Have you ever noticed how most of what’s “new” gets “old” fast?

Vintage Records with Tape Reel and Cassette.

Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, when I grew up, I remember certain styles that have since gone very out of style.  High pony tails with thick fabric pony tail holders.  Long, big shirts with that “belt-buckle”-like contraption that you put on one end of your shirt to make a tail.  Yep.  Definitely out of style.

I’m so glad that we don’t go “out of style” with God.  After all, God could take a look at us, shake His head, and create far better creatures than we are.  He could get tired of us, leave us to our disasters, and walk away.  But He doesn’t.  He deeply cares about us.

One of the most startling attributes of God is that, after we ruined His world with our sin, when He could have started all over on a new world, He chose instead to buy us back.

By dying in our place.

You’re not old news to God.  Instead, it’s as though you are on the front page of His newspaper!

This is the message of the cross: God has not forgotten about us, and God has not given up on us.

God has made a way that every one of us can be saved in Him . . if we choose to believe just how much He cares, and if we receive His paid-in-full gift of new life for us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

 

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Published in: on June 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Meal Not Fit for the King

He was a king who had just come back from a land further than any king had ever traveled.  He had just conquered more than any king before him had ever conquered.  He deserved a feast bigger than any ever prepared from the foundations of the earth.

Yet his friends were caught totally off guard.  They should have been expecting him, but they weren’t.  They had nothing for him except what they’d been eating, ordinary as ordinary could be.  Nothing at all fit for a king; nothing at all fit to reward a king who had broken walls that no king before him could even dent.

The extraordinary thing was that he didn’t demand a banquet or expect a full table.  The more extraordinary thing was that he wasn’t even eating because he was hungry.  Rather, he ate for them.  This humble king wanted them to know that he related to them and that he was really alive, and so he accepted table scraps to prove it.

Do you recognize this story?

 . . . Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched. (Luke 24:36b-43, NLT)

 

Published in: on May 29, 2014 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A tale of two restaurants

Watch your step sign

Ben and I were at a restaurant yesterday when a worker spilled two glasses of drink all over the floor.  The liquid followed a path like a bowling ball down the alley between table and booths, making it hard for anyone seated in those areas to get up.

The young man responsible for the mess immediately tried to clean it up.  He tried to wipe up the massive amount of liquid with his foot on a rag.  Occasionally, he bent down to pick up ice chips.  He clearly had not cleaned up many (or any) spills at the restaurant before.

He was gone a while trying to figure out what to do and came back with a rag again.  He kept trying to wipe up a huge amount of liquid with soaking wet rags.  Once he carried the rag away, water was streaming from it, marking his path like something from Hansel and Gretel.

I don’t know where the mop in the restaurant was, or if the young man knew about it, but he kept coming back trying to make up for his mistake.  Embarrassed and not knowing what to do, he kept trying to attack the mess with rags.  Meanwhile, anyone who walked by could have slipped and fallen.

The waitresses who had customers at the tables of course found out about the mess.  The first one walked through it without an offer to help.  The other waitress came around another alley.  No manager came out, and the busser kept bussing tables.  No one even seemed to consider helping the young man.

It took him a painfully long time to clean up the mess, making trip after trip.  All the while, he was completely unable to do his job: seat guests.

As I watched, I wanted to get a rag and help him out.  (I also wanted to find a mop.)  The lack of compassion (and training) didn’t make me want to go back to the restaurant.

Compare this to a time I was at one of our local Village Inn’s a few years back.  One of the waitresses dropped a dish with the huge noise of crashing glass.  She didn’t have to feel flustered or embarrassed long.  The manager of the restaurant immediately came over to help. He acted as if her problem was his problem and that he wasn’t too important to help her clean it up.  With the employees pitching in to help, the mess was cleaned up in no time, and the waitress was able to go back to work.

Let me ask you a question: How do you view God?  Do you think He’s like the uninvolved, perhaps even unaware manager in the first story . . or like the ready, servant-hearted manager in the second story?  Do you feel like God cares about your messes–or that He’s turned His back on you and is leaving you to fix them yourself?

Even though our messes are unimaginably worse than a spilled drink or broken dish, God doesn’t leave us to fix for ourselves what is impossible for us to fix.  Not unless, of course, we refuse His help.

God doesn’t want us to be on our own with sin too devastating for us to handle.  That’s why He came down.  When Jesus was on the cross, He took all of our messes and He fixed them Himself.  He had to do it by Himself.  No one could step up to help.  And He did it so that we wouldn’t have to be stuck with the nightmare of trying to clean up sin.

Only He could do it.  Only He is perfect, and only He is God who has infinite ability to fix the crookedness and wipe away the evil of all who believe.

If you feel you’re standing in the middle of a mountain of broken goodness and spilled righteousness, surrender your mess to God.  Only He can help you and the good news is, He is waiting.

No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame . . (Psalm 25:3a, NIV)

Published in: on April 27, 2014 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Highest Thought of All

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8b, NLT)

There can be no thought more true or so honorable, more right or so pure, or anything so lovely or admirable, as to think about the gift of Christ Jesus.

In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
 (Colossians 2:3, NLT)

If we would but embed our hearts in this truth, we would fulfill the life Christ wants us to have.

Crown of Thorns and the Holy Bible

Published in: on April 20, 2014 at 7:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Do you want to see God?

Do you long to know who God is?  Do you want to talk to Him one day face to face?

Then you must meet Jesus.

Jesus pouring water

God could not be clearer:

No one has ever seen God.  But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart.  He has revealed God to us. (John 1:18, NLT)

So many times we hear the Name “Jesus” and we think of Him as an Israelite, or a carpenter, or a prophet, or a ‘good man’ who walked on earth.  Or we think of Him as a friend or a buddy who sticks up for us or a buffer against an angry God.

So many times we fail to think of Jesus as God–even if we know it in our minds, we fail to acknowledge it in our hearts.

The reverence worthy to bestow upon God is worthy to bestow upon Jesus.

He came as an Israelite because He chose to be so . . He took up carpentry because He had planned it this way since before the creation of the world . . Most naturally, He is a prophet as He is God and knows all . . He is a friend to the world, but a friend who is unfathomably unequal to us, a friend of unparalleled love and perfection . . He is not a buddy to protect us from a bullying God, but rather He is God . . He is the representation of God to us . . To know Jesus is to know God.

I do not say rain protects me from water and I cannot say Jesus protects me from God.  They are one and the same, and there is no divergence in their personality.  Rather, I must say Jesus protects me from the wrath of God, which is an entirely different matter.

All of the Trinity (God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit) have the same just wrath toward sin.  Jesus is sheltering us from not just His Father’s wrath, but also His wrath (and the Spirit’s wrath) when He died for us on the cross.

Do you want to see God?  Then you must see Jesus.  And you must see Jesus not only as a historical figure or a good man or an interesting prophet.  You must see Him as God Himself.  Otherwise, you will never know God.  After all, if you can’t see what is ten feet in front of you, how would you ever expect to see what is 10,000 feet in front of you?  If you cannot see the incarnation of God in Christ, how will you ever see the manifestation of GOD ALMIGHTY who cannot be seen by any mortal?

Do you long to know who God is?  Do you want to talk to Him one day face to face?

Then you must meet Jesus.

Now.

Why wait another moment when the most ultimate opportunity in the universe awaits you now: the chance to know God?

“I AM WHO I AM.” (from Exodus 3:14, NIV)

“I am the Resurrection and the Life,” said Jesus; “he who believes in me, even if he has died, he shall live; and every one who is living and is a believer in me shall never, never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25, WEY)

Published in: on April 15, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Taste

peach on tree

One summer we spent a few days in a chalet in the Carolinas.  After a visit to a local farmer’s market, my mom showed up with a bounty of peaches.  I remember the sunniness of the kitchen as she displayed the golden-red beauties.  I took one bite and the punch of sweetness was almost overwhelming.

Taste and see that the LORD is good. (James 1:17, NLT)

Taste.

Taste.

This is so . . astonishing, really.  God asking us to taste His character.

If my character could be edible, I might not mind for someone to taste a few qualities, carefully selected.  But to taste all of me?  No way.  I would do my best “block guard” to stop someone from tasting everything about who I am.

But not God.

God has no sin.  No ashamed moments, no lapses in judgment, no cruel thoughts, no selfish ambition.  God has God-ness, also known as good-ness.

Although we throw around the word good a lot, actually only God is good (see Mark 10:18).  Goodness, all of it, is God-ness.  To taste good is to taste the very nature of God.

God is not afraid for us to encounter Him.  He knows He has no evil to conceal from us (see 1 John 1:5), and there is no gift He wants to withhold from us (see Romans 8:32).

God (and Satan) know this truth:

If you taste, you will see:

God is good.

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8, NLT)

 

Published in: on April 1, 2014 at 7:00 am  Comments (1)  
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The best superhero power of all

Superheroes are really popular in our culture.  Superheroes that fly, shoot webs, sneak through unseen, super-speed in their cars, karate chop, boast incredible strength, read minds, control magnetic fields, see sound, shift shapes, teleport, wave magic wands, and freeze cities.

But the best, the very best, super power of all is reserved only for God.

Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8, NLT)

cross light

To be so astonishingly pure, so unfathomably holy, so piercingly truthful, so outstandingly good, so unguessably merciful, so unmistakably just, so heart-poundingly generous, and so once-in-an-eternity sacrificial that you can destroy evil by the breath of your mouth–that is a job for God, and only God.

Awesome.

See, my servant will prosper;

he will be highly exalted.

But many were amazed when they saw him.

His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human,

and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.

And he will startle many nations.

Kings will stand speechless in his presence.

For they will see what they had not been told;

they will understand what they had not heard about. (Prophesy about Jesus, Isaiah 52:13-15, NLT)

Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Secure

Man with newborn baby Ah . . my security blanket.  No toy, not even Diaper Duck, brought me as much joy as toddler. 

My security blanket was made by my great aunt Thelma.  Known for her quilts, she gave me a blanket unlike any other.  On one side, the calico cat and gingham dog played together in little scenes printed in a pattern of relaxing blues and greens.  On the other side, Thelma had embroidered an entire train that spanned from the top left corner down to the bottom right corner in swirl fashion.  Each train car had a different animal with different colored thread.  The blanket was even hemmed with a zigzag border.  I knew from the start there was no security blanket like mine.

Although there were all sorts of things to do with my blanket, my very, very favorite was a game my father and grandfather played with me.  First, I got inside the blanket.  Then my father took one end of the blanket and my grandfather the other.  They swung me in hammock style.  I was completely enclosed inside the blanket, like a letter inside an envelope.  I felt so safe.  I felt so loved.

. . . We have a tendency to outgrow security blankets. 

By the time I was seven, getting inside my blanket was an impossibility.  We usually learn at a young age that security blankets have a way of expiring with time.  Sometimes, we’re let down in an even worse way.  I hope you’ve never had one break on you, but sometimes we learn to distrust what we thought would help us most.

I’ve never forgotten the feeling I had cradled in that blanket.  There’s a deep longing inside me for that feeling.  I know I can’t go back in time or enlist two unwitting friends to try to hoist me up in my blanket . . so what’s left?  The emptiness of never again feeling secure?

What I’m about to tell you can be hard to believe—especially if you’ve had a security blanket break on you in the past.  Even if your only negative experiences have been finding out you’re too big for a blanket anymore, you can still find this far-fetched.  But it is still true:

There is a Secure. 

The Secure has no expiration date, won’t diminish as you grow older, and can never break. 

The Secure is Christ.  He makes a promise that seems too good to be true: eternal security.  (Forever!)  The only term is that you must let Him cradle you, because He won’t force you.

This news can seem so outlandish that you can, well, laugh . . or scoff.

It might surprise you to know that even people who are considered Biblical heroes and heroines had the same reaction at times.  Sarah, for example, saw no way God could keep His promise to make her life secure through a child.  And the woman at the well—well, to say she started as a skeptic would be an understatement.  With her tone, she actually made fun of Jesus’ idea of a life so secure she would never thirst again.

Yet God gave them grace.  He gave them another chance to climb into the security blanket.  And what they—and many others—found out is that God is Secure.

Secure to keep you from hardship, pains, and griefs in this life?  He never makes such a promise.  Those are the consequences of sin we chose in Adam and through personal decision, and, for as long as we live here, we will experience them.  God honors choice.

But can you be secure for His love to wrap around you and hammock you, no matter what? 

Yes.  Absolutely.

And, best of all, you can be enveloped in the Secure today.

If you choose.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. (Hebrews 6:19-20a, NIV)

Published in: on March 18, 2014 at 8:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Arms Open Wide

God . . held His arms . . open wide.

Sunbeams and cross

They didn’t have to make Jesus stretch His arms out on the cross. They didn’t have to nail His wrists to keep His hands in place. Long before He was sentenced to death by a corrupt judge, He chose death to satisfy the wrath of a perfect Judge. Long before He stretched out His arms for the cross, He stretched out His arms to embrace a world He knew would crucify Him. And long before the nails forced His arms to open wide, He held His arms open wide to invite all of humanity to flock under His protection.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. The salvation of God is mysterious. It’s like a melody you can’t quite fully hear, no matter how carefully you listen. It’s like a love you realize you’ve never seen, but you’ve felt tapping on your shoulder your whole life. It’s like a dance you can’t imitate, where the steps require a greater self-sacrifice then is fathomable to the mortal mind.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. God held His arms open wide. It’s Diety in flesh. It’s humanity wrapped around God Himself. It’s the jaw-dropping mysery of the incarnation.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. It’s a song with lyrics of how you’re more loved than you ever imagined. It’s a story that opens up for you to step inside. It’s a peace that settles over you like snowdust. It’s a fully-sufficient harmony that invites you to sing along.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. How fitting, how perfect that the way we receive salvation is by opening our hearts wide. In feeble imitation of the One who gave all His goodness for our evil, we give all our evil to ask for His goodness. It’s an exchange nobody would believe . . if it weren’t true.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. It’s a palette of colors you’ve never seen; it’s a chorus of beauty you’ve never heard. It’s a promise you’ve never touched; it’s a delectable bliss you’ve never tasted.

God . . held His arms . . open wide.

Now it’s time to hold your arms open . . to Him.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:19b-20, HCSB)

God’s love

God loves us so much He’s willing to take us in any condition.  He’s even willing to go through the humiliation of saving those whose hearts are so far away that, even in their lifetime, they don’t get to a place of building His reputation.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. (1 John 4:16a, NLT)

Published in: on March 3, 2014 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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