Change of Address

We tend to forget that Jesus’ mission was to destroy the works of the devil. That’s why he came. See 1 John 3:8

And part of that destruction was the rescue operation of God’s people who lived in darkness and were enslaved by the devil. Jesus came in like a warrior, attacked the enemy, destroyed him, and liberated God’s people.

How did he do it? 

First, by living a perfect life of obedience to God’s laws in our place.

Second, by paying the price for our sins by dying on the cross for us.

Third, by being raised from the dead and taking us with him.

We did not merit any of this.

We are God’s choice. See Ephesians 1 & Romans 9.

It was God the Father who gave us to God the Son before the foundation of the world. It was His choice.

It was God the Son who willingly left heaven and came to earth to be our Substitute.

And it’s God the Holy Spirit who lives in us to unite us to Christ and all his benefits.

We used to live in the world, but God took us out of it and put us in His kingdom. We have a new address. We breathe a new air, live a new life, and love God out of gratitude.

We possess of dual citizenship. Heaven and earth. Blessings now, fulfillment later.

Go out and tell somebody the rescue has happened!

Talk to me.

 

Jesus in the Storm

Everybody loves the story of Jesus calming the storm. And everyone loves to say to anxious and despairing people, “See, Jesus can calm the raging waters of your soul, too.”

Except that’s not what the story is about.

According to the narrative in Matthew 8, this was not your ordinary storm. It had the force of the devil behind it. It was the equivalent of an earthquake in power and force. No wonder the disciples, experienced fishermen who knew those waters, were terrified. They didn’t know what to do, so they told Jesus.

“Save us, we’re perishing!”   

This woke Jesus up from his nap and he was annoyed with them. He was surprised they weren’t calm.

Instead they were afraid and not trusting God for their safety.

I would have been among them.

With just a word, Jesus rebuked the storm and the disciples marveled at this. They wanted to know who they had in the boat with them.

Didn’t they already know?

Apparently they were suffering from dementia. They had forgotten their Old Testament lessons of God creating the oceans in Genesis, and controlling the seas in Jonah, Job, and the Psalms.

Jesus rebuked the storm like he would a demon and it obeyed immediately.

The seas have one master, the Lord. The sea is his servant. He’s king of the ocean and rules it by his word.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus did not pray or ask his Father to handle the storm. He did it himself.

He is God.

He created the oceans.

He is God with us in the storm.

He will not leave us.

This is a promise.

If he didn’t run away from the cross, he will not leave us in our circumstances.

Are you really believing he is with you today?

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

The Bondage of Being Free

Freedom is not an end in itself like everyone seems to think.

Think it through with me for a minute.

Let’s say you are free to commit adultery.

It might feel good for a while, but then something begins to change.

You discover your freedom consists in lying about the affair.

You’re now covering your tracks.   Guilty

You’re having difficulty remembering what you said to whom and keeping the lies straight so you don’t contradict yourself.

There’s the fear of being caught.

There’s the unknown reaction of your spouse if he or she finds out.

Before you know it you’re living like a criminal.

You thought you’d feel alive and young again. Instead you’re walking around with the burden of your guilty conscience and it’s a heavy weight.

Where’s the freedom in that?

In truth, freedom from God’s law means bondage.

We all live guilty lives. We were born guilty, did you know that?

That sweet little baby, all wrapped up in his mother’s arms, has a label on him.

Guilty!

That’s why we need a Savior.

Christ came and died on the cross in our place, bearing our punishment, absorbing the fullness of divine justice for us.

He died so he could free us, not to indulge the flesh,  but to delight in serving God.

God has no slaves, only grateful sons.

Now that’s a life of true freedom.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

Dump the Guilt

A friend of mine is fond of saying, “Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.”

He’s right.

We feel it when we violate our own rules. “I should have saved more money this year.”

Or when we don’t do what we know is important. Like go to church. Read the bible. Pray. Igor Mitoraj

How about when we don’t live up to own expectations? That’s a big one. There’s a video making the rounds on social media of a young boy seated at a window seat on a plane. He’s admonishing his father for not living up to his dreams of being a airline pilot. How does the boy know this about his father? “Because I want to be a pilot, and I plan to do it,” he says defiantly.

Wow. I’d spank him for his insolence. But you get the point. We are full of self-salvation strategies, aren’t we? We spend our days doing things to please ourselves in the hope that is also pleases God.

But we know better. Jesus’s perfect life of obedience to God’s law is the only effort that pleases God, and his death on the cross for our sins is the only reconciliation that He will accept.

If you’ve delivered yourself over to God’s plan of salvation for your life, you have nothing to be guilty of anymore. Jesus bore your guilt, your shame, your failure and your sin for you on the cross.

You are set free to love and serve him out of gratitude.

Go out and jump for joy!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

Exile No More

This is so good, I must share it with you.

“He spares not His Son, but sends Him in quest of the exiles. He comes into the land of banishment, lies in an exile’s cradle, becomes a banished man for them, lives a banished life, endures an exile’s shame, dies an exile’s death, is buried in an exile’s tomb. He takes our place of banishment that we may take His place of honor and glory in the home of His Father and our Father.  photo(43)

“Such is the exchange between the exile and the exile’s divine substitute. Though rich, for our sakes He becomes poor. Though at home, He comes into banishment, that we may not be expelled forever.”

— Horatius Bonar

Does God Like Social Media?

Face-to-face is the original social media.

Conversations that used to take place over a meal or drinks after work is now happening on Facebook, Skype and Tweets.  tweet2

Whatever the delivery system, online gurus say it has to have at least these 4 components to be meaningful:

  1. relevant
  2. practical value
  3. emotion
  4. stories

But even if all these components are there, I’ve noticed something – people are hungry for human interaction, not just cyber chats. They want face-to-face. They need to feel connected to others they can see, hear, touch and laugh with.

And no online delivery system can deliver what a personal encounter can.

And God knew that.

God, with all his supernatural abilities, could have designed a mechanism whereby he could communicate with us without leaving heaven to do it.

He could have sent angel messengers.

He could have boomed his voice from heaven.

He could have scared the life out of us with flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.

Instead, he sent his own flesh and blood Son to live among us, suffer alongside us, and then die a horrible death.

Where’s the value in that?

God knew the kind of mess we were in – we were dead in our sins and unable to rescue ourselves. So he fixed the problem by sending his Son Jesus to live a life of perfect obedience to the law of God for us, and then die in our place in order to pay the price for our sins.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2: 4-7 ESV

So how is that relevant to me?

If Jesus hadn’t done that, you would have no hope of measuring up to God’s standards and being loved by him.

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5: 7-8 ESV

Only Jesus measured up and secured your relationship with God, so when you place your faith in his finished work for you, God fully accepts you as his cherished child.

By taking that step, for the first time in your life you have face-to-face communication with God through Jesus.

Now that beats anything you can have online!

Want to plug into the best conversation today?

“Dear Jesus,

Thank you for living a perfect life for me, and for dying to pay the price for my sins on the cross. I receive you as my Lord and Savior. Fill me with your love and let me live from now on for you. Amen.”

If you’ve prayed this today, would you let me know?

Are You Ready to Take a Risk?

On the subway last week, I noticed a Hispanic woman get on, in her 50’s, sit down and pull out a book in Spanish with a kneeling picture of a praying Jesus on the cover. The title of the book was, “How To Move Away from Depression.” She read it with her lips moving. I began to pray for her. I was two rows behind her. The car was packed. I told the Lord if he wanted me to give her a gospel of John he’d have to clear the decks. We got through the tunnel and at the first stop in the city, everyone in my way got up and got off, leaving an empty seat right by her. I  photo(44)chuckled. I got up, sat in the empty seat, pulled out my gospel, leaned over and in Spanish said good morning, I have a gift for you. She looked at me, saw the booklet, took it, and smiled. I explained the booklet, especially the first three pages. I told her to read them and make that prayer of receiving Christ as her Savior. I asked her if the book she was reading was helping her. She said yes, that she had bought it at her church’s bookstore. I said the secret of getting rid of depression is knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. She said she thought so, too. Then she got quiet. A few seconds went by. Then she leaned in and said, “My son was murdered three years ago. I have been depressed ever since.” I was stunned. I told her how sorry I was, and that God wanted to carry her burden, that she didn’t have to anymore. She thanked me. At that point I got up to get off at my stop. I’ve been praying for her ever since.

This is an example of what I am praying to do every day. We see and meet many people with wounds so deep that only God can heal them. So I ask God to make me alert to the needs of others, to give me the faith to engage them even if it’s risky, and to use me as his ambassador of hope and encouragement to them.

What about you? Would you join me this year? I hope to write my adventures here when I have them.