45 Seconds On the Bible

  
I wouldn’t trade the Bible’s hard edges for anything in the world.  They’re where I’m cut in order to be healed.  They’re where I’m shocked out of a world of warm rooms with nice carpet and easy internet access into a world of sin and death where the God of the universe is remaking everything by the power of the rugged, blood-stained Cross of Christ.  

I need to read Sodom and Korah falling into the earth and Aaron’s sons being slain by flame, and I need to read about Jesus’ narrow road and that I’m not worthy of Him if I don’t love Him more than I do my family.  I need them like I need the truth about an MRI. 

This is a world of great evil being offered the blood of a great God to cleanse itself in.  I need to be reminded of it.  Life is short.  

If my house is going to blow down in the next hurricane, I want to know about it now.  

And I want to go ahead and buy the right tools to re-set the foundation.   

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

Matthew 7:24-27

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Blood and Borders

  
In the time of Abraham, God took a man who believed Him, and through that man made a people for Himself of lineage.  Abraham’s children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren served as God’s people in a cruel and crooked world.  God then took that family tree out of bondage in Egypt and planted it in Canaan, a real place you could plot out on a real map.  He authored a people for Himself of blood and borders.  

They showed themselves (or were supposed to) to be His possession by circumcision and by being a people of the Law, God’s commandments that He gave to them through the man Moses.  The people among them who were truly His in heart were always saved through faith in God, like their father Abraham, but the whole narrative played out within a panorama of ethnicity and nationhood.  

But then Jesus Christ came.  

In publicly taking the penalty for sins on Himself and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, this Jesus cast light on the good shadows of the Old Testament.  The sacrifices and ordinances of ancient Israel turned out to point to Him.  The Law and circumcision and the nation of Israel itself all turned out to be words in a Gospel vocabulary. 

Two decades or so after Jesus ascended the Apostle Paul wrote this to a group of churches wrestling with Old Testament questions:

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

These disparate people Paul was writing to had all put on the same clean clothes:  The white robes of faith in Jesus Christ.  The guardian was no longer a guardian.  The Law and circumcision never saved people, were never supposed to, and God wasn’t using them as a paidagogos anymore, either.  Where there had been a public people of blood and borders there was now a public people of faith and Spirit.  And so these little local churches, these collections of upper class and lower class, Jew and Greek were made up of individuals who had more fundamentally in common with each other than they did with unbelieving neighbors or family.  

God is ransoming a people for Himself from every tribe and tongue.  And I believe our Savior and His apostles would have our churches, as much as possible, look like that’s what He’s doing.  

This church stretches beyond family trees and state lines.  

My prayer for my church and the churches of my city is that we would be homogenous in Whom we worship, but diverse in who’s doing the worshipping.  

We are one people, now.  Don’t let the skin colors or accents fool you.  

The Filthy We Were (Zechariah 3)

  

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.’

Zechariah 3

I preached Zechariah 3 last week.  I thought I’d share some points from within this fourth vision God gave to the prophet Zechariah and from the wider scope of the Bible story.  

  • There isn’t a single person on Earth for whom the question is, “Am I morally filthy?”  The question always is, “Will I confess my filthiness and trust in the only One who can cleanse me?”
  • Man-centered answers to Satan’s accusations, to the problem of our guilt before God, always say either, “You’re not that bad,” or “You are that bad and so there’s no hope.”  Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ says, “You are that bad, and so I’ll clothe you in my righteousness.”
  • If you think the most important piece of your salvation was something you did, thought, felt, or decided, you’re misunderstanding the Gospel.  We don’t hear a word from Joshua in this vision.  The hero in this salvation story is the hero in every salvation story:  God.
  • Those of who have trusted in Jesus worship a God who was willing to crush His Son rather than lose His rebels.  
  • No worldly philosophy can rebuke Satan, because the curse he invokes is real.  The best liars are usually telling a little of the truth.  Our sins are real and the curse of death sin brought is real.  And Satan knows it. 
  • If the best answer you have before God is that you are a good person, you won’t be able to stand before Him any more than Satan can.  
  • If your answer before God is that you are a filthy sinner and that you trust only in the mercy of Jesus, you’ll find that God is the most forgiving personal being in existence. 
  • God’s answer to your worst fears about yourself might not be that you’re exaggerating them.  The Gospel’s answer to our flaws and treacheries is that God is willing to snatch us from the fire that we deserve to be cast into.  And that, by the way, is written by a former drunk. 
  • Satan has no answer to God’s rebuke in this vision; the Gospel shuts up Satan and sinners, because the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus became a curse for His people and clothed them with His perfect righteousness. 
  • It took Jesus 24 hours to unspin a curse Satan spent eons invoking. 
  • People always follow what they trust.  God’s command to walk in His ways is a command to trust Him more than whatever or whoever you could follow instead.  

This vision God gave Zechariah breathed a lot of joy and confidence into my soul over the past few weeks.  I know I can stand right along with Joshua the high priest, knowing I deserved the fire, and say to Satan and the world:

Keep your self-help and political saviors and pyramid schemes.  I need to be rescued!  And you can’t do it.  We’re calling to the only One with hands strong enough to snatch us.  And we’ll shout over all your sales pitches.

God has rebuked Satan on my behalf because of the perfection and holiness of Jesus of Nazareth.  And now I can trust Him and follow Him forever.  It calms the heart.   

We worship an unspeakably wonderful God.  

A Confession for Good

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I got sucked in to the TV show M*A*S*H* when I was a teenager.

That’s not the confession.

Well, not entirely anyway.

I had never really had a cause, up to that point. Then I found this show on satellite TV at about sixteen, and I became mesmerized by the lead character Hawkeye’s sarcastic, unwavering convictions. Hawkeye was always right. He knew war was viscous and stupid. He knew authority should be subverted. And in the episode “George,” I learned that he knew homosexuality was almost certainly just fine and dandy.

I still think M*A*S*H* is funny, all these years later, but I’ve come to realize how one-dimensional it was as an artistic creation. Its writers put those characters who agreed with their point of view in a wonderful light, and those with a different take they almost always cast in a terrible one. But for a long time I was blind to that. I had been sucked in by Hawkeye’s rebellion, and by the idea of having a cause.

By the end of high school I was a pacifist who idolized Mahatma Gandhi, without, of course, having read much of anything Gandhi wrote or anything that had been written about him. The Ben Kingsley movie and a few bumper-sticker-quotes were enough for me to go out and tell the world where it was wrong.

I was in a youth group at a Bible-believing church, and I also acted in a touring Christian drama group. And the fact that I could rebel in these environments, could somewhat shock the majority, buck the trend, enthralled me. I wore a shirt to church one time that said that Osama Bin Laden shouldn’t die for his sins (this was probably about 2002). I refused to sing “God Bless America” at a fundraiser for our acting group. And I began to voice my opinion loudly on what I referred to as homophobia in the Christian world.

This is a confession, so I need to get trucking, here. I had friends who listened to me. I had buddies who claimed Christ and who found my prideful schtick compelling, partially because I (often) spoke it with such ridiculous passion and partially because rebellion is seductive to a lot of people. I said things about the Jesus who I claimed that were simply untrue. And not because I had a wrong take on the Bible and His words in it, but because I wasn’t even reading the Bible or His words in it. I said what I wanted to be true about sin, the Old Testament, Hell, homosexuality, gender, and drunkenness, and a few of my friends found at least some of it appealing. I claimed to be speaking for God, and I lied.

I lied. And I did it because I was proud and because I had found something I loved more than the Creator God: the feeling of smug rebellion.

But my life’s greatest story is this, guys: Jesus Christ pulled me from drunkenness and lust and gossip and Hell, and now my life is His. The Messiah washed me of all my sins by grace through faith in Him. The real Jesus, whose words are in Scripture, rescued me though I was dead in my sins.

The real Jesus. We are given His words and ministry and Gospel in the Bible.

And there aren’t any teachings of Jesus anywhere else, by the way. So if you’re not proclaiming the Jesus of Scripture, you’re in some shape or form proclaiming an imaginary person and slapping Jesus’ name on it. That’s what I did. And it hurt people.

So I confess my selfish, arrogant tirades intended just to shock the Christians I grew up around. And I hope to be able to offer most of them face-to-face apologies someday for misrepresenting the only One who can save any of us. And I offer this as a symbol of what Christians are called to humbly do: Confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive them.

Grace to you and peace.

A Marriage, a Death, and a Public Faith

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Abraham was not always a perfect husband. He was, at least twice, pretty despicable as far as husbandry is concerned. He gave his wife Sarah away in order to save his own skin, first to Pharaoh in Egypt and then to King Abimilech in Gerar. He also relented to his wife’s momentary faithlessness (shadows of Adam and Eve, perhaps?), submitting to her plan to have a son by his slave woman rather than wait on the birth of the promised son. By not putting the brakes on his wife’s plan, he harmed his family and at least two other lives. Then he even washed his hands of the slave woman who bore the resulting son once Sarah changed her mind in envy or anger.

But despite the sins of our flawed spiritual father, he was a man of great and Godly faith. And even though she committed her own transgressions, Sarah was a good match for him in that sense. The New Testament confirms Sarah as a faithful woman in instructing Christian women to “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:4-6). Sarah hoped in God, she believed and trusted in her eternal city (Hebrews 11:11-16), and she submitted to her husband in Godliness.

At the beginning of Genesis 23, this woman of faith dies, and her husband of about a century is left to bury her in still-strange soil, far from the pagan place of their births. He probably mourned for a time right near her body (23:2), and he may have even buried her with his own hands.

I can’t imagine. I mean I really cannot even successfully recreate in my mind and my heart what it would be like to lose your companion of a hundred years (for perspective, a hundred years ago as I write this World War I was going on and the airplane was a 12-year-old invention). I have no idea what it would feel like to see such a relationship succumb to the curse of death after decades and decades marriage. And for Abraham and Sarah it was a marriage spent walking a strange land as Abraham spoke with God directly of His promises and His ways. God has made us so that when we marry we leave our former families and cling to our spouses, and when that relationship is ended by death it is heartbreaking. When it happens in a strange place where you’re wandering for God’s sake, it would have to be nearly devastating.

Abraham mourns for his wife at the beginning of Genesis 23. But then he rises and goes to the sons of Heth, the Hittites. These are the people of the land there at Hebron (not far from where Jerusalem would later be). He humbly asks some of them if he can purchase a tomb there to bury his dead wife, and the Hittites, believing (or at least saying that they believe) that Abraham is a prince of God, are happy to oblige.

Abraham does not haggle over the price of the tomb he asks to buy, nor the field that it is in. While we’re not given any of the state of his mind by Moses, the author of Genesis, it’s reasonable to assume this man who one chapter earlier faithfully took his boy to Moriah to sacrifice him by God’s command, this man who simply believed God would provide the ram once he arrived at Moriah, was trusting God here as well. No need to scheme, manipulate, maneuver. God had made the promise of a son and kept it. He had made the promise of home and was keeping it. Abraham didn’t have to manufacture a great business deal, here, in buying this tomb. God had blessed him with riches in Egypt (despite his sin), blessed him financially again in Gerar (despite his sin), and it would appear that God’s repeated provision and Abraham’s repeated faith had now left him in a position of humble, peaceful trust. He appears to be one who could mourn with hope, could grieve with belief.

And all of this was done in public. The Hittites saw him bury his wife this way. His son (we would have to assume) saw him mourn while behaving with humble honor. His household and slaves would have been witnesses to their master’s faith and his trust in the God of the Promise.

Abraham believed in the God of Jesus Christ. He had faith in the Gospel that was preached to him beforehand, as well as in the specific promises made to him there in Canaan. And that faith, that obedient belief in God, shaped his heart and life and circumstances in wonderful ways.

Abraham shows us it is possible to publicly bury your spouse in a manner that glorifies God. But only by faith. It’s possible to mourn and be a sojourner and suffer in such a way that God in Christ is made to look good, but only by belief and trust in His goodness and Gospel.

By faith we can live as the humble, hopeful, public people of King Jesus. By faith we can have good lives, good deaths, and eternal inheritances.

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When the One Who is Offended is Wrong

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The words “offended” and “offensive” carry a lot of weight, a lot of cultural currency, in our day and place. For most 21st century Americans, if someone tells you what you just said was “offensive,” the conversation stops, your heart speeds up, your palms get a little sweaty. You just did something terrible, and you’re about to be the office/family/neighborhood pariah. If you don’t apologize or walk it back quickly and rightly, you will be culturally radioactive. Contaminated. An untouchable numbskull. A brute, a dolt.

We’re told in John 3 about Jesus’ coming in to the world that “this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”

People often hate good things. We are often offended by the light because we don’t want our sinful deeds and loves exposed.

So the fact that something is offensive does not mean it is wrong. The problem, the malfunction, can lie within the one being offended.

How can you know if this is the case?

1) When what is offending him or her is good, beautiful, and true.

If it offends me that Jesus Christ is the rightful King of the Universe, and that I am morally obligated to bend my knees before Him and be joyful about it, then the problem is with me. If it offends me that there is only one God and that He deserves and is worthy of all the worship in the universe, the problem is with me. If it offends me that the new Heaven and new Earth will be filled with forgiven, faithful saints of all races and all languages, there is something wrong in me.

There are times where I am offended by forgiveness. The fact that I am told by Christ to repeatedly forgive those who wrong me, and that if I refuse I might be displaying that I never knew Him or that at the very least I am not resting in His forgiveness, is at times an offense to my bitterness. The problem isn’t with forgiveness, or with God for commanding it.

Antibiotics are offensive to bacteria; good and healthy things are often offensive to bad, damaged, or mutated ones. Mercy is offensive to my grudge-holding, forgiveness offensive to my desire to gossip, worship offensive to my desire to idolize people or things because I still have sin lurking in my heart.

God has told us that many things are good which, at one time or another, in one place or another, have offended people:
-That the Gospel is for Gentiles, too.
-That divorce (apart from extreme circumstances) is sinful and against the will of God.
-That He will resurrect the all the bodies of believers in Jesus who have died.
-That wives should submit to their husbands and not teach or have authority over men in churches.
-That men should sacrifice for and lead their wives in love and holiness.
-That it is sinful and harmful for men to pursue sex and romance with other men, and for women to do so with other women.
-That it is good and beautiful for a man to pursue sex and romance with one woman in faithfulness and marriage.
-That Christ-followers have a responsibility to live like Christ-followers, and to not commit sexual sins, be drunkards, be given to much anger, etc.

Each of the things in this tiny, impossibly limited list are offensive to some people. But spoken and lived the way God commands and teaches them in His Son and His Word, they are wonderful, life-giving, God-honoring truths. If a good thing is offensive, the problem is, in some form or fashion, with the one being offended. Christians can and should address such people and situations with mercy, but also should understand that altering the Word is not an option. God’s Word is wonderfully true. It is beautiful, accurate, and the most reliable source of knowledge and goodness there is.

2) When the person has a long or regular history of being offended.

This one is different from the above one in that it is not universally true. Number 1 is always true: if a good thing offends someone, something is definitely wrong in his or her heart, soul, or body. But this second marker is not necessarily true, not always the case. Someone could be regularly offended in a legitimate way by something truly wicked, nasty, or evil. That said, in a workplace or a family there are often people who feel slighted, wronged, or become outraged at virtually anything. Being told by such a person that what you have said is offensive is still a bit scary, but it usually becomes more and more difficult to take the person seriously. If they really are unreasonably thin-skinned, then I think that’s actually okay.

Again, address such a person mercifully, and remember that those of us who know Christ are commanded not repay evil for evil (Romans 12:17) and are to turn the other cheek when slapped (Matthew 5:38, and being told you have just said something offensive in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner can feel like a slap). But if he is unable to give family or co-workers or friends the benefit of the doubt, if he is unable to forgive words he perceives as wrong or careless (whether they truly are or not), then there is a wrinkle in his own heart that needs to be ironed out.

3) If the person is only ever offended by things that (relatively speaking) impact him or her.

Have you ever met someone who was greatly offended by the idea that the Bible says men should honor their wives as the weaker vessel? I have. And the person I’m thinking of was a man. Admittedly there’s some overlap with number one, here, but allow me a bit of space to explain the nature of this sort of offense.

It wasn’t that wives should submit to their husbands that bothered this man, it was that I told him (lovingly, I think) that he shouldn’t say mean-spirited things about his ex-wife. That the way a man treated women, the way a man spoke about the mother of his children and the wife of his youth, mattered to God. That same man was offended when I told him at a different point that the Gospel was for all races, and that one of the first Gentiles who believed and was baptized in the book of Acts was an Ethiopian.

He was offended because what I was telling him would hinder his bitterness toward his ex-wife and his anger towards African Americans.

This man, a man whom I befriended and care about and tried to share Christ with on numerous occasions, was offended, but not by violence, poverty, oppression, or wickedness that harmed other people. It was almost exclusively hurtful things done or spoken against him that he was offended by.

This third barometer can work even with actual sins committed against us, not just the Word of God being pressed against our twisted hearts. If I am only ever offended by slander when it’s done against me, then even though slander is a sin against God I am revealing that there is something wrong within me. If I am only ever bothered by deceit when I’m the one being lied to, I am not healthily hoping for righteousness and a good world.

If my heart is in line with the God of Scripture, the God of Jesus Christ, I should be offended by:
-The murder of infants in their mothers’ wombs
-Famine and poverty all over the world
-Abuse of the weak, fatherless, widow, or foreigner
-Idolatry in my own heart
-Rampant sin among people claiming to know Jesus Christ

Again, that’s a very limited list, there, but it demonstrates concerns that should be on the hearts of those who love what God loves and hate what God hates.

What we are offended by reveals a great deal about ourselves. It is an open, indisputable display of what we value. What thing, person, relationship, or idea we treasure, prize, and find our identity in. Do I prize my reputation? I’ll be offended when it is tarnished. Do I treasure my political views and political identity? I’ll be frustrated when they are assaulted. Do I value my children? I’ll feel an irritation when something comes against them. Whether it’s a good thing or sin, a beautiful thing we should love (though we perhaps might love too much) or an evil thing we shouldn’t love at all, our hearts’ treasures are very often revealed by what offends us.

I’ll close with an anecdote. I was sitting with a genuinely Jesus-loving, Jesus-following young man a few weeks ago. He was talking about a manger scene here in the Cincinnati area that had received quite a bit of notoriety this past Christmas. The owner of a home in one of our eastern city suburbs, I would imagine for shock value or (less likely) out of a misguided sense of harmless fun decided to put up a mock manger scene in which the “characters” were horrific zombies. The young man was telling me about this, and I was just listening to him, not particularly moved in one direction or the other. Towards the end of his description I was probably getting my aresenal of opinions ready, backed up by the first applicable Scripture I could think of, ready to pounce with a position and defend it with rhetoric. But then he did something that was, quite honestly, beautifully refreshing to a flawed and often false man like me.

As he finished telling about the crib in this mocking manger scene, the place where normally a little statue or a doll representing the baby Jesus Christ would be, but had in this man’s creation been replaced by a gory zombie replica, his face stiffened. His eyes flickered that serious combination of sadness and anger you get when you’re genuinely mad at some nasty violation of goodness in the world. When something awful and wrong has been done, and you want it to stop. Then he said, plainly and with no pretense, “That’s my God.

He wasn’t debating whether such a thing should be legal or restricted. He wasn’t arguing the moral decay of a country that might be the cause of such behavior. Such debates and dialogues have places, but they weren’t the sort of thing that was spilling from his heart and prompting the authentic, visceral anguish in him as he sat across the table from me. They weren’t what I find so refreshing in this memory.

He simply treasured the King, Jesus Christ, and so it offended him to see Him mocked.

I love that imperfect, still-being-sanctified young man’s heart. I love it. I want to emulate it.

His offense revealed what He loved. And in this case the problem was not with him, because he loved, he adored, the thing most worthy of that affection in the entire universe.

His offense was noble because his treasure was true.

8 Quick Counseling Thoughts for Christians

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These are adapted from our church’s Practical Ministering tweets. Just some quick thoughts about applying the Gospel and God’s Word to the troubled spots in a believer’s life:

1) Most people in our culture don’t have a problem with loving themselves too little. A good underpinning for most Christian counseling would be “eyes off self, eyes on the holy God.” In our counseling let us talk of, be in awe of, worship, and apply the truths of the Lord “who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him” (from Zechariah 12:1).

2) Encourage single Christian women to ask of a potential husband “Will he lead me closer to my Savior or further away?” “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (from Ephesians 5). Encourage single women to ask about men, “We will he help me be holier?”

3) “Then Abraham fell on his face” (Gen 17:3). That was in response to the Gospel promises of God (Galatians 3:8). Many in this culture need a little more that, and a little less self-focused therapy. Let us counsel Christians to spend as much or more time in worship of God than they are self-analyzing.

4) Never overestimate your own power to change yourself, and never underestimate Christ’s power to change you.

5) A stubborn refusal to submit to God-sanctioned authority is usually a sign of something deeply sinful in the heart. Within certain limits, the Old and New Testaments command Christians to submit to governing authorities, slaves to submit to masters (though I believe both Testaments sow the seeds of human slavery’s final end), wives to submit to husbands, children to submit to parents, church members to submit church leaders, Christians to submit to each other, and all of us to submit to the Lord God. Submitting to evil is not commanded, but submitting to God-ordained imperfect authority is a part of the Christian earthly life. To be generally stiff-necked with unbending knees is a sign of some sin that needs to be repented of and forgiven.

6) There is a great tonic for the soul that’s almost never offered in modern counseling: Repentance. While we do certainly need love, acceptance, affection, help, conversation, and many other good things, our primary need as individuals is forgiveness from Almighty God for our sins against Him and others. Without that, everything else is like taking Tylenol for a brain tumor: You may treat a symptom or two, but what’ll kill you is still in there.

7) Heart change cannot come through purely secular therapeutic methods. Only God can change what and whom you love. It is not simply our behaviors that need to be changed but what/whom we love and what/whom we worship. We are not merely broken; we are also idolaters.

8) Most Christians need to be reminded that we are both more valued and less worthy than we think, and that we are more furiously loved but less indispensable than we think. Almost all of us have an inflated view of ourselves, which gives us a deflated view of God’s grace. It’s impossible to feel redeemed, forgiven, rescued, and saved when you think you were a pretty good person whose skills and abilities are vital to the Divine mission. Self-esteem is a far less effective, less eternal fix than repentance and faith in Jesus Christ’s grace.

I hope this list was helpful, but in no way was it meant to be exhaustive. We will continue to blog on practical ways to minister God’s Good Word to hurting, sinful, or confused Christians (I am at times all three) in the future.