Friday, February 14, 2014

An Obligatory Valentine's Day Post -- The Love we don't Deserve

"Choose love this Valentine's Day."  That was one of the taglines for a recent preview, the movie called "Endless Love."  It's cheesy, reeks of teenage lust, and yet... we're easily drawn to it, right?    This feeling deep down inside that we want to be:  Noticed, Accepted, Desired, Valued... Loved.  

It's one of the reasons why we tirelessly sit through awful movies like Twilight, and sit through the horror of children killing each other and root for Team Peeta or Team Gale.  There is something that is immensely powerful about the idea of being loved by another. 

That's why Valentine's Day can be so depressing for so many people.  It's why it was so depressing for so long for me as a single man, because if I didn't have a "valentine," it was like something was wrong with me.  The day has often become a day where we either show off what we have, or we pout about what we don't.  Why?  Because the love we have or don't have defines us. 

It's an Identity Crisis!   

Why else would singles all around the world (me included when I was single) begrudgingly call today "Singleness Awareness Day?"  Why, of all days, today, does everyone post pictures of the gifts they received from their significant other?  Valentine's Day exposes where our hope actually lies.

But... it's good to be loved, valued, desired, accepted, and noticed... right?

YES!  And we are!  But there is a greater love than the love of a man or woman.   Before we move on... I know what you are thinking:

"I grew up hearing about how Jesus is my Valentine... it's not helpful!"  

I agree... it's not helpful to hear how Jesus is your valentine.  Because He is far more than that.  You see, here's the thing about us; we want to be desired, accepted, noticed, valued, and loved.  Except, there's nothing about us that should illicit that response from anyone.  My sin is far worse than I could ever imagine.  As Paul shares in Romans 3, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and "none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."

If you turn to the old testament, in Ezekiel 16, God chose us as His Beloved, and we turned and "played the whore."  He entered a deep covenant of love with us, and we have spurned Him for nothing more than cheap imitations of love.  In Genesis 3, we see Adam and Eve, so ashamed of their sin that they hide their nakedness from each other, and then hide from God. You see, the pattern of scripture is in line with how we are in our lives: We desperately want to hear that we are loved in spite of the shame we carry, but we settle for far less because we couldn't possibly think that someone would accept us if they saw "the real me."

That's why Romans 5:8 is so beautiful: "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  God saw how disgusting we were, how rebellious we were, how wretched we were, and He said, "I CHOOSE YOU.  I choose you to be my beloved, even at your worst, so much so that I send my Son to die for you."  

So today, celebrate the greatest love imaginable.  Celebrate all that God has rescued you from.  If you are in a relationship or married, celebrate God's love together.  If you're single, celebrate the love that Christ has for you.  

You are loved by someone that far surpasses any one person's love, let your hope rest in Him. 

In His Grace,


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lacking Joy

I just finished preaching on Jonah 2, and, per usual, was given some from very helpful feedback from some of my friends and co-laborers.  One of the things that they mentioned was, "it didn't feel very hopeful at the end..." which I found was odd, considering the passage is a prayer of thanksgiving.

Upon reflecting on the feedback, I'm realizing that there is something often missing in my Christian walk as I pursue Christ and seek to kill my sin.

I think I often want to give a grave challenge (both to myself and to others) of how we shouldn't live, and how we should live, and to stop messing around.  There's a heart of judgment and pride in there, and as I think of how that comes across, it makes believing in Jesus seem like this crushing, religious, only the strong survive-type faith.

That's not what I intended to communicate in the talk I gave, but in my tone and delivery, I think I was far more grave and serious, when Jonah 2 is clearly about God's salvation and the thankfulness Jonah has from being rescued from death and his own sin.  He's willing to turn away from idolatry and sacrifice to His God with Thanksgiving (vs. 8-9)

This isn't the main point of the passage, but I'm convicted by this point none the less:  where's the joy in fighting sin so that I can be closer to Jesus?

I often deceive myself, thinking I have to give stuff up to be a better Christian.  In doing so, I completely miss the joy of the Gospel.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23)

Sin isn't just an annoyance, but the apostle Paul says that it brings about death!  It's running away from God.  But following Christ gives life!

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10b)

I'm not saying that the Christian life should be easy.  It's hard to give up sin.  But, whenever we feel like fighting sin is eating our vegetables, we need to repent.  Following Christ is not "eating your vegetables," it's the filet mignon at the finest steakhouse.  It should produce more joy than anything else.   When we talk about how God rescues from our sin patterns, and how he should spur us on, we should be challenged.  But, we should also be encouraged, excited, and joyful.  Because as we see the brokenness of our sin, we should be reminded that we are forgiven.   As we see God convict us, we should be reminded that God is at work in our hearts.  And as we repent and change, we should see that we are increasingly leaving the things that cause us death, and traveling towards the things that bring us life.  Ultimately, we should rejoice that the creator of the universe wants to be in relationship with us!

Isn't that something to rejoice over?

In Him,