Why I’m So Messed Up!

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By Nate Champneys

I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t in church. I remember being three years old and being in the toddler nursery. I remember my Sunday school teacher, “Teacher Lynn,” a sweet retired woman who taught my preschool Sunday school class. I had a really great family life. Loving Christian parents, a family that loved me, great friends, great school, great church. Pretty much cookie cutter in almost every way. I couldn’t ask for a better childhood. And yet, I am piece of work. I really am as broken and messed up as they come. I used to think, “I may not be perfect, because nobody really is, but I’ve got it mostly together.” I would look at other people who had different problems than me and think, “Wow, they need counseling.” I would never come out and say, “I am better than you,” but subconsciously that is exactly what I believed.

A few months ago I started meeting with a retired friend for mentoring, and God has really been using him in my life to show me just how broken and messed up I really am. Honestly, it’s shocking. How can I have been so blind for so long to the depths of my own depravity? And how can I have judged so many people for all their problems? I’ve got anger issues, daddy issues, pride, guilt, shame, and immaturity, just to name a few. There are times in my life when I behave a certain way and I just don’t understand why. I am just so broken.

As human beings our depravity is kind of like the Pacific Ocean. Every one of us is really messed up. This is why the Bible says, “Our righteousness’s are like filthy rags.” Anything good we bring to the table is truly laughable when compared to the ocean of our sin. Many of us will blame our childhood or our parents for our brokenness. The reality is our parents were broken, and their parents were broken, and right now I am passing on my brokenness to my children, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Everything is broken. Don’t get me wrong, God is in the middle of all this, slowly but steadily bringing healing. But it’s kind of like using a teaspoon to empty the Pacific Ocean. It’s ludicrous to think that this side of eternity we will ever come close to emptying the ocean of our depravity. But that has never been the point. I used to think that when I reached my 80s that I would be almost perfect. But the more I look around, the more I realize I have never found a human being who is almost perfect. This is a fantasy. Everyone, no matter the age, is still broken. Again, perfection is really not the point. It’s never been the point.

So what is the point then? The Scriptures say that, “While we were YET sinners, Christ died for us.” God did everything He did for you (including dying for you), not to make you a better person, but so that He could be with you. Granted, by being with Him, we can’t help but start to become more like He is. His love is so deep for you that He says, “I will love you in the midst of your ocean of sin. As you spend time with Me, I will heal you teaspoon by teaspoon, and some day, when this life is over, I will make you completely new.”

So when I condemn other people for their brokenness, I am basically saying, “I am better than you because God has removed 2,457 teaspoons out of my ocean of depravity and He has only taken 2,456 out of yours.” Ridiculous, right? God is calling us to a different way of thinking. He is calling us to be broken and messed up together. To be okay with being works in progress. Not to condemn each other, but to “spur each other on to love and good deeds.”

Hebrews 10:21-24

“And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”

 

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Starting Point to the Kingdom

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By Beau Leaman

Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” (Matthew 5:3). I believe all Scripture to be intentional, persuasive, and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). It is for this reason that Jesus intentionally started the Sermon on the Mount with this key phrase, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.” What exactly does this phrase mean? Does it mean the Spirit of God inside us must be poor? Is it talking about our own spirit? Does it refer to our personal happy barometer in how we’re feeling? Does it refer to our hope and endurance? Does it mean that those feeling thankful in the moment are blessed? I believe in order for us to ask the question we have to understand two points. These points are both fundamental and foundational if we’re to ask the question, “What exactly does this phrase mean?” Let’s begin discussion.

The first of two points we must ask ourselves in answering this question has to do with the awareness of our depravity. As fallen creatures, we often stumble around keeping clear of the “major sins” of today’s evangelical Christianity. For some of us (depending on where you’re at), I think it’s easy to get caught in the feel-good bubble because we have not committed adultery, engaged in drunkenness, or are in a homosexual lifestyle. We often replace these “major sins” with “respectable sins.” Examples would include: gossip, gluttony, outbursts of anger, lust, slander, etc. Later, in Matthew 5:8, He continues with saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God calls us to purity and holiness and the more we are pure and holy, the more we shall see God. Our depravity fits perfectly with this analogy. The more we realize what separates us from God, the greater the realization of our depravity. Oswald Chambers says, “The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, ‘Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.’ … The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Chris accomplishes His work.” This leads to the second point.

In Matthew 4:17 it says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus starts his initial preaching with a call to repentance and starts the Sermon on the Mount with a call to realize our need for God’s help. What a point to be made! Repentance is the natural follow-up once we realize the proper place He holds in our life. This repentance cries from a genuine heart of poverty and genuine trust that He will and has the power to forgive us. This forgiveness frees us to do His work without any footholds restraining us to doing His work.

May God grant us the wisdom to realize and acknowledge those areas of our life we’ve held back from having a genuine and heartfelt relationship with Him. May God grant us the power to talk with Him no matter how big or small the circumstance may be. May God open our eyes so our faith and trust in Him would increase all the more for His Kingdom’s sake.

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Suffering

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By Tomina Sharpe

As I have processed through the news this week of my dear friend Nancy’s worsening cancer, I have really been in turmoil. I know that in light of eternity it is not going to matter to me whether I lived on this earth 1 year or 100 years. The number of years that any of us has on this earth is completely up to God and His sovereign plan.  If God chooses now to take Nancy at the young age of 49, I can accept that as His plan, even though it is not what I or anyone else would choose.

What my mind has been in turmoil about and unable to accept has been seeing my friend’s pain and suffering and knowing the pain and suffering that her family is experiencing. Cancer is a horrendous disease that was never God’s intention for anyone to experience. Over the years I have seen this disease in action from afar. It has come closer to home for me recently as I have watched Nancy go through it and as I watched my grandfather die from it in February. Cancer is horrific and the pain goes on and on over long periods of time.

As I was thinking about this today, my mind went to the pain that Jesus suffered on the cross and I questioned for a while whether even Jesus suffered as much as I see those with cancer suffering. Jesus’ pain lasted a matter of days while those with cancer can suffer for years. I felt almost blasphemous even thinking the thought that someone else suffered more than Jesus. But then it hit me. The physical suffering that Jesus went through, while horrible, was nothing compared to the suffering that He went through when he took our sin upon Himself and the Father turned His back on Him.

We measure our life through the lens of time, but I don’t know that Jesus experienced this suffering within the framework of time. I cannot comprehend the suffering that my friend Nancy is going through and I pray I will never experience that suffering myself to understand it. But I know that nobody on this earth has ever experienced anything close to the suffering that Jesus felt on the cross when He took our sin upon Himself and the Father turned His back upon our Savior. This brings me to my knees before my Jesus and I can only weep at the love that He must have for me and for the whole world to willingly endure this.

As I see those around me that have suffering forced upon them through cancer or loss, I have to remember that Jesus didn’t have suffering forced upon Him. He chose it. He chose it out of love. Whatever suffering I may experience on this earth can only serve to remind me of the suffering that He experienced on my behalf. While I would never willingly choose to experience suffering such as my friend Nancy is experiencing, there is one joy that she is experiencing that I never may. She has a much more intimate knowledge of pain and suffering which gives her a deeper knowledge of the love that Jesus had in order to choose to suffer for us, a love so great that our minds will never be able to come close to wrapping around.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
LOVE SO AMAZING, SO DIVINE
DEMANDS MY SOUL, MY LIFE, MY ALL

O, the wonderful cross
O, the wonderful cross
Bids me come and die and find
That I may truly live
O, the wonderful cross
O, the wonderful cross
All who gather here by grace
Draw near and bless Your name

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The high standard that we will be held to

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By Larry Short

Are we, as fallen people, capable of doing good things apart from God?

I think the answer is a qualified “yes.” Please let me explain what I mean by that.

We were created in God’s image. God is love. We are obviously capable of love. But I do not think we can love, perfectly, apart from God’s help, and the motivation He provides for truly loving unconditionally.

An unbelieving soldier gives his life for his country, and a father takes a stand against a mugger to safeguard his family. Or perhaps, a mother who does not know the Lord carries to term a young child even at the risk of her own life. All are acts of selfless love. They are inspired by (godly) ideals, ideals placed into the heart of man by a God who created us in His own image.

That image was, of course, grossly tainted and distorted by sin in the fall. Too often, now, we are capable of the opposite of love … or perhaps of acts of what we think is love, but what is in reality, at its core, something far worse and not God-like in any sense.

While traveling last year I enjoyed very much reading a book called “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson, the inspiring story of a former mountain climber who began to build schools in impoverished communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, after a failed attempt to summit K2.

So it was very painful for me to watch a “60 Minutes” expose recently which claims that many of the stories shared by Mortenson in his book were either gross exaggerations (at best) or outright fabrications (at worst) — and that, while Mortenson had indeed helped many poor children by building schools in the area, he hadn’t built near as many as he claims, and much of the tens of millions of dollars raised for this purpose by his speaking and his writing and through his nonprofit organization have actually been spent for other, less noble purposes.

Disappointing, if true. (And I’m also naturally suspicious about the media’s role in uncovering these seeming inconsistencies.) I think the jury is still out on these claims against Mr. Mortenson.

But I do remember wondering, as I read about Mortenson’s philanthropy, of his core motivation. As far as I can tell, he’s not a believer, at least not in the sense that you and I classically understand that term. Are nonbelievers capable of doing good things? Yes, of course. But even those good things will be put at risk of being tainted by evil, if the godly motivations for doing them are absent or in question.

Far sadder, of course, is the case of people who should be doing good works as a demonstration of their authentic faith in Christ, but who fail to do so. James writes in the second chapter of his epistle:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds ….

26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

If some good can be done apart from God, what kind of good should be done by those of us who claim to be acting together with God?

In other words, how much higher of a standard will God hold us accountable to? There is a great deal of media scrutiny on faith-based organizations such as World Vision, and perhaps deservedly so. If we claim to be loving people in the name of Christ, we had better do so in a manner worthy of Christ — selflessly, with the high level of excellence, and with the motivation, He demands of us.

We as a church are just beginning this adventure of demonstrating our sincere faith, through our deeds. Through the Elikya Center we are seeking to show God’s love to orphans and widows in the Congo. Through KidREACH we are tutoring at-risk children. Through MOPS we are reaching out to young moms with the love of Christ. Through Freezing Nights, the Salvation Army, and Francis House we are seeking to be the hands and feet of Christ to the homeless and vulnerable in our community.

My prayer is that as we seek to do good, we will share the Whole Gospel with the Whole Person, and do so in a manner worthy of those whose motivation is the true grace, mercy, and love of Christ, extended compassionately and without condition to the Whole World. He is holding us to a higher standard! In response to His amazing work in our lives, let’s pursue this goal with our Whole Hearts!

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Are we Gods?

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By Larry Short

In my most recent Last Word I touched on a topic that may have been a bit controversial for some: Does God respect us? I argued that Yes, He does, based on the fact that in Scripture we see Him treating even his vilest enemies with great respect, e.g., look at the way Jesus treated Judas. And that respect manifests itself in the fact that God allows us complete freedom of choice, even when that choice may hurt someone else and deprive them of their rights.

This week I want to touch on a related topic that may make us even more uncomfortable. Does God consider us to be “gods?”

The question sounds shocking. But, scripturally speaking, the answer is “Yes.” This question is the focus of Psalm 82, where God speaks to us:

“I said, ‘You are “gods”;you are all sons of the Most High.’

7 But you will die like mere men;you will fall like every other ruler.”

Jesus quoted this psalm in John 10:

31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33″We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods'[e]? 35If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

It’s clear that Christ’s purpose in quoting this was to demonstrate the special nature of his relationship as the Only Begotten Son of His Father in heaven. We are all God’s children (in the sense that He created us and endowed us with spirit and the capacity to choose good or evil); but there is only One Son of God “whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world” — Jesus.

This in itself demonstrates one of the key points I believe Scripture is trying to drive home to us. Yes, we are all “gods” (and in what sense, we shall explore in a moment). But only One of us is “God.” And there is a vast gulf of distinction between those two words, “gods” and “God.”

First let’s ask, when God says “You are gods,” in what sense does He mean this? How does God define “gods”?

I think we get a clue from the words of the serpent, as he was tempting Eve and Adam in Genesis 3: 4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” I think the primary way in which we are truly like God, is that we are free moral agents, knowing the difference between good and evil. We have the capacity, the power, to choose good or evil, even when choosing evil means committing injustice against others of God’s creation. Each of us has the power, for instance, to commit murder. We know, theologically, that God alone is the author of life; and that He alone therefore (as God) has the right to choose when to give life and when to take it away. Rightly or wrongly, we too have the power to rob another person of life. Cain first demonstrated this godlike power by killing his brother Abel.

It’s for this reason I think when Scripture says, “You are gods,” it doesn’t necessarily mean it as a compliment! The fact is, we are free moral agents, with the choice to choose good or to choose evil. And the even more sobering fact is, all of us chose evil over good … which is why Christ had to die to redeem us.

God also is a free moral agent, but He chose good and knows no evil, has committed no sin. Part of His goodness is his incalculable love for us, which drove Him to the Cross to redeem us. That demonstrates the vastness of the gulf that separates “God” from “gods.”

This touches on an area of intense debate between many Christians: God’s sovereignty, versus man’s free will. Scripture clearly teaches that God is sovereign, omniscient, and omnipotent. It says He “chose us to be in Christ before the foundations of the world.” Those “whom He foreknew,” Paul says, “He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” God is clearly sovereign. The Calvinists all give a hearty “Amen!”

Scripture also teaches, very clearly, that each of us is completely free to choose, and to bear the responsibility for our choices. God’s love and respect for us means He takes His hands off and allows us to make wrong choices, even if those wrong choices hurt other people and ultimately send us to Hell. The Arminianists all give a hearty “Amen!”

The problem comes when we say, “Wait, that doesn’t make sense, you can’t have it both ways. Either God is sovereign, or we have free will. Both can’t be true.” Wrong! We may not be able to conceive of how both can’t be true, but the fact is, they are. Ephesians is clear: God’s choice of us, His election, His predestination, is on the basis of His foreknowledge of our choice(s). It’s not a matter of Him forcing us to choose something and violating our will. He respects His creation too much to do that. In fact, we know that God’s will is that none would perish. But some do perish. His will is therefore violated. Does this mean He is not omnipotent? No, it does not. We may not be able to untangle it, but God’s omnipotence is not violated by the fact that His desires may not be achieved.

I know this is a bit of a mindbender (especially for those of us with fragile intellects!), but I do think there are some practical applications. First, realizing God’s utmost respect for our right and ability to choose good or evil should chill us and make us very, very wary. The ultimate Good Parent, He will let us have our own way even when that way ultimately means hurting ourselves or those around us. Never think God will swoop in and save the day at the last moment, protecting you or those around you from the consequences of your bad choices and decisions! That’s not how He works. When He tells His children, “Don’t play with matches,” if we ignore Him and start playing with matches, He is going to let us get burned.

Second, God treating us like gods gives us a clue as to how we are to treat the people around us. We must respect them far more than we do, even if we don’t like them, or they don’t like us, or we don’t think they are somehow worthy of respect. That person sitting next to you is responsible for their own choices, and your responsibility is to respect that power. Do you ever wonder why Christ taught that he who calls his brother “Raca!” (translated “Fool!”) is in danger of hellfire? Respect.

Finally, realizing the vast gulf that separates us (as gods) from God (as God) should have a very healthy impact on us as worshipers. The Mormons, and other cults who confuse this issue (saying things like, “As we are now, God once was; as God is now, we will become”), are so wrong on this point. We may be like God in one respect, having the power to choose good or evil, but in everything else we are so unlike Him … starting with what we have done with that power, compared to what He does with it! A healthy view of who we are, the utter depravity for which Christ died to redeem us; and a healthy view of how utterly holy God is, He who alone loves selflessly and sacrifices in ways we can’t even imagine; is absolutely necessary to a healthy view of the relationship we “gods” have with our Father, God.

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Hidden horrors of hypocrisy

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by Gordy McCoy

It was once said by Mark Twain, “Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side, which he never shows to anybody.” How sad is that?

This dark side can exist for years behind carefully guarded masks. Most of us remember the Watergate scandal. I, like many others firmly resisted the thought of corruption in the Oval Office till the very end. Such corruption and compromise were unthinkable. Conversations with those who were there at the time and participated in the cover-up and books documenting those events forced me to accept what I once denied. Watergate wasn’t the only scandal that shook the American public. We can never forget the Clinton Era, and the news about other political leaders placing themselves in the proverbial hot seat.

Biblically speaking we know from Numbers 32:23, “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”

Mark Twain was partially right with his statement, but we as Christians need to remind ourselves to invite OUR LIGHT to reveal those dark spots that Mark Twain was speaking of. Going to OUR LIGHT source, we find in Psalms 119:105, “That Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” We need the flashlight of His Word to reveal the sin that so easily entangles us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

We also need to have someone we can be open and honest with. Someone we can pray with and seek His guidance. This shows accountability and vulnerability. It is not always an easy road to take but it is the best way. You can rest assured rattling skeletons don’t stay in closets … lies don’t remain private … and secrets don’t stay secret. It’s only a matter of time.

In closing, it reminds me of an old song by Keith Green, from Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast Spirit within me. “

Hidden works of darkness always come to LIGHT.

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