Is your heart heavy? Are you feeling low? What if you could go talk to Jesus and hand-pick the words you wanted Him to say? You know what you need to hear, right? When you’re feeling weighed down, you want to be encouraged. You want to know you’re loved. You want to know everything’s going to be alright. You need to hear some good news. I think most of us assume that if we were to go to Jesus, it would be like going to the principal’s office. We just know that we’d be in trouble somehow. I can still remember being a little kid called to the office in school and wondering which of the thousands of wrong things I had done I was about to get busted for. That long march down the hallway found me rifling through a mental rolodex of my offenses, trying not to give anything away by the look on my face. One time a paralyzed guy was carried to Jesus by his friends. They picked up the sleeping bag he was helplessly lying on and dragged him in front of Jesus. Can you imagine what was going through that dude’s mind as he was on his way to coming face-to-face with the Son of God in the flesh? Was he nervous? Was he panicking? Was he heavy-hearted and in low spirits? However he felt, Jesus knew exactly what to say. Our Lord looked this poor dude in the eyes and said, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” He didn’t scold or reprimand. He spoke words of love, forgiveness and family. Jesus knows what your heart needs to hear and He has good news for you.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
When was the last time you were surprised and overwhelmed by the forgiveness of Jesus? Can you think of a moment where you were face to face with the darkness of your own heart and depths you are capable of reaching, only to be reminded of Jesus’ love, patience and grace again? Do you remember how it felt to experience mercy when you expected punishment? Do you remember the freedom of feeling God’s love and acceptance when you deserved to be shut out? Have you known the joy of giving that same gift to someone else? The most loving and joyful people I’ve ever met all have one thing in common: forgiveness. They know how much they have been forgiven and they love being forgiven. The folks I’m thinking of know what sin is all about, too. They were all grade A scoundrels who were chased down and doused in the mercy of God when they needed most. As a result, they love to give forgiveness to others. Jesus talked about this at the very beginning of the Sermon On The Mount. He said that the happiest people are the merciful people because they will be shown mercy. The cycle goes like this: you sin, God forgives, you are shocked and thankful for the grace because you know you’re a screwed up mess who needs all the help you can get. When the next guy sins against you, you show him grace because you’re just like him. Now a mystical thing happens where you are connected with the Lord because you’re doing His work - showing mercy and love, which makes you more aware of the mercy He gave you. If you let it, His forgiveness will make you more forgiving.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
When was the last time you failed? I’m not talking about a little mistake - I’m talking about a time when you really bombed. Can you think of one? If you’re anything like me, you already have a smile creeping across your face because you can easily recall the last time you really screwed up. You can still taste the sting of a moment when you weren’t enough. You are all too familiar with the sensation of failure. Some people are more afraid of that feeling than any other thing. They’d rather die than face defeat. I think people are so afraid of failure because they think that they are supposed to be good enough, clever enough, skilled enough, determined enough and just flat out be enough to make it and succeed in life; but there is a problem with this line of thinking: Jesus won’t let you get away with it. Jesus is going to make sure you fail. It may not be today or tomorrow or this year or next year, but Jesus is going to make you wind up in a place where you are staring in the mirror, looking at yourself and admitting that you don’t have what it takes. He forces us to face the fact that we are needy and weak. This goes down to the heart of the Gospel, because knowing Jesus is not about becoming a better person. Knowing Jesus is about knowing Him, period. It’s about getting closer to Jesus, and the more messed up, broken, needy and dependent you are, the more you’re going to cling to the only One who can make you whole. He breaks us down to bring us to Himself, which is where we are most whole.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Do you know that feeling where someone has something against you? No matter what you do, there’s something in between you and this person and you just can’t connect. I hate that feeling. Maybe you know what it is they’re upset about and then again, maybe it’s just a nebulous cloud that’s impossible to define. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do when someone has something against you, and it’s easy to feel like you’re being punished with no way out. I know a lot of people who think their relationship with God is like that. They feel distant from Him because they are convinced that He’s disappointed in them. They think He’s hanging on to a detailed history of all their sins, shaking His holy head in disbelief from His throne in Heaven. Have you ever felt far away from God because you believed all your unrighteousness stands in between you and Him like an unscalable mountain? In 1 John 2, we find out that even when we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father - that means that Jesus speaks up for us on our behalf, vouching for us and having our back. He goes on to say that Jesus is the “atoning sacrifice for our sins.” That word ‘atone’ literally means to satisfy God’s holy requirements. In other words, God is not disappointed in you because Jesus has satisfied every expectation. Jesus stood in your place and has you covered. God is perfectly satisfied with who you are, right now, today. You don’t have to clean up, act straight or make promises. There is nothing between you and God. You get to go to Him in righteousness and be as close as you want.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
When you fail at something, how do you feel? When someone else beats you at something, what’s your first response? Do you feel like you’re competing with people in a lot of areas of your life? Sometimes life just feels like a test you’re not passing, right? It always seems that no matter what you’re good at or called to or made for, there’s someone out there who’s a million times better at it and you find a way to mess it up. If you feel this way, the real problem is that deep inside yourself, you don’t know your own value. There’s a place in your heart where you think that your worth is defined by how well you do some thing. That could be your job performance or your grades. It could be the way you look or how awesome your kids or grandkids are. It could be a ton of different things that shift from day to day, but if your value is based on the things you do or the things you are, you will eventually wind up depressed, confused, frustrated and hating yourself. There will always be someone more successful or better looking or whatever. Just fill in the blank with whatever measurement you want and there will be someone who has more of it than you. If you have believed in Jesus, your value is based on the fact that He loves you, period. Your worth is not defined by what you do, but simply based on His love. Jesus loves you and gave His blood and life for you. That’s your worth. You can’t add to it or take away from it and when you really start to believe it, you can’t lose.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Are you over it yet? Are you just about as sick and tired of this busted up old world as I am? Aren’t you tired of war, disease, slavery and hate? Have you had it up to here with pain and problems? I don’t mean to be cynical, but I have to be honest - the more I learn, the more I find out, I’m ready for this place see its last day. And look, it’s not just the big, global tragedies I’m talking about. I’m ready for the thousands of little struggles and injustices in my own life to get sorted out, settled and made right! Do you ever just throw your hands up in the middle of your own life because you’re tired of dealing with it? There is so much in this world that’s messed up, so much that’s backward and wrong. Is it always going to be this way? Are things going to continue to get worse and worse forever and ever as long as this world turns? Well, no. It turns out things are not always going to be like this. The Apostle Peter gave a message at the temple in Jerusalem shortly after our Lord rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. He said that this is the time to receive God’s free gift of forgiveness in Jesus because this world is drawing to a close. Times of refreshing are coming for God’s people! God is going to send His King back into this world. Jesus will come again! Peter said, “Heaven must receive Him until the time comes for God to restore everything.” It’s coming! Restoration. Justice. Freedom. Peace. Jesus is going to bring into this world a glorious Kingdom of pure love.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
It’s hard to shake the feeling that Jesus loves us when we’re good and doesn’t when we’re not. Even when we’ve heard the Good News a million times and believed that message way on down in our hearts, we sometimes still see God as a celestial scorekeeper just waiting to call us out for each and every rules violation. We imagine Jesus with a clipboard and a calculator, meticulously recording our wrongs with a disappointed scowl. I know I’m not the only one like this. Have you ever looked back over the things you did and said only to tally up the good and the bad in your head? All that mental math shows us that we still see Jesus as a fickle friend who’s basically impossible to please. How can we believe the truth of the Gospel and yet still think God only loves us when we’re behaving? The fact is, our desire to earn love is engrained deep down into our psyche. You can see it in little kids’ sports when they do something really good or really bad and the first place they look is to their dad. They’re thinking, “Was it good enough? Did I pass your test?” We mess up in life and we assume that our Lord is let down, bummed to a have loser kid like us, but it’s not true! Romans 5 says God showed us what His love is like because Jesus died for us when we were still sinners! We didn’t have to behave or perform well to earn His love! He freely gave it when we were at our worst. He decided to love us. We didn’t earn His love, which means we can’t un-earn it.