Hiding from God OR trusting in God’s goodness?

Posted by Matt Lane on November 5th, 2018 filed in Christian Living, christmas
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When my kids were little I remember on occasion that they would try and hide when they thought they were in trouble. One specific time that comes to mind happened when my son was still in diapers and I found him in the dining room corner with a dirty diaper. I asked him, “hey what are you doing?” knowing full well what he was doing…er did. All he was able to do is give me this deer in the headlights look which I thought was pretty funny at the time, although maybe not the changing of his diaper part.

In Genesis 3:8-15 we find Adam similarly hiding from God. In verse 9 God calls out to him “Where are you?” and in maybe the saddest verse in the Bible, Adam answers in Genesis 3:10 that he had heard God, was afraid of his nakedness and hid. From there God begins to doll out punishments to all parties involved and it’s also the beginning of God pursuing his people despite their not trusting him.

You see, just like my son didn’t trust me enough to know that I would love him despite what he had done, Adam didn’t trust God despite knowing “the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden”. Adam had this relationship with the LORD where he knew God’s sounds. He knew the creator God in a perfect environment, Eden, knew that God took care of him, even bringing him a perfect companion in Eve. Yet despite all of that, sin entered his heart and he chose to trust himself more than God. He failed to keep the LORD the king in his heart and in choosing sin, ushered in chaos to everything, including himself, Eve, and every person after them.

Thankfully the story, although monumentally sad with incalculable impacts, doesn’t end there. God pursues his people in the same breath that his justice flows from, foreshadowing that he is not done with them. In our finite minds we wouldn’t fault God for wanting to be done but the story is just beginning as God’s plan is only beginning to unfold.

The punch line is that God can be trusted, fully, completely and in everything. Trusting God is hard for us because of lots of things. Often our views of God are mixed up in our upbringing, traditions, family, spouses, etc. Trusting in general can be difficult and then to trust the LORD fully and completely is such a foreign concept. Abraham had a crisis between these two ideas in Genesis 15 where God says to Abram in verse 1 “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”.

In the very next line of the text (verse 10) starts with the word “but”. Now when we are studying the Bible the word “but” often indicates a contrast between the previous sentence and the proceeding sentence. This occurrence is exactly that. Abram is absolutely questioning God’s promise to him and completely lacks the faith to wait on God. Instead of trusting and waiting, Abram is hiding in his own actions. You could say he’s hiding in his own sin, just like his father Adam.

Isn’t that pretty typical of how we act too? How many times have I strayed from God’s path and lacked faith? How many times have I trusted my own strength instead of trusting in God? How many times? Countless that’s how many. Like the stars in the heavens, too numerous to count. But Adam and Abram were not left in their sin. They were not left to their own devices, to figure things out and to forge their own way. Instead, God in his sovereignty provided a way. The Way in fact.

Our heavenly father knows us all too well. He knows that apart from him, we cannot keep a bargain if our life depended on it. So instead of relying on us, he sent his son Jesus to take our place and to pay the penalty to satisfy God’s wrath towards our sin. God did it all. Everything. We only have to trust in his goodness that he’s got it.

The lure of hiding in our sin and hiding from the LORD is ever present and as we look this advent season to the ONE who shows us the way, let us rest and trust in HIS goodness and in HIS way instead of our own.

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Emotions, Passions and Identity in Christ

Posted by Matt Lane on May 19th, 2018 filed in Christian Living
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I’m not sure if it’s different for women but for sure with men, it’s easy to have empathy and relate to the fact that our performance in our jobs, in our family life and in relationships in general fall short. Upon just a little reflection, it’s really easy to identify where we are lacking and are not living up to the needs of those around us. At any given time I can rattle off 5 things that I’m failing at. On the flip side, it’s much harder to convince men to treasure Christ more and to hate our sin. The reality is that we need both.

In general, men often struggle with being transparent and talking about emotions. We are designed to get things done and talking about getting things done just doesn’t cut it. But then there are times when being pushed to articulate our struggles is essential. There are occasions when sharing our most intimate struggles is healing. Sin runs rampant in all of us and without enough confession, there could be no stopping it.

However, just pushing men to talk about their struggles falls short. Just having moments of transparency where we let people in is not enough. Often this can circle and circle with just commiserating about how hard life can be and how we need to do better but that doesn’t move the needle on killing my sin. And by the way, saying that the “enemy” is discouraging me keeps the blackness of my own heart, my sin, at arms length and helps me to not own it. Yes talking about what we struggle with is crucial. But if in the end it doesn’t point us in the direction to treasure Jesus more, it can look more like moralistic, therapeutic deism than like confessing our sins and spurring one another on to good works.

Often as men we talk about having our identity in Christ and not in our vocation. Honestly there is nothing more important for us to grasp. But what does that mean? It might need an another post to fully dig into but does that exclude who God has made me? Does it exclude my talents, passions, skills and people in my life? Does it exclude my street corner? Ultimately at the bottom of my joy is God and who he is yet I see God in all of those things that I just listed. The difference is that all of those things are incomplete and imperfect. All of those things can reveal things about God but every reflection is imperfect because in the end, they are just that, reflections, and not the real thing. But I believe that like most things, our identify is not simple and easily defined. God has designed us specifically to work and there is a true joy in doing those things that we were created to do and a joy in those relationships that we are meant to spur on. How then can we say that our identity in Christ is defined outside of those things?

To wrap up, yes we need to seek out moments to talk about struggles and be encouraged to fully define our identity in Christ. But to do that, I need above all, to be wow’d by the Gospel. I need to be convinced that Jesus is to be pursued above all other good things. Through my Bible reading and through preaching, I need to be wow’d.  And when I take a second to reflect, I am wow’d by Jesus’ love for me and I can see evidences of God’s grace all around me; in my work, in how he has created me, and in the street corners he has given me. Most of the time the problem is that I don’t take time to reflect enough to be wow’d.  And usually, I need to be wow’d by the Gospel more than I need to be counseled because when I am being wow’d by Christ, I am counseled and all other things are often put into place.

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Reconciliation is the hope of the world

Posted by Matt Lane on November 27th, 2017 filed in Christian Living, Church, Jordan Refugees
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Some things are so broke that the path to fix them is so complicated that humanly speaking, there isn’t a lot of hope. Having recently visited the Middle East and specifically Jordan, to fix the refugee issues in the region is virtually impossible. The deep seated issues between different groups are centuries old and are not going to be solved with a simple solution. Eradicating ISIS from the region is also not an easy task. How to support all the refugees WHILE a solution is put in place is almost just as impossible.

But in the midst of all of that, there is hope. There IS a solution. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, “. There it is. God is restoring harmony between the world and himself through Jesus. How? Through Jesus the payment was paid and he doesn’t count our sin against us. We Christians have been given this message of reconciliation. We are to be his ambassadors with this message.

I can’t imagine what it would take to forgive those that have zealously persecuted you. Knowing that a people group left you with nothing would weigh heavily on you. Knowing that they were responsible for the murder of your child would be crushing. How much it would cost you personally to give up and move forward. To not want revenge. To not want any retribution in any way. What would that cost? What would it cost emotionally? What would it cost psychologically? Forgiveness is not free. It’s incredibly costly and I don’t have any idea what it would be like to even contemplate it. In my middle class social-economic environment, I can’t relate in any way.

But, the message that I have been given is the SAME message that has been given to the Iraqi Christian refugees. Reconciliation through Christ. To God and others.

Like other tough situations, it’s difficult to ask someone to choose the hard path. Especially a path that I can’t identify with. However, the depth of verse 21 compels us to the message of reconciliation and while we might want a different option, it is the only hope of the world.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

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