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.

 

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Your Problems Aren’t Big Enough

The people I know who have walked away from the Lord share a similar perspective on life. They reduce their explanation to “God failed me.”  They recount how: “He didn’t give me what I prayed for,” one says. “He didn’t show up to change my circumstances,” says another. In other words, God disappointed them by not giving them what they expected from him. So they packed their bags and retreated from the kingdom.

It’s always God’s fault. He didn’t come through, he wasn’t there, he left me alone.

We are creatures stuck in the here-and-now. In some cases we can’t see beyond today, especially if we’re suffering. All we want is for the circumstances to change, or for the people who are causing us pain to treat us better. When that doesn’t happen, we grow bitter and disillusioned. We pull away. And as Christians we blame God. After all, he’s powerful and is able to change anything he chooses in an instant.

We only see our immediate needs while God sees our eternal need. We look for temporary solutions to our problems, while God looks to give us his ultimate and best solution, a solution we didn’t even know we needed because the lesser problems were muddying our vision and distorting our view of life.

How can we say God failed us when he fixed our biggest need? The need for forgiveness of sins, the need of reconciliation with the Father, the need of an inheritance, a new heart, and a new destiny. All because of Christ who purchased it for us because we were helpless to help ourselves.

We look for immediate solutions to the cares of this life, while God sees our eternal need. And he has fulfilled what he promised by giving us a Savior who is the answer to everything we truly need.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

Foolish Delusions

Have you ever felt the desire to do something spectacular for God? I have.

That’s my attitude for most everything I do.

Who wants to be a nobody missionary, or a parent raising a family in obscurity, or a computer programmer locked in an anonymous cubicle somewhere?

We have this burning desire to make a splash. To be known. To be admired.

It’s a common feeling each of us has, including some of the great saints. IMG_2571

“Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to do something so spectacular that we could brag and say, ‘See what I’ve done for God.’ This religious fanatic, if not watched, will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works. God’s approval does not come to us through good works, but through Christ whose works are perfect. And He did them for us. We own his perfect record. It’s a gift God has given to us, his saints. – Martin Luther

How would our lives change if we really believed all our works were perfect, that we’ve already done the big splash because we’re in Christ? And that God is pleased with us?

For me, it took the weight of the mountains off my shoulders. I was able to breathe and relax. The performance was over. What joy!

Knowing that everything I do in Christ is mediated through him and therefore acceptable to God was revolutionary.

Even my best works require Christ’s mediation.

Can you imagine what my sloppy, lazy works require?

The same.

We don’t do perfect this side of heaven.

Everything we do is mixed in with remaining sin.

That’s why we need a Savior at all times.

That’s why he’s in heaven interceding for us and mediating everything we do.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Talk to me.

 

 

Nothing to Say

I’ve been reading the Old Testament, book by book, and then it came time for Job.

I groaned.

I didn’t want to read it.

Some of my friends and relatives were suffering and I didn’t want to hear about one more.

But I knew I’d regret it. It had been a long while since I’d read the book, so I took a deep breath, held my nose, and plunged in.

Here are some insights from my reading:

I was surprised at the many verses I recognized that come from Job.

“For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.” 3:24 It echoes Psalm 22.

“Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” 4:17 The psalmist in 119: 9 asks the identical question.

“For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” 5:6 The psalms are full of the woes of man in sin, and so are the Proverbs.

I was also shocked at some of the wisdom that came from Job’s friends. Things like, “I too, was pinched off from a piece of clay.” 33: 6 It reminded me of when God made Adam.

“Where is my Maker who gives songs in the night?” 35:10 That’s from Job in his suffering and confusion. It’s reminiscent of Zephaniah in 3:17 when he tells Israel, as they face judgment, that God will restore and rejoice over them with loud singing.

Towards the end of the book, God finally addresses Job. What astonished me was how God described himself to Job. He could have shamed him into realizing his frailty in comparison to God’s power or verbally whipped him with his wisdom. Instead he asked him questions like, “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?” or “Who has let the wild donkey go free?” or “Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?”

These are rhetorical questions and Job knows it.

God continues to the end of the book to describe the creatures he has made, just as he did man, and no one can take credit but him.

By the time God finishes, Job is speechless.

And I was given a shot in the arm. I came away realizing since God is the creator and caretaker of everything the eye can see, he certainly will take care of me and my loved ones. It’s laughable to think he’d forget me and my prayers.

The only reason I’m still around today is God’s faithfulness to me. I earned none of it. I fail him more than I care to admit. And everything I am and have he gave me as a gift because of his Son.

I’m left speechless, too.

So really my life needs to be a showcase of gratitude.

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.

 

 

How Not to Climb the Corporate Ladder

You know the bible is real when you read verses 35-37 in Mark 10.

Jesus has just finished telling his disciples the horrible death that awaits him in Jerusalem, but instead of sympathy or concern, James and John ask for a promotion. They want the power seats in heaven. When the others find out what they’re up to, they become indignant because they didn’t think of it first most likely. Bible4

The focus is ripped away from Jesus’ death and lands on human ambition. It affords Jesus an opportunity to teach his disciples what it takes to live in his kingdom.

To be a bully, to seek your own status, and to be only interested in your own agenda is the world’s way.

As a disciple you seek to be nothing, a servant ready to help others. Just like Jesus. Why was he on his way to Jerusalem? So he could die in our place on the cross for our sins. The sins of James and John. The sins of all his people.

I’m amazed at Jesus’ patience with his own.

Thank God because I’m just like James and John.

I’m committed to me. My goals. My honor.

Every once in a while I catch myself serving others.

I wish it was the reverse.

That’s why I need a Savior.

And that’s why he’s given me his perfect record.

Because I need it!

Talk to me.

 

 

Safely Home

Was the Exodus a splashy demonstration of God’s power?

Absolutely.

Who else could have mobilized millions of people with their animals and belongings across a body of water like that?

Not even Disney World.

But why did God do that?

Because God had set his love on these people and they were being abused by Pharaoh.

“Time to get up and leave!” God said to them one night.

But was that all there was to it – to usher out a body of people into a new location?

Hardly.

God wanted to free Israel from slavery so they could serve him and sing his praises.

That’s what Israel was made to do, and that’s our purpose, too.

God is worthy of our praise and we need to give it to him.

We express our highest purpose when we celebrate his glory, and honor, and power.

The God who parted the Red Sea is not old and feeble. He’s still in the exodus business.

Every time a person comes to faith in Christ, he experiences his own exodus from sin and hell.

In the Exodus Israel was as guilty as Egypt. Israel deserved death as much as the Egyptians. They were all sinners.

But the waters parted for Israel while it drowned the Egyptians.

What was the difference?  Red Sea

God’s people obeyed by putting the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. A picture of Christ’s blood for the remission of sins.

It wasn’t because the Israelites were a better race of people. They weren’t. It was because they had the blood of the lamb on their houses which protected them from death.

And that’s exactly what Jesus has done for you. If you believe in him by faith alone, then you have experienced your own exodus in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

You are now free to serve God and sing his praises.

Are you doing that?

Talk to me.