Don’t Believe for a Better 2014

We are eight days into 2014, which means that you should be successfully moving along with all your resolutions and have already met half your goals for the year. I’m sure you’re down as many pounds in as many days.

Just kidding.

Jesus is better than the hopes and dreams, fulfilled or unfulfilled, of a new year.

What every Christian needs to be reminded of eight days into the year, is that you have been united with Jesus and God sees you as in him. This means that you are completely accepted by God, you have been delivered from the penalty of sin, you are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, and you are empowered to overcome the assaults of the enemy (see Christmas: The Celebration of the Destruction of the Devil and his Works for more on that last one) in 2014 . These four realities are a riff of of a section in Richard Lovelace’s book Dynamics of Spiritual Life. He calls Christian ministers to encourage their congregations in the following daily practice,

The aim of the minister should be to encourage in every parishioner an intelligent response of faith laying claim to the provisions of Christ’s redemptive work, a daily standing on the four platforms discussed in chapter four: You are accepted, you are delivered,  you are not alone, you have authority. [p. 210, Emphasis in original]

This last sentence could easily become a mantra or just another self-improvement motto. However, Lovelace is not saying we should have faith in our claims, as if our proclamations were magical. They are not.

The promises of a better year is one of the great false gospels we are tempted to believe every year at this time.

We are not laying claim to our claims, but laying claim to Christ.

Remembering who God in Christ is and who you are in light of what he has done is critical to your spiritual health. As I’ve written before, it should be a regular spiritual discipline because all of us have spiritual Alzheimer’s. Families and friends get together and go from story to story saying “remember when…”, and each day you should do the same thing rehearsing all that Jesus is and what he has won for you.

Believing for a better 2014 is empty apart from Jesus. Don’t do that. Because if 2014 turns out to not be what you think it should have been and you do things you wish you hadn’t (which you will) discouragement and even depression can set in. On the other hand, if it turns out to the best year of your life with less body weight, a happier marriage, goals met, and a finished Bible-reading plan, you may be tempted to self-righteousness. But if 2014 is built on Jesus instead of the hopes and dreams and possibilities of 2014, it can be the best year ever no matter how the year ends.

Jesus is better than the hopes and dreams, fulfilled or unfulfilled, of a new year.

Enter this year believing that God is for you (Ro. 8:31), God has rescued you (Ro. 8:1), God is with you (Heb. 13:5), and God is in you (Ro. 8:9-11)

The promises of a better year is one of the great false gospels we are tempted to believe every year at this time. Of course it is good to plan and to dream and to hope for the future, but it is best to enjoy all that God is for you in Jesus. The promises of Jesus, who he is and what he has done and who you are in him, is the only thing–the only person–worth banking the year on.

You are completely accepted, you are delivered, you are in-dwelt, and you are empowered in 2014. To put it another way, enter this year believing that God is for you (Ro. 8:31), God has rescued you (Ro. 8:1), God is with you (Heb. 13:5), and God is in you (Ro. 8:9-11). Why? All because of the person and work of Jesus.

Now with him in mind, forget the success or failures of the last eight days, and go get 2014.

Coffee Headaches & Aching for God

I quit coffee, at least for a season.  It’s amazing what that wonderful dark stimulant will do when you stop drinking it “cold turkey”–give you a headache!

The withdrawals are mostly over for me.  This is now my 5th day without it or much of any caffeine for that matter.

Yesterday it struck me how suddenly my physical longing for coffee came upon me.  It wasn’t just the headache that reminded me that I needed coffee, but it was the desire for the taste of the four-shot Americano with cream in mouth.  What really put this in perspective was when I opened my Bible to Psalm 63:

O God, you are my God, I seek you,

My soul thirsts for you;

My flesh faints for you,

As in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (NRSV)

It struck me that when I virtually ignore God for a day, neglecting prayer, the Scriptures, and reminding myself of the Gospel, I barely miss him, but when I miss coffee for one day I feel its physical effects almost immediately.  The craving for coffee is there almost instantaneously after I wake up, and after a few hours headache sets in.

This is not the same with God.  At least for me.

Sure I get that feeling of “bummer I missed ‘devotions’ today”, but not this God-ache that the Psalmist is talking about.  He describes this ache not just in a spiritual sense (“My soul thirsts for you”), but in a bodily one (“My flesh faints for you”).   How I need the angst of the Psalmist for the living God more in my life.

He’s parched unless he meets with God.  He’s physically weary and spiritually thirsty for Jesus.  Notice the personal language—“you are my God”.  Time with God, according to the Psalmist, is not a check off of the list of duties done for the day.  He desires to possess God and to be with Him.

He is in a desert wilderness without any water.  He needs water and he desires water to survive.  And what he’s really saying is that life is utterly empty without God.  Desires aren’t all that desirable and needs aren’t all that necessary without the living God.  Without God life is living in a barren wilderness without water.  God is the true Desire and great Need of the human heart.

I always need God, and I always need to desire God, at least I know that intellectually, but sometimes both of those are missing experientially.  Not so with this Psalmist he knows his need and feels his desire for God.

Caffeine headaches are here ultimately to remind me not that I need a strong cup of coffee, but that I need God.  The desire for the taste of a warm coffee with cream exists to say that the desire for God is much more satisfying.

No need to toot your own horn on what you’ve given up for God.  That isn’t the point, nor is it my point here.  I’m not trying to get you to quit coffee.  Most likely you’ll see me sipping it again soon.  After all, bailing on coffee or anything else could just be “false humility” (Colossians 2:23) and a substitute for the gospel.   The gospel is not about “don’t” it’s about “done”—what Jesus has done for you.

The point is that every piece of life is meant to be done for the glory of God and to remind you that He is glorious—much more so than a cup of coffee.  When you forsake whatever it is for a season sometimes you learn that the ache for _____ was never meant to be filled with _____ but was meant to be filled with God.

Coffee headaches are meant to make you ache for God.