Gospel Therapy

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The Horror of Idolatry

I’ve been reading Iain Duguid’s commentary on the book of Ezekiel. As you know, Ezekiel was an Old Testament prophet who was given the unenviable task of indicting the nation of Israel for its sins of idolatry. They preferred every carved image to the God who loved and saved them. And God was furious at them and he wanted them to know that.

“Idolatry is adultery because it makes me unfaithful to God and his truth. It flows from the inordinate desire for a person, plan, or sensation, a desire stronger than my love for God and my desire to obey him,” Duguid says.

That pretty much slays me.

Duguid goes on to say, “Idolatry is the desire for something other than God at the center of my life acting like my guiding star, the source of meaning in my life.”

How often I live my life, as a Christian, desiring things that God has not given me and believing if I had them I’d be a happier person. The advertising industry thrives on that lie. So does the devil with his poisonous thoughts that suggest that God is stingy, or has overlooked me, or marginalized me in his kingdom.

We are not immune from the siren calls of the world and it’s temptations. If that doesn’t get us, then it’s our flesh that clamors for more attention, and if we can be the center of the universe, all the better. But even if we can withstand the flesh, there’s the devil lurking in the background waiting to bait us with his venom.

Is it any wonder we are messes?  IMG_4730

But there’s hope for messes. Jesus died for messes. He nailed us to his cross so we could be given a clean slate in his new life.

We are the only people on earth who have died and been resurrected! Do you realize that?

It happened at the cross. When Jesus died there, we died with him. When he was buried, we were in the tomb with him. And when he was resurrected on the third day, he took us with him! What a glorious trip!

Do you believe that? You should. See Romans 6.

These truths all flow out of our union with Christ.

And how did we get there?

God put us there. See 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

So what does that do to our idolatry? First, it’s pretty horrible to be in Christ and still crave lesser gods. Second, we have forgotten our position and privilege as children of God. Third, the only way to deal with idolatry is to run to God and repent. “It’s the ultimate idol-smasher,” Duguid says.

“Lord, forgive me for the sin of lesser loves, and remind me I am not my own but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

So Hard

“The hardest thing in the world is to take Christ alone for salvation and then to return to Christ alone every day of the Christian life.” – Tony Reinke

Our human nature wants to manipulate our salvation. It goes something like this: Christ did the hard part (dying on the cross) so now we’ll take it from here.

Everyone of us desires glory. We were build for it, and one day we’ll experience it, but not here. And yet, every time we use self-salvation strategies to keep God liking us and thinking we’re terrific, we end up in self-worship and self-glory.

We hate, absolutely hate, admitting we can do nothing apart from Christ. We pay lip service to that truth.  photo (36)

We long to be something apart from him.

Have you noticed how burdened we feel most days with the many pressures and layers of life?

We’re addicted to living that way. We don’t understand any other kind of life.

But what would happen if we truly knew ourselves from God’s vantage point and realized we are nothing? And then be glad that Jesus is all we ever need or want?

What would our lives look like with that mindset?

“When our self-evaluation is emptied, Christ’s glory weighs heavier in our lives.” – John Newton

We need to be people like those who go to AA meetings. We need to say to ourselves in the mirror every morning, “My name is Bub, and I’m a sinner addicted to myself.”

I think we need to confess that everyday to the Lord.

He might even say to us, “Now you’re getting it. I’m here to help.”

What do you think?

 

 

 

An Awesome Name

Did you know God is the only one who names himself?

El means power. Elohim. Pushing back the chaos and establishing order. You see this on display in the creation of the world. God can push back the chaos in your life. Nothing is beyond his power.

Yahweh is used 5,000 times in the bible. It’s his most important name.

Think Passover. The parting of the Red Sea. The drowning of the Egyptians.

He is a face-to-face promise-keeping God. The burning bush. Moses on the mountain. Jacob wrestling with the angel. IMG_8004

God wants us to think of him as the trustworthy God.

He’s not Mr. God, formal and aloof in a black suit behind a desk.

He’s known as Yahweh Jireh. The Lord sees and provides. The ram in the thicket. Manna in the wilderness. Jesus on the cross.

Yahweh Rapha. The Lord heals you. He turns your Marah into sweet water. Jesus heals you body and soul.

Yahweh Nissi means God is your banner. You cannot be defeated. God went to war for Israel. He stands shoulder to shoulder with you today.

Yahweh Sabaoth. He is the host of heaven. He brings the armies. He defends you.

God has now visited you in Jesus. It’s permanent. He didn’t slip out of his body like a garment when he returned to heaven. He stays a man forever and lives there. He remains a man who sympathizes with you and prays for you.

Celebrate his name today!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.