Monday, September 26, 2011

Gospel Centered Life - Part 3



Continuing my four part series on the Gospel Centered Life, here's Part 3 -
we don't have to try harder...


Christ's Forgiveness

I was speaking with a friend recently and she was telling me about a trip she had just returned from – visiting with family up north.  She began to share how frustrated she got with her mom who was angry and impatient with her grandchildren because they were running around like crazy in her home. My friend felt terrible and guilty for speaking harshly to her mom. She was regretful believing that her mom would move further away from Christianity because of how she was being treated by her daughter, a Christian. My friend is a sweet woman, a gospel loving person who is reveling in the freedom Jesus came to bring. And yet, she (like me and like you) forgets the gospel in her daily life, when she’s in the trenches. I do it all the time!  We need each other to help point us back when we forget what Jesus has done for us.

So I told her, “The enemy is very pleased with himself right now.  He has given you a guilty conscious, he has isolated you and he has made you to believe you’re the only one dealing with this kind of situation. But he is wrong on all accounts. He is wrong, because Jesus came, died, and rose again to bring us in, to give us his perfect righteousness knowing we could never attain it on our own. Because He is perfect for us, we don’t have to be – we never could be anyway. So, when Satan slings his weak attempts at you meant to crush you, you can say "Thank you Accuser! This is an opportunity for me to remember my Savior, my Rescue.”  You can tell him "Accuser - You are right in what you say - I was impatient with my mom, I was judging her for the very same thing I was doing.  I don’t have this all figured out – but, my Savior does! It is his victorious and perfect life that covers me. I am blameless and perfect in my Father's sight. By accusing me and reminding me of my sin, you have reminded me of my Savior!"

The Gospel silences our enemy. Acknowledging our weakness and Christ’s strength leaves our enemy powerless.  Every time I feel guilt or condemnation it is a reason for me to celebrate my Savior. Jesus forgives me, perfects me, and loves me – with a never giving up, never stopping, always and forever love that will never fade away – for ever, and ever, and ever!”

What does being gospel-centered look like?






Agree with our accuser.
Be reminded of your Savior!
He is your righteousness!
He has come to set us free!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gospel Centered Life - Part 2






Continuing my four part series on the Gospel Centered Life, here is Part 2 -
the comforting reality that we're not alone...

Our Boat

Imagine.One.Gigantic.Boat. And, we're all in it!

We are all in the same boat!  But that's not what we typically think when we're in the middle of a difficult and challenging situation.  Thinking about the woman I referred to in the first post of this series - she told me she felt isolated and believed (wrongly) that she was the only one going though the kinds of things she's dealing with. I have been there too! I've thought is there anyone who understands how I feel?  Is there anyone who won't make me feel like I've failed miserably compared to their picture perfect life! This is exactly where the enemy would have us stay. Separated from the flock and feeling like no one else is dealing with the same thing and that no one else is struggling!

As I began to share my own difficulties and my own weaknesses with this woman I could visibly see her shoulders relax. She was not taking relish in the fact that I was struggling too, but she was comforted in knowing she was not alone.

The fact that we all struggle with sin (our own or the sin of others) and sad situations should not be a surprise to us. The Bible tells us in Romans 3 beginning in verse 18:

“As it is written:

“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.”

Jesus told us in John 16:33:

"In the world you will have tribulation".

We are all sinners. We all struggle with the same things!

Let me ask you – are you struggling with a rebellious child? Overwhelmed with finances or facing foreclosure on your home? Are relationships at church difficult or has a friendship been strained? Are you burdened by seemingly insurmountable marital difficulties? Are you facing separation or divorce? Have you received a bad report from the doctor? Are you unemployed? Maybe you're struggling in your faith as a result of painful circumstances that have left you feeling hopeless?

Whatever it is – don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Look around. Every person next to you this very minute has something they're struggling with. And we would all be surprised to find out how similar their struggles are to ours.  It is comforting to know that we are not alone.  It is refreshing and encouraging to talk to other gospel centered people who understand - and the only way they are able to understand is because they've been through or are currently going through the same thing.  They can relate.  A passage out of 2 Corinthians (1:3-7) has become a favorite of mine:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 
who comforts us in all our affliction, 
so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, 
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, 
so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; 
and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, 
which you experience when you patiently endure 
the same sufferings that we suffer.
Our hope for you is unshaken, 
for we know that as you share in our sufferings, 
you will also share in our comfort."

What does being gospel-centered look like?


Take comfort, you’re not alone.
"You will also share in our comfort."





Saturday, September 17, 2011

Getting Ready For God

{via google}
I had lunch with a dear friend recently and she recounted to me two different "beach day" experiences with her boys.  I know I won't get all of the details right, but come with me and see if you find yourself in this story...

Everything Plus The Kitchen Sink

It's been a while since I've taken a baby (or two for that matter) to the beach. But as my friend was telling me about this excursion the memories came flooding back. She had planned an afternoon at the beach with her two young sons and put together all the necessities for the outing. While I'm not sure of everything she packed, I'm sure it included a beach blanket, swimsuits (and extras just in case), sun hats (and an extra just in case), diapers (and extras just in case), wet wipes (and extras just in case), snacks (and extras just in case), bottles (and extras just in case), pacifiers (and extras just in case), towels (and extras just in case), sunglasses (and extras just in case), sunscreen (and extra just in case), water (and extra just in case), a dry change of clothes (and extras just in case), beach toys, and a beach umbrella. Whew!  I'm quite sure I've left out some very important beach baby gear, but you get the picture.  Off she went loaded down, toddler in hand and baby on hip. Now, that is one courageous mommy if you ask me!

What seemed to be perfectly planned quickly turned horribly wrong. Crying unhappy boys, and a frustrated harried mom adequately describe that trip. My friend did not tell me all the gory details but suffice it to say that all the well meaning preparation had little effect compared to the nature and the wills of two little boys! She could have prepared for days and brought even more baby paraphernalia, to no avail!

Nothing

{via google}
Weeks passed and my friend was in the car with her boys. She decided to take a detour and drive down the beach, and as she drove she was captivated by its beauty.  Although she had boys in tow and had not prepared for a beach outing (and had nothing with her remotely resembling beach or baby gear), she could not resist the temptation to stop and dig their toes into white sandy beach and skip through shallow waves of sparkling blue ocean.  She spied an up front beach parking spot, pulled in and unbuckled the boys with delight.  Armed with a pillowcase for a beach towel, they headed across the sand - one little guy in a diaper and the other one in his superhero undies. Oh, what a delightful surprise adventure! Fun and laughter and discovery and hilarity was had by all as they enjoyed this simple pleasure.

Come As You Are

As I contrasted these two outings in my mind I could not help notice the similarities to the way I approach God. Maybe you do this - If I am ready, I come. If I have been reading my Bible and having my devotions and if I have been obedient to what God has called me to do, I feel prepared or ready to approach God. I need to have all the right stuff in place first. Is my Bible next to me? Have I organized my thoughts? Did I go to church this week and have I been nice to my family? Is there anything else I should "pack" to be prepared to meet with God? Even as I'm writing this I am thinking of all the ways I put off my time with the Lord because deep down I don't think I'm ready. I don't think I've done everything I should do to come before him. I deep down believe that my time with him will be so much better if I am prepared! I have believed that God will be more pleased with me if I have organized my prayers and come with an intentional thought out plan!

In the same way that all the preparations my friend made for their beach trip were unnecessary, so too are my preparations for meeting with God. In fact, Jesus says "come"...period. He does not say "do your Bible reading and devotion and make sure you've gone to bible study this week and then come".

he just says...

"come".

All those things I bring to God "just in case" are unnecessary. All the ways I focus on what I need to do in this relationship actually keep me further away from the intimacy with God I long for! Jesus reminds me once again "My child, it's not up to you. I have made all the preparations.  You only need to come."  You can stop obsessing about what I might think of you. I have already made up my mind about you. You are my bride, my beloved, the one I died for and the one I live for. There is nothing more you have to do. Just come."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gospel Centered Life - Part 1

As promised, I am beginning a four part series that will take a look at who we really are, the comforting reality that we're not alone, the breathtaking truth that we don't have to try harder and the scandalous declaration that "it is finished"! Here is Part 1 -
who we really are...

Our Façade
a false.superficial.artificial.appearance 
      
We are all familiar with the Sunday morning façade – you know, the pretense on vivid display when you hit the church grounds. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter what happened that morning or in the car on the way to church, how quickly the smiles come on when we step foot out of the car!

I sat with a woman last Saturday and she is not really plugged into the church although her family has attended Sunday morning faithfully for several years. She told me with tears in her eyes that it’s too hard to be around other women who have it all together. Her life is hard and she faces challenges that have stressed her family and their relationships. She has learned that the way the game is played is to put on a façade at church. 

{via google}


The problem is that inside she is dying. 
Inside she knows all to well - everything is not fine.
Her marriage is struggling.
They are dealing with issues with their children. 






But, we are Christians and we must demonstrate to a watching world that life is fine because we’re Christians! The reality is it's all pretense, a mask, a show - and we're very good at it. We have perfected the pat answers and the ability to change the subject quickly when conversation hits a little too close to home. We protect the very idols that are enslaving us, that are buried so deeply inside of us that we begin to believe they're not even there. The idol of fear - we don’t want to give in and let people know what we’re really like because we’re afraid they may not like us if they know the truth. The idol of pride - we’re just too vain – we really want people to think we’re better than we are. Or the idol of control - it doesn't matter how we feel or what happens to other people as long as we can control the situation and keep it within our perfectly orchestrated plan for our lives.


{via flickr}

Listen to what Jesus says about our façade:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matthew 23:27






Did you catch that “you look good on the outside…but on the inside dead and everything unclean”?  It’s crucial for us to remember that Jesus was not speaking to the irreligious – he was speaking to the religious.  The church goers and the bible believers.  The ones who looked like they had it all together!

He was calling them out.

"Only the gospel frees us to admit our weaknesses, because our worth is not based on our being strong, but in Jesus being strong for us."  ~ Tullian Tchividjian

He beckons to us in our day - take off your mask and stop pretending. He says I know who you are. I know you are exhausted trying to make it look like you are fine. But we both know you're not.  I came for that very reason.  To rescue you from pretense and striving and burden bearing - to free you from feeling like you have to fake it.  I love you and you don’t need to do that anymore."  

What does being gospel centered look like?              




Acknowledging our facade.
Taking off our mask. 
Admitting weakness.
Giving up.





I know, you're thinking - this is ridiculously hard! I can't do it. It's too painful. Yes, it is. My Pastor says it's like having the flesh ripped off your bones. It is hard and painful. Which is why we can't to this, we need a Physician - the Great Physician. Eustace from Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis knew all about the pain and the Physician:
"In C.S. Lewis’ book Voyage of the Dawn Treader a young boy named Eustace becomes an ugly scaly dragon as a consequence for being selfish and stubborn. He realizes his mistake and desperately wants to become a boy again, so he tries and tries to tear into and rip off his dragon skin. There’s just one problem, he can’t get his dragon skin off no matter how hard he tries. The deeper he tries to go into the dragon scales, the more pain he feels. After a while, Aslan comes to his aid and leads him to a well to bathe in. But since he’s a dragon he cannot enter the well, the skin must come off first. Eustace tries again to painfully tear through the layers of dragon skin but again becomes aware that he cannot do it on his own. Aslan says, “You’ll have to let me undress you.” Eustace describes the event:

{via google}

I was so afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt…he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft…then he caught hold of me…and threw me into the water…I’d turned into a boy again…After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me…with his paws…in these new clothes I’m wearing."
This terrifies me: "I was so afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it."  

But here freedom awaits: "And there was I as smooth and soft…then he caught hold of me…and threw me into the water…I’d turned into a boy again…After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me…with his paws…in these new clothes I’m wearing."

Great Physician come...take hold of me...


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering Who You [Really] Are

If you have seen the wildly entertaining and important film "The Help" or if you've read the book you probably remember this captivating interchange (watch scene) between Aibileen who plays the hired help (played by Viola Davis) and Mae Mobley who plays the familys little girl (played by Emma Henry). Precious Mae is sitting on Aibileens lap on a rocking chair in her bedroom, and Aibileen lovingly and sweetly says these words to Mae and then they recite them in unison:

Aibileen : You is kind. You is smart. You is important. 
Mae : You is smart. You is kind. You is important.
Aibileen:  Oh, that's so good.

It is a beautiful scene that is repeated throughout the movie.  The little girl is not well loved by her parents and Aibileen as the hired help raises this precious little girl and reminds her often of who she really is - kind, smart and important.  

This resonated deeply with me.  It reminded me of all the ways the world beats us down - telling us in a thousand different ways that we just don't measure up.  We're not pretty enough, tall enough, smart enough, successful enough or we're not spiritual enough.  The list goes on and on...

I think that my heart is drawn to this dialogue because I long to be told those things.  I crave the recognition that I am more than what I think of myself or what others think of me. I yearn for value and meaning and importance.  I wish for someone to look me in the eyes with a warm loving smile just like Aibileen did and say "Lori, you is important".




The precious truth is that Jesus has and continues to say these things to me.  He looks at me with his tender loving smile and says "see, I have loved you with an everlasting love, you are precious in my sight"!






Blaise Pascal wrote "Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ..."  The only person who can tell me the truth of who I am is Christ.  All other perspectives and opinions are untruths or half truths.  When the world tries to convince me I am less than what they think I should or could be, or when I believe I am not "measuring up" I can take comfort and refuge in the Truth.

In Christ I am perfect in God's sight, 
beloved of God, 
welcomed by God.

I am rehearsing this scene this morning:


Jesus: You is loved.  You is free.  You is mine.
Me: You is free.  You is loved.  You is mine.
Jesus:  Oh, that's so good.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gospel-Centered

I recently did a google search for  "Gospel-Centered" and it faithfully returned a seemingly endless number of links discussing gospel centered churches, ministries, preaching, and living.

via google
I found discussions about the confusion of what being gospel centered really means and I became frustrated with the fact that I could find no clear articulation about what it really means practically and functionally to live as a gospel centered person. Specifically as I live out this Christian walk as spouse, employee, parent and neighbor - what does it really look like in this culture, in my life...today?  How does it change the way I live?



I did find this helpful quote by Toby Kurth (you can read the entire post here)

"We do not drift towards gospel-centrality in our own lives or in our churches. It involves an active and frequent application of gospel truth to every situation we face. What makes me nervous are phrases like “Is he gospel-centered?” or “That is not a gospel-centered church.” Let’s not settle for shorthand. Being “gospel-centered” is a life-long endeavor, not a slogan. It is not the ability to recite a few well-crafted phrases; it is rather the commitment to continually turn away from defining yourself or your church in accordance with anything other than the person and work of Jesus Christ."

I love his line "being gospel-centered is a life long endeavor, not a slogan".  That is what I'm learning.  Through relationships, God is showing me (painfully, but beautifully) that  I can not call myself gospel-centered (a slogan or label) unless I am living gospel-centered-ly.  I don't profess to know the answers, I can only share what God has been teaching me and what that looks like.   

Stay tuned for a four part blog series as I take a look at who we really are, the comforting reality that we're not alone, the breathtaking truth that we don't have to try harder and the scandalous declaration that "it is finished"!





Along the way I'd love to know what your understanding of living a gospel-centered life looks like...

Feel free to disagree (politely please), or chime in with your own struggles...

I'd love to hear testimonies as well - encouragement for me and for others is always welcome here :)...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Make Them Wish It Were True...

via google
Famous philosopher and physicist Blaise Pascal said this about religion:


"make it attractive, 

make good men wish it were true, 

and then show that it is."





What is the most attractive thing about Christianity?  What would make men wish it were true?  Could it be that it is free?  That it sets people free?  That it is not about a list of rules to keep and behaviors to maintain, but rather it is a love that came down to rescue people who mess up and could never and would never reach up on their own?  Could what Jesus said really be true?

"I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 9:13

Jesus has said he has come to make free those who are not free. 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”   Luke 4:18-19

Jesus has done the work, he has paid the ransom, he has said "it is finished"!

"Live as people who are free, 
not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, 
but living as servants of God." 1Peter 2:16

Hallelujah, what a Savior!