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.

 

 

 

 

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Getting Down on Yourself

The essential mark of a Christian is love. Love for Christ, church members, neighbors, family, authorities and people who don’t know the Lord yet.

But let’s be honest. We don’t do this very well.

I don’t. You don’t.

Why do  I say this with such confidence?

Because we are lovers of ourselves first. I prefer myself over you, and I suspect the same is true of you.

Unfortunately we deceive ourselves into thinking we love better than we do, and our friends will do everything they can to convince us we’re doing okay.

Try this experiment next time you’re in a group: Say something that lowers yourself in your own eyes, like, “I wasn’t very patient with my mother the other day.” Then wait for people’s responses. Several will try to rescue you from your low-self esteem. Why? Because if they didn’t attempt the rescue operation they would have to face their own lack of love for others.

We settle for half-hearted attempts. Listening with half an ear; putting off calling that pesky friend who talks too much; holding on to revenge because the person who hurt you still hasn’t admitted it. IMG_6921

Our hearts are deceitful and compromised by the world, the flesh and the devil. If one doesn’t cause us to trip, the other will. Maybe all three at the same time.

And the biggest trap we fall into is looking inside our hearts to find those evidences of love, good feelings and caring.

Except that’s the wrong direction.

Nothing good resides there.

Love must come from the outside. Not as a sensational feeling that sweeps us off our feet, but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are members of his body and united to him. Love flows down from him to us and then out to our neighbor.

That’s why the apostle Paul exhorts us to put on Christ. Not once or twice but everyday.

What does that look like?

It’s realizing his love is 100% perfect and it’s ours as a gift.

It’s being grateful that he loved perfectly when he was here on earth and his perfect record God has been put into our account.

From God’s perspective, we love perfectly because it’s Christ’s love he sees there.

From our perspective, we live a life of transparency before the Lord, where no secrets are tolerated. We no longer give ourselves permission to sin. We throw out old grudges and hatred and forgive the other person, a hundred times if we have to.

Sounds impossible?

It is!

It reveals how much we need Christ, which is exactly where we need to be. It’s confessing our sins and admitting our inadequacy. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And what does God think of this display of lowliness?

Take a look.

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
‘I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite'”. – Isaiah 57:15 ESV

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

Remember

I have the tendency to identify with my sins. If things go wrong in a relationship, or there’s some misunderstanding, or even worse, if I am criticized, I tend to brood over that to the exclusion of everything else. In other words, I’m completely self-absorbed. Even on good days, I’m focusing on myself and keeping Christ at the fringes. Living like this gives me a level of depression. I’m often broody and serious. Being joyful, thankful and seeing things to praise God for are rare. I’m more comfortable in the valleys and among the shadows of life. Even in pictures of myself as a child I see that dark expression on my face.

I’m aware that some of it is due to how I’m wired. I’ve never been the life of the party or the kind of person that draws everyone to herself. And the older I get the less likely I will ever want to be that sort of person. I’m very happy with myself.

But is God? IMG_1238

I may identify myself with Paul as the chief of sinners, but indwelling sin is not my chief identity as a Christian. My identity is is my union with the Chief Shepherd.

That’s what saves me.

God won’t credit my sin to me or deal harshly with me because he credited my sin to Christ and dealt harshly with him.

So while I groan over my narcissistic tendencies and broodiness, (even that is self-focus) I need to remember to yank myself out of the pit and look at my Savior. And I need lots of reminders to do that, so while I’m reminding myself today, I’m reminding you, too.

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.

 

 

Turnstile Trickster

There’s a new cheating trend I’ve noticed lately at the subway station.

There’s a few seconds delay at the turnstile after you’ve swiped the transit card to exit. And it’s just enough time for a quick footed-hoodlum to follow behind you and exit for free before the gate closes.

I’ve seen it happen several times now, especially when there aren’t too many riders at the turnstile.

Today was my turn. I approached the turnstile with transit card in hand and noticed out of the corner of my eye a tall, lanky, jeans-down-the-hips, baseball capped young man waiting for me to swipe my card.

No way, I thought.

I took a few paces back and looked at him.

In a flash he moved over to the next unsuspecting rider and followed behind her and got out for free. The maneuver was done in a blink of an eye. Talk about quick footed. He’s missed his calling. He should be a dancer.

I noticed he took the same path I take out of the station and we ended up at the same curb waiting for the light to change.

“Good morning,” I said looking up at him. He looked down at me from the corner of his eye.

“You think you can get away with cheating, but God sees everything you do, and you will have to give an account to him one day. Do you know that?”

“I wasn’t cheating,” he said.

“Really? What do you call what you just did in the station down there?” I asked.

“I paid for a ticket, it’s just I didn’t have money to add a fare to it,” he said.

“So robbing from somebody else’s ticket is okay?”

He smirked.

“Do you know who God is?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“And what about the Lord Jesus Christ?”

“Sure.”  Wall2

“Well, you have some talking to do then,” I said.

The light had changed to green and it was time to cross.

While he shuffled away, I prayed for him.

In a way I was sorry for him, who knows what life he’s living.

On the other hand, I hope my words stung his conscience and he’ll think about them.

But probably not.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

How the World Cup Teaches Me about Jesus

Tuesday I watched the US vs Belgium soccer game.

It was intense.

For 90 minutes neither team scored, but they did a massive amount of running across the field.

Belgium had more shots on goal than we did, but because of Tim Howard’s talent, our goalie, we blocked all the shots.

Then came overtime…

That’s when it unraveled.  Brazil Soccer WCup US Portugal

Both teams were exhausted, but nevertheless they rallied for a last ditch effort and with it came the goals.

Things ended up 2-1 in favor of Belgium.

So we’re out, they’re in.

How like life.

It’s in the overtimes of life where you discover if you have what it takes to live with your eyes fixed on the goal and to do it with grace and perseverance.

That’s where most of us fail.

Instead of a fixed gaze, we flounder in our choices.

Instead of grace, we get impatient, or cranky, or downright ugly.

And instead of persevering, we give up.

Just think what would have happened if Jesus hadn’t fulfilled his mission and instead thrown in the towel and walked off the field.

“Looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2 ESV

If Jesus hadn’t lived and died for us, none of us would have a chance at a relationship with God.

And none of us would be forgiven of our sins.

But thanks be to God, Jesus stayed the course, set his mind on completing his mission, and was rewarded by a resurrected life which he now lives in heaven.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:11 ESV

It’s a comfort to know that everywhere we fail Jesus has succeeded for us.

He lived a life of perfect obedience to God’s commandments for us and died a painful death to pay the price for our sins.

By putting our faith in him, we too can score those perfect goals in life.

Want to play the game right?

 

How To Deal with Christmas Letdown

The day after Christmas.

That’s when Letdown slips in.

Usually around 7 a.m.

It slithers under the door wearing grey.

“You dashed expectations for another year,” Letdown whispers in my ear.

I slice through the wrapping paper, limp bows, and empty boxes on the living room floor on my way to the kitchen for coffee.

Come to think of it, gifts and food and twinkling Christmas lights are appealing but there’s no magic in them.  palm tree

The magic comes in the shape of people, with one person in particular, and he was poor and marginalized from birth.

“I’m in good company. Jesus dashed all expectations, too,” I tell Letdown.

He has no response and slinks away.