How To Be a Miserable Christian

Blinded by the lightIt might seem like a strange “how to” guide, but if you want to be a miserable Christian there is a simple formula: Go Half-Way

Jesus and all of his students have said many times that the Christian life is joy and peace and rest. It is full of suffering and difficulty, but because of the clear vision of what we will become and the constant presence of the Holy Spirit, following Christ is joy even in the worst suffering.  Jesus did not want to die on a cross. He did not enjoy the experience itself.  But he did it out of pure joy.  Joy over what would happen through his suffering.

But…Jesus and his students were able to find joy and peace in suffering because they went all the way.  They made it the great object of their lives to keep the truth strongly before their minds and to become constantly more like God, their Father.  They made a leap. They gave up their own lives, every day, in favor of the life of Christ.  The experience of being a Christian is quite different if we go halfway.

Consider some of the analogies the Bible uses.  Becoming a Christian is called a movement from darkness to light.  If you grew up in the dark it would be painful to come into the light.  After a while you would get used to the light and it would be infinitely better than living in the dark.  But what if you only came a little bit into the light and then retreated from the pain?  It would be painful over and over again. You would never reach the joy of being in the light.

The Bible calls becoming a Christian the creation of a new person in you. It says the new person being created is at war with your old self.  The new person is true life and peace. But what if you only go partway and then stop?  Part of you will love the light and part the dark. You will be literally at war with yourself. What will your life be like then?

Or again the Bible calls becoming a Christian a new birth. Babies are safe in the womb for a time, as long as they don’t stay too long. They are safe once they are fully born.  But can you be halfway born?  A baby halfway born will suffer and die quickly if the situation is not corrected.

It is just like this with the Christian life.  We must go all the way or we will never know the joy it brings. God will allow suffering to come into our lives. These ‘bad things’ are allowed to help make us into new people like Christ on the inside.  But if we do not see that strongly enough and why it is very much worth the cost, we will think God has abandoned us or hates us.

Lay down your self and push through to the joy of Christ.

You Need A New Carburetor

isaac working on chevelle editedThis is a picture of me at the age of 17.  I am putting the last wing-nut on a beautiful engine I spent six months rebuilding in my parents garage.  The car is a 1969 Chevelle Malibu.  Just underneath the air filter, that big shiny thing on top, is the carburetor.  It is a Holly 4150.  I rebuilt it six times before I got it just right.

Cars don’t have carburetors anymore, but lets imagine you own a car that is in need of a new one.  I go for a ride with you one day and your car sounds terrible. It is hard to start, when the push the gas pedal nothing happens for a few seconds, every time you are stopped and idling it sounds like the car is going to die.  “Why is my car so awful?!”  you ask.  “Well, you need a new carburetor.” I say.

Then you immediately get mad at me. “Don’t tell me I need a new carb.  I have heard that a million times before.  I bought so many new carburetors and it NEVER WORKS!”

Really?  You bought a new carburetor and your car still sounds like this?  What is going on?

So, I ask you to show me this new carb you bought.  You promptly get out of the car and pop open the trunk.  There, beautifully displayed in their original packaging, are five brand new carburetors!

What is the lesson?   It does you no good to buy new parts for your car if you don’t install them. In this case, you don’t need more new parts.  You need to install the ones you already have.

This is exactly how many people treat their life and the Bible. Their life, their soul, is not functioning properly. Someone tells them they need the teaching of Jesus or Psalm 23.  So they go read it or listen to a sermon. Maybe they go to church every week for years and years expecting something to get better.  But they don’t do what they hear.  They hear Jesus say they should commit their whole life and energy to seeking after God and becoming a better person.  And their response is to try and pray a little bit or volunteer at church. They hear Jesus say God will not listen to them unless they forgive people they are angry at from the bottom of their heart.  But they have a really good reason they are angry at those people, and they can’t figure out why God never seems to answer their prayers.

It is not new information we need. We have the teaching of Jesus in our heads. We have the new parts.  We need to install them.  We need these teachings to become part of our actual life. We need simply to do what He says.

That will mean more than a little prayer here or there. It may mean a complete overhaul, six months off the road while you and God rebuild your inner life.  Wouldn’t it be worth it?

Take My To Do List Upon You

To do listAt the end of Matthew 11 Jesus has been working so hard it is almost unbelievable. Teaching, healing and listening to people all day. Staying up many times all night in prayer. Often he didn’t even stop to eat. After months of this and hundreds of astonishing miracles he finds that the vast majority simply don’t believe his message.

You might think that Jesus would be discouraged. Is he about to break under the stress and obvious failure of all his hard work? Then at verse 25 he stops,  looks up to heaven and begins to praise God in sheer joy. How is this possible?

Next he gives us one of the most profound teachings in all of the Bible. He does it by using imagery from everyday life: oxen and yokes. The huge problem for us is that we no longer have any experience of these things. They remove us from Jesus’ point, exactly the opposite of what they did for his first students.

The ox and yoke were both symbols of work. This is because most people’s everyday work involved oxen and yokes. A yoke is just the thing you put on the ox’s shoulders so it can pull a plow or a cart.

What image represents everyday work for us now? My answer is: a To Do List. This is the symbol of the burdens and tasks we have before us each day. Almost everyone uses one at least some of the time.

So, here is a modern reworking of what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples all those years ago. When almost anyone would have been broken from overwork and apparent failure, Jesus stood up and worshiped, spontaneously full of joy. Then he said,

My Father has given me everything! He truly knows me and I know him. In fact, it is obvious I am the only one who actually knows Him. But my one desire is to teach you what He is like so you can know Him too.

Come to me all of you who are worn out with too much to do. I will set you at rest. Take my To Do List upon you. We will do it together and you will learn to work like me. I am gentle and humble in my heart and you will find rest down to the depths of your soul. Because my work is easy and my list is so light. “

Can this really be true? I am stunned by his words just reading them again. But yes. It is true.

Jesus has a list of stuff to do?  Yes.

How can adding His list to my already way-too-busy life possibly result in me finding rest?!

Because He will be right there next to you doing it all with you! Imagine going through a to do list with Jesus, literally working on the same things together, having Him show you how it is done. What could you accomplish if His kind of power were available?

This is what he is saying. This is the secret of His life. He didn’t go around doing hard stuff he hated because he knew he was supposed to. No. He actually knew God. He joined into the work God was doing and because of their deep working relationship together he was given everything, All Power. The most difficult work imaginable was then joy and rest to him.

His great desire is to teach you and me this secret, to train us to work with Him and share His power, joy and rest.

How To Be Happy in Church

exciting or boring

Even though I am a pastor I love going to church. I loved it before I was a pastor and I love it just as much now whether I am leading or not.

Every time I am on vacation I have this problem.  I want to go to church and everyone thinks I am crazy.  You are on vacation.  Why would you want to go to church?!  Well… because I love it.

What makes church boring for some people and incredibly exciting for others?  

Some people have learned how to be happy in church.

Of Course, I’ve Heard All That Before

Almost every time I preach I get the same comment from someone.  “Yeah, that’s good, but I’ve heard it before.  It is nothing new. I already knew that.”  I am sorry to say it but this comment and the feelings behind it are a sign that a person is spiritually unhealthy and possibly dying. 

Jesus knew that the Word of God is like food for us.  A human being cannot live only on food, but must consume every Word that God speaks. (Matt 3:4 paraphrase)

Imagine a similar comment about food.  A person who has not eaten all day walks into a restaurant. The waiter brings a piping hot plate of something really good. The starving person looks at the food and says, “Eh, that’s okay, but I’ve already eaten that before.

What do we immediately know about this person?  If it is really true they haven’t eaten all day then something is wrong with their body. They are sick, possibly dying.

How do we fix this condition?

1) Assume God Will Speak

The most important thing is not whether the preacher is good.  What matters most is whether the Word of God is preached. If it is then we can be confident God is speaking. Even if the Bible is misunderstood or wrongly applied God will still speak through it to those who are listening.

It is nice to eat really tasty food, but what it tastes like is not the most important thing.

2) Takes Notes

God is speaking, so pay attention!  Can you hear Him?  You don’t have to take notes, but you need to do whatever helps you really listen, not just to the speaker but to God. Taking notes helps me.  Do whatever it takes to pay attention and hear what God is saying to you. 

3) Do Something Immediately!

This step is very important. Once you have heard something from God you must put it into practice immediately. Hearing the Word of God is like smelling good food.  Doing it is like eating. If you hear that anger is bad or God answers prayer, do not say ‘Oh yeah, I already knew that.’  Search your life and find something you can do to become more like this right away, even before you leave church.  When you do you will see God act and your spirit will come alive.

Doing these three steps consistently will revolutionize your life and experience of church.  Most of the people around you will be half asleep while your sit on the edge of your seat eagerly listening for God to speak through the most boring preacher in the world. 

by Isaac Whiting

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