Confession

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

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This is part of my note to a friend who admitted they’d been hateful toward others. They are going through a horrible rough patch in life. I urged them to repent, noting my own sins.

Posting this excerpt here so I can eat my words later :)

FWIW, God doesn’t call us to be kind and loving only when things are going well. It takes *faith* to be strong and trust in God when things are NOT going well. I have noticed, speaking freely here, that God sometimes withholds blessings when we do not suffer well. (God has kicked my butt over this multiple times!!)

When I have sinfully focused on life’s problems and not on Christ, and have let the love Christ in my heart be taken over by bitterness and anger, it feels like my arm is being painfully twisted high above my back. Can’t sleep. Zero appetite, and I feel a horrible unrest in my heart. Anxiety attacks, etc. Life is grueling and all up hill.

When it finally gets through my thick skull, I confess, not just to others, but to God, that I have not been trusting in Him and that I’ve been leaning on my own strength and not His, I begin to feel His grace and mercy. God can’t use us when our hearts are hard. I’ve had to humbly confess to my Maker that I’ve been essentially giving Christ the finger with my actions.. He died for me, purchased my soul with His blood, and I’m basically being an unusable asshole.. not the conduit of Christ’s love that He wants for me to be. Instead, I need to be like Christ’s mother who said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

Circumstances don’t always change, but they are much more manageable with a humble heart that is trusting in God… and certainly a lot less stressful.

I’m not saying these things to point a finger at you in any way. In fact, I respect you even more because of your apology and you are forgiven. Please know that *I* am guilty of saying equally hateful things… and much more. I am your friend and, as a pastor once put it simply, “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”

Why Are Christians So …?

Love Tattoo by Denise Wells (via Flickr)

It amazes me how people get miffed about religious passion yet will do anything for love.

If you can’t shut up about how much you love your significant other, imagine what it’s like trying to shut up about someone who loved you so much that they gave their life for yours?!

Why are Christians so passionate? (Or, negatively stated, “zealous” or “pushy” ?)

Because they are motivated by and responding to Christ’s love:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” – 1 John 4:9

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” Psalm 48:9

“Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

“Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5-7

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” – Titus 3:3-5

What Do You Do When a Bible Verse Hurts Instead of Helps?

Note:

After I posted this, I caught something as I watched again — I said that we aren’t justified through faith. That’s not quite what I meant. To clarify, before someone else catches it:

Galatians 3:7-9 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Ephesians 2:7-9 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

My point was that faith by itself is meaningless. It’s what we have faith in that justifies us.

Have you ever gone through a hard time, read the Bible, and then felt more condemned than encouraged?

Here, I offer some thoughts on what to do in this situation based on the temptation of Christ as recorded in Matthew 4 .

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and feedback.

Do you think this interpretation is correct? What do you do when scripture hurts?

How Much Does God Want Me to Care For My Physical Body?

Encouraged by this food-for-thought post from desiringGod.org this morning.

I don’t think that being overweight is only attributed to laziness and overeating, and I do think an occasional cigar is good for the soul.

It’s always a challenge to find the line between enjoying good things God has provided and not letting these things rule over us. I appreciate how Piper points out that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Realizing this helps us to pray and gives us strength when we’re feeling tempted to keep vice overindulgence in check.

How Much Does God Want Me to Care For My Physical Body?

Does having new life in Christ mean that I should expect and strive for better physical health? How much does God want me to care for my physical body?

Good question. He does want you to care for your physical body. A couple of texts come to my mind.

One is that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6). And the context there is not giving your body to a prostitute. But the implication is that these bodies are holy and are reverential.

It kept me from smoking as a teenager! It really did! My mother’s statement, “Son, your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and giving yourself lung cancer for that kind of pleasure would not treat the Holy Spirit rightly.” That worked for me! Still does.

But there’s another text that comes closer. Earlier in that chapter he is not dealing with prostitutes; he is dealing with food. The slogan in Corinth is—I think it’s a slogan in Corinth—”The stomach for food and food for the stomach, and both will be destroyed in hell,” which implied in their docetic way, “Eat all you want. It doesn’t matter what you eat.” And Paul said, “True statement, but I will not be enslaved by anything!” And the context there is food.

The reason people are unhealthy is because they’re enslaved. They are enslaved to laziness, and they are enslaved to food. So they eat too much and they exercise too little. And they have heart attacks and get diabetes. And God would consider that a spiritual issue.

So we should strive spiritually. What did Paul mean when he said, “I will not be enslaved by anything?” He meant, “Christ is your master!”

And a third text that comes to mind is, “The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and …” What? “Self-control,” egkrateia (Galatians 5:22-23).

And again, largely sexual self-control is in view; but it’s the same thing. The word “self-control” is not the best translation maybe, because it’s really a work of the Holy Spirit.

So we should fight against anything that makes us unhealthy. If overeating makes us unhealthy, fight it by the Spirit. If laziness and lack of exercise makes us unhealthy, fight it with the power of the Holy Spirit. That is, believing the promises of God, praying down the Holy Spirit, and then biting the bullet and denying ourselves.

Christianity is self-denial … for a higher joy. And I don’t want my Christian hedonism to be taken to mean that everything is easy. It isn’t. Hardly anything worth doing is easy, until we get to heaven. Then it will all be easy.

He cares about our bodies. He gave them to us. He would like them to be healthy and last a long time, until he takes them.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Sin Too Great For God To Forgive?

To think that a sin is too great for God to forgive is to think that Christ’s blood is not sufficient – that is, Christ’s sacrifice is not good enough.

This thought can be applied to our own lives, when we worry about that one sin we hope no one ever finds out about – or wish that no one had – or when we have a hard time forgiving others for what they have done to us.

Romans 8 (whole chapter)

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.’

Hebrews 9:11-14 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

One of my favorite tracts, which is now out of print, can be found in its entirety online here: I’m Still Learning to Forgive by Corrie ten Boom

(Before you continue reading, if you are not familiar with the story of Corrie ten Boom, please read this first.)

It was in a church in Munich where I was speaking in 1947 that I saw him–a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat, the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

Memories of the concentration camp came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment of skin.

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. This man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein–” again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

And I stood there–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.

With Corrie’s willingness came God’s power to forgive her former captor.

When you and I are willing to see our need for God’s forgiveness, He is willing and able to forgive our sins. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But it goes on to explain that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

You too can know the same forgiveness and salvation that transformed Corrie and the former Nazi guard: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).