We don’t like to think about this.

August 2013 568

5This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord.

6They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.  Jeremiah 17:5-6

I appreciate the “people are awesome” line. People are awesome. It is incredible what people can do. I like the stories of hard, smart, persevering  work. However, the Scripture shows us we are always in danger of turning the blessings of strength into our own personal Babel. And that is grievous!

When Jeremiah expresses God’s view of the human situation we must remember, God is grieved by our situation. God is so grieved that He uses the word “cursed” or “under a curse” to describe the situation of living without Him. He uses the most dramatic images to capture the deathly impact of the evil seduction that limits our faith to just humanity and  that turns hearts away from the Lord.

People apart from a relationship with God are like stunted shrubs in the desert. God is grieved for these people who had such potential in Him for now they are living barren, lonely, hopeless lives. Ah you may say, “I know many people who seem to be doing well without God.” Jeremiah goes on to say that we do not yet see the whole story:

11Like a partridge that hatches eggs she has not laid, so are those who get their wealth by unjust means. At midlife they will lose their riches; in the end, they will become poor old fools.

12But we worship at your throne— eternal, high, and glorious!

13O  Lord, the hope of Israel, all who turn away from you will be disgraced. They will be buried in the dust of the earth, for they have abandoned the Lord, the fountain of living water.  Jeremiah 17:11-13

The heralds of a DYI-life seduce people with stories of stuff, praise, and power. But life without the one true God — well we don’t like to think about like this — is empty. Only He is the “fountain of living water,” the hope of Israel and the blessing for all the nations.

So it is in the Gospel of Jesus that we enter into the restoration work of the  creation and the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel. Jesus says, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39(When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)  John 7:37-39

There is hope for those who are living under the curse! Though we all have a deceitful heart that turns from God, Jesus can transform the heart. Even Jeremiah knew God’s power to change the heart, so he prayed in response to this word from God, “O  Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone!” Jeremiah 17:14

Let’s come to Jesus Christ the Lord, who entered the wasteland of death, bore our curse, and defeated sin. Let’s trust Him for life. Let’s ask Him to heal our hearts. May He quench your thirst!

Starting a Friendship with God.

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9“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

12This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command.

15I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.  John 15:9-17

Jesus says, “You are my friends!”

Jesus envisions friendship with Him to have benefits.
…so… you will be filled with my joy.  vs. 11
…so… you will bear lasting fruit.  vs. 16
…so… the Father will give you what you ask for, using my name. vs. 16

Jesus sees days when these benefits of friendship are ours right on the surface of our experience. He also sees The Day when our faith becomes sight and these promises are fully experienced by His friends in the communion of God.

Joy.

Purposeful and fruitful results from our lives.

A dynamic connection with God, in which we actually realize answers to prayer.

I was nine years old when my Sunday school teacher, Molly McCraken read this Scripture and announced to us, “Jesus wants to be your friend.” In that moment God changed my life. With all that I understood at that moment of my life, I gave my life to Jesus and have lived in the grace of friendship with Him ever since.

Even as a nine year old I saw that Jesus had done for us the very thing He says friendship does. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” vs. 13  I love these verses from 1 John 4:9-16, where the John proclaims again the truth and grace of the Gospel:

9God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
13And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

Praise the Lord!

Grace and Response

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3May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 4Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. 5All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. Galatians 5:3-5  NLT

So many followers of Jesus get caught up again in the race to rescue themselves.

Instead of achievement being a response to God’s love, achievement becomes an idol necessary for us and required to justify our existence.

Instead of health being a response to God’s love, health becomes proof that we are blessed and actually fantastic humans.

Instead of relationships being a response to God’s love, relationships with certain people become the proof that we are loveable, and even worthy of love.

Instead of righteousness being a response to God’s love, righteousness, becomes a pursuit that proves we are pure and powerful, and able (we believe) to get what we want from God.

All of this happens when we lose sight of the grace and peace of God that’s ours in Christ.  He gave his life for our sins in order to rescue us from this evil work in which we live. The Gospel is FOR the follower of Jesus. Constant contact with Christ in the truth of the Gospel will keep us rooted in His grace and peace. Without being emerged regularly in the Gospel, we will generate false forms of peace which are many in this world and we will  become enslaved to them.

Jesus gave his life to rescue us!

Glory to God!

The girl at the entrance to aisle seven.

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3May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 4Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. 5All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. Galatians 1:3-5

I’m waiting patiently. She’s standing there confused, not sure if this is the aisle she wants. When she realizes I’m standing there, she doesn’t say “oh excuse me.” Instead she curses me and jumps down my throat for not asking her to move.

Always someone else’s fault. So it continues: all the blaming, shifting, and squirming under shame. That’s what its like to live in this evil world. God’s ready to meet us on aisle seven but we are embarrassed that He was waiting for us to turn and notice Him. So we curse, blame, and shift under our shame.

These are the moments when we need to know the grace and peace of God. These are the moments when faith smashes through our shame and we give glory to God. It’s not about me. This life is about Jesus— the One who gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned in order to rescue us!

Glory to God! For ever!

The Great Defection and Its Infection

Background

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12

The narrative of Scripture from the Cross of Jesus shows humanity infected with sin — this impulse to act independent of God and His Word. Adam’s defection from the communion of God radically altered the innocence, honour, and trust humanity had enjoyed. The consequence is death — a brokenness permeating everyone and all our relationships: with God, with self, with people, and with the stuff of earth.

Living disconnected from the communion of God has brought death. I hate it. This viral death has spread among us and it takes ugly forms in its rage and its apathy, its blindness and its rebellion, its strange delight in evil and its self-righteousness.

Everyone sinned.

The narrative of the Cross tells us the truth about our brokenness and it tells us of God’s hope and healing for humanity:

15But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

18Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:15-19 NLT