But Your Mess Is Messier Than My Mess!

 

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Not too many days ago I stumbled across a comment on social media somebody had made about their repugnance for the choice of sermon prepared by the pastor that morning and how it was clearly not the best use of her time. The sermon’s topic? The Prodigal Son.

If you don’t know this parable, you can read it in Luke 15 (and please do, it’s a beautiful story), but here is a brief synopsis: A man has two sons, one is the good son, who does everything right-a real daddy’s boy. Then there’s the other son. This kid is selfish and demanding. He decides he doesn’t want to follow the rules, so he’s going to go out on his own and do it his way. Oh, and by the way, Dad, give me my inheritance now. Can you even imagine asking your parents such a thing? But the father gives it to him, and he uses it to get in all kinds of trouble. All kinds. Until the money runs out. Then he decides to go back home and see if  Dad will let him be a hired servant. Meanwhile, the other brother is back at home being the perfect and awesome son that he is.  But, when Dad sees the younger son coming down the road, the son who was took his money and squandered it, the son who was disrespectful in a time where disrespecting your parents was SERIOUSLY uncool,  he takes off running to meet his son. Terribly undignified for the dad to run, by the way. But run, he did! Then he tells the servants to start preparing a party. A massive blowout. Dad welcomed back his son, who the Bible refers to as the Prodigal, not as a servant, but as his son, just as though he’d never left.

And his older brother was ticked off. He was the one who stayed to help dad. He was the one who followed the rules. ALL of them.  He didn’t squander anything. And HE never got a party.

And so was the person who posted about the sermon being a waste of her Sunday morning. She wasn’t just arguing that her pastor was giving the prodigal too much air time, she had a beef with the Bible putting him in such a favorable light.  Light bulb moment here: the prodigal isn’t shown in a favorable light. He is a mess. But this parable isn’t so much about the character of the sons, it’s about the character of the father.  It’s to show us the character of THE Father, despite the character, or especially in light of, the character of His creation.  God is is overjoyed when we, the hot messes, make our way back after telling him we can do it our own way. So for my friend who made the post, I sadly think she has completely forgotten, or never really understood, the amazing grace of God that He shows through redeeming us from our mess.

But let’s go back to the older brother. We all have to be mindful of the Older Brother that has the potential to lurk within us. When we encounter people who don’t know Christ, living like prodigals, we have to remember that they don’t live by our ‘code of ethics’. So don’t place that on them and cast your judgment for how poorly they perform. Remember that we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and need a Savior. There are some messed up people out there, folks! We are living in times where people seem to be exchanging the truth of God for lies at a record pace. Evil is not idle. But there is still a God who redeems the lost and hurt, and He can reach the worst of them! Praise His name for that! So when they come walking through the door, instead of demanding your goat (read the story!), go help get the party ready for the prodigals who have come home. Welcome them in! Whatever is in their past, do not it compare to yours. Jesus’ blood still has cleaning power.

But what about what we do to each other? Or have you completely mastered the art of not judging and comparing yourself to anybody else? Don’t lie.

I had a very humbling moment a last week.  I have her permission to share this. A couple of weeks ago a young woman I know, Bethany, who loves the Lord with all her heart, announced via posting pictures on Facebook that she was expecting a baby.  She looked so happy in her pictures. But I couldn’t bring myself to say anything. She’s not married. In my mind, all I could think of was, ‘doesn’t anybody pursue holiness anymore’?  Every time I saw her post for about a week, this would go through my head. Folks, this is classic older brother. Her sin is bigger than my sin.  This one is often subtle. But after about a week, the Holy Spirit wasn’t so subtle with me. I was sitting in our Bible class at church and it hit me. She didn’t even know. But I knew. And God knew.  Even though she didn’t know I had sinned against her, I knew I had to ask her to forgive me.

The Older Brother is made possible because of something called “comparative righteousness”.  It’s pretty simple, really. If you get any sense of righteousness by assessing how you stack up compared to somebody else, that’s comparative righteousness. (This also works in reverse–if you believe somebody, compared to you or another, is more righteous in their standing with God.) We do not earn righteousness in comparison to others.  There is only one standard of holiness by which we are compared and that’s God Himself. And every single one of us falls terribly short. Thankfully, Romans 3:22 tells us that for those who put their faith in Christ, we receive his righteousness. Whew! 

So after a week of lamenting about one girl’s choices that could have been time spent dealing with my own poor choices, the Spirit gave me a smack down (as he is apt to do once in a while) and said “Ahem! She is not your problem! YOU are your problem!”

Oh yeah.  All of MY sin. Worrying about another’s sin doesn’t do anything to help me confront my own. It just adds to my own with my judgments and harsh words.

We will never become more holy by attempting to mitigate the sin in our own life by putting a spotlight on the sin of another, or showing how farther on the scale of “bad” their sin is. It doesn’t work that way.  God deals with us individually.  And yes, there is room to approach a brother/sister with a sin issue (see Galatians 6:1-3), but that’s not really the issue we’re dealing with here. We’re dealing with good, old fashioned judgment and deflection.  It keeps you from giving grace to the one you judge, and it keeps you from seeing the need for grace in your own life.

Let’s take one last look at the story in Luke 15 for some perspective. It’s about a loving father. Okay, we know that’s representing God. And the prodigal is representing sinners. But since we are all sinners, why is there a good brother and a bad brother? Who does the older brother represent? The Pharisees. These guys felt entitled to the kingdom of God based on their own righteousness, through their actions. NOT through their love for God and others. Nope. By showing how good they were, by having all the right moves and making sure everybody knew about it. They were the kings of comparative righteousness!  They didn’t need grace, or so they thought.

How can we keep from falling into that trap? Be free with grace. When you are free in your grace towards others, there is little room for self-righteous judgment. And when we do that, we are open to the Holy Spirit to move in and work in our own lives. We can work on our own mess. And thank the Lord that He promises to keep working on our messes until we are complete!

Bethany was full of grace for me. I’m thankful for that. I am grateful for a God who has enough grace to lavish on anyone who seeks His face.  So the next time we find ourselves letting that inner Pharisee come out, seek His face in that very moment. Praise Him for his grace and mercy. I’m willing to bet that voice of judgment slinks away with nothing to say.

 

 

 

Mocking Grace?

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It’s Holy Week. Thursday, to be specific. This was the day Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples and then took the bread and wine, and told them to eat of the bread, his body, that would be broken and drink of the wine, that was the new covenant–his shed blood poured out for the sins of the world.  This sacrifice, this shedding of blood that had to take place if you or I (or anybody) could have atonement for our sins,  by the grace of the Father. That fact that we even have a chance at salvation is purely because of the great grace of God.  We sure don’t deserve it. But that’s what grace is–getting something you don’t deserve.

The sheer magnitude of this grace should overwhelm you. If it doesn’t just try to comprehend, though I’m not sure we can even scratch the surface of it, what it must have been like for Jesus to hang on the cross and take on the full wrath of God for your sins and mine.  I can’t even begin to imagine. Yet Jesus did it. The human part of him, mind you. The part of him that was flesh and bone. The part that felt physical pain and human emotion. The humanness of Jesus hung on that cross.  Yet in his humanness, perfect and sinless.

That day the world was ushered into the dispensation of grace. We were freed from the law. We no longer had to try in vain (Romans 7) to uphold the Law that we just could not.  We have grace, through Christ Jesus. And this grace frees us! But to what? To live with reckless abandon and shout “grace” and know that God will cover all of our sins?  Paul may start off Romans 8 with “there is now no condemnation”, but he also says if the Spirit is in us (which it is in all believers), then we should not operate in the realm of the flesh.  In Galatians 5:1 Paul says Christ liberated us, so we should not go back and take up the yoke of slavery. This is to say, don’t go back to the old manner of life you lived, in bondage to sinful ways and  habits.

Here’s the deal. I’m a little saddened. Recently another big name in Christian circles has stumbled.  People stumble, I get it. I don’t hold that against this person. People make mistakes. People can be forgiven and people can be restored. But two things really got me, and I don’t think they are unconnected. The first was some pictures surfaced which show  poor judgment at best. I’ll leave it there.  The second thing is so many people on social media explaining away these behaviors either by 1) manipulating the word of God (i.e., it doesn’t apply anymore, that was so long ago and our culture is different) or; 2) playing the grace card.

Here’s what I’m going to say about the first. God doesn’t change, nor does his word. You can fool yourself into thinking he only meant it for some people but not you. You are being deceived, my friends. Make your choices based on the truth–the Word of God. Can’t really go wrong there.

As for the latter…the grace card. Yes, by all means our God is FULL of grace and mercy.  But he is also a righteous judge. He has also made some things clear about how we are to conduct ourselves SO AS to separate ourselves from the culture of today, whatever time period that may be. Are we always going to get things 100% right? Of course not! And that’s what grace is for! I submit to you, grace is NOT for you to live how you choose, thumbing your nose to the truth , all the while claiming grace will cover you. The theological term for that is antinomianism. It’s often called “cheap grace” or “hyper grace”.  And it’s wrong.  The apostle John says if we say we know Christ but fail to keep his commands, we’re lying–we don’t know him. Ouch. (I John 2:4).  But I saw comment after comment effectively saying “just do you”. NO! NO NO NO! We aren’t called to live like that. We are called to deny ourselves. Your flesh is still going to want to do a lot of things contrary to what the Spirit of God leads us to do. That is why we deny ourselves. That is why we must pick up our crosses and die to ourselves daily. And for a high profile person to be making choices that very much suggest impropriety, whether it’s happening or not, leads people to think it’s okay. Even if it’s subconsciously.  (Not to mention the witness this is to non-believers! Ugh!)

So if you even contemplate for a moment the concept of grace being a permission slip to live in any manner you choose, and you can even bring me back your doctoral dissertation why antinomianism is not dangerous, then I would submit to you for your consideration simply this: Let’s go back to imagining our perfect savior hanging on the cross, bearing the full wrath of God so that we might live. So that we might have freedom. Let’s ponder the magnitude of this Jesus, fully God but fully man in a human body, feeling that crown of thorns dig in to his head. The pain he took from the scourging. His hands and feet with nails driven through them. Every breath excruciating. But he chose that for you. And for me.

So I ask you, this Jesus who thought you were worth all that, is he worth more your mocking his grace?

Good teacher, what must I do?

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In Matthew 19, we hear the story of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he must do to receive eternal life.  It’s an interesting an exchange, and one which we still see replayed over and over today.  First, we want to know what we can do to earn it. (Teacher, what good thing shall I do?)  In this world of ‘every kid gets a trophy’, there is no good that’s good enough.  After Jesus points this out, he tells our rich ruler friend to keep the commandments. How does he respond? “Which ones” (verse 18). The negotiation phase. This is a telltale sign. The writing is on the wall. If you want to go buy a new camel, test out your negotiation skills. If you’re asking the Messiah how to gain eternal life, perhaps just take what he says and go with it!  But not our friend here. He wants a list of dos and don’ts. (Sound familiar, anybody?) Jesus goes down the list, and our friend seems to be ticking off every one.  He might just have it made! Jesus has got one more thing for our friend, though. For all of us. He’s going to perform a heart check now. He tells our fine friend, the one with all the worldly wealth, to walk away from all that, to lay it down and give it away.  Well, now hold on there Jesus! You’re going just a tad too far there, don’t you think?  The rich young ruler did. He was willing to trade away eternity and a life with Jesus for worldly wealth. For stuff.  Stuff that isn’t going to last beyond this life and sure isn’t capable and of taking him on to the next one.

The story of our rich young ruler friend is a good overview of how many of us approach a relationship with God. First, like our friend the young ruler, we think if we are “good enough” by our own standards, we should have access to God. Then we want to just show up and be given a list of rules to follow. Just go through some motions.  Here again it’s clear–our good works and checking off lists whole going through the motions don’t cut it. That’s not what Jesus wants from you and me.

We are still trying to bargain with Jesus. Not just the financial end of things, either. And not always those things that might be first and foremost on your throne. Sometimes they are even more subtle things. Often they are things that seem perhaps not that big a deal on the surface (for example, dressing provocatively) but the underlying issue isn’t if God still loves you if you’re showing a lot of cleavage (He does). The issue is when we start locking heads with Jesus over control, pushing the limits of how our choice of dressing honors or dishonors God, pushing for what we want under the banner of “there aren’t any rules!” See, for the most part, when Jesus established the New Covenant, most of the rules of the old covenant were set aside. So we get into this little game with ourselves called “Do I have to“.  We’ve all played it at some point.

Do I have to:

tithe/give money to the church;

go to a church every Sunday;

stop cursing;

stop dressing a certain way (or start dressing a certain way);

stop going to clubs;

stop having sex if I’m not married;

stop watching R rated movies;

read my Bible every single day;

pray every morning;

serve others; 
I could go on and on and on.  The thing is, if we are looking at things from the perspective of, “do I have to”, there’s already a problem.  Remember that heart check Jesus had for our rich friend? Well, the “do I have to” is usually a good indicator it’s time for us to go to Jesus for a heart check.

Let’s just look at the money issue as our example off that list. It’s a good one for a lot of reasons.  Money is stability to us, isn’t it? So we naturally want to hold on to it. Our first reaction isn’t to give it away. Neither was it the reaction for our friend the rich young ruler. Our reaction is we earned it, we need it, and if we give it away, what happens if we get in a pinch? There are so many good nuggets in there. First and foremost, is trust. Trust God with His money. But I want to get back to the heart check. When we are setting up our relationship with Jesus as a list of what we have to do, we actually just killed the relationship and turned it back into religion.  Jesus wants your heart. I think I’ve said that in almost every post. He didn’t come to redeem us, giving his life in the process, so we could just check off the boxes of what we should do to get that golden ticket to heaven.  Giving of your money is not supposed to be a duty in the new covenant. It’s an act of worship.  It’s a way to honor God.  Just with everything else we try to filter through the “do I have to”, if we have truly met with the unrestrained grace of God, our reaction should be “it is my honor to…”.

If your heart still filters through a sense of obligation, I urge you to seek for God in this.  Ask the Spirit to show you your motivations and re-frame them if they need to be!

Our Great God! How could we respond to all that you have done for us but to give you all of ourselves? How could we not come before you with our hearts open, giving you freely of all that we have? We know that all we have to give you that is not already yours, is our hearts. I lay my heart before you, Jesus.

 

An Open Letter To Desert Dwellers

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An Open Letter to My Dear Friend T and Anyone Who Feels Stuck In The Desert:

First and foremost, you are not alone! I know what the enemy would have you believe, that you’re stuck out there by yourself, all on your own. That’s a lie.  The best way to weaken somebody’s resolve is to isolate them. Separate them from the pack.  Once you do that, it’s easier to get your victim to believe your lies. The first lie you have to refuse to listen to is that you are alone.  You have friends and family that care about you, and more importantly, you have Jesus Christ walking alongside you, each step of the way.  The comforter, the Holy Spirit, is there for you. You are etched into God’s hand and he is not letting go.

Feelings are feelings, but they are not always reliable. Remember when we studied Philippians and talked about Joy? Remember that happiness is based on a temporary situation, but for the Christian, true joy is based not on a feeling, but on the facts. The fact that we are assured salvation when we receive Christ as our Savior, that his death was payment for our sins once and for all. The fact that it isn’t based on our performance or ability.  That fact that even if we feel stranded in the desert and God is far away, he is not. The fact that over and over the Bible tells us He will not leave us, that if we seek him, he will not turn away. (Isaiah 42:16; Psalm 94:14). The fact that if we lean into him, he will lean into us. (James 4:8).  The fact that Jesus promises us rest in our weariness (Matthew 11:28).  That fact that even if we don’t feel anything, it’s all still true.

The truth hasn’t changed. All the things you believed before you entered this difficult season remain the truth. God doesn’t change. (Malachi 3:6). His word is still the same truth you have believed and held close to your heart.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). All the promises you held tight to and believed before, the promises you used to guide others through their own deserts, they are still there and are still true for you.

What put you in your desert could be any number of things. A financial crisis, a terrifying health scare, family problems that seem beyond repair, infertility issues, addictions, depression, and on and on.  While the root cause may be different, the highway to the desert is almost certainly the same. Somehow, you’ve let the voice speaking to you the loudest be the one telling you you’re alone, it’s hopeless, you have to handle this by yourself, and you should probably just give up.  That is a pack of lies straight from the devil himself. But because those messages keep getting more and more airtime in your mind, the voice of God starts fading away until you eventually stop hearing him altogether.  And that is exactly what your adversary was hoping for. He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 English Standard Version).  (And sometimes the devouring doesn’t happen to those in the extreme desert seasons of their lives. Sometimes it happens to those who simply give in to accepting to chose to live a life in the “meh” zone, not really that happy or sad, nothing is really that terrible, but nothing is ever very good. He just devours any real positivity from your life.) Once he’s got your attention off God’s truths and promises and refocused onto his load of poop, he moves in for the steal, kill, and destroy phase. He’s going to steal your confidence in God, kill your joy, and destroy your hope. Welcome to the desert. 

So how do you get out of the desert?

  1. Ask God to meet you there, right in your desert, and help you. If you have already put your faith in Christ as your savior, God will meet you there. He is not going to abandon you. He is waiting for you to ask him to be with you in this thing that you’re facing. Let him in. You have to do your best not to hold back any of it, but that may take some time. Just keep at it. If you have not put your faith in Christ, please hop over here real quick, then come back.
  2. Choose your lenses and how you use them.  You have in your possession two figurative lenses, one convex and one concave. One makes items appear smaller when you look at them through it (concave), the other lens (convex) makes objects appear larger. STOP USING THE CONVEX LENS TO VIEW YOUR PROBLEMS! Just throw that one away. You don’t even need to use the concave lens too look at God. He IS bigger than any problem you face.  No trick lenses needed. Grab a piece of paper and write your problem(s) in the center of it. Now in big giant letters, write GOD over the top of that problem. Put that paper up as a visual reminder where you can see it. Friends, you absolutely must change your perspective. We’re talking about the plague sending, Red Sea parting, manna from Heaven providing God. And that’s just Exodus. Will God instantly remove every problem? No. He might, but he might not. Probably, he won’t. But that’s for him to decide. He will give you the grace you need to get through this rough patch. (2 Corinthians 12:9). His grace is sufficient for everything. More than sufficient. It is all you need. 
  3. Stop believing there is no hope and start believing you are an overcomer. This goes back a little to looking at our issues with the lens that makes them look bigger. And we all do that, we tend to let things loom large over us like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. (And if you know who that is, God bless you doubly for being old like me!) In my last post we read about Paul encouraging the new believers by telling them trials and tribulations are how they enter the kingdom of God. Folks, we are refined in the fire. But just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, we have somebody standing with us, even when the heat gets turned up. (Daniel 3:16-28).   In all things we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Christ. 1 John 5:5 says we that believe Jesus is the son of God will overcome the world.  But we are not conquerors or overcomers as believers by our own power. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11, English Standard Version). The same Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us! Tap into the power of the Holy Spirt, y’all!  You are not a victim. You are not an addict. You are not a diagnosis. You are a child of the Most High God and that makes you an overcomer! CLAIM THAT or you might as well pitch your tent in the desert.
  4. Lean into Me and I will Lean into you. I already shared that from James 4:8.  When you’re in the desert feeling alone, and all you’re hearing is the voice of the enemy, I’m guessing little by little your time with God has slipped off into nothing much, if at all. Or perhaps it didn’t exist with any consistency in the first place (no judgment here). Now is the time, friend, to lean in. Grab the hem of Jesus’ cloak and don’t let go. Grab that Bible and get in it. Look up verses that may speak to your specific situation, but if you’re alone in the desert, get yourself into the Psalms.  Almost half the psalms are called psalms of lament. These are cries of despair to the Lord. Folks, you are not the first to walk this path. Read how even King David cried out to God when nothing seemed to be going his way. But always, in the end, he know God was for him.  Get yourself in the word. This is God’s primary way of speaking to us. Make daily Bible reading a habit. Make daily prayer a habit. (These two things are quite helpful for avoiding deserts in the future, by the way.) Tell him everything. He already knows, but he wants you to share it with him. Feel like he’s left you? Tell him. Feeling lost and need help? Ask him. Not sure about anything or what to do? Lay it before him.  Getting out of the desert is going to be pretty tough if you do it by yourself.  Get God in this with you.  Rest in him.
  5. Don’t be an island. God made us for community. There are people that care about you. Be discerning, of course, but don’t be afraid to ask for support. Talk to your pastor. Don’t have one, you say?  Sweet child, please go find a community of fellow believers. Once again, the enemy will try to silence you, telling you there is too much shame in admitting you have this issue going on. Just another lie.  Use discernment for sure, when you chose which friends to share with. But you are not alone.

I have lived through long desert journeys and short trips. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re on your own, nobody cares, and you found the end of the rope. I’ve been there. But God.  God will show you there is hope, and not just life, but abundant life. He will show you that not only are you not alone, He has always been with you and never left your side. He will bring great, loving people into your life if you open yourself up to it. And he’ll take that rope and show you not only is there a whole lot more you didn’t see, but it’s long enough for you to use it to lead others out of their desert, too.

Father God, tonight I do pray for the hurting, those that feel hopeless, those that feel their burdens are so heavy they cannot take another breath. You are our loving Father, you redeemed us not so we could live under the oppression of the things of this world, the fear of the future, the uncertainties of life. You promised us not just life, but a life more abundant. I pray for each person reading this that you would touch them right now, where they are, to not just meet their needs, but exceed them in the way only you can. Father, let each one see your hand stretched out to them and stir their hearts to grab on and never let go.  In Jesus Name.

Naughty or Nice?

StreetsignIt’s that time of year when we start hearing much talk about who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.  If you grew up in the U.S.,  the early part  of your childhood Christmas hopes were based not on Santa’s kindness, and not even the kindness of your parents, but on whether you were going to make the cut for the “nice” list.   Eventually, though, we grew up and realized what “Santa” brought really wasn’t dependent on how good or bad we were. We got the goods because our parents wanted to give us good things.

So as we quickly approach Christmas, when the greatest gift of all was given to all who would simply receive Him, I have seen a lot of talk about being good in the context of Christianity.

All the Christmas lore says we have to be good to get Santa to lavish us with gifts.  And just recently, the American Atheists Association paid a nice chunk of change to put up the following billboard in North Carolina:

billboardHere’s the thing about the gift of Christ and salvation that you need to realize when it comes to being “good”. You can’t be good enough to earn it.  Staying home or going to church doesn’t really make a difference in your good points.  Going to church makes a huge difference in your growth points, but not your “good” points.

Let’s back up a few steps.  Let’s talk about why we need Jesus in the first place.  I’m going to give this a really quick treatment, but for highly suggest digging in to Paul’s letter to the Romans to get a good grasp on this subject.  The basic overview is this: God is perfect and holy. Like, indescribably so. We are are so innately sinful and unholy that we cannot approach him in that state. (Just for fun, go read up about the old temple procedures in Leviticus, and how only one priest could enter into the Holy of Holies one time a year. And that guy? He had to have a bell on him and a rope tied around him, so that if the bell stopped ringing, they knew he had died in there and would be able to pull him out. His death would have been due to his not being correctly prepared in his unholy state approaching the presence of the perfect, holy God and that is something that can’t happen–the unrighteous cannot stand in the presence of God.) The prophet Isaiah, when he was called into the presence of the LORD, said (and I paraphrase here) ‘uh oh! Woe is me. I’m a sinner, my people are sinners, and here I am before the king!” Go read Isaiah 6:5 and see how he was cleansed for his encounter.

So by now am I losing you in what sounds like gloom and doom? Old-time hellfire and brimstone preacher stuff?  Wait, it’s not that bad!  But I do want to share this about my journey. Way back in high school when somebody first started talking to me about Christ and sin and repentance, I agreed with it all in theory, but I didn’t think I was that bad of a person. And compared to axe murderers, animal torturers, bank robbers, etc. I wasn’t. I was a great person when I was comparing myself to the standards of this world.  It took me many years before it really sank in what the standard of “good” was.  (So just as a side note to our friends who put up that billboard, they have no standard by which to judge good. They set their own standard. That doesn’t work out so well, ultimately when everybody gets to set their own standard. But that’s another topic altogether).

So here we are, separated from a perfect holy God. And many people think we can get to God just by being “good enough”.  We cannot. We just can’t. My buddy Paul in Romans says that no one is good, not even ONE. (Romans 3:12). He goes on to ask why he doesn’t do what he knows he should and does do what he knows he shouldn’t. (Romans 7:19). And this is after his conversion.  See, on our own, we can never attain the perfection required to get near a perfect God.

But God knew we couldn’t. So one evening some 2000+ years ago, he made a way to bridge the gap. A baby. A tiny baby was going to save the world and bridge this eternal rift between man and God.  That baby grew up and lived a perfect life. He had to in order to be the perfect sacrifice to atone for your sins and my sins that we can’t atone for with our own goodness. See, good isn’t part of the equation at all.  I’m not telling you not to live morally. Far from it. But I’m telling you if you think you’re salvation, your roadmap to eternity with God, has anything to do with your goodness, you’re mistaken. It’s all about the goodness of Christ. And when you accept him as the sacrifice for your sins, you can let huge sigh of relief. It’s like sucking in your stomach for ten minutes of family pictures and then letting it go! You’re now free to live in the knowledge that this gift of salvation is not of your goodness. It’s nothing but pure, unrelenting grace. Unrestrained grace. (Ephesians 2:8-9).  If you have put your hopes for a relationship with God in a basket labeled with your efforts, I ask you now to put that basket down. Get in prayer with God and confess to him your mistake in thinking you had to do something to earn this, then thank him for the immeasurable grace that his given you this gift of his Son for your salvation, just based on your faith alone.

And since we’re talking about being good enough, I want to mention one more thing. If you are worried that you have been on the naughty list too long, you’re so very wrong.  Just as much as we can’t be good enough to earn God’s love and grace, we can never be bad enough to be out of the reach of his love and grace. I don’t care how long it’s been or how bad you think you are, He is waiting for you to come home.  Go read the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. God is waiting to throw a party for you, wanderer. Won’t you come home?

 

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your indescribable, immeasurable grace. The grace brings me close to you through nothing of my own doing. I pray that I be a giver of that kind of grace to others. I pray for your covering of those who struggle today to think that even in their condition you could love them, that your great love invade every part of them in this moment, and that great love leads to broken chains and strongholds.  In Jesus’ Name

We Want More

Pier

During worship recently, there was a refrain in the song that stood out to me: we want more, we want more, we want more. This is not an uncommon lyric in worship songs or even in many sermons. We do want more! I’m constantly praying that I want more, more, more of the LORD and all He has for me.

But that night, as I was singing, that still small voice starting talking to me in the middle of all that singing. He said, you know, you want more of Me, but what that really means is you have to give more of yourself.  I actually stopped singing and had to take that in for a second. What could that mean? I’m decreasing here, Jesus. You are increasing. I want more of YOU. I don’t understand.   He said “I already gave you everything. Have you given Me everything?”

Woah. Have I? Have you?

So we say we want more. But to do that, we have to give more. We have to give up our choice to box God in to a Sunday God and invite Him into every part of our lives. We can’t put on our Sunday show for the church crowd and wonder why on Monday everything is falling apart.

We have to give up our choice to keep Jesus at arm’s length concerning some parts of our lives and invite Him in to have His way in every part. Even the deep-rooted hurts we hold tight to, or the parts of our lives that may be comfortable but we know do not honor Him. That thing we keep doing and think we can handle on our own? We need to take that to Him.  That hurt we just can’t let go of from so many years ago? Give that over to Him, too.  That unhealthy way you see yourself or your abilities? Yup. His domain to work out in you, if you open it up to Him.

We say we want more of Him, but are we taking the time to get to know Him through His word? Do we talk to Him, really talk Him regularly? Or do we figure listening to somebody else talk about God for an hour (if we’re lucky) once a week is good enough?

We say we want more, but do we follow His example of serving those around us? Or do we make ourselves and our desires the rulers in our lives?

We say we want more of Him, but if we’re being honest, are we expecting to do nothing and have a great relationship with Christ and see huge changes in our lives?

I often think of Jacob. The schemer. Jacob, who wanted more of God so badly that he fought all night, hanging on and refusing to let go until more was exactly what he had—a completely changed destiny. How hard are you willing to hold on to God and fight? God is still in the destiny changing business, you know.

We say we want more of Him. But if you have already given your life to Christ, then getting more of Him probably means you will have to give HIM more of YOU.

We say we want more, but we have to give more. Are we willing to give this a chance and go all in with Jesus, living the life as His follower His way instead of a little bit His and mostly ours?

Are you willing to give Him more of you to get more of Him?