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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Adoption Matters

I’ve known a few people in my life who were adopted as children and the longing of their hearts was always to meet their real biological parents.

Everyone wants to know where they came from. That’s a common desire.

As a Christian, have you ever asked yourself where you came from? And why was it that God chose you to be in his family?

Let me start by saying that it had nothing to do with you!

Once upon a time, before the world was made, God decided to give his Son a people as a gift.

Those people were known only to God before they were ever created.

These people had one common purpose: they would glorify God by imaging the Son.

If you have faith in Christ today, you are one of those people.

God chose you.  photo-37

God drew you to Christ.

God clothed you in Christ.

For the purpose of being holy and blameless.

It was God’s love to his Son that he adopted us into his family for the glory of his grace.

The fact you love the Lord and believe in him was all God’s plan for you.

Check it out. Read Ephesians chapter 1.

And start praising!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

Down and Dirty

In Matthew 13:53-58 we see Jesus in his home town of Nazareth. You’d think he’d be a hometown hero, like the Cubs returning from their World Series win. Instead, Jesus was pushed aside. It wasn’t that his miracles weren’t impressive or his preaching compelling. In fact, the people were blown away by both. But it lasted a nano second. What got them was he was unimpressive. They expected Messiah to be a conquering hero and a royal king. A man in authority that would delegate others to do his bidding. Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t put on airs. He wasn’t handsome or strapping. He looked, talked, and acted just like any other man in town. But in the people’s mind, Messiah could not be ordinary. He would fight their enemies, restore Israel, and set up shop as royalty on the throne. But the opposite happened. Jesus was ridiculed, rejected and ignored. Just like the prophets. Why? Because he got down and dirty with them. He was a man. He ate, slept, bathed, worked, probably changed diapers, cooked, swept the house. He did this in order to redeem us in all our weaknesses, including death. img_4606

Jesus is the only Savior God has sent. There is no other.

The longing for glory still awaits us. The impressive. The lavish. The aha. All of that is ours in the new heavens and the new earth.

Until then, as his followers, we get down and dirty like he did. In worshiping God and loving our neighbors.

Talk to me.

The Rights of Being Wrong

How many times have you valued being right, having the last word, being firm and in control?

If you’re like me, many times.

Has anyone told you that sounds an awful lot like self-love?

We are born legalists. We love law. We delight in being right.

“That’s not fair!” shouts a crying child when another yanks her toy away.

How does a 2-year old know what’s fair? Who taught her? child

Our legal hearts demand what is right and fair. And where does that come from? From God’s law. We’re all born with an innate sense of right and wrong. That’s because God stamped his image on us, and even though we are sinners and live with a distorted view of God, remnants of it are still there like a shattered mirror.

Satan takes full advantage of our dilemma and, as a cunning rascal, pronounces us guilty every chance he gets and demands payment for our sins. And if we’re not watchful, we’ll fall into the trap and believe it’s up to us to fix ourselves.

This can happen a million times a day.

If your thoughts are negative, accusatory, pointing out other people’s faults, blaming others, devaluing the people in your life, dishonoring them, and demanding your rights and your way, you’re listening to the devil.

Resentment and bitterness produce a heavy heart and a broody attitude, all of which indicate you’ve moved away from the gospel – Christ’s righteousness for you.

Remember, Christ showers you with grace and mercy every moment of every day because he’s paid for your sins.

We’re happy and grateful to accept that truth for us, but what’s shocking is he also gives that same grace and mercy to the people around us that are hard to live with!

So instead of resentment and bitterness, let’s give forgiveness and peace; instead of rehearsing our wounds, let’s release them to the Lord at the cross, and walk away; instead of blaming others, let’s talk about our faults first and see what happens. Since the judge of the universe has declared us righteous in Christ, we can be vulnerable with others and not be afraid of their response.

Make these your Christmas presents this month!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

How To Ditch the Pitch for New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again.

I’m talking about those pesky New Year’s resolutions.

This year I’m staying clear of them.

I’ll let you make them.  IMG_0704

I’m not going on a diet, buying a gym membership, eating healthier, or being nicer to my brother.

I am staying just the way I am. Plump, self-indulgent, and cranky.

I don’t like failure. Who does? I don’t want to start the New Year in the negative. I want a few weeks of blissful self-illusion.

Have you noticed as the year begins how your inbox expands with tips for improved living? How to speak Italian in six weeks. How to find the mate of your dreams online. How to improve your relationship with your therapist. How to write a memoir.

All it takes is money. And sweat.

No thanks.

You’d think everyone would see the hype, but every year there are enough desperate people who believe the gimmicks.

The truth is we all want hope. Every one of us wants to be thinner, healthier, younger, and wealthier.

But have you noticed how these things promise results but deliver disappointment?

The gym banks on you dropping out.

The recipe you’re making only works on TV.

Last year’s fashions are this year’s thrift store deals.

Nothing changes, and everything changes.

If we put our hope in things, we’ll soon discover we’re bankrupt.

There’s only one place to put our hope and it’s in a person— Jesus. When he makes a promise, he delivers it. And he promised that if anyone puts their trust in him as Savior, he will forgive their sins and give them eternal life.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. – John 6:40 NKJV

Now that’s my idea of success. The sure kind.

Why bother with lesser promises that don’t deliver when you can have God guaranteed-ones?  Instead of self-improvement propaganda, find the lasting improvements only God can offer.

I’d rather be chunky and happy in Jesus than nasty and model-thin without him.

How about you? Are you ready to put your hope in Jesus?

Leave me a fat comment.

 

How To Get Rid of Yourself

Is your self-image on the floor? You don’t like yourself and you’re certain others don’t either? You work yourself into a frenzy trying to be popular and liked, but you only fail. Is there any hope for you?

There’s good news for you. You’re not hopeless. There is a way to a healthy self-image but it’s not what you might think.

The pundits and psychologists will be happy to give you a list of rules (or a formula) for how to fix yourself. It goes like this:

1. exercise

2. eat right

3. only spend time with positive people

4. read or listen to inspirational teachers

5. do something for others

6. believe in yourself

That last one is particularly difficult if you don’t like yourself.

Have you seen a common theme with the all this?

It’s all about self.

Whenever you turn into yourself, you’ll have trouble. That’s because there are no answers there.

The rules don’t hold the answers either. Neither do the pundits and the therapists. They’ll either drive you to despair because you can’t live up to their recommendations, or to pride because you do live up to them and you feel superior to others. Either path is full of self.

The answer lies in the gospel.

The gospel doesn’t lie to you. It agrees with you. You are messed up. In fact you’re a sinner!

But the gospel doesn’t leave you there.

It tells you to repent and acknowledge that your whole life needs fixing. Why? Because it’s not God-centered.

Jesus came into the world to clean up the mess, die on the cross to pay for your sins, to fill you with his Spirit, and to take you to heaven.

What does this do for you?

It humbles you.  It makes you grateful to God. Now you can love him and serve others out of that gratitude.

You still might be asking, “But when all my sins and failures come back to haunt me again, how can I maintain a healthy self-image?”

You don’t need to feel better about yourself!

You don’t need to feel worse about yourself!

What the gospel does is get you off of yourself!

You are a new creature in Christ, your life in now hid with him in heaven. That’s your new image.

You no longer have to live a self-centered life.

Jesus rescued you from that treadmill.

Go out and shout for joy!

It’s Not About Sin

How do you handle suffering? (If you’re like me, I want to run and hide until it all goes away.)

Do you doubt God’s love for you? Feel his withdrawal? (You bet.)

Do you think he’s punishing you for something wrong you have done? (That’s what I think of right away.)

The truth is we’ve all done everything wrong, all the time, all our lives. That’s why we need a Savior. As Romans 3 says, none of us seeks God.

If we keep to that logic, we would deserve to be punished everyday of our lives. But even that would not be sufficient to a holy God.

The truth is we cannot pay for our sins. They are too awful, too deep, and too pervasive.

That’s why Jesus came to pay for them in our stead on the cross.

God isn’t angry with us anymore.

Let me say that again. God isn’t angry with us anymore if we have placed our trust in Jesus.

Jesus paid for every sin we have committed, are committing now, and will commit in the future.

If we believe in Jesus as God’s solution to our sin problem, then all of our sins are forgiven. We are adopted children of God. God now is our Heavenly Father. He loves us.

So with that in mind, trials and suffering are meant to mature us and build the image of Christ in us. There’s a real purpose to them. Read Romans 5 & James 1.

Don’t waste this opportunity to stretch your faith.