Oops! That Burden Just Crashed

I’ve been thinking about some of the things people tell me about themselves, mostly about how angry they are. I’ve learned over the years that anger very often comes from shattered expectations. Boy do I know about those at work and family. A day doesn’t go by when I’m not disappointed by someone.
I thought you might want to do an interesting assignment that has helped me. Most of the time those expectations live in our minds leaking their poison into our hearts. Instead label them and write them down in a list. Get them down on paper even if you fill an entire notebook! Then make a cup of coffee and come back and take a hard look at them. Is there a common theme? Write that down too.  Igor Mitoraj
Then ask yourself, How has Christ given me what I need?

We tend to expect people we care about to live up to their potential (as we see it) and to reciprocate in kind the investment we’ve given them. It’s especially true in a spouse, a parent or a child.

At the root we are demanding they give us life, fill us up, and satisfy us. But the people in our lives are just sheep, just like we are, and they aren’t beasts of burden. Our expectations load them down for failure because they can’t deliver what we want, and we end up disappointed because we stay empty. God is the only agent of change, and our job is to ask him and leave him to it.
At the core we have a worship-disorder. We have been created to be faith-in-God beings, but we are drawn away by our flesh to become faith-in-anything-but God-beings. Our core identity is as a beloved child of God. Since we belong to him, he has already given us everything our hearts long for, but we find it in Christ.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – Colossians 1:27

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A Major Difference

Jesus is the face of God. That is what everyone is looking for.

We’re hungry to be seen. He knows you by name. He knows all about you.

We’re craving comfort. He is the Great Comforter, full of grace and peace.

We want acknowledgement. He gives it by dying on the cross for you. Broken

We long to be understood. He knows everything about you, what makes you tick, how you think, the pain you feel, the rejection.

But what do we typically do? We turn away from God and turn toward other people and demand they give us what we want. That’s why marriages don’t work. Our jobs don’t satisfy. Our hobbies get boring. Our children become work instead of pleasure. Nothing we touch fills us.

It was never meant to.

The fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore are only found in Christ.

Until we realize it, we’re doomed to traveling in the wrong direction, where the gravel pits are, where there is no water.

Idols take everything, and give nothing back except pain and disappointment.

Only Jesus is the fountain of life.

What are you waiting for?

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but in other things like lovers, friends, hobbies, travel, power, money, you name it.

 

Not Your Dream Job

Even if God never gives you your dream job, he has given you everything.

Even if you never have the opportunity to use your considerable gifts, he has given you everything.

Even if you do use your gifts and the job is falling short of expectations, he has given you everything. Your marriage, your kids, your parents. They could be nothing but trouble, but God has given you everything.

Even if what you want for your life doesn’t match reality, he has given you everything.

What’s the everything? Christ!

By giving you Christ to suffer and make satisfaction for your sins, God the Father has poured out his heart of love for you.  IMG_4214

You need to see that what your heart longs for is found in Christ. You long for a father who notices you, who is kind and loving, who adores you. God the Father does!

In Christ, the Father has scooped you up and brought you into his arms and showers you with kisses. He has called for the caterers so he can throw you a party.

You are no longer an orphan in the universe. You belong to the God of the universe who happens to be your Father.

Coram Deo.

We live everyday in the face of such love.

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Pain is a Gift

According to John Newton, legalism is weariness. Justification is joy. We are forgiven and accepted through the work of Another. It’s done. Our job is to rejoice in that truth and serve God out of gratitude.

I think he was onto something. Paul expressed the same sentiments.

Even though we may know this, we don’t live this way. Instead we live in the mirage of self-sufficiency. It’s our default position. We really do believe there’s something we can do without God’s help. A lot of things. Broken

It starts in childhood. Babies learning to walk shove their parents away and tumble. Toddlers running into furniture when they think they have a clear path for wandering. High-schoolers who think they have the future mapped out only to make huge course corrections when they get to college.

Never mind the daunting tasks of choosing a spouse, the right job, buying a home.

Do we consult God?

No, we’ve been told it’s up to us to hit these milestones.

Some people succeed but many don’t. How many people do you know who are doing everything they want in life? Who are the happy ones in their work, with their children, and their body image?

Maybe you’re one of the unhappy ones. Have you settled in a job because of the security it gives you more than anything else, but now it’s strangling the life out of you? Are you in a loveless marriage with no way out? Or maybe you’re struggling with your health? As a friend told me recently, “I want my old life back.”

Life rarely turns out the way we envisioned it.

Thank God for that.

It’s God’s gift to us. If life turned out just as we wanted it to, we wouldn’t turn to him for anything. It’s a mercy that we struggle and suffer. It’s God’s language reminding us we were made to turn everything over to him because he cares for us. It’s his way of saying that what we long for is not here, but in the new heavens and the new earth, when Jesus comes back.

In the meantime, even as forgiven sinners, we suffer with our fellow human beings, knowing that Jesus himself also suffered for us so we could share in his glory one day.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

Not Today

I got on the subway this morning and had an option of seats. To sit alone in a one seat with no seatmate or in a two-seat. I chose the one-seat. I could be alone and not have to accommodate anybody. Yay! Usually big, burly construction workers sit next to me leaving me with an inch to breathe. Not this morning. I was going to relax all the way into city. As soon as I sat down and settled my bags, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. “So. You don’t want to speak this morning about Christ?” Gulp. Before I could argue with him, I said, “Okay. I’ll move.”  Bible4

So I did. At the next stop a young Asian woman sat next to me. So this must be who I’m supposed to talk to, I said to myself. She whipped out a cosmetic sponge with make-up on it, held up the dark screen of her iPhone as a mirror, and put her face on. (Note to self: iPhone screens make good mirrors in a pinch.) I began to read field reports from a missionary agency I support that take the gospel into unreached people groups. I was totally absorbed. When I finished, I looked and my seatmate was sound asleep. Must not be her then, I thought.

We arrived into the city and she woke up. It’s now or never, I said to myself. I pulled out a gospel of John and handed it to her.

“Would you receive this as a gift?” I said.

She looked at the booklet in bewilderment. “No,” she said.

“Have you ever read the bible?” I said.

She shook her head no.

“Try it, you might enjoy it. It changed my life,” I said.

“Okay, I’ll read it,” she said and took it. She got up and left the train at her stop.

I felt accomplished.

Not.

I was prepared to ignore the world this morning. That’s the truth. But the Holy Spirit is always on duty.

Talk to me.

You Want Me to Love Who?

I don’t know about you but I’m not very good at the loving your neighbor thing. If I’m honest, I much prefer my own company, my own thoughts and my own projects. Putting others first is like asking a zebra to switch its stripes to polka dots.

But there it is. Jesus said to love one another, and John said it too. In fact, John said something else that’s disturbing. If we don’t love other believers it’s proof we’re not Christians!

Ouch! photo (1)

And not just believers we like, or share the same doctrine with, or understand life in similar ways. We’re called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ who are totally different from us. Those whose politics we hate. Those who barely read the bible. Those who relate to God in emotional ways.

So why such emphasis on this love thing?

Because it’s like God. God is love. After all, he loved us when we were unlovable. He loved us before our sins were forgiven. He served us in our misery and wretchedness. He gave us Jesus before we knew we needed him.

God is always loving, even when we’re not. Jesus suffered the wrath of God for us. He satisfied the justice of God. Jesus is the ultimate proof of how much God loves us.

We do not love well. But Jesus loved his Father and us, his children perfectly. And that perfect record is ours by faith in Christ. Knowing that, we can go out and love others not so well, knowing Jesus covers all our imperfections.

That’s another gift we don’t deserve, but it’s ours because God loves us.

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We’re All Prodigals, Or Are We?

I was thinking about the prodigal son. How he asked his father for his inheritance before the father died. How the father gave it to him. How this son of his spent it on his lusts until it was gone. How this son was very far away from home.

Then one day he looked up. That’s always a good place to start a recovery program.

He took stock. Another good decision. Where did he get his wisdom all of a sudden with such a track record of debauchery?

He came to his senses. Now things are coming together.

He was living in squalor, in a foreign country, feeding pigs. It couldn’t get more crazy than this. He started off with a fortune in his pocket and ended up hungry, thirsty and living with pigs, wishing he could eat their food.

He decides to go home.

The Father is waiting.

He runs to meet his son and throws his arms around him and kisses him.

Me? I would tell him he needs a bath.  IMG_0112

I’d be offended that it was his growling belly that brought him home and not me.

But God was in the hunger. God was in his thinking. God was where home was.

Home many of us have wanted to come back to, but haven’t been able.

Perhaps for you there’s no home to come home to. No family because they’re dead.

Or maybe you’re the older brother that never left home. You’ve shouldered the responsibility for the family, you’ve been the dutiful one, and your father has never taken notice. You were expected to take the mantle. That’s what older sons are for. To continue running the business you never started. It’s your father’s livelihood you’ve inherited, not your own. Maybe your heart’s not in it, but there you are because you’re the only one left standing. It’s yours by default. Your younger brother never cared to do the right thing. Your faithfulness allowed his unfaithfulness.

The father throws his wayward son a party he’s so happy to have him back.

The elder brother is not happy to see him back. He’s resentful, angry, hurt. Did the father throw him a party because he was dutiful and faithful? No. Did the father throw his arms around him and kiss him out of gratefulness for his obedience? No.

Why not? Remember this parable was directed to the Pharisees and Scribes who were listening.

It’s because real sons of the Father know what pit they were dug from. They know they don’t deserve the Father’s love. They understand the condition of their own hearts and without the Father’s compassion and mercy, they would not be any better than their resentful elder brothers.

It’s the condition of the heart of faith that is the subject of this parable. The Pharisees and Scribes didn’t have it. The elder brother didn’t have it. Only the prodigal in his filthy rags of repentance demonstrated it.

Talk to me.