Shameless

Let’s live a day without shame. Can we, for one day, see ourselves as God sees us?DSC_0429

There are soooo many people out there who reject the Gospel as truth, not because it is too hard for them to believe, but because they are ashamed to admit to themselves that there is a God and that they have not lived a life that honors him. To those people I would say; The Bible is clear–everyone has dishonored God, even the most saintly of us. If you are locked up by shame, then you have missed the whole part about being God’s beloved child.

We need to stop thinking of ourselves as unworthy of Jesus’ sacrifice and focus on the fact that He, along with the Father, chose the cross because we are worth it to them, regardless of what we have done. God the Father treasures you and aches for you to come home. Jesus values you so much that he would go through hell on earth to bring you home, and if it was needed, he would do it again. And God’s own Spirit is longing to enter our hearts and show us how to be more than we ever believed we could be, for God’s glory, not our own.

He has amazing things to show us, but we can’t see it if we are hanging our heads in shame. He has places he wants to send us, but we can’t see the road if we are staring at our shoes.

We are treasured by the One True God. Let’s hold our heads up. One day without shame could lead to another…

A.J.

I said something like this in a recent post. I felt the need this morning to drive that point home.

Basics of Christianity: #5 – Despair to Hope

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I said the good news is coming; first the bad news. The Bible is clear; we are all in a desperate situation. This may be hard to take and you won’t be the first to feel the weight of it, but take heart, the bad news is followed by incredible news.

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Can’t you feel it?  Many of us talk a good game when we are out in the world, but when we are alone with our thoughts–that is when it is hard to push away the feeling that we are not who we were meant to be.  Whether we believe in God or not, the feeling is there.  Our brains may go into overdrive trying to justify our behavior, and we may think we are okay, but we don’t feel like we are okay.  We try to bury that nagging feeling as deep as we can, but every now and then it returns–just as strong as ever.

There is right and wrong.  Who says?  You do, don’t you remember?  Remember that time you did what you did, said what you said, and thought what you thought–and then you heard a voice?  I would say that it was an accusing voice but that’s not right, is it?  It was a convicting voice.  Accusations were unnecessary, pleading innocent was pointless, for the voice came from a firsthand witness–it came from you.  Your brain did its best to defend you, but you were convicted by your own heart.

We do not need the laws of our society to tell us what is right and what is wrong.  We don’t need our parents, or teachers, or pastors.  Romans 2 says that God’s Law, meaning his idea of right and wrong, is written on each of our hearts.  We can swear up and down that we don’t know that something we did or said was wrong.  We may even start to believe it in our heads, but our hearts will not be deceived.  No matter how fervently we deny our wrongdoings, no matter how deep we bury the feelings of shame, they eventually float to the surface.  In our most solemn moments, our consciences bring back the memories of our failings.

Why should these old failings matter?  Nobody is perfect, so why should our own imperfection haunt us?  No one is keeping score, right?  Right?

The word the Bible uses is “sin”, which means anything we do, say, or even think that doesn’t line up with what God says is right and true.  The Bible is not wishy-washy about it either.  The standards couldn’t be higher.  Our goodness is not measured against other humans, but against God himself, and we all fall short.  Yes, all of us.

Perhaps sin is easier to understand next to its opposite–Holiness.  It is not an easy word for humans to comprehend completely.  We don’t have many examples.  If the Bible is to be believed, God is completely Holy and Good, utterly free of all evil.  Evil of any kind does not belong in his presence.  Next to Him, any sin stands out in stark contrast, any ugly thought, any harsh word, any selfish action.

That word sounds harsh, doesn’t it?  Evil.  It feels like it should only apply to mass murderers, or child molesters, but Jesus makes it clear in his “Sermon on the Mount” that everyone who stews in anger is as guilty as the one who gives into that anger and kills another.  Everyone who is jealous of what another man has is as guilty as the one who steals it from him.  Everyone who lusts after another man’s wife is as guilty as the one who has sex with her.

This doesn’t sound right, does it?  My anger, which every human has felt, puts me in the same boat as a murderer?  My jealousy makes me as guilty as a thief. That seems crazy… unless–I really see God as COMPLETELY HOLY.  When I see God as that, my minor anger, slight jealousy, and tiny bit of lust looks pretty ugly.

To paraphrase Max Lucado:  Suppose God simplified matters; instead of expecting good behavior to qualify for Heaven, he only expects us to jump high enough to touch the moon.  Some of us can get a couple feet off the ground, others a couple feet higher.  Some can’t get off the ground at all.  Should we who jump four feet feel better than those who jump one inch? We still missed by 280,000 miles.

We are so used to excusing the “little things” in ourselves, because we see that little bit of anger, jealousy, unkindness, or unforgiveness all the time, in ourselves, and others.  What if, though, it isn’t about the degree of sin, but the presence of it?  Do you think The Completely Holy God thinks it’s wrong of me to have sex with my friend’s wife but he doesn’t mind if I think about it all the time?

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.  Romans 3:10-12

We all, every one of us, stand together, convicted of our sin.  We can deny it all we want, to each other, but when we stand before God, there will be no denials, no lies, no pleas of ignorance.  Our sin will be right there in front of us, plain as day.  We have dishonored God by dishonoring ourselves and others and justice must be served.

For many, this confirms what you always thought, the Bible is all about judgement.  If we are all sinners and God is going to judge us no matter what we try to do now, then why even bother with it?  What’s the point?  Right?  We are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.

But this is a gigantic misconception.  Yes, there is much talk of judgement and wrath in the Bible, but that is not its overall story.  Don’t miss this, as so many people tend to do;  The Bible is not about judgement,  it is about God wanting to free us from judgement. 

The Bible is a love story.

 

Stay tuned.  The sun is starting to peak from behind the clouds.  A.J.

Basics of Christianity: #4 – Who Cares?

thZTNO8XKAOkay then, if the Bible is true, what does that mean for you?  Nothing?  Everything?

I have a friend, Mike, who I haven’t seen or spoken to in years.  We played ball on the same team for a few seasons.  Mike and I hit it off and would get together now and then for golf, or rock climbing, or sometimes just a beer or two.  One day, out of curiosity, I asked him if he believed in God.  He answered with an emphatic “No”. Then he asked me the same question.  I told him that there being a God was the only thing that made sense to me.  Mike thought for a moment; I will never forget his next words:  “The way I look at it, even if there is a God, who cares?”

There is a right answer to that opening question.  “Who cares?” isn’t it.

If the Bible is true, that means there is a God.  The Bible doesn’t speak of some force who got the ball rolling and walked away; it speaks of a God who cares about us, a God who loves us.  We are not simply talking about him loving the race of humans he created; we are talking about him loving each one of us individually.

But this God the Bible speaks of isn’t some desperate, heartsick, lonely deity.  The God of the Bible is in charge.  He is not timid, and Oh My God: He Is Not Weak!  Don’t think because some messed up things happen in this world that things have spiraled out of God’s control.  His choice to give us free-will and write our own story does not mean anything is out of his control.  Don’t blame God for the injustices of our world; the pen is in our hands.

So, an unspeakably powerful God exists, according to the Bible, which also says this God loves us with “a love that surpasses all knowledge”.  There are no rulers or scales to measure the God of the Bible.  We can’t stuff him into any sized box.  Should that scare us into avoiding any thought of him?  Should we look the other way and pretend we can’t see the elephant in the room?

I love my friend Mike even though I never see him anymore.  As far as I am concerned, friendship is forever.  But he had the wrong answer to one of life’s most important questions.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that, if there is a God, we should care.  We should want to know what his existence means to our lives.  We should want to know if the Bible is really His Word written for us.  We should want to read that word, study it, glean everything we can from it to see what God is like and what he wants from us.

That word speaks of God’s Son sent here to save us.  A timely question right here would be;  Why do we need saving?  I suspect though that we all know why we need saving.  We may do our best to drown them out, but our consciences are always aware of our predicament.  We cannot fix our own troubled hearts.

I know that many would protest at this point.  They would say that their consciences are clear, that there is nothing within them that tells them they have not lived life as they should have.  But it doesn’t matter what we say to others.  It is when we are alone with our thoughts that these pangs of conscience leave us feeling that we are on the wrong side of some line.  Sometimes it may be easy to sleep but there are other times we lie awake, knowing we need help, that we need to be saved.  We may not know from what we need saving, but their is unrest in our hearts, and it will not go away.

So many of us doubt the Bible’s ability to relate to the issues of our modern hearts.  If we read it though, we might find that it has our exact problem in its crosshairs.  The Bible speaks of souls in various states of turmoil, and it gives the recipe for peace.  It has the remedy for our troubled hearts.

Stay tuned.  Good news will come.   A.J.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basics of Christianity: #1 – The Beginning

thAC2K98WJThe beginning is always a good place to start.  For me, the beginning is God.  I don’t mean that the beginning is something else for someone else.  It is the same for everyone.  It’s just that not everyone will admit it.

It was never supposed to be a hard question.  Romans says that creation makes it plain to us that God exists.  That there is a universe at all, and that we are here living in that universe is supposed to shout to us of a creator.  Many of us, though, try to drown out creation’s songs of God.  Every now and then a thought provoking verse will get through our defenses and we will find our hearts wondering.  Snapping out of our reverie, we grumble something about the impossibility of God.  Then we turn the volume of life up to a level where we are sure we will hear no more of creation’s ridiculous claims.

We can’t get away though, can we?  Everywhere we look there is a giant question mark.   Everything coming from nothing is tough to swallow even though that may be what we want to believe.  The alternative is too scary to contemplate.  If we didn’t come from nowhere and nothing, then we came from someone, a being with unimaginable power.  And if that is true, maybe this being, let’s call him God, may expect something of us.

One thing is sure:  If there is a God, you can’t hide from him.  Not believing in God cannot cause him not to be.  If we stumble around with our hands over our eyes proclaiming that we see no evidence of God, how will we feel when we drop our hands and find him standing right in front of us?  That does sound scary.

Perhaps not though.  Because if there is a God who created us, then he designed this universe to provide our basic needs.  That speaks of a God who might care about us. Hmmm?  Going further we understand that we are gifted with senses that allow us to see, smell, hear, taste, and feel all the things we come in contact with.  There is incredible beauty in this world and we are created in a way that we can experience that beauty.  If there is “A God Who Creates”, then he appears to be a good and generous God, not a mean and scary God.  If we add it up, it sounds like this God actually loves us, maybe like a father loves his children.

Being loved by God sounds awesome, but he has to have his limits, right?  After all, we denied his existence, or at least denied his right to tell us how to live.  True enough.  But what if this God who is powerful enough to create everything, including us… what if this God’s love really is like a father’s love?  A father doesn’t stop loving his children when he is disrespected, not a good father anyway.  He may feel the need to discipline a disrespectful son or daughter but he never stops loving that child.  What if God’s fatherly love is so far beyond our human fatherly or motherly love that they can’t even be compared?

There is a guy in the Bible called Jesus.  You have heard of him.  He told a story of a shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep on the hillside to go and find the one who had gone astray.  Hint: He wasn’t talking about sheep!  Jesus is saying that God went looking for us when we had lost our way, not after we got our act together.

Let’s say this is all true.  God created this universe.  Then he created people to inhabit his universe, and he loves them more than we are capable of understanding.  He loves us more than we can know.  If we could believe this, would it make it easier to open our eyes and try to see this God for who he is?  Would it make it less scary to see what this Father God may want from us?

Stay tuned.      A.J.