The perfect job – it exists!

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Perfect job

I don’t know what you fantasize about, but sometimes I imagine the feeling of just having landed THE ultimate job.  In my daydream, I can FEEL the excitement, the open-ended sense of possibility, the overwhelming gratitude and joy of actually being able both to be challenged in a healthy way AND to get to do every day what makes me happiest.  (Speaking French is the number one component)  Included in my daydream is the notion of having been PICKED or selected with all sorts of concomitant and guaranteed learning opportunities and training that will enrich my life.  I’ll be among happy fellow enthusiasts and what we do will make a difference.

Maybe pipe dreams of the ideal job aren’t the ingredients that fuel your fantasy.  Maybe it’s that longing for the ultimate family or skill experience/achievement (winning an Olympic gold in your event) or a different pinnacle of your own choosing.  But for me, it’s always been a longing for THAT job.

And as I approach 60, I’m beginning to realize, not with too many regrets, that there are milestones and goals that I probably won’t realize while I’m alive in this body.

Far be THAT, however, to lead to depression.  For as a Christian, the Bible teaches that the BEST is yet to come!

In fact, if you think about it, since we are immortal and will be given new bodies at Jesus’ 2nd coming, bodies with more and better capacities, the idea of longing for the perfect job while here on earth is both short-sided and bound to disappoint.

But if we view our time on earth as training for the future, (the internship I wrote about earlier – Last week’s blog on a Theology of Work), then we can wait patiently, knowing that God doesn’t waste ANY of our experiences.

So in my imagining the work we will do in Heaven, I bet that:

  • It will be something we each feel perfectly suited for, given our ‘bents’ and our ‘experiences’ here on earth
  • It will be among happy colleagues who lovingly support and encourage one another
  • Our leader, Christ, will be the perfect ‘boss’
  • We will do work that is meaningful and satisfying.

So until then, I pray and trust God for patience and gratitude for both my future destination and the preparation He gives me each day in the meantime.

Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

PS:  I think the inheritance will be the invitation to come take an active productive role with the Triune God in the Kingdom!

Keep Calm - Job

Resting in Doctrine – God’s in charge!

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Job 14:5A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.

Psalm 139:16Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.

News of a recent hostage death has caused me to think through whether God is in charge or not.  What we believe about God is called doctrine and doctrines DO matter.  They affect our thoughts, which influence our feelings.  These rational and emotional aspects reside at different layers within us, some conscious and others beyond our conscious awareness.  It’s apparent to me that we are guided by thoughts and feelings originating in both camps, whether we know it or not.  Who hasn’t been appalled at a choice comment that slipped out before we could filter it: ‘Where did THAT come from?” we genuinely exclaim in horror.

Garbage in, Garbage out: ‘right’ thinking about God matters.  So what is ‘right’ thinking or doctrine when it comes to whether God is in control of all that happens in our universe? The Bible, the definitive source of doctrine, affirms that He is in fact the first cause* for all that happens. The term for that 100% authority and rule that belongs to God’s is His Sovereignty.

If a king is sovereign over his lands, then what he says is the law of the land.  How much more is it with God who is the author (hence – authority) and creator of all that IS.  And if He is sovereign, by definition then, that quality of being in charge includes the notion of having and exercising all power.  There is no such thing as impotent sovereignty.

Back to the hostage who died.  My heart goes out to the family who is dealing with pain and loss. If they are followers of God, there is one comfort that should hold them up in their grief:

God’s plan for their dear one was not thwarted.  Therefore, they need not take on all the piercing, painful ‘what ifs’ that often assault survivors.  Rescue attempts did not succeed because God sovereignly ordained the day the hostage would die.

This is NOT fatalism because that would mean that it doesn’t matter what one does, that regardless of our actions, the outcome is the same. God’s sovereignty is different because He chooses to carry out His will in our lives through both our human actions and His divine workings.  Rescue attempts ARE appropriate because they might be the means God uses to save lives.

We have an example of God sovereignly determining different outcomes with two of Jesus’ apostles.  James, son of Zebedee,  was the first to be murdered by the Romans.  Wasn’t anyone praying for his rescue?  Undoubtedly!  Then there was Peter, also imprisoned by the Romans.  This time similar prayers led to his miraculous rescue from jail. What made the difference?  God and His sovereign will!

So, why is this doctrine so important?  For one, it is PEACE-producing.  We don’t need to beat ourselves up with the ‘what-ifs’.  That self-inflicted torture implies our actions are sovereign.

So sweet is this aspect of God!  His unchanging character guarantees that His sovereign decrees will always be done.  This in turn lifts the immobilizing burden of possible mistakes off of me.

  • What if I make a wrong decision?
  • What if I should have known better than to make that trip to the Holy Land and fall prey to a terrorist attack?
  • What if I had taken a different route to the bank?
  • What if I had chosen a different spouse, a different job?
  • What if I hadn’t indulged in that immoral behavior?

I can easily wallow in regrets, if I start thinking that I am in charge of my life.

Jesus breathes comfort and peace into our troubled minds:

  • John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

*Although God is the First Cause of all that happens, there are other doctrines that exclude Him from being charged with the evil we do. Even though God is sovereign, we are still guilty for bad stuff we do. That’s a complex theological discussion that I cannot take up here.


Feeding on the Mere Gospel

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Three times and you’ve got my attention!

In the past month, I’ve heard 3 different people explain how the Gospel of Santa Claus is bad news.  It’s “works righteousness” – a merit system.

  • You have to be earn your presents
  • He’s watching you all the time to catch you being naughty or nice
  • You never know if you’ve been ‘good-enough’
  • Santa assumes that you actually have the power to be good, which is highly debatable
  • He only visits once a year and you don’t even get to see him, or be with him.
  • The gifts you receive aren’t long-lasting

But the Good News for Christians is different:

  • We can know why we exist – the Happy and GOOD God-head of Father, Son and Spirit chose to create man, to partake in the divine joy
  • God keeps reminding us that we can’t earn our standing with Him.  There’s nothing to do but receive
  • Despite our bent to being rebels and our desire to replace God with ourselves as # 1,  God put into place a plan to save us
  • God himself chose to be as one of us, to identify more closely with our humanity
  • Jesus absorbed God’s wrath directed at us, so we don’t have to go to Hell
  • Jesus’ every righteous obedient thought and deed go into our ledger and result in a perfect score

(the answer is Yes!  – but not our own – they aren’t good enough to save us!)

So why do we choose the Santa Myth?

  • It’s easier, we think.  We get to be in control.
  • We really don’t want someone hanging around 24/7 reminding us of our deeds.
  • Legalism comes naturally.

What are the implications of these contradictory world views?

Two come to mind:

  • We have to drink in the Good News often.  That is – re-tell ourselves daily and even hourly, the Gospel truths.  Old Man thinking has us in a rut.  So as many counsel – Don’t listen to yourself; talk to yourself!  If you listen to your natural man’s running commentary, you’ll end up depressed and depressing to others.  You’ll be inclined to grumble and feel sorry for yourself.  And you’ll convince yourself that you’re just being realistic.
  • New thought for me (Thank you, John Piper)  – not only do we get forgiveness and reconciliation with God based on what Jesus has done, but something else.  His death on the cross purchased for us – ALL the promises in the Bible.   2 Cor 1:20 states –For as many as are the promises of God, in Him (Christ)  they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

So, next time you’re feeling worried, anxious, depressed, powerless, stuck, frazzled, frightened or bored, remind yourself that those states don’t have to be permanent.  Jesus died so that you COULD enjoy joy, peace, love, power and gratitude.

Question:  What Gospel Truth do you need to hear each day?  What’s your go-to Promise?

Why I’m glad Christianity is falsifiable


1 Cor 15: 17-19  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.


What if they found the body of Jesus, how would that affect your faith?” I heard this question the other day.  The man queried knew his Bible and went immediately to Paul’s gospel explanation.  The short of it is that without a risen Christ, Christianity doesn’t exist.

Reflecting on the essence of Christianity made me wonder if the Jews at the time of Jesus really understood the concept of ‘eternal life’ with God and the need to be ‘saved’ from the wrath of God in order to have a forever LOVING relationship with God.

When I sample the many texts in the OT that talk about salvation, I am left with the impression that Jews under the Old Covenant were really talking about being saved or rescued from difficult or perilous circumstances (oppression, danger, illness or poverty).  Yes, there was a moral law (the ten basic Mosaic Laws handed down TWICE by God).  Yes, real guilt or ‘asham’ in Hebrew was acknowledged (hence the Temple guilt offering). Yes, David acknowledged that when he killed Uriah he sinned against God. But many infractions were more community-based. Some were the result of inadvertently hurting a neighbor or his property.  Other deficits came about in day-to-day life, such as  giving birth, completing one’s monthly cycle, or even due to work commitments (such as burial or mold detail).

Hebrew people seem to have judged sin to be serious mainly because it separated them from the community.  OT texts talk about being unclean and thus alienated from fellowship.  Uncleanness didn’t necessarily mean breaking a moral law.  But ritualistic purification/ cleansing sacrificial acts were called for, in order to sanction a return to full communion with the group.

My premise is that 1st century Jews hearing about the New News of God had to be indoctrinated and explicitly taught this new doctrine. To fully understand the seriousness of being under God’s wrath, one needed teaching different from that of the Pharisees and Scribes.

What an extravagant and marvelous solution to the problem of God’s wrath!  We’ve lost our amazement and awe in face of not only a restoration of fellowship with God, but the whole adoption process. The gift of a loving and eventual face-to-face union with a triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) that will last forever?  How is that possible?

The author of Hebrews succinctly articulates this new Covenant in chapter 9, verse 15:  “Christ, the Messiah is the author of an entirely new and different covenant, so that all those who are called and offered it, may received the promised eternal inheritance. For a death has taken place; Jesus has died as a ransom to save us from sins committed under the first or old covenant….”

All the above would have stayed the fantastical imaginings of wistful dreamers had there had been a body.  But thanks be to God!  Jesus’ resurrection is vindication of the false charge of blasphemy.  Technically He was put to death for claiming that He was one and the same as God.  The fact that He didn’t stay dead, that He actually supernaturally rose and appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time as well as to the major apostles is proof positive that He is God, just as He claimed.

Had there been a body, Judaism would have remained the only player.  People would have continued to do bad stuff both morally against God and His creation and technically against the community.  Animals would have continued to die to temporarily fix the problem. Precious little talk of eternal face-to-face fellowship with God as Father would have occurred.

Okay…I know, you’re thinking of how Psalm 16 ends…” in your presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures evermore”.  I agree:  if you look for them, there are OT references to eternal life with God.  But I don’t think that doctrine was a clear and present hope.  From everything we read in gospels, temple worship was big business, all about power and money.  The only mystery was the High Priest’s once-a-year high-profile, but hidden, almost Wizard of Oz-like performance behind the veil.

This, dear friends, is what we would be left with IF the dead body of Jesus had been produced. We would be gentile worshippers of Yahweh at best, just as lost as non-worshippers, but perhaps comforted by the ritual.  After all, man is a religious animal.

So the next time you think about what it would take for you to lose your faith, be glad that Christianity is falsifiable in such a clear way.  And then rejoice that Christianity is TRUE.  Jesus, the God-man who walked on earth 2100 years ago, was for real.  He is just as real today.  And we must study our doctrine to know the glorious riches of this mystery: “Christ in you, the assurance of glory


What’s a grape to do?

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a

For every tree is known by its fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns; nor from a bramble bush do they gather the grape. Luke 6:44

I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. John 15:5 (the Message)

So how do you grow, if you are a piece of fruit? I’ve bounced back and forth between thinking that to grow fruit, you have to work at it:  you know, the whole sanctification process.  Sure God is the one who regenerated me, but now it’s up to me to lead the life of a disciple.  That means I have to work at and make a conscious effort to read my Bible, do acts of unselfish charity for those around me, sign up for committees at church ( no matter my interest ), all in hopes of becoming more Christ-like.  However, once in a while, I catch a whiff of a much easier way, the way of simply resting in what God has done through Jesus on the cross.  After all, fruit doesn’t do anything but simply sprout and hang onto the branch.  Almost convinced, I’ll start to think about how joyous and liberating that would be, if it were true.  That would TRULY be good news.

But then I’ll hear a sermon, or spot the title of a new book or read something about a super-duper Christian and I’ll go back to thinking: ‘No, it can’t be that easy. It’s all about self-denial, picking up my cross and leading a painful life.’

Fortunately, there are two facts that keep me coming back to the notion of rest and NOT having to do anything.  First of all, there is the nature of fruit.  Fruit is a by-product of a healthy tree.  Fruit sprouts automatically.  Jesus, himself, gives his disciples a Botany 101 lesson. Picture this scene as the guys are walking across the countryside:


Jesus:  Hey, fellows, look at these olives, what kind of tree do you think this is?

Precocious Peter:  could it be….an olive tree?

Jesus:  Spot on!  Wow.  How about these pinecones?   Where did they come from?

Tentative Thomas: maybe a pine tree?

Jesus:  Bingo! and they said you guys were just dumb fishermen! 

Eager Matthew:  Jesus, remember those rotten figs back in Jerusalem?  What about them?

Scornful Judas:  that’s easy, Dufus!  They’re rotten because the tree is dying.  It’s too close to the Temple Outhouse…..


It’s obvious; fruit doesn’t do anything but stay connected to the vital, sap-rich, nutrient-providing tree.  Given the right food and weather and protection from pesky bugs, the tree will grow and do what trees do naturally, sprout fruit.

Even Jesus found it axiomatic (i.e. – you don’t have to prove it) that good trees produce (after their own kind) good fruit.

The second argument for choosing the simple yet liberating concept of just hanging onto the branch comes from Jesus’ response to a crowd.  Recall a lengthy and difficult teaching by Jesus to the ‘always hungry’ 5000.  It’s the day after the miraculous fish and loves meal and the curious want more food.  Jesus advices them not to work for food that will be quickly eaten and digested, leaving them still hungry.  So they ask the reasonable follow-on question, “Well, if we can’t count on you to feed us like yesterday and if we don’t work to support ourselves in the traditional way, what kind of work are you talking about, Mr. Spiritual?”

Jesus stunningly shoots back in John 6:29, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

That’s it?  That sounds so simple, too minimalist and easy.  But the more I understand God’s grace and His good gifts and all that Jesus has DONE; I believe THIS is exactly what God calls us to do!  Just believe.  “Well, well, what about good works?  Where do they fit in?” you might be sputtering.

It’s a good question.  The Christian life DOES involve good works, just like trees produce fruit.  But look at the role of the fruit and the trees.  The fruit naturally appears and grows, just by hanging on and having the ‘good fortune’ to be part of a healthy tree.

If you believe the TRUE biblical Jesus (not the Jesus you make up), trust Him, cling to Him, and absorb the truths He teaches from Genesis to Revelation, then you will grow naturally.  And if God wants you to be a grape that ends up in Kellogg’s Raisin Bran or a grape that floats and sloshes around with other fermented grapes in a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, that is up to God.

Experientially, I know this is true.  I am not someone who has set out to DO Christian works.  I have followed my passions as they have grown naturally from being fed good food (true Bible teaching).  Remember making those pencil marks on a doorframe, measuring your growth as a child?  When you look back, you can see the proof of your change in height.  Yet all along, you probably were unaware of the lengthening of your skeletal structure. So it is in the Christian journey.  Fifteen years ago, I met a fellow mom who struck me as one of those ‘goody-two-shoes Christian ladies’, totally unlike me and certainly not someone I aspired to copy.  Then I joined Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and started to study the Bible for the first time.  One day, with a start, I realized that God had changed me.  I no longer found this gal off-putting.   We were actually pretty similar.  It was I who had been transformed, all due to that Jesus life-sap I was soaking up as a connected piece of fruit.

Recently, I have spotted another change in me, one that is very encouraging.  I did nothing to work on it, no new DISCIPLINED habit .  Six months ago I read a book about initiating Gospel conversations with people one encounters naturally throughout the day.  My first reaction was how selfish I am STILL.  Unlike the author, I had no desire to make my day be about looking for opportunities to talk to people about ultimate, eternal matters.  After all, my day is about how much time I can cull for Maria to listen to podcasts, read books and exercise.

But thanks be to God who changes our desires.  I wrote last week about Caitlin, my student from school.  She is the teen who has taken up the challenge from this same book and has been initiating conversations with Wal-Mart clerks and gas station cashiers.  I was shamed into actually taking the plunge out of my comfort zone.  Astonishingly, I have been having fun!  This is evidence that I am not the same Maria.  But why should I be surprised?  Paul tells the Corinthians that once they have been regenerated, they have an entirely new nature.

Bottom line – the Gospel continues to be great news.  Just hang on to the right branch and soak in His word and let God do His gardening thing.  He has already done the hard part of grafting you into the right tree: the rest will follow.

What if we were enemies of God?


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to his great mercy, has caused us to be born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  1 Pet 1:3

Being a Christian is not just about having eternal life. I don’t mean to minimize that inexpressible gift, but I want to highlight how belonging to the family of God makes a difference while we are in this earthly, natural body.

Imagine for a moment what it would mean in your life and mine if our relationship with God were different.  You do realize that everyone has a relationship with God.  You are either an enemy of God or a friend of God.  This is no ‘either-or fallacy’.  Those truly are the only two choices. Friends of God enjoy significant benefits during their 80 + years.

Once God has reconciled us to Him through faith (that is: knowing, believing and relying on His work at the cross), the benefits kick in. To appreciate what they are, let’s look at the life of someone who does not belong to God, someone who has not been born into a living hope.

  • He has no over-arching purpose in life that is bigger than him.  Life is just what he makes it.  He creates his own meaning.  But this imaginary meaning is meaningless because it is not anchored in any reality.  It cannot be anything other than wishful thinking.
  • When troubles, violence, pain come, he has no way of making any sense of them.  He is at the mercy of all that may upset his fragile life and harm those whom he loves.
  • By the time he has launched his family and is on the other side of the career curve, he begins to ask himself, “is this it? …so now I just look forward to retirement and then death?”
  • The above point applies only to those who are honest.  Most people push those hard questions away and fill their lives with  ‘stuff’ or ‘experiences’ or a new relationship, trying to generate some ‘joie de vivre’
  • He has nothing and nobody but himself to rely on in the final analysis.  An honest enemy of God lives with existential loneliness.
  • He has no access to any supernatural power.  He is left to battle sin in his own flesh.  Psalm 16: 3-4 quotes God as saying,

“As for the godly (the saints) who are in the land, they are the excellent, the noble, and the glorious, in whom is all my delight.  Their sorrows shall be multiplied who choose another god; their drink offerings of blood will I not offer or take their names upon my lips.”

I can’t imagine anything worse than to have God deliberately choose to remove himself from my life.


As adopted children of God, however, we are blessed more than we realize.  Here are a few privileges of belonging to God’s family:

  • We have access to EVERY spiritual blessing in Christ  (Eph 1:3)
  • We have been given fullness in Christ  ( we don’t lack anything)  (Col 2: 19)
  • All the promises of God are a resounding “Yes!” in Christ (they are available to us)  (2 Cor 1:20)
  • We can ask for wisdom when we need it (James 1:5)
  • We have already been given GRACE, PEACE with God and everything we need for life and for godliness (2 Pet 1: 2, 3)

The list could go on and on.  But what I treasure is an understanding of the purpose of life, how to make sense of life.  Life delivers hard, painful blows (Jesus even promises this) but we know that nothing happens without God allowing it.  His Word tells us that He uses all our experiences, bringing out of them good for us (and others) and glory for Himself.  I can trust God.  I don’t have to understand why things happen, but I know WHO is in charge and that He is trustworthy.

Furthermore, the fact that average earthly life of 3 score and 10 years of is just a blip compared with the REST of unending life with God in a different dimension  both anchors me and fills me with joyful anticipation.  The best is yet to be.

What is your major premise about God?


Job 23:10   (God) He knows what he is doing with me…and when he has tested me, I will come forth as pure gold.

This verse contains both Job’s basic theology about God, what I call his major premise, and Job’s conclusion.  What did Job know about God?   Despite personal pain, Job could essentially assert in advance, ‘God has a plan for me and knows what He is doing – He’s actually in control of my miserable circumstances.’   With that theology in place, when the unthinkable happened, he safely concluded, ‘I will actually be a better person when all this is over’.

Because Job was certain about God, he bore with some grace the nightmarish circumstances of loss of family and property and did not dissolve into suicidal depression.  What we believe about God influences our conclusions about God.  These fundamental beliefs frame our context when we have to make sense of life’s painful & disappointing circumstances.

What was the major premise of the disciples upon encountering the man born blind?   They asked Jesus, ‘Lord, tell us who sinned – this man or his parents?’  Their theology at the time was that health and prosperity were a result of being obedient and enjoying favor with God.  So when they met the handicapped man, their conclusion was that SOMEONE sinned.  This reaction is similar to how Hindus view the caste system.  Those privileged members at the top won’t give aid and assistance to those at the bottom for fear of interfering with the cycle of Karma.  The well-to-do believe that the dregs are paying for sins committed in a previous life and that one should not interfere.

Today, most people’s major premises go unspoken.  You only hear them when tragedy strikes and they conclude that a) there must not be a God or b) God must not be loving or powerful. Their major premise is that if there is a God, then he would not permit evil if he loves mankind and is in control of the universe.

Job’s knowledge of God kept him grounded and he was able to draw a healthy conclusion in the absence of any explanation from an imminent, supernatural and caring deity.

Without the correct presuppositions, Job could have concluded, “God is mean/ God doesn’t love me/God is punishing me/ God doesn’t exist.”

Paul reminds us in Colossians 3 that since we have put on the new self we are being RENEWED in KNOWLEDGE in the image of our creator.  The correct knowledge about God does make a difference.  We dishonor God when we draw an incorrect, sinful conclusion about Him.

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