I like good news. Somebody I want to meet up with actually commits to a plan. A surprise cheque (or check for my American friends) that arrives in the mail. Final grades above 90%… or above 65% if I was in trouble and that’s what it took to pass the class.
What’s the last good news you received?
What about good advice? You should… You need to… Why don’t you do… You have to… Good advice can be helpful but it also can be annoying, worse if it’s unsolicited.
I’ve got some good news for you. It’s a bit technical but that’s what makes it so good.
When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Christian church in Rome – we’re talking first century AD – he noted the problem we all face:
“…all have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God,”
Now you might not buy into the idea of sin* or even God but just hang on for moment. Paul is saying, we’ve all got a past we’re not proud of and even now, as best as we can do, isn’t good enough; it’s all tainted. Even if you only count the last six of the commandments. we’ve all missed the mark at least once if not several times. (Note that the problem runs very deep – the commandment to not kill includes contempt and the one about adultery includes even lusting after (objectifying) another person.) This sin stuff, it’s messy. It unleashes death, killing us slowly from the inside out. Anyway, the point is, this is our continuous state.
But wait, didn’t I say something about good news? That’s not very good news at all. Well, Paul was simply stating the problem so he could tell us about the solution:
as a gift by His grace
through the redemption
which is in Christ Jesus…”
That phrase, being justified, is a Present Passive Participle. The what? This is the technical part. Being justified is a continuous expression related to the verb just before it – have sinned and fall short.
Being justified takes care of the past, the present and the future, too.
But what does it mean to be justified?
It’s a legal phrase. It’s one of the metaphors for talking about how God has done everything to reconcile us to his heart. The key is it’s not just simply forgiveness, although that’s included, it’s not a not guilty declaration, or an acquittal.
Because of what Christ Jesus has done, justification means that you and I, despite our past, our regrets, our shame, it’s as we never did the deed.
So that you can know, without a sliver of doubt, that you have the full love and acceptance of your heavenly Father who created you.
That’s good news.
* Sin has to do with alienation from God, from creation, and from one another. It breaks our relationships, hinders our fellowship, and ruins our stewardship of the earth.
I recently had a conversation about hearing the voice of God. The person was doubtful and scoffed at the idea that God speaks to us and that we can discern it. Can we?
It’s an interesting question because many people believe they hear from God. Personally, I had an experience where I sensed God call me to ministry. It was definitely out of the ordinary and it didn’t feel like I was just talking with myself. In the Bible, there are numerous stories where people hear from God. They seem to be really clear concerning who they are talking with.
My thinking is that, the more time we spend getting to know God, through the Bible and prayer, the more we can recognize his voice when he speaks. The person that I was chatting with scoffed at that, too.
Do you know the musical “Hamilton”? We recently discovered the soundtrack and as we’ve been travelling a lot over the last year, we have listened to the soundtrack several times. My wife is a gifted singer and it’s a treat for me to hear her sing along. I try to keep up.
Then, one day, spending time with our GBs, we watched “Moana.” My wife said, “The composer is the guy who did Hamilton. She meant Lin-Manuel Miranda and of course, I had to check it out to see if she was right and she was!
You see, she knows his voice.
I believe from Jesus own words, my experience and other’s testimony, the more time we spend in the Bible, particularly the Gospels, the more we will know his voice.
Want to try it out?
Lately, I’ve been really enjoying a radio program (aka podcast or Apple Music album) called Under the Influence. It’s about marketing and advertising and there are lots of great stories. In the episode, “Brands In Cars Getting Coffee: Sponsorship Marketing” there was a story about the boxing fights between Max Schmeling and Joe Louis.
The story begins with the 1936 boxing match between Max Schmeling and Joe Louis. Even though Louis was considered invincible, Schmeling knocked out Louis in the 12th round. This was at the time Hitler was ramping up Germany for war and Schmeling, from Germany, was made an example of Aryan supremacy. However, Schmeling wasn’t a Nazi and he refused to fire his Jewish manager despite intense pressure.
When it came time for their rematch, tensions were high and it had become more than just a boxing match – it was symbolic of “Germany against America. Nazism against democracy. It was a metaphor for WWII. It was almost as if the fate of the world hung in the balance.”
On the night of June 22nd, 1938, with a packed stadium and millions listening on the radio, the first round bell rang. Louis was devastating in this attack and within 124 seconds, Max Schmeling was defeated! This is a quote from the end of the story:
“In the years after their infamous bout, the tables turned again. A former New York boxing commissioner, turned Coca Cola executive, offered Max Schmeling the post-war Coke franchise in Germany. It would make Schmeling a very rich man.
Champion Joe Louis, on the other hand, slowly went broke. He owed millions to the taxman. His health deteriorated. He was suffering mental issues from the damage he took late in his career. He developed a drug habit.
Through that difficult time, a silent benefactor quietly paid Joe’s medical bills. When Louis died in 1981, the same benefactor paid for Joe’s funeral. That benefactor had underwritten Joe Louis’s final years. He had quietly supported Joe.
That person… was Max Schemling.”
When I heard that story, I thought of Jesus’ love for us. Even though he was the champion, he stepped into this world and was beaten down, bloodied, and killed by those he came to serve and save. And yet, in his defeat he was in victory. Revelation paints a picture of our risen king, returning and laying claim to his dearest treasure – planet earth.
That means we are like Joe Louis. While he had that victory, in reality he was brain damaged, broke, and dying.
This is the beautiful part: Jesus doesn’t forsake us, doesn’t give up on us. He comforts us and takes care of us. He will love us all the way back to his heart.
He is the ultimate benefactor.
I recently heard an apparently true story about a man urgently needing to catch a plane home from a business trip. He was desperate to get home because his toddler grandson lay in a coma, the victim of terrible child abuse at the hands of his mom’s live in boyfriend. The little boy wasn’t going to live; he was to be disconnected from life support. After he died, his organs would be donated so others might live. The man wanted to get home to see his grandson one more time.
While he was on the way to the Los Angeles airport, his wife called Southwestern airlines to find the fastest flight home. As she bought the ticket she explained their desperate situation. Unfortunately, her husband ran into delay after delay – a traffic jam on the freeway, a congested airport, delays in security.
When the man finally reached the gate for his flight, he realized he was 15 minutes late, he was sure the plane had left.
An airline employee at the gate approached him and asked his name and if he was the one trying to get home to his grandson. The man confirmed who he was.
Then the man at the gate said:
“Well, I’m the pilot and the plane isn’t going anywhere without me.
And I’m not going anywhere without you.”
That story reminds me of one of my most favourite Bible passages:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You believe in God; believe also in me.
My Father’s house has many rooms;
if that were not so, would I have told you
that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am.”
(John 14:1-3 New International Version)
Jesus’ promise is loaded with hope, love and acceptance. He is making this promise to his friends who, in just hours while he is in his greatest struggle, will desert him, betray him, deny him. He’s saying, despite all your failures, hang on to me, hang on to me because I want you to be with me. It’s a promise we can personally claim today. Isn’t that pretty outrageous grace?
Because Jesus’ promise can be counted on, we know that he will prepare those places and he will return. The Bible vividly describes this event – Jesus will arrive with all his angels, the dead in Christ will be resurrected, the living in Christ will be transformed and all will be gathered by the angels – he will take us to be with him.
I hear Jesus’ promise echo to you and to me in the pilot’s words:
“I’m the pilot and the angels aren’t going anywhere without me.
And I’m not
Have you ever really blown it? I mean you did or said something that so damaged a relationship that it still hasn’t recovered? Maybe you messed up so bad you’ve lost your connection in your family or community?
Yeah, me too.
If you are familiar with the apostles in the Good News, you might now about Peter. He was loud and brash; quick to speak and slow to listen. He seems to have been a leader in that he tends to get listed first among Jesus closest friends. Like the other disciples, he was given the ability to heal people and set people free from possession. He preached boldly and hundreds committed their lives to God. Eventually he would be imprisoned for his faith.
And yet, he blew it. Big time.
After Jesus had been captured and his trials had begun, Peter was being questioned about his relationship with Jesus. After denying he knows Jesus a couple times, he gets asked one more time and we’re told, “Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!””
Can you picture it? Peter spewing out cuss words and swearing on God’s name (super serious back then) that he doesn’t know his best friend Jesus, who is the Christ, the Son of God. You just know that word of this spread like wildfire among the other apostles. Can you imagine how he felt? Do you remember how you felt when you did something so bad you felt disqualified from everything?
But here’s the thing.
After the cross, on resurrection morning, the women coming to finish embalming Jesus, discover he has risen and they encounter an angel and the story goes like this:
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Mark 16:6-7 New International Version (NIV)
At a time when the disciples thought the hope of Jesus had ended in disaster, when they were scattered and afraid, they discover Jesus isn’t dead, the mission is still on, they are called to press forward and stay hopeful.
But did you catch it? The Good News in just two words?
To the one who had blown it, ran scared, and denied his best friend with angry curses, is still welcome at the table, still invited to be a part of the movement, and will still be used to turn the world upside with Good News; the Good News that despite his failures he was still loved and accepted, still valued and worthy.
And so are you.
Rules are hard to follow. Sure the ones we directly benefit from are easier to keep but generally we try to bend them here and there. I mean, have you seen what people do at stop signs? Have you noticed that the best motivation is love?
One of the most beautiful parts of the Bible is God’s testimony*, a revelation of his character, what most people call the ten commandments or in other words, rules. People struggle to keep these rules – even those that believe they’re valid. Others, thinking they are hard rules, ignore or undermine them. What we miss is that they’re not rules. This testimony is beautiful because it’s an invitation into a loving relationship. My friend José Sánchez recently shared God’s testimony this way:
Today, my personal love letter to Jesus based on Exodus 20 says:
Jesus, as I meditate on what you did at the cross for me, my heart overwhelms with joy
1. I can’t imagine living without you!
2. Nothing can replace you!
3. I’ll never take you for granted.
4. I’m looking forward to spending quality time with you.
5. I’ll treat my parents as you treat your Father.
6. I’ll love others as you love me.
7. I’ll love my spouse as you love your church.
8. I’ll be content with the blessings you provide for me.
9. I’ll be just to others as you are with me.
10. I’ll rejoice when I see how you’ve blessed my friends.
Thank you for your love, Jesus. I love you, too.
Isn’t that beautiful?
*Over and over the Bible refers to what we call the ten commandments as God’s testimony. Even the box they were held in was called the ark of the testimony.
I’m a fan of Ty Gibson. He has an amazing way to talk about the things that really matter. Recently, I came across one of his short article’s and my mind was blown.
Here’s an excerpt. You may have to read it twice, I did.
“The dark mental enterprise is encapsulated in God’s penetrating diagnostic question to Job: “Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8).
Here God puts His finger on our most sensitive nerve. We blame God as a self-justification maneuver. The guilty conscience possesses an impulse to fabricate an image of God that resembles ourselves in order to evade the shame His perfect goodness would thrust upon us if we were to allow ourselves to be confronted by it in one quantum leap of consciousness. “If God is like me,” we subconsciously reason, “then I need not be any different than I am, and I need not feel guilty for the way I am.” My actions and attitudes are justified by attributing them to God.”
Check out the whole article at http://reknew.org/2017/06/psychology-theology-meet/.
My wife has known about Dr. Gabor Maté for a while but I am just getting into his stuff. A friend shared this click with me and it’s incredibly profound. His statement that he doesn’t ask why the addiction but, “Why the pain?”
He goes on to note that we are trying to run away from pain by numbing ourselves but the answer is to be with the pain. The thing is, we can only be in the pain when we are surrounded by compassion.
From a faith perspective this is so powerful because Jesus is truly empathetic having known and borne our pain and he is also compassion incarnate.
Please take a few minutes and hear what he has to say. It could change your life or the life of someone you love.
One of my favourite authors had a picture given to her of the great reunion that is coming soon. I did a little editing for length.
“(At the second coming) The living righteous are changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” At the voice of God they were glorified; now they are made immortal and with the risen saints are caught up to meet their Lord in the air. Angels “gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Little children are borne by holy angels to their mothers’ arms. Friends long separated by death are united, nevermore to part, and with songs of gladness ascend together to the City of God.
Before entering the City of God, the Saviour bestows upon His followers the emblems of victory and invests them with the insignia of their royal state… Upon the heads of the overcomers, Jesus with His own right hand places the crown of glory. For each there is a crown, bearing his own “new name” (Revelation 2:17), and the inscription, “Holiness to the Lord.”
As the ransomed ones are welcomed to the City of God, there rings out upon the air an exultant cry of adoration. The two Adams are about to meet. The Son of God is standing with outstretched arms to receive the father of our race—the being whom He created, who sinned against his Maker, and for whose sin the marks of the crucifixion are borne upon the Saviour’s form. As Adam discerns the prints of the cruel nails, he does not fall upon the bosom of his Lord, but in humiliation casts himself at His feet, crying: “Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain!” Tenderly the Saviour lifts him up and bids him look once more upon the Eden home from which he has so long been exiled.
The Saviour leads him to the tree of life and plucks the glorious fruit and bids him eat. He looks about him and beholds a multitude of his family redeemed, standing in the Paradise of God. Then he casts his glittering crown at the feet of Jesus and, falling upon His breast, embraces the Redeemer. The family of Adam take up the strain, “Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and lives again!” and cast their crowns at the Saviour’s feet as they bow before Him in adoration.
This reunion is witnessed by the angels who wept at the fall of Adam and rejoiced when Jesus, after His resurrection, ascended to heaven, having opened the grave for all who should believe on His name. Now they behold the work of redemption accomplished, and they unite their voices in the song of praise.”
Would you like to be there?