The Wall Between Us

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One thing your going to find in Christian community- and its going to be unexpected- it might be surprising. Your going to find a strange mix, this strange brew of people. People that you normally wouldn’t be hanging out with. Different ages than you, backgrounds, nationalities, family types.

The gospel does that. It takes away all the boundaries and groups that we tend to clump ourselves into and uses the most unlikely people in our lives. And it makes for an unlikely church.

Now, if Christ is your Savior, God has broken down the wall of partition between you and God. A consequence of that, a side effect- is that partitions between people, walls between nationalities and tribes, skin color- rich/ poor, red state/blue state- those walls are also torn down.

Because we should no longer be identifying ourselves like that- those things are no longer most important- where we go for our acceptance. Now- our identity- is supposed to be found only in Christ and in what He accomplished for us. In other words, groups aren’t so important. So we no longer find our worth and accomplishments there.

In Paul’s time- a wall similar to what we see today, separated Jews and Gentiles. We often refer to this in theological terms- but in simple terms, they really just hated each other. Some of them would’ve been fine throwing down at a first century version of Charlottesville.

Here’s what Paul wrote about that- speaking of Christ- he says in Ephesians 2:14:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…

Will You Rest?

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In Hebrews 4:1-13 the author alludes to the rest God offered to the Israelites entering the promised land. But can Christians enter that rest today?

According to the author of Hebrews, the answer is yes. This rest is a place where his audience (Christians) have the opportunity to enter “today.”

Interestingly though, he writes that some may have fallen short (v.1)- (not meaning that they are not saved.)- while others have entered the rest already (v.3).

So you can be a Christian who rests- or you can be a Christian who doesn’t rest.

Depending on when you catch me, I’m both.

The key is in v.2: the ones who rest and the ones who don’t-both have had the “good news” (gospel) proclaimed to them- they are Christians- but its their response, with/without faith, that determines whether they are able to rest.

Do you really practically believe, in every area of your life, every day, that your acceptance is found in Christ?

What rest means for the believer today is this: you can rest in Christ today because of His work. Or… you can march on in your anxious frenzy.

You can only rest when you don’t feel that you have to seek acceptance anyplace else, whether its through following the law like a set of rules, or seeking approval from vocation, wealth, friends, parenting, or whatever else drives you.

Most of the anger I have as a parent stems from the pressure I feel to solve everyones problems, provide for them and put my own time aside for their time. When I’m angry, I’m not so much angry at others as I am angry in myself for the potential for failure- either as a parent- or in all the other things I spend time on- like writing this blog:)

But if I’m resting in Christ, those pressures are off, because in Christ, the believer is loved without exception by the God of the universe. And my anger gets short circuited when I remember that whether I fail or not, God still loves me and the sun will rise tomorrow.

  • That may shock. What? No Ten Commandments for me? And I can be a deadbeat in my life too?

Au contraire, mon frère. We are to uphold the law even more now (Romans 3:31)- but in a different way. The believer is now free to follow the law, not out of fear of rejection, but out of love for what Christ has done for us in following it himself. The pressure is off in our own success or failure. We can rest.

And in following that law, the other aspects of our lives: work, parenting, relationships- become easier, precisely because I don’t need to be accepted for my success or failure in any of those areas. And I can find rest. I’m no longer worn out worrying if I miss a swim practice drop off.

So I am actually even freer to follow the law and resist the culture even more.

I’m not so pressured for acceptance by others that I have to break God’s laws to conform to the culture’s laws.

That is rest today. Will you rest?

Difficult People

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Life together is hard. And wouldn’t you know it, people are the leading cause.

We have difficult relationships with people, because we have a difficult relationship with God. We cannot be reconciled to humanity until we are reconciled with its creator:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11)

When we disconnect our desire for acceptance from the only true giver of acceptance- God- it distorts every other relationship in our life.

It causes me to see people only as a means to that acceptance. I’m using them. Life becomes all about acceptance. And because I’m desperate to be accepted I’m:

  • Over-competitive: I have to be successful at all costs- even if I have to cheat or lie.
  • Prideful: I want others to see.
  • Judgmental– put others on defense to take the spotlight off of my own flaws.
  • Offended: I virtue signal. I must be more virtuous than you since I have standards.
  • Addicted: to social media- every time my phone chimes with a like or fav a little blast of dopamine squirts into my brain- ahhh.

When we over desire to be accepted by anyone but God- its that very separation from God that is the cause.

All of our relationships our out of joint, and we need to be rescued. (Romans 5: 8 and 2 Corinthians 5: 20). Therefore, the first and primary focus of any real relationship rescue is to have our relationship with God put right again.

The gospel is news about what has been done by Jesus Christ to put right our relationship with God.

Becoming a Christian is about a change of status. You are either accepted through Christ or you are not.

If you’re not a Christian– that’s where the drive to get better comes from- that pesky morality that rears its head called your conscious.

And if you are a Christian– we still have issues. Because even though we agree that Christ died for our acceptance by God- we go on acting like it isn’t enough.

There should be a deep security in knowing we are accepted by the Lord of the universe through Jesus- so we should be looking at people in a whole new light.

Dirty Windshield Effect

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Sometimes during winter, the chemicals on the road put a light film on my windshield. At night, when I am driving on a dark road alone, I really don’t notice it.

But when an oncoming car shines its headlights onto my windshield, that slight, unnoticeable film makes it almost impossible to see. I had no idea that something that potentially blinding was there until it got illuminated.

  • God’s Word is the set of headlights that reveals the junk that keeps us from seeing things as they are. Stuff in front of us, on a collision course even, that we might not have even noticed before.

Psalm 119:105 states:

God’s Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Christian, God is at work, even in your darkest times. But God’s will, the Law He has written in His Word and in our hearts, may become clouded over and difficult for us to see in the middle of it.

Church family helps to hold and aim that lamp as an instrument of God, helping us to see clearly and putting us back on the road. That’s one reason that Life Groups are so important.

  • True change can only be accomplished if we allow the Holy Spirit to rewrite our code with God’s.

Ezekiel 36:26- I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

 

Jeremiah 31:33- I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Want More God?

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Want more God? Check your prayer.

Truth is, we spend most of our time praying that God will give us what we really want- and its not Him.

We only go to God to get:

  • the job
  • corner office
  • a spouse
  • hitting our fighting weight
  • for our to kid make the travel team
  • finally getting some money in our savings account
  • straight As
  • or my most favorite muscle car ever (yes, I got it- pictured above:)

Tune to the right channel- THEN, check your content…

  1. In order for the thing we want not to become an idol we seek after more than God, make sure you have an open channel to God.
  2. Then pray for the things HE wants us to be a part of: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Along with gospel principles such as mercy, grace and justice. Pray what’s in scripture.

Yes, really! Pray for those things by name, and things going on in your life where you can apply them. What God wants for us, what he wants us to be praying for, is right in His Word.

Every time you do this, even when you’re not feeling it, you are fighting the idolatry in your heart. The Holy Spirit will actually redirect the desires of your heart away from the whatever it is that you really want- to you really wanting more of God.

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Jesus gives us a risky new way of Being Human. How do we do it? How do we live this new way? The difference is in who is keeping you. Someone is always keeping us. We’re either keeping ourselves or someone else is. 1 John 5:18 says:

the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 

Who is the One “born of God”? Jesus.

When we keep ourselves, we base our worth on how well we do what the world expects of us. How well we keep all the balls in the air.

But when Jesus keeps us- the pressure comes off. What he did for me- accepting me even though my kids aren’t perfect and I didn’t get the job I wanted. That freeing.

Being “Born of God” gives us a whole new way to begin to be human in the way that God originally designed us. We gain a new understanding of both ourselves and Jesus that changes our hearts. And because its Jesus who keeps us, we can take the risks associated with this new way of living.

Click to listen to the whole thing…

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/being-human/

Genie in the Lamp

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How do you know if you’re treating God like the Genie in the Lamp?

One way is your prayer life. 1 John 5:14-15 reads:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

What do you pray for? Whatever it is that we really want usually winds up in our prayers. It says here that if it according to his will- he hears us. Does that mean there are prayers of mine that he doesn’t hear? No- the word hears is better translated as heeds. If its part of God’s will for our lives he heeds us- its automatic.

God’s will is no big secret. Too many of our prayers are like rubbing the lamp to get our three wishes.

God’s will is in His Word: love, joy, peace, patience, or other principles like justice or mercy or loving your neighbor better. How many of our prayers are about that stuff?

Don’t pray to God just so He can help you get the stuff you really want besides Him. Pray to God so you can get more God. Anything else and you’ve turned God into the Genie in the Lamp- in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Two Kinds of Laughing

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We have a choice in how we laugh. In Genesis, Sarah models two kinds of laughter for us. The laughter of Ishmael or the laughter of Isaac? The laughter of Ishmael is either proud and mocking of others because of our imagined self-success, or its bitter as we mock ourselves or blame life for our failure. But the laughter of Isaac happens when we see that God has been patient and he’s blessed us, and even transformed us, despite our failures- It’s the laughter of relief, “how could I have been so stupid.”

Ishmael or Isaac? Ishmael is the way of ‘works’, of getting a son in a way they had a human ability to achieve. It’s a way of unbelief. Isaac: represents the way of grace and the way of Christ, of getting a son by simply waiting in faith for what only God could do. If you’ve never fully trusted Jesus Christ to be your promise- you are stuck in the dry, hot desert of reality without hope.

And for those here who have believed, watch out: don’t have the heart of Isaac but live the life of Ishmael. The place between the pieces, that place of unbelief, Jesus has already passed through for you. So you are free to believe and even free to fail- because the outcome is not up to you. Admitting there’s a space between your belief and unbelief.

Mark 9:24 is one of the most contradictory but accurate verses in the Bible about belief. “Lord I believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” This is the space where the Holy Spirit does his best work. Say it, pray it. And He will come. Both Isaac and Jesus are miraculous births that are acts of God’s saving grace. But Jesus is by far the greater one- because Isaac only points us to Christ, and its only in Jesus that we finally hear the laughter of God’s grace.

Big God- small god

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A small god can manage the list of dos and don’ts that we have posted on the fridge.  But only an infinitely big God can dole out grace in the huge amounts that we need every day.  We make him small when we limit him to being the genie for our prayer requests.

Compared to what God expects of us as beings created specifically to love, worship and obey him- the most on fired up Christian only taps a minuscule fraction of their potential to live for god. And though I wound him daily with my self serving attitude, my lack of awe of his greatness and grace- he still comes back to me and says, you can do better, I know it because I made you.  I know it because I love you like my own Son.  We will never understand the depth of what he has done for us through the gospel.  If we spent every waking minute of our lives pondering the peaks of gospel off in the distance, we would still never make it past the foothills.

Don’t be paralyzed by shame, but do continue daily repentance. Your salvation isn’t finished with the sinners prayer. But it moves toward the finish line as our hearts melt and change over God’s grace and response to our sin.

Control Freak

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What makes you angry when your not in control of it? Your work, your kids, your job, your finances, what people think of you? Answer that question and you may have just found your idol.

Yes, even you, Christian. And its actually worse for us. Because we’ve tasted the gospel. We’ve at a minimum given up on trying to control our eternal destiny- given up on the idea that we can ever commit enough good deeds to make up for our sin. We know we can’t do it. We’ve given up control of that to Christ.

But then, we default back to control in every other area of our lives and it becomes where we find our worth other than God. Its almost better to have never tasted the peace and comfort and stability, the ability to trust God, then to have tasted it and gone back to white knuckling everything. Because we know its futile- but we do it anyway.

Beren and Luthien, are the star crossed lovers of Tokien’s prequel to the prequel of the LTR trilogy called the Simarilion. Luthien, the elven princess could never truly be with Beren the man unless she gave her heritage up, her immortality, being with her people, her elven magic. She had to lay it all down to be with Beren. And she did.

God was so desperate to be with us that, in Jesus he gave up all his control as God, his immortality, his supernatural powers and omnipotence, and became a human. If he’s that desperate for us- to give up all the control of God- can’t we be a little desperate for him- and give up just a little control to Him?

Jesus gives up control on the cross, to show us its OK to give it up ourselves.

Click to listen:

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-power-of-powerlessness/