When You’re Hard on Yourself

feetHere is an encouraging thought: God might be showing us more grace than we are accepting.

I used to think that most humans’ only mistake was denying the sins they committed, or their need for forgiveness.

Then I grew up, learned to be hard on myself, and realized that we also fail to fully accept the grace God is offering.

When I mess up, it’s a hard battle to not let it wreck my day. Many of us, whether parents or single, pastors or congregants, inhabitants of any job, could say the same. Our competitive world rewards perfection. We’re competing for scraps of success, love, and security. We intuitively sense that any flaw will get us lapped, so we drive ourselves. Hard.

It spills over into our relationship with God. We never think we’re good enough to enter his presence. (And by ourselves, we’re not.)

But…

And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil.

When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him — she’s a sinner! ” (Luke 7:37-39)

Even before we go any further into this rich passage, we get a stunning lesson in God’s grace from the simple fact that Jesus does not drive this woman away.

It’s established that she’s a sinner. The obvious Jewish expectation is that Jesus would repel her for her past. He does not.

The feet of Jesus are exactly where we belong after we have sinned.

I briefly had a Muslim housemate in college. During a conversation, he admitted that he had no way of knowing whether his fastidious adherence to the Five Pillars of Islam was getting him anywhere with God. Every time he sinned, or even forgot an observance, he feared eternal destruction. Zero assurance.

We can strut about how awful that existence sounds, but are we any different? Do we “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time” (Hebrews 4:16)? Typically, no. I think we hold off until we’ve “shaped up” (itself an unreliable assessment) before we feel God is near.

But the Cross and the Empty Tomb were given so that we could approach him. Relying on our own effort would preempt his credit. Jesus’ sojourn in the Pharisees’ house is meant to foreshadow this new and living way.

If you’re “in” with Christ, yet being hard on yourself today, remember the torture and effort God went through so that you needn’t. His grace is greater.

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

 

You Matter

Just the other day, Neil deGrasse Tyson dropped this pearl of morbid nihilism in his Twitter feed:

Well, thank you, Neil. You have a singular talent for brightening everyone’s day.

The greatest tragedy, though, might be how many likes that tweet got. If you read enough (forgive me, Lord) internet comments from the agnostic, scientifically curious types, you almost see a perverse delight in their rejection of anything significant about man. To hear them talk, we’re just another species adrift in the dark, clinging to a pale blue dot in its dance across the blackness, one that’s quite indifferent to whether we maintain our grip. Nothing special about us.

Anything to reject God, I suppose.

God is another matter.

You matter to God.

“I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints” (Ephesians 1:18)

We studied this last night and marveled. Our teens shared a bemusement: “Gee, God, couldn’t you have picked someone slightly better to gift with an inheritance?”

Perhaps. But he chose us.

When I observe Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You set in place,
what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?
You made him little less than God
and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5)

Unbelievable. He cares.

…casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)

You are not an accident or a leftover; you were planned.

That thing that happened to you in high school, the one you’ve never told anyone? He saw. He is furious. And he has plans to make it right.

The trial you’re undergoing now that’s lasted years with no end in sight? He is the God who produces solutions out of nowhere long after hope has surrendered.

Those sins you committed? God wants to forgive. He arranged for it, through the blood of his son, if only it is accepted.

Behold the black hole, one of which was first finally imaged by mankind yesterday:

hole

Amazing, is it not? I’ve waited my whole life for such a vista.

You are more than this.

You are more than just a failed star, more than just a void surrounded by cosmic detritus. That weird phenomenon, that collision of the most exotic, bizarre properties of our universe, endowed with power to anchor galaxies…God has done far more intricate work on you. Your body, your life, all stamped with his seal, bound up as a testimony to his love and care.

Amidst the energy and matter that collide hourly across the universe, you matter to God. Will you not accept this?

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Yes, We Can Still Carol Amidst the Darkness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday I learned that I shouldn’t be singing carols as long as suffering persists in the world.

At least that’s the charge of John Pavlovitz, a Christian progressivist blogger whose post I stumbled across today, quite unintentionally, in the course of my internet wanderings (I will not link it). He says our holiday joy should take a sober and subdued form as long as poverty, disease, injustice, and war persist.

I’m still trying to decide how literal he’s being. At first, this seems like a rigid and unfair stance. Suffering will always be around. The poor will always be with us. If you’re holding out for utopia on earth, you’re in for a long wait.

Should we never again sing at Christmas, then?

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Find a Savior Who Looks at You Like He’d Die For You

5661613189_65be533432_bLife has a way of breaking down your categories. You leave home and discover that Christians aren’t always decent people, nor atheists villains. You get a job and find out that some of the people out there with the foulest mouths and quickest tempers also have the very biggest hearts. You go through an election cycle. I’ll say no more about that. Whatever the case, our black-and-white definitions of things and people are constantly being broken down by life. It’s really a huge favor, if you think about it.

Same thing with marriage.

I’ve longed to be married for quite a while. I have many friends who can say the same. The world around me, too, seems convinced that this is the answer. You can tell by what they say, what they post, what they pursue. They just don’t talk about anything else. “Find a man who looks at you like…” Continue reading

After You Betray Him

Doctor: “You betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything I’ve ever stood for. You let me down!”

Clara: “Then why are you helping me?”

(long pause)

Doctor: “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

fireSuch a simple, powerful moment. Such a cosmic overturning of the most solid, fearful expectations, without even a blink.

Every once in a while, we regrettably grow numb to the Scriptures. We let a certain detached glaze develop between us and it. Then God invokes a moment from a drama or from real life – something we’re actually paying attention to – to get us back to his holy Word.

 

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”

“Feed My lambs,” He told him.

A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”

“Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.

He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?”He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.”

“Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. “I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!”

(John 21:15-19)

It is by a fire that the shivering Peter betrayed Christ; it is by a fire that Peter is restored. Three times Peter denied him; three times Jesus restored him. The intention is unmistakable.

Nobody has ever failed to betray Christ. Even those who love him, do so every day. In our actions, our words, our looks, our fears and mistrusts and doubts, our daily sins.

Yet for those who truly love God, he knows who you are. We can come right back to him, seeking his help, his love. That is exactly where he wants the repentant, even if we just sinned. Especially if we just sinned.

We can still follow him.

Debt-Free

Showing the strainThree years ago, having returned home from a four-year tour spent teaching in other towns, I sat down and realized a frustration: I wasn’t any closer to paying off my college debts than when I left.

There were a number of reasons. Teaching doesn’t pay squat, of course (though I wouldn’t want it to become a six-figure profession lest it start attracting gold diggers). But it was also the endless parade of car troubles, time and money spent driving back home to keep in touch with people, and mission trips to attend. It was a situation where I couldn’t spot any flagrantly bad choices with my money (and I’m hard on myself, so if there had been, I’d have acknowledged it). Yet I was no nearer to being debt-free.

It became clear that my debts wouldn’t be recouped unless I chose to make it a top priority. Hard experience had taught that if I put it off to buy an entertainment center or a furniture set or what have you, the next stupid car problem would get me (can you see my paranoia?) and I’d remain in an endless treadmill. Freedom would just never happen.

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3 Relieving Ways God Is Not Like You

Victory Succeed Freedom Motivation Winning Man

I’ve come to believe that what each of us considers “God” is actually, in large part, a projection of ourselves. We think of God as sharing our opinions of things – right down to our judgments of others; of pasts, presents, and futures; and of ourselves.

It can be disrupting to find out otherwise, to find out that God has a very different take on…well, practically everything.

The classic example is revelation of sin. “No, that is not okay, and it cannot continue,” says God in your life with the gentleness of one who no longer condemns (Romans 8:1), and we have to obey and adjust. This is not a chore; it is freedom. How wonderful that he is holier than we are!

Or God might nudge us onto a plan that is different from ours. Isaiah 55:8: ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” And we are reminded that God’s plans are higher and more trustworthy than ours. Again, a relief. How awful it would be if we were in charge of all the drawing boards.

These are the common ways in which we think of God as “not like us”.

However, I am constantly discovering even more.

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