You’re worth so much because God paid so much

Everybody knows that if you’re looking to buy something that you can’t find anywhere for sale, check Ebay. Ebay has everything. Books and movies, clothes and cosmetics, cars and even entire towns! Ebay is the revolutionary one-stop shop for anything and everything you could ever want to buy, including grilled cheese sandwiches with Jesus’ face on them.

What I find fascinating about Ebay is what people will pay for things. Sure there are lots of outrageously priced items, but just because the price is outrageous doesn’t mean people will pay that much for it. But in some cases, people decide what’s for sale is worth the price it’s being offered for.

Example? In 2010, Warren Buffett, a world-renown economist and expert investor, put up an Ebay auction to have lunch with him. Granted all proceeds from the auction would benefit a charity. But how much would you pay to talk money matters with Warren Buffett? Well, someone paid $2.63 million.

That’s $2,630,000.00. Check the decimal places on that bad boy. Yikes!

We evaluate worth or value by how much people are willing to pay for it. In our capitalistic American society, that’s not a foreign concept, but how do you judge the worth or value of a person’s life? How do you judge the value of their time or experience? Those things aren’t as easy to pin a number on, but the concept is actually exactly the same.

money-finance-bills-bank-notesToday’s verses are Ephesians 2:4-7.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

Everyone struggles with the concept of self-worth. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve met very many people who have it figured out. I don’t. With Christ-followers, there’s something in our brain that cautions us not to think too highly of ourselves, and that’s absolutely a valid thought to have. It is possible to get puffed up, to look at yourself and your life and believe you haven’t got any problems and that you’ve got life figured out. That’s a dangerous place to be.

But we take it a step further. Because we don’t want to think to highly of ourselves, instead we get into the habit of thinking too meanly about ourselves. We downplay our achievements and talents. We deflect compliments because we don’t think we deserve them and we don’t want people to think we’re being proud.

God commands us to be humble, but is false modesty the same as humility? No. In the same way, pride and self-worth don’t go hand in hand.

I was talking about worth and value with a one of my awesome Forever Sisters last night, and I started wondering how you can even judge the value of another human being? What we have to remember is that we aren’t the ones who assign value to people. God does that. God says what people are worth. God says that the price of a human soul can’t be measured.

Even so, in God’s eyes, our lives were worth enough to Him that He sent Jesus to die for us.

You can recognize and accept what you’re worth without being prideful. Regardless of what you’ve done or where you’ve been or where you’re going, this fact is still true: God gave His Son for you. God chose to shed His Only Son’s blood to pay the price for your soul. That’s how much you mean to God. Think about that the next time you start beating yourself up or listening to naysayers or picking yourself apart in the mirror.

Your worth as a person can’t be judged by another person, because another person doesn’t have the power or authority to purchase you. God’s the only one who can do that, because He created You. He made you exactly the way you are, with all your funny quirks and strange eccentricities. God doesn’t make mistakes, and there are no such things as accidents.

Maybe the people around you don’t see your worth. Maybe you can’t see the worth of the people around you. That’s okay. You’re not supposed to be able to see it, but just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

So stop basing your value to the world and the people around you on your ability to perform, your talents, your looks, your brains. Stop looking for worth based on what you can do or what you know. Instead, understand that you’re worth so much because God paid so much for you. And if God thinks so highly of you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.

Jesus finished what the Law started without changing it

When you think about the church as a whole in general, what’s the first thing you think of? Maybe if you’re in another country where the Bible is illegal and churches are threatened, you have a different perspective than we do here in America. But here in the US, generally what I run into when I talk to people about the church is the idea that “church people” are always fast to pass judgment.

This is a horrible example and it may not even be relevant, but one of the most popular comedy sketches in the history of television was Dana Carvey’s Church Lady–a cantankerous old woman character who fussed and fretted about modern trends and popular culture (and it was pretty funny, honestly).

I’ve had this conversation with people before. If you go to church, it usually means that you have no problem condemning actions or choices or the beliefs of other people. You sit on a high horse and pass judgment on people you don’t know. Whether it’s actually true or not, that seems to be the general perception.

But isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Isn’t the Bible a book of dos and don’ts? As Christ-followers, don’t we have the right and a duty to tell other people when they’re wrong?

Oh, this is such a slippery slope. And in situations like this, it’s always best to go back to the source to see what the Bible actually says.

dreamstime_m_9338559Today’s verse is Matthew 5:17.

Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.

This is still the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus’ best known messages. One of many things I love about Jesus is that He wanted people to understand why He’d come. He didn’t just walk about thumping people on the head and telling people that they were wrong. He spent His time building relationships with people.

But by that same token, as He says in this verse, He didn’t come to do away with the Law. He came to finish what the Law started.

Everything that God had done throughout the Old Testament was a picture to demonstrate that God had a relationship with people. The Laws weren’t given as a means to get to heaven or to reach God. The Laws were given to show people they could never be good enough and that they would have to rely on God’s grace through faith for salvation. Sound familiar?

Jesus came to bridge the gap between a perfect God and a broken world. And He didn’t accomplish this by walking around beating people down because they had sinned. He didn’t make it happen by standing above everyone and pointing out everything they’d done wrong. He didn’t do it by jumping down somebody’s throat because they say something that disagrees with God’s Word.

No. But at the same time, Jesus didn’t pull His punches either. He spoke the Truth because He is the Truth. He didn’t change one thing about Scripture that God had already established. I mean, think about that. God doesn’t change, and Jesus is God. So if you can’t separate God from Jesus, you can’t separate Jesus from the Bible.

You can respect another person’s choice to believe something without believing it yourself. You can demonstrate love and kindness toward people who believe differently than you do without thinking poorly of them. Pointing out where people are wrong won’t help you build a relationship with them. When you point at someone else’s faults, remember there are four fingers pointing back at you. Try to keep that in mind the next time you are being critical of someone else’s choices. We can’t make decisions for other people, and I’ve never once seen where a heated debate changed anybody’s mind.

Be clear. What the Bible says goes, and you can’t separate Jesus from the Bible. What God says is true and right. Period. Whether we like it or not. But nobody has the right to tear someone else down for what they do or don’t believe.

Jesus wanted people to understand why He was here and make up their own minds. That’s what we should be doing too.

 

Death is just a doorway between life and Life

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that God is good. I mean, you know He’s good in that distant disconnected way like the elected official is good or the popular spiritual leader is good or the hero you admire is good. He’s good, but He doesn’t really get you. There’s a big difference between knowing that God is good and truly understanding His goodness.

There’s so much sorrow in the world. There’s so much hurt. People hurt each other physically and emotionally. We say things to each other intended to cut and demean. Some are the brunt of general meanness. Others are not even involved in the evil that’s happening, and they still get hurt. And even in the innocent passing of time, we lose people we love. Sometimes we expect it, due to sickness or age. Other times we don’t. Either way, it still hurts.

And that’s the world we live in. That’s life here. Sure, there are joyful moments. But then “real life” rears its ugly head and reminds us that life isn’t going to get better down here.

If that’s our future, if that’s all there is, why do people keep living? I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have the hope of salvation, the peace of knowing that God really is going to work everything out. Because the truth is that God really is good–and not just in some distant, disconnected way. He’s here, in our lives, seeing what we feel and hurting with us when we hit those dark times of sorrow and sadness. And there’s something really important that we need to remember about this crazy, screwed-up, hot mess of a world we live in: It’s not all there is.

doorwayToday’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Jesus wanted His followers to understand that even though the world was broken, they could still have peace with God through Him. He’s the one who made the way to be saved. He’s the one who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we would have the power to overcome the world.

Do you know what that means? To overcome the world? It sounds awfully dramatic, and maybe it is. But in a practical sense it means that the world has no power over those who believe in Christ. The world can be identified as a lot of different things. The influences that pressure you to disobey God. The powers of the enemy. Just the brokenness around us that threatens us with a hopeless, meaningless existence. However you define it, the world is powerless against a Christ-follower.

Even death itself has no power over a Christ-follower. We don’t have to fear it. We don’t have to run from it. We don’t even have to hate it. Because of what Jesus did for us, death is just a doorway between this life on Earth and our eternal welcome in Heaven with God.

It’s important to know that we will have trials and sorrows. Multiple trials and sorrows. And it’s important to know that it’s okay to mourn. It’s okay to grieve the loss of people you love, the destruction of relationships and families, the consequences people have to face for the choices they’ve made. When you’re sad, you need to grieve. Don’t bottle it up and put on a cheery face to make people feel better. Be sad, but know that you don’t have to stay sad.

The world is still under the control of death, the control of the enemy, the result of our sin. As long as that brokenness endures, we will live with pain and death and sadness. Oh, but we don’t have to stay here. There’s a day coming when we’ll get to go home, where nobody hurts each other, where nobody dies, and where we’ll never have to say goodbye again.

The world is full of death and sadness, but Jesus is stronger than the world. He overcame it. And because He overcame, we can too.

Your options are limited when there’s only one entrance

My brother and I were driving down the highway to get to our hotel yesterday evening, and I spotted the place from a little ways off. A nice hotel–tall and new. I pointed out the driveway, and my brother started to turn in. But the lane was mostly blocked by construction cones and orange flags, leaving only a narrow entry on the driveway.

He didn’t feel comfortable entering that way, so he just kept going straight, thinking that there would be another entrance further down the road. But there wasn’t. There wasn’t after we turned the corner of the property either. No, that one driveway was the only way to get into the hotel.

Apparently this is somewhat common in this area–to only have one driveway that leads into or out of a parking lot. That seems like poor planning to me. But then I’m not a city engineer. There might be reasons why there’s only one way to get into the parking lot, and I just don’t know them.

What matters to me is that there is a way to get into the parking lot. Maybe it’s not the way I would have chosen. Maybe it’s not as convenient as I would have preferred. But it’s the only way. So I can try to go around it all day long looking for an alternative route, but I’m still going to end up at the same place when all is said and done.

RoundaboutToday’s verses are Acts 4:10-12.

“Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

This is Peter speaking to the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and it’s one of the examples of the boldness of his faith after Jesus rose from the dead.

See, we live in a world where no one wants to be wrong. Everybody wants to blame someone else, and nobody is willing to take responsibility for his or her own actions. We don’t sin; we make mistakes. And if God is good, surely He wouldn’t punish someone for making a mistake. And, after all, it’s sincerity that counts. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe it with all your heart.

So many people are convinced that is true, but the Bible is awfully clear on that subject. Jesus says over and over again that He is the resurrection and the life and that no one can reach God except through Him. Others say it about Him too, like this example with Peter. Jesus is the only Person who can stand between God and Man, because God requires perfection, and Jesus is the only perfect human to ever have walked the Earth.

Jesus is the only way.

And sort of like that one driveway into our hotel, you can keep going around in circles looking for another way in, but you aren’t going to find it. Search for meaning and life’s purpose long enough and you’ll understand that.

No religion can satisfy. No spiritual achievement can bring you true peace. No natural experience can give your life meaning. There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us, and the only way to fill it is through a relationship with Jesus.

We want all the benefits of heaven and God’s power, but we don’t want to do it His way. How fair is that? And where do we get the idea that we can actually get away with that? We tell God that He is closed-minded, exclusive, and judgmental. We accuse Him of unfairness and bigotry because He–the God who created everything–won’t bend to our paltry demands.

God isn’t cruel because He only made one way. God is merciful beyond measure because He made way–and the cost was the life of His own Son.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a good enough person for anyone to sacrifice their life for mine–let alone Jesus Himself. But He did. And even if I’d been the only person in the world, He still would have done it. He loves me that much, and I don’t deserve it. Nobody does. But God offers us freedom with no strings attached. You just have to go through Jesus.

Going around in circles is fine. You just don’t get anywhere.

So make the choice. Keep going around and around in the circles of your life if that’s what you think is best, but at the end of your life, you’ll just end up back where you started–either you choose your own way or you choose God’s way.

Trying to get on the train with the wrong ticket

I’ve spent the last two weeks running around England and Scotland, in and out of the rain, on just about every form of transportation you can think of. But mostly trains. Trains are one of the top modes of transportation in this part of the world, whether they’re overground or underground, but one thing is certain. Regardless of what kind of train you’re traveling on, you have to have a ticket.

There was one point in our travels where my dad had the wrong card or something had gone wrong with his card in general, and he couldn’t get on the train. And it had to be sorted out before he could get through.

Aisle of the train from Manchester to Carlisle

Aisle of the train from Manchester to Carlisle

Today’s verses are Romans 3:21-24.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

The predominant idea in our world is that you can earn a ticket to heaven by living a good life. And that’s an interesting concept, but the Bible says the complete opposite. You can’t earn a ticket to heaven. You can’t deserve it. It’s a gift you have to accept, and Jesus gave His life to pay for it.

Nobody is perfect. We all know that. So nobody can be good enough to get into heaven. But Jesus lived that impossible perfect life, and then He gave it up to pay the fee for us to have eternal life. All we have to do is say yes to Him.

That’s the good news the Bible talks about from beginning to end. There is hope, and that hope is found in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ alone.

But trying to get to heaven using your own good deeds to pay the price is like trying to board a train with the wrong ticket. Like trying to get through the tube turnstile with a depleted Oystercard. It won’t work.

So don’t get stuck on the wrong side of the tracks. You have everything you need at your fingertips to find out how to live a life with Jesus. Don’t let another day go by without taking the time to ask the important questions.

The only thing worse than missing the train is missing it while you actually had the right ticket all the time and just didn’t use it.

Stone bridge at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Nothing perfect about us–except Christ

I’m a people pleaser to the nth degree. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been working in customer service for so long or if I got into customer service to begin with because I’m a people pleaser. Either way, that was the first thing I had to learn when I started working a marketing job; I wasn’t in customer service anymore. So I couldn’t work like I was.

But I suspect I was just born that way. What about you? Have you got any hang ups or habits that you were born with or that you developed over time and just haven’t been able to break? Assuming that your personality quirks aren’t dangerous to yourself or others, there’s nothing really wrong with them.

So why are we afraid to be who we are? I’ve had a couple of conversations this week with people who hide their real selves away for fear of rejection by others.

Now, when people say you should just be who you are, a lot of the time they’re talking about doing what you want or behaving in a way that doesn’t accept accountability or responsibility. But that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about being real, being genuine with people regardless of what they think about you. Because the only Person who matters in that situation is God, and He’s already told us what He thinks about us.

Stone bridge at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Stone bridge at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Romans 5:8.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Think about that. What does God think about us? He loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us while we were sinners. Read that: while we were His enemies.

He loved us enough as His enemies to die for us so that we could become His family.

He loved you, the real you buried underneath all the posturing and posing and faking and words, enough to die for you. God knows the real you, and He loves the real you. He loved you before you were born. He died for you before you were born.

So why are you afraid to be you in front of other people? Why are you afraid to be yourself?

I’m talking to myself here. I have hidden away for so long because I didn’t want to bother people with my problems. I didn’t want to worry people or upset people. I was afraid to share my doubts and my failures and my flaws because I didn’t want people to think the wrong thing about me.

But people can think the wrong thing about you whether you put on a perfect face or not. It’s so much better to live life without secrets and be genuinely yourself. There aren’t any skeletons in the closet to find if you carry them around in the open.

So the next time you’re tempted to answer the dreaded question: “How are you?” with a lame: “Fine,” think about it. Are you saying you’re fine when you really aren’t? Who cares if they didn’t really want you to tell them what’s really going on? If you answer them honestly and they didn’t want an honest answer, that’s not your fault.

Just be truthful. Just be genuine. Don’t hide your problems. We’re all flawed people. We’re all failures. We’re all forgiven. Not one of us is good enough to make it without God’s grace, and not one of us is strong enough to walk through life alone.

Let’s start sharing our loads. Let’s start being open and honest with each other, and maybe the world will realize that there’s nothing perfect about Christianity except Christ.

Sheep grazing in pastures along Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Living life like a sheep

My brother and I raised 4-H market lambs for two years, and during that process, I learned a lot about sheep. And I learned why the Bible compares people to them. Sheep are pretty stupid, even though they think they’re awfully smart. They fall prey to the herd mentality. They will gorge themselves if allowed. They always think they know where they’re going, and they’re very, very stubborn about changing their minds.

Sound like anyone you know? I think every person needs to have experience raising sheep, especially if you’re a Christ-follower. It will open your eyes.

Sheep grazing in pastures along Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Sheep grazing in pastures along Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are John 10:11-18.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

I never had opportunity to sacrifice my life for any of my sheep. I can’t say that I would have, honestly, because their purpose was to go to market. They existed in my life for experience and education and hopefully a decent premium at auction that would jumpstart my puny savings account. In that context, my sheep weren’t worth my life.

But shepherding in Jesus’ day was different than it is today. Around here, my neighbors “shepherd” with four-wheelers and a lot of shouting. In Jesus’ time, shepherds led their sheep. Sheep were their livelihood, and you didn’t need to raise sheep for the experience of it. It was a full-time occupation. So if anything ever threatened the sheep, it was worth it to the shepherd to intervene. Why? Because they were his sheep. They were his life.

To a sheep, a shepherd is everything: guide, provider, protector, friend. The shepherd is the one who knows where the best grazing is. The shepherd is the one who knows the safe paths to travel. The shepherd is the one who leads. The shepherd is the one who makes the plan. It’s up to the sheep to follow. The sheep don’t have to do anything else. They just have to keep up, and even if they can’t keep up, the shepherd won’t leave them behind.

Thinking about our relationship with Jesus in that context leaves me speechless. I am very much like a sheep in my life. I really think I know what’s best for me. I think I know where I can find the best prospects for my life, and I am certain I know how to handle the opportunities that come at me without help. I convince myself I know when I push myself too hard, and I’m incredibly too stubborn about everything, especially the things I don’t actually know.

Jesus is patient with me anyway. He gently corrects, carefully guides, consistently provides, and always protects me no matter where I go and no matter how often I bite off more than I can actually chew.

A shepherd who’s in it for the money can always find another opportunity for cash if the sheep are in danger. There’s no need to risk life and limb. But the shepherd who’s in it for the sheep will do crazy things to keep them safe, and that’s what Jesus did for us. No one compelled Him to sacrifice His life for us. Yes, God the Father sent Him, but Jesus didn’t have to do what He did.

So what does all this mean for our lives today? It means a lot, honestly. It means that we don’t really know best, even though we think we do. It means God has a plan, and it means our job is to follow and not worry about things we can’t control. Yes, do your best. Use your gifts to their fullest extent. But Jesus wouldn’t lead you down a path without a reason. Just like a good shepherd wouldn’t lead his sheep to an area without good grazing.

Maybe your life hasn’t turned out the way you expected. That’s okay. God still has a plan, Jesus is still the Shepherd, and you’re still the sheep. The roles haven’t changed, even if your location has. So rest. Find some nice grass to munch on. Live. Enjoy the view. And take it easy until Jesus calls you again. Then follow. If He’s willing to lay His life down for you, He’s not going to lead you wrong.