Tuesday, 20 June 2017

As if no one is watching but God

Pressure.

It is all around.  Pushing you.  Pulling you.  Calling on you to prove yourself here, there and everywhere. 

Well - enough is enough - especially for the Christian.

Before God you don't need to prove yourself.  Christ has done that for you.  He is enough for you.  God is pleased with you in Him.  At peace with you in Him.  He has your back.  He has made you His own child, and promised that the only evaluations, judgments and opinion that matters is His!  And His mind is made up, because you are in Christ.  You are free to live your life before Him in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, knowing that Christ has ended the pressures.

But the world doesn't work that way.  It will never stop pressuring you.  The world wants to rob you of that peace.  It wants to put more and new pressures on you everyday.  What is the world to you?  How do it's judgments and evaluations and opinions matter?  Isn't the world coming to nothing?  Won't every mouth be stopped on the Last Day?

Yes.  It's true.  The only opinion that matters is God's.  You don't have to prove yourself to anyone.  You are free - to live as if no one is watching but God.  You are free - to live your life before God  - and not before the world.

Who cares what they say?  Who cares what their judgments are?  The only One that matters is God.

Stop and think about that for a moment.  Make it real practical.

How would your day be different if you lived as if God were the only One watching?

How would it change how you treat people?
How would it change how you see yourself in Christ?
How simple, how pure, how peaceful would your live be if you lived as if God were the only One watching?

On account of your trust in Christ, you seek His holy Will - as it is laid out in the Ten Commandments.  Christ has filled them up for you - and given you new desires to seek after them.  Walking with you as your strength each day.

So do it - picture yourself watched by One - by God.  And keep Him there before your eyes - as you live before Him alone - and see how He changes your day, your relationships, your walk with Him.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Use your words

If you've ever spent time with young children, you've probably had this phrase come out of your mouth: "Use your words."

It is a reminder young children need that you will not be able to most fully understand them if they choose to use grunts and whines and other sounds effects to communicate - but more than that, you are working to teach them to rise above their natural, selfish human desires and wants, and engage in conversation with other people.  Words are what allow us to do this.  Words are the best.

With young children, words are the antidote to unbridled feelings and wants.  The plain use of words brings control to the wild "Ugh. Ah. Wah and Uh" that naturally comes out of the human being.  This is taught.  We teach our children this - despite their best efforts.  They definitely do not "want" to be constrained to using words - they would much rather just cry and scream and flail and force our attention to give them what they want - even run all over "thinking we know" what they want - as they wriggle and demand from their throne.  They must be taught - at great loss of energy to parents - to control themselves and use their words.

Now imagine God's Word.  How much more will the heart of man need to constantly hear what God has to say?  We grow up and begin to think we've got it all figured out.  Meanwhile, God and His holiness are not something we could ever "figure out" - we need the Word - God's Word.  And we need it all the time.  We were designed this way, to be on the receiving end of that Word which gave us life.  It sustains us.  It teaches us.  It constrains our sinful human nature, and allows us to "engage in conversation with other people", that is, look to the needs of our neighbour instead of ourselves. 

And God is gracious in giving us His Word.  He sent His Word down into our flesh - made Him one of us - in order to take that sinful human nature and defeat its rebellion by His death on the cross.  Then by His resurrection, the Word of God in our humanity - now our new humanity - rose up and told His disciples to spread the Word.  God's Word is a gift - from His death and resurrection, to His preaching of it today - God uses His Word. 

So see yourself this way - a dear (and sometimes rebellious) child of your heavenly Father - one who must be taught - at great loss of energy to God, yes, even death on a cross - but by that action of His, you are being transformed for the age to come in the renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus.  May God's Word shape your mind this way now and always.



Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Trust is the opposite of Judgment

Mankind is a slave to "judging."

It is our thing.  We are such a slave to it, that we don't even realize it controls us.  We are not trying to free ourselves from it - we dance and scream and parade about how we have a "right" to it.

"I get to decide" - I want to determine and decide what something is, how it should go, why it exists - and I'll do it with my senses.  My reason.  My sight.  My feelings.  I will decide.

This was Adam's sin - the first one - original sin - thinking "I get to decide."  Good and evil?  Let me tell you.  I will be the judge of what is good and evil.  And since that day, we have been slaves to "judging" - thinking it is ours to do.  But deciding has never been ours - and it never will be.  Every problem we have in the world is born out of our twisted need to be the judge.  Every conflict you have ever had with another human being has come about because one or both of you have set themselves in the "decision chair."  God alone decides.  Adam knew it - and his departure from it has been our undoing.

This problem has eternal consequences, however, because we try to treat God this way.  We try to judge Him - with our human senses.  The foolishness of this should be apparent to us immediately - but in our "need to be the judge" we miss it.

How can you use your created senses - your reason, your sight, your feelings - to judge the Creator of those senses?
How can you order the One who ordered everything?
How can you hold God accountable when He holds all things in their place?
How have we managed (in our own minds) to put ourselves in a position where we are above God?

Things are not ordered this way.  You can't judge God - all you can do is trust Him.  And this is precisely what Adam lost when He reached for "judging."  He lost trust.

True trust in God is what mankind lost.  It is the thing Christ has come to bring back.  Because we need it to live.  There is no life in "judging."  Only punishment and death.  There is no life unless you are receiving it from the One who gives it and sustains it.  And you only receive something when you trust.  Trusting is receiving.

Let me say what you desperately need to hear:

Open your ears and heart, and hear what He promises.
He is not going away.
He doesn't want to run.
He is standing right in front of you - as near as He can be - and He is offering His whole fullness to you - and calling you to trust Him.

Think of what He says: "I've come for you.  I'm here for you.  I'll never leave you.  All those things you are afraid of - I have faced them.  I faced them for you - and I promise you, that in Me - I will get you through.  Stop judging and trust Me. 

When this Word of mercy and grace penetrates the heart and mind - it does so for freedom - and this freedom is not simply for you: it is freedom for those around you.

Judgment is done.  "It is finished," He declared from the cross.  And that means we are free from the slavery of "judging."  This freedom now comes out of our mouths for the sake of those around us.  No longer do we judge them - we free them, as we have been freed.

The Christian is set free so that they can speak freedom to all those they meet - leaving all the decisions and judgments to God (from whom they never departed).  But this freedom - the freedom God intended for us from the beginning - is restored by faith.  It is back baby! ...when we trust the Lord and take our hands off the fruit old Adam snatched.  When we relinquish "the need to judge" the peace, comfort, and joy of God find their place in our lives - and from our lives into the lives of those around us.

May God give you this faith - and through it release your hands from Adam's fruit, removing you from the judgment seat, and filling your mouths with promises of freedom to all those He surrounds you with.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

I'm unhappy because I'm undisciplined

You've heard it before: "I just want you to be happy."

It's the way we say "yes" to something we might not do ourselves.  We say "I just want you to be happy," even though everything we've learned tells us that this person we want to be happy is going to be very unhappy later when their poor decision meets up with all its consequences.  It's like we know they will be unhappy, but hope we are wrong.  We're not, and we probably shouldn't say it if we really want people to be happy.

Happy now - unhappy later.  High - Low.  It is drug culture.  Getting "high" on whatever latest "pill" promises us we will feel happy in the moment.  Buy something.  Sleep with someone.  Treat that unhappiness with a quick dose of Canadian consumer culture and sex.  Only to crash in a huge downer of unhappiness later when the high wears off.

The old anti-drug slogan still rings true.  "Friends don't let friends do drugs."  Whether those drugs are illegal drugs - or cultural substitutes meant to make you "happy" for a while - only to disappoint you later.  We could all do a better job at warning one another of that huge crash coming around the corner.  We are not unhappy because we don't have any good things.  We are unhappy because we are undisciplined with our good things.  And we try to change that unhappiness by chasing new things, and ignoring the old undisciplined things.

Fitness.
Health.
Success.

Discipline anyone? 

Guilt.
Shame.
Fear.

Run.  Deny.  Ignore.

Aren't these the reasons for unhappiness?  And yet, when you take an honest look, none of our attempts at happiness involve saying "No" to ourselves.  They are all bandaids - something to throw on overtop the pain.

"I want" so I'm unhappy.  I struggle to say "No" to myself.  I wrestle with the reality that my desires are not good for me - in fact, the Bible calls them sinful. 

What do we do with this mess?

Repent.  Turn away from these chasings, and turn to the Lord.  He put Himself into our unhappiness and died.  He made Himself the man of sorrows.  He joined us in our cause in order to make a new humanity by His death and resurrection. 

Guilt? Shame?  Fear?  He took it all.  He carried it.  Bore it up onto the cross and defeated it in His own body there for you. 

You are forgiven, so that you can pursue self-control.
He gives you His honour, so that you can pursue prudent choices.
You are loved by Him, so that you can weather the ups and downs of life without having to turn to "drugs", but instead turn to Him again and again and again - and whenever you have need.
The LORD is my shepherd;  I shall not want.

I don't "just" want you to be happy.  You may not be happy much here on earth.  I want you to know Christ - who is with you - and will never leave you - until that Day when you see His eternal Paradise and learn what happiness really is.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Come on Mom, can't I play more video games?

As a young boy and teenager, it used to bug me when my mom would shut down the screen time.  "Turn it off," she would say.  Always the negotiator I would always ask, "Why can't I play a little longer?"

"You've been playing for hours already.  No more.  It's a waste of time."  Momma knows.

It is incredible how easily parents and society are able to recognize that overplaying video games is a waste of time.  Go out and make something of yourself.  Stop investing your time and energy in something that is temporary - that will be turned off and lost - that is merely a distraction/abstraction from reality.

Our heavenly Father says the same thing - except the "video games" are all those worldly things we invest in that mean nothing for our eternal reality.  On the Day we come into His heavenly mansion, every manner of worldly living - of passing glitz and glory - will be turned off and lost.  God hits the power button on this world, just as surely as my mom hit the power button on the TV screen.  Why are we distracted by these things?  Why are we so slow to recognize they are a waste of time?

We are like spiritual teenagers - eyes glued to the things of this world - even though we know its dying and in the end - only God's Word will remain.  Why can't we devote time to studying the only thing that will endure?  Why do we struggle to give time to our congregation and its duties here on earth, when these will be the things that won't be "turned off" on the Last Day?  It's time to turn away from these things - and turn back to God.  He calls us - as surely as my mom called me - He calls us by name, and bids us come and look into eternal things, heavenly things, His things.

The Father sent His Son to do His holy will.  To take care of our eternal welfare.  In His death and resurrection, we are safe - AND we are given a chance to "get off the couch" of worldliness and invest our time and energy in what will endure.  You are forgiven.  God has got your eyes off the "screen" of distracted discipling - NOW - go out and make disciples - study God's Word - be ready with an answer when you get asked - support and serve those in your congregation in their efforts to do the same - and know the Lord Himself will drive you and strengthen you and have your back along the way.


Monday, 8 May 2017

How clean should I be? A story about a fridge

It's spring.  You may have taken to cleaning out some of the spots you've been willing to overlook for the winter months - like the fridge.

You know how it works.  You don't clean your fridge everyday.  You let it build up until it reaches that "unoverlookable" point.  You are content to have a little grime here or there, because the amount of effort it requires to disassemble everything (especially those parts where the _____ spilled) is way too high for the benefit.

In many ways, we treat our souls the same way.  We let things build up.  We are content to have a little grime, as long as it isn't spilling out for other people to see (because then we would have to deal with it).  No, there is far too much effort needed to keep our souls clean - in fact, it is impossible.

I like the picture of "factory clean" - you know, the way the fridge looks when it arrives from the factory.  Before you've used it.  It is amazing how the moment we use something it will never be truly clean again.  No matter how hard you try, you can never get the fridge factory clean.  There is bound to some amount of spot, smear or grim that you have to overlook. 

The same is true of our souls.  We can't get them "factory clean."  There is no more "brandnewness" left.  And we know this is a problem.  We might overlook the crud, but we all know God doesn't.

God is not about appearances.  "Factory clean" is the only acceptable clean in His holy heaven.  Only perfectly clean fridges will find a place there.  So what are we to do?  Nothing.  There is nothing we can do.

But He can.  And He has.  Jesus is factory clean.  He is the brand new humanity.  Spotless, smearless, grimeless.  All He has ever done is love and forgive and "mercify" every around Him, and trust and obey His Father above.  He is God's renewal - God's way of making you factory clean.  Jesus was sent down here - in order to gift us with His newness - in order to pave a factory clean way back to holy heaven, for an otherwise dirty group of people.  He is the Only Way, and He gives your soul "brandnewness" in Him - for free.

May you rest from your vigorous cleaning in the One who is your newness - even Christ, God's own cleanness made your own.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Appearing before Heaven's Court

When people normally think of Judgment Day, we presume we are going to be standing before a court we can bargain with... that we will have something to offer.

But here's the problem: This is not a court we know.  Do you know who will gather for this proceeding?  All creation.  That means all the angels of creation will be in attendance.  Do you know how many that is?  It means you will stand before the One who sees all, the righteous One, a holy Judge who cannot err.

Everything will be revealed.   A terrifying thought.  Everything.  That means the things you did in private.  That means the thoughts you had in your head.  Yes, even your feelings.  Laid bare.  Evaluated before a righteous court of God and His holy, sinless angels.  Before everyone.

This would be terrifying enough, but the chief thing we ignore is this:  Sin is so evil in this court, that not all the good thoughts, words and deeds of all of fallen humanity could atone for even one sin of one person.  Not one.  They are not sufficient payment, because these so called good works would still be done by sinful humans.  They would still remain impure, because of what mankind lost in Adam's fall.  They would all, as a whole, fail to remove even one impure thought or word or deed.  Not even one.

Do we see our situation?  Do we comprehend now what Judgment Day entails?  What can we do?  What could we possibly do to change this?  Nothing.

But God can.  God has.  He sent His Son - to take up our cause - take up our flesh and our sin - and take it all to the cross.  Jesus was judged for all.  His Father poured out His righteous punishment on Him, and you can see - it was awful, real,true.  Jesus chose to suffer this for you, be shamed for you, step in for you to clear your record forever.  Christ atoned for the sin of the world with His innocence.  He gave His godliness and righteousness up as payment.  He died, rose and ascended to the heavenly courtroom where His own living blood forever cries for your forgiveness.  You are forgiven.  Cleared.   Free - from the fear and the guilt and the shame.  You are His- this One who gave Himself for you.

What will you say?  How will you respond to such devotion shown to you, such love beyond compare? 

Trust Him.  Lay hold of Him.  Wrap your arms around His blood promise and never let go.  Seek Him and His way ignoring all else.  Grow in Him.  Go deeper with Him by learning as much as you can about what He says and what it means for your life with Him.  You will be with Him forever.  Might as well get as close as you can as quick as you can.  Get to Bible class, read or hear His Word everyday - whether in your Bible or sermons on our website or whatever other promise filled place He has provided you. Study His Word with others and build them up in Him as they build you up in Him.

Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life.  And He is yours.