Category Archives: Meditations

When God Feels Far Away…

I talk to many people who feel like God is far away.  A question I try to ask is, “Who moved?”

Paul says in Acts 17:27 that God, our Father, is not far from any of us and that his desire is that we reach out to him and find Him.  In James 4:8, James says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”

Paul and James are saying that whenever there is distance between us and God it is not God who has moved away but we have.   We end up wanting the world rather than God.  We end up prioritizing our pleasure, comfort, plans, and business and in doing so we drift away from him.  We come to him when we need him, but then we walk away when things are good.  Our relationship with God is just that, a relationship.  It needs to be worked on. It needs regular attention or we grow distant and our relationship breaks down.  If I only talked or spent time with my parents or my wife when I needed something our relationship would suffer and, in reality,there wouldn’t even be much of a relationship there.  Then when we come to him we are full of doubts because we’ve forgotten who He is,  We’ve forgotten his character and love.  We’ve forgotten how good he is and how he works all things for our good. God wants so much more for us.

God is the good Father from the story of the Prodigal Son.  We all have run away at some point.  We all have wanted the world.  We all have just wanted to run with our inheritance and live however we’d like outside of our Father’s house and rules.  Yet God is not far from us and He desires that we reach out to Him and come home.  We cause the distance.  We walk away. Yet God is the perfect Father who always wants his little boys and girls to come home.  He is just waiting for us to return so that we can have a full relationship with Him again. In fact, the story of the prodigal son is imperfect compared to the real story of us and God. In the real story, the Father sent His good Son, Jesus, to pay our debt, to share His inheritance so we could replace the one we lost, and to bring us home, back in the family, back to the loving arms of the Father.  When we come home, the Father runs to us, wraps His arms around us, calls us His children once more, and treats us as if we never left.

God isn’t far from you. He is near.  He’s right there.  Perhaps He’s even allowed you to see the distance you’ve walked away in life so you’d run home to Him.  He loves you so much he gave his Son, knowing that he’d suffer and die while rescuing you.  If He’s done that, he certainly won’t write you off.  He’ll certainly be with you as you return to him.  He’ll certainly run to you, embrace you, and treat you as if you had never left.

Picture found here

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Hold On To The Promises!

We walk by faith and not by sight.  Jesus said  being a disciple would be an exciting thing (Life to the full) yet also dangerous (Take up your cross and follow me).  As we walk further in planting The Exchange Community with starting a weekly service the Enemy fights back.  Yet I remember that God is faithful, we can trust in him.  God is faithful, we can follow him.  Why is that?  We can trust him because all of his promises are fulfilled in Jesus.  His victory is assured!

Check out this song that’s really speaking to me based off of Romans 8:

A Daring Confidence

Dale Meyer, Former speaker of The Lutheran Hour and president of Concordia Seminary has a daily blog called The Meyer Minute. It’s a great source of Gospel-Centered daily devotional thoughts.  His words have lifted me up and inspired me in Jesus love countless times.

On the July 24th post Meyer gives a couple quotes from Martin Luther about the place of Good works in a Christian’s life:

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures. And this is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire. (Martin Luther, Preface to the Romans)

As we seek to live a Gospel-Centered Mission-Focused life, we need to remember that we’re not striving to impress God.  We don’t need to earn his love, to win his approval, or to secure our salvation.  We have that all in faith through Jesus. Our future is secure.   All we do, then, is in response to God’s love he’s shown us already.

“Faith is living, daring confidence in God’s grace.”  As followers of Jesus, we can stop examining our motives, stop tallying our good deeds, and look to Jesus’ love on the Cross  and know that he will give us all good things.  We’re then freed to love him and to love and serve others in his name without motive and without fear.

The Rob Bell looking Luther picture found here

Our Identity in Christ

I’ve been reading, Gospel Coach: Shepherding Leaders to Glorify God, by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood, and ran into a good list about our identity in Christ (pg. 71-72).  The authors call this our “position in Christ.”  This is who we are positionally before God, though in reality we don’t always or mostly live up to it in the here-and-now.  They say we are positionally children of God, yet we still live like Spiritual orphans.  The authors recommends keeping this list somewhere where you’ll see it regularly and be reminded of who you are in Christ.  Such a list, understood correctly, can lead one to repentance, strengthen them in their Gospel Identity, and call them to live the Christian life.  Here’s the list:

  • Through Christ, I am dead to sin (Romans 6:11)
  • Through Christ, I am spiritually alive (Romans 6:11; 1 Corinthians 15:22)
  • Through Christ, I am forgiven (Colossians 2:13; 1 John 2:12)
  • Through Christ, I am declared righteous (! Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • Through Christ, I am a child of God (Romans 8:16; Philippians 2:15)
  • Through Christ, I am God’s possession (Titus 2:14)
  • Through Christ, I am an heir of God (Romans 8:17)
  • Through Christ, I am blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3)
  • Through Christ, I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • Through Christ, I am free from the law (Romans 8:2)
  • Through Christ, I am crucified with him (Galatians 2:20)
  • Through Christ, I am free from the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:24)
  • Through Christ, I am declared blameless and innocent (Philippians 2:15)
  • Through Christ, I am the light in the world (Matthew 5:14-15; Philippians 2:15)
  • Through Christ, I am victorious over Satan (Luke 10:19)
  • Through Christ, I am set free in Christ from the power of Sin (Colossians 2:11-15)
  • Through Christ, I am secure in him (I Peter  1:3-5)
  • Through Christ, I am at peace with God (Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:6-9)
  • Through Christ, I am loved by God (1 John 4:10)

As you read through this list:

  1. How did these words make you feel?  Are they helpful to remember?  Why?
  2. What do you feel is missing fro their list?  What truth do you cling to shake you from sin, to return you to the Gospel and your identity in Christ, and to motivate you to live the life Christ has set before us?

Image found here

Christian Meditation On the Mass Shooting At the Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut

Today’s headline read, “27 dead, including 18 children, in elementary school shooting” in Newtown, Connecticut.  Parents, children, brothers and sister are not coming home to their families this afternoon. They won’t be with their families this Christmas. Like most parents, I couldn’t help but hug my daughter and pray for the families of the dead. How could such a thing happen? Why does it keep on happening? When will it stop?

More and more people are self-proclaimed atheists. Many others are functional atheists as they live as if God doesn’t exist. Yet if you reject God, you must reject the idea of right and wrong. You have to accept that death created us. Death becomes your god of sorts because through the death of billions of life forms the fittest survived and passed on their genes and evolved into us. So if you reject God, even the kind of death we saw today, is what created us. It’s nothing more than the “weak” being removed so the “fittest” can survive. You have to accept this if you reject God and accept evolution.

Yet when such a tragedy strikes, many suddenly get religion. Their worldview doesn’t provide the answers to the questions of their hearts or they close their eyes to what their worldview actually says about death. So when something horrible happens, suddenly God is alive and real…and to blame for allowing such tragedy. Yet is this really God’s fault? Is it really his will?  If someone asked me what I thought about today, I’d respond by telling them the story.

Creation

While evolution says death created us, the Bible says God never created us for death. Death was never part of his plan. We were always meant to live. God created us to live in a perfect world, where we had a perfect relationship with Him. Because we were in a perfect relationship with God, we were at peace with one another. There was never any violence like we see today. God never designed us to suffer and die. Rather we were meat to live forever by his side.

Fall

Yet this world isn’t perfect, not anymore. You see our first parents thought they could improve on God’s creation. They were tempted by God’s enemy into believing that they’d be better off if they were in control of their own lives. So they rebelled against God and His ways. Suddenly their relationship with God was broken, and just as quickly their relationships with each other fell apart as well. Now sin, suffering, wars, famine, disease, aging, and death hold the world captive.  People even kill each other now.  Yet this wasn’t part of God’s plan and God didn’t want to leave us this way.

Redemption

God continued to pursue His children. He continued to call them back to live a life close to Him, in His ways, under His rule and protection. Yet his children kept rebelling. All of us keep rebelling. Yet God keeps calling us. Finally, God sent his Son who was called Jesus, which means “The Lord Saves”, and Immanuel, which means “God with Us.” He lived perfectly as His Father always created us to live. Yet he died the death we deserved, because of our rebellion, on the cross. As we believe and are baptized in Him, His perfect life becomes our perfect life. Our relationship with God is restored. His death then becomes our death, so death will not hold us because death could not hold Jesus.  We then have hope, on days like today, that death does not have the final word.

Restoration

One day, there will be no more death. The peace that the angels sang about on the night of Jesus’ birth will be realized. God’s enemy, and all who chose to follow in his ways of rebellion and refuse to be cleansed, will be locked away forever. The world will be perfect again. God will raise all those who trust in Him, will give us new life, and never again will there be any anger, fighting, wars, sickness, pain, or death. Such things won’t even be remembered.  Even days like this day will be forgotten.  God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will live in joy, true joy, in a perfect world forever more.

Today something horrible happened. Yet if someone asks me why such tragedy happens, I’ll share with them the truth and “good news” of God’s story. We still mourn today, we pray fervently for the families of those who were killed, because we’re still awaiting the Restoration of things. Yet we have hope because one day God will make everything right. We sing, “Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” We pray come quickly, Lord Jesus! And we look to the day when He comes again to make everything right.

Picture found here

There Is Surely A Future Hope For Me

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.  There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  Pr 23:17-18 

I’ve been reading through Proverbs over the last week and this verse seems to sum up the theme of proverbs: to be wise is to see that God is better and the only lasting good.  How often I’ve envied sinners in my heart.  How often I’ve wanted what was forbidden me because I doubted that God had something better in store.  When I’m tempted to secure my own good and pleasure, when my heart starts to yearn for that which it wasn’t meant for, I need to remember that, “God is Good so I don’t have to look elsewhere.” 

The brokenness and emptiness that we often feel in this world will never be cured by attaining some other broken and empty thing.  This world is fading.  This world will one day end and my life here will end as well.  Yet while my life will end here, there is surely a hope for me.  God sent His Son, Jesus, into this broken world.  He repaired my broken relationship with God by paying the debt I owed Him because of my rebellion.  One day he’ll also repair this broken world, my broken body, and my broken soul.  I’ll experience the ultimate good when God restores all things and I’ll see him face-to-face and live with him forever. 

God is Good.  I don’t have to look elsewhere.  I don’t have to chase fleeting pleasure I can never keep.  Rather I can be zealous for God’s good, because his good will last.  My hope in His good will not be cut off.  There is surely a hope for me.  There is surely a hope for us. 

 

For more on how God is Good and other truths that free us, check out Missional Training #12 – The 4 Gs and Tim Chester’s Blog and Tim’s book, You Can Change.

picture found here

 

 

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