller that never stopped talking. He’s someone I’ve never met and yet he felt the need to tell me about his life, never taking a breath to see if I was interested or even listening.

I’m sure you’ve had those experiences with people.

As much as that caller irritated me, I had to admit I had done the same thing over the years.

I’m a fix-it-all kinda person. You come to me with a problem and I have a solution for you and I’m happy to tell you about it.

Don’t we all.  painting24

I’ve realized over the years that maybe that’s not what people really need. Maybe it’s something else.

Maybe Jesus is calling us to a different kind of help. Help as in listening to the person. We’re so prone to listen with a mind that is more attentive to what to say next to the person. We miss the cues, the body language and facial expressions that way.

Even more importantly, we miss what God is showing us about himself in that person’s life.

I often forget that when someone asks for my counsel, she comes to me with Jesus in her life. It’s my job to listen well. I’m quick to fix, he’s not. I want to come across as helpful, when Jesus is already her helper.

What people need most of all is someone who will listen to them with a full heart that is not rushed, and who can help locate God in their lives so they can rest in him. This won’t happen if we’re preoccupied with what to say next, or if we’re in a hurry to get the visit over with.

We all need to enroll in the school of active listening. I know I do.

Talk to me.

Do You Need the Church?

Are you addicted to love?

Not the paper-thin kind in a Hollywood movie, but the love found in God’s people, the flesh and bone kind.

Are we devoted to one another? Do we share a common life with others in the church or do we walk past them as vapors?

God is addicted to us. He pours out his love to us in Christ every day. Instead of loving others in the same way, if we’re honest, we’re more addicted to our own dreams and ambitions.

I’m guilty. I lose myself in my reading and my writing. Even this blog. I can go for days without leaving the house or talking to a neighbor. And when I go to church, very often I go home afterwards and return to my interests.  Igor Mitoraj2

If we build our lives in him, it’s going to hurt. It will interrupt our habits. It will undermine our selfishness. It will change us.

God went to incredible lengths to have fellowship with us. He sent Christ because of it.

If we choose to live private, closed lives we’re living life lopsided.

Being a Christian and a member of God’s church means a level of transparency.

Jesus was put out of the camp so we could be brought in, not to live self-absorbed lives, but to be a blessing to others.

We come to church to be fed Christ in the sermon and at the communion table, and as a result we are built up in the faith, but not for our sake only, but for our neighbor sitting in the chair next to us.

How’s it going for you?

Talk to me.

How to Live the Future Today

This morning I read Isaiah 65.

I was struck by two thunderbolts.

1) The chapter is directed to Israel as a nation. And how does God describe them?

As those who do not ask for him, do not seek him, a rebellious people who follow their own devices, who provoke God continually, serving idols, and worst of all, God describes them as “a nation that was not called by my name.”

Israel has become worse than the unbelieving nations all around them.

That’s a horrible indictment.  Strategy2
2) Further into the chapter God, in his mercy, tells them that he will bless his servants while the rest will face destruction. Who are these servants? People of faith!

And what awaits them?

Everything their hearts longed for – pure joy, satisfying relationships, gladness of heart, eternal life, fellowship with God and one another – but they won’t have these things until they are living in the new heavens and the new earth.

So what does that mean for us?

It means we should not look for perfection in our work, our relationships, our purpose in life while we still live on this planet.

The world has not been redeemed yet.

We continue to wrestle with sin.

We don’t have our new bodies yet.

All that we crave will be ours after we die or when Jesus comes back again, whichever comes first.

So how should we live then?

We live in the tension of the now and not yet.

We keep our eyes on the future while we live and love and serve our Lord in the present.

We do this because we know where we’re headed and what awaits us.

Our future is secure!

These truths were a great reminder for me after a tumultuous weekend. (See blog post Weakness Is Better Than Strength)

Question: How does knowing that God will give you all your heart’s desires help you live today?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

How Being Baptized Can Get You Killed

You’ve heard stories about the underground church in China. You’ve also read stories about Christians who have risked their lives for the gospel in foreign countries.

This is a true story that is a little closer to home. It’s from a man who teaches a bible study in a federal prison in Northern California.

“We had six baptisms today. We have a tank outside the church and they fill it up when we do baptisms. One white man and two black men and three Latino men were baptized. One of the inmates told me that these men’s faith was genuine. I asked him, ‘How do you know?’ He said, ‘Because they were all baptized in the same tank.’

“You see, in this prison, everything is segregated by race. Each race has its own shower and toilet, sink and place to eat. You never eat or shower at the other race’s area. It can get you stabbed or killed. These men, of different races, were being baptized in the same tank. That can get them in trouble with their own race group. All they really have now is the church body.

“In our day, and in our country, I never thought that a baptism could get you killed.”

Here is risk for the sake of the gospel.

Here is also a beautiful picture of how Christ tears down the separation of the races and creates one new race in himself.

Those who belong to Jesus Christ are now brothers with the same Father, who share in the same inheritance, and look forward to the same eternal destiny.

Why Do You Call Yourselves ‘Bad Christians’?

We call ourselves ‘bad Christians’ because that’s what we are. By ‘Christians’ we mean people in relationship to Christ and other believers. By ‘bad’ we mean, we do plenty of nasty things and leave a lot of good things undone.

God took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. In other words, the life we have now is not something we produce or sustain; it is given to us for Christ’s sake and maintained by the gift and ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Any applause we might receive for doing good belongs to God alone. It’s his mercy alone that keeps us. We need him to forgive us every second of every day, while the blood of Jesus keeps on cleaning us from all our filthiness.

Also as ‘bad Christians’ we need the community of other Christians, the preaching of God’s Word, communion, the prayers of God’s people, and the very needful help they can, and often do, give us.

We’ve tried the books, the counseling, and the retreats, but success alluded us. What progress we make as Christians comes as a gift from God. We have no idea how or why God gives it to us except for the fact it gives him pleasure.

The truth lies elsewhere: to live successfully as a Christian we need to recognize that no matter how hard we try to manage our sin, the oil-spill of our pollution continues to spread. That’s because we cannot remove the source. The problem will not be fixed until that day when God exchanges our corruption with the incorruptible. Meanwhile, we live by faith. Daily we seek forgiveness and strength by looking away from ourselves to our Savior. Our faith rests in his completed work and trusts God to make us holy as he sees fit.