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jesuskeepsdisappointingme

I have a question today. It’s simple, really. But I’ve been pondering it a lot lately.

Do you love Jesus?

Do I love Jesus?

To clarify, in the context of this post, this is not a question for non-believers. Certainly if you don’t believe in your need for Jesus, if you’re not a believer, I am praying that your eyes will be opened. Certainly if you don’t have Jesus, you need Him. But that’s for another post.

Today’s question is for believers – do we love Jesus?

I’m not asking this question as some sort of ploy to get us all to question our salvation. The Word is clear that salvation is eternal.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~Romans 8:38-39

No, I’m asking this question because I have realized that there is a distinction between loving Jesus and loving what He does for us. Certainly we believers love what He does for us. We love His joy, His blessings, His peace, His love. We could (and do) go on and on about what He did for us. And there is nothing wrong with this. We should. We should count our blessings daily. We should remain eternally grateful for the gifts of the Father.

But is that all we love about Him? Are we so focused on what we’re getting out of the relationship that we’re neglecting what we should be giving? Love is a two-way street, after all. Do I love Jesus for Jesus? Or do I love Jesus for His gifts? Do I love Him for loving me? Or do I love Him for what I could potentially benefit from knowing Him?

Maybe it’s a distinction you’ve never pondered. But it’s beginning to dawn on me that it’s a pretty significant distinction.

Let’s take this into the context of marriage. If all I ever expect from my spouse is his service to me, his devotion to me, if all I ever ask is that he fix my problems, be my rock, forgive me every time I fail, be my shoulder to cry on, how long is my marriage going to last? Love is reciprocal, after all. It can’t be one way or eventually it will be no way. A marriage that has one side always receiving without ever giving is a marriage that is doomed to die.

So what does that say about our walk with Christ? Are we always praying for Him to fix things? Heal things? Give us things? Make things better? Bless things?

Certainly we should pray for those things. Certainly our faith is in part knowing that He is the fixer, the healer, the giver, the blesser. But if that’s all it is, I fear it’s doomed to die. I fear that if we remain a one-sided, self-centered lover of what Jesus does, we’ll never ever see those blessings for which we beg come to fruition.

So what is our responsibility then? I believe it starts with loving Jesus for WHO He is not WHAT He does. After all, a life committed to Him will only remain committed if lived in the understanding of His great love, His great character. Commitment to “getting” will turn up fruitless in the end.

No, not because God is a childish god who folds his arms across his chest and pouts at our selfishness, but because God is a god who wants our genuine affection. That’s why He’s gentle to never bully His way into our hearts. That’s why He’s careful to never force anything upon us, especially devotion. That’s why He gave us free will – so that we would freely and genuinely choose to love and serve Him. If it’s not real, He’s not interested.

So if we’re not loving Him, but instead loving His benefits, do we really love Him at all?

In my own life, I’ve been learning this in a big way. I’m learning that devotion to Christ requires sacrifice. No, not for my salvation. That’s free. But if I’m following Christ expecting blessing, healing, fixing, comfort, peace, prosperity, and on and on, and I’m not doing my part to bring those things about, I’m basically a beggar with my hands out, standing at the throne of the Ancient of Days saying, “Give me. Give me. Give me.”

No, we approach the throne of grace with thanksgiving, praise and adoration. If we try to skip over the adoration part and head straight to the blessings, we will remain sorely disappointed.

I fear that’s one of the biggest problems with believers today. We want the benefits of God without falling in love with Him first. It would be like our one-sided marriage: the wife wanted love and affection from her husband without ever giving it to him in return. Where’s the joy in that? Where’s the favor? It won’t come. It will remain lost.

So I ask myself today, do I love Jesus or do I love what He does for me? Do I love Him for who He is or for what I am praying He will do for me? What about you?

If in your life of faith, you keep (perhaps secretly) feeling like Jesus is disappointing you, perhaps it’s time to take an inventory of your heart. Are you taking the time to read His Word, learn who He is and fall desperately in love with Him? Or are you standing before Him, asking for a daily handout?

The distinction is the difference between the Blessed Life and the disappointed life.

atheistsdontexist
It’s a new year, and while most of us are probably wrestling with our resolutions and how we are going to finally execute them this year, I have a challenge for you. Instead of a resolution, how about you have a revelation?

Scientifically, you can’t be an atheist.

My pastor told a story once about sitting on a plane next to an atheist. He challenged the man by telling him that he thought atheism was scientifically impossible. You can hear his witty banter here, if you want. Or you can read my summary.

My pastor challenged the man by pointing out a few facts. First of all, scientists tell us that the smartest human being probably possesses two percent of all knowledge. That’s everything there is to know about everything – science, history, language, human tendencies, philosophies, everything… about everything. In every culture, all around the world. Everything that has happened, everything that is happening now, and everything that will ever happen. Think about that. And the smartest of all of us probably only possesses about two percent of that knowledge. He went on to point out that in order to say that there is no God, you would have to have all knowledge. Sitting on the plane next to the atheist, my pastor asked, “Is there a chance, in the 98% of knowledge that you don’t possess, that God exists?”

I absolutely love this. It’s true isn’t it? Atheism is scientifically impossible. You can be an agnostic, sure. You can say “there probably isn’t a God.” But you can’t emphatically say, “there is no God.”

When he asked the man the question, he responded, “Well, yes, I guess there is a chance that God exists. So, okay, I don’t know if there’s a God.”

Is there a chance, in the 98% of knowledge that you don’t possess, that God exists?

My pastor’s response? “Well I do. Would you like to know something about Him?”

(Pause for a moment and giggle if you need to. It makes me smile, too.)

You see, there’s a big problem in claiming that God doesn’t exist, because God is Absolute Truth. If you claim that there is no God, you are claiming that there is no such thing as absolute truth. And by making the claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth, you are in fact making an absolute statement. You’ve cancelled yourself out. Do you see that? You can’t claim there are no absolutes, because the claim itself is absolute.

If there is absolute, then there is God. There is no getting around this.

A Confessed Skeptic

I’m a skeptic. I never take things at face value. I chew on things and then chew on the cud. I think about the ways of the world and then I think about them again. And then I think about them some more until I’m blue in the face. It’s just my nature. So if I were to say to you that there haven’t been times over the years that I wrestled with the very existence of God, I would be lying to you.

I have definitely wondered from time to time if this is all for naught. But there are two things about this God business that I know to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt.

One.
When it comes to God, He is all about changing lives. I have seen it in people around me my whole life. And until it happened to me, I didn’t know if it was true or if they were just crazy people looking for attention. And perhaps some of them were. But the point is, when my life was radically, drastically, unequivocally changed by God Almighty, all my cynical, skeptical arguments for logic and reason of why it’s possible that God might not exist were thrown out the window. Something happened to me. I was going one way in life and made a sudden one-eighty the other direction. It was radical. It was transformative. It was life-changing. Say what you will about the scientific arguments for or against God, but you can’t argue with someone’s life being changed from the inside out. And there is no way to describe something like that other than by divine interpretation. And unless you’ve experienced it yourself, it’s easy to question. I would know.

Two.
My great grandfather is famous (in my family, anyway) for saying that he had come to the conclusion that even if it’s all a farce, even if it’s just a bunch of bunk, believing in God was worth it to him. For in what universe would it be a waste of time to live your life with peace, joy, love, and kindness to strangers? On the other hand, if this is real and you doubters are wrong, what then? I’d rather die and find out it wasn’t real than die and found out it was.

I know many of you who are reading this are self-proclaimed atheists, or perhaps agnostics. I’m not here to argue you into believing in God, nor am I here to scare you into getting your “fire insurance.” I am, however, here to challenge you to think past your own calculations of the known universe. Is it possible you’re wrong? Is it possible you’re missing something? And if so, isn’t it worth a try?

For me, God saved me from a life of the devastation of pride. I was wallowing in it and it was eating me from the inside out. I was completely unaware. But one day I saw it for what it was and it scared me, for I knew the hold it had on my life. I was eaten up with self-righteous, religious piety, and I hated myself for it.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this God is real, alive, active, and madly in love with us, His creation.

But on that day, God showed me that His grace is sufficient for even me. He showed me that He loves me too much to let me ruin myself. He showed me that He wants me, that He has a purpose for me, that He isn’t done with me.

And so I turned around. I took the plunge. I gave my heart to this Jesus and never looked back. And since that day, I have seen miracles. I have been blessed. I have walked places I never thought I’d walk, seen things I never thought I’d see and felt a peace deeper than I could ever explain in words. Above all of that, I have become keenly aware of a redeeming, transforming Love that is unending for me. That’s all I need to know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, this God is real, alive, active, and madly in love with us, His creation.

What about you? What is 2014 going to hold for you? Are you going to stay where you are? Are you going to look up and realize it’s February 3rd and you’ve already failed at your resolution? Or are you going to do something for yourself that’s better than any resolution? If you don’t believe in God, why not make 2014 the year you at least opened up your heart to the idea of giving him a chance? Just crack the door open. See if you’re not overwhelmed by the warmth, peace and power of the light that shines in. A revelation resolution.

Oh what a happy new year that would be!