Identity in Christ

God's Not Disappointed With You, Either


I write for a ministry whose byline is, “God’s not mad at you.” I think about this a lot, but as a new grandparent, I have also been thinking about the truth that he’s not disappointed with us, either.

Disappointment seems to be the universal lament of the child and the grandchild. “I can never seem to please my parents.” “I’ve stopped visiting my grandparents because all they do is harp on me.” From educational choices to jobs to where we choose to live, with whom we spend our time, how we dress, where we worship, what we do with our free time . . . many of us feel that in the midst of it all, we’ve inevitably let someone else down.

Do you follow the Humans of NY Instagram feed? I love that guy. My eyes have been opened to fascinating and compelling stories of women and men all over the world because he’s taken the time to listen to people’s stories and tell them to the rest of us.

But there’s a prosaic thread that runs through many of their narratives: we all seem to think we’re letting someone down.

Just last month one beautiful “human of New York”, created in the image of God, told Instagram that she feels like she can never measure up. “My grades suffered, and my parents were so disappointed. They wanted me to go to university and get a real job. They were Haitian. They knew poverty. And they didn’t want the same thing to happen to their kids. Now I’m working in a hotel as a cleaning lady. I feel like I’m invisible. “

Sometimes, no matter what we do, how hard we try, what obstacles we face internally or externally, we end up disappointing someone. That’s my sorry story, too. I can’t be everything and sometimes anything everyone wants me to be. Mostly, I feel like a big fat disappointment.

It’s not the truth.

In times of self-doubt and redundant internal yarn-spinning, I have to remind myself of the truth. Here it is:

He made us.

[Genesis 1:27]

He knows our frame. He understands our humanity.

[Psalm 102:14]

He doesn’t expect us to be more than Jesus.

[From Genesis to Revelation and everywhere in between]

He gave us Jesus so that we could never disappoint him again.

[1 John 2:1-2]

He kisses us on the forehead in tenderness at the end of a long string of disappointments.

[1 John 3:1-2 does not tell us that he “kisses us on the forehead”, but I think that metaphor is a beautiful way to picture how kind and tender his love is for us, even when he knows from our birth that we will not live up to his expectations.]

God’s not mad at you. He’s not disappointed with you, either. And if I were Steve Brown I’d say, “You think about that.”

What James MacDonald Forgot

What James MacDonald Forgot

Can we stand yet another post on the James MacDonald debacle?

I first watched a video of James MacDonald teaching back in 2010. He was a mighty fine speaker: eloquent, passionate, and well-prepared. He had charisma and humor, to boot. He loved the Word of God.

He seemed so much like so many other charming and well-spoken pastors with big names and bigger platforms, thanks to publishers driven to capitalize on their books and social media outlets that stand in as a worldwide pulpit. Less like shepherds, more like celebrities.

Power trips and the root of it all, pride, are the tip of the iceberg according to insiders. Honestly, I wish the festering pimple would just pop so we could have it all out and be done with it, swabbing the whole mess with a gigantic cotton ball soaked in alcohol.

Or the gospel.

Because, see, that’s what’s been missing for a long, long time. Back when he began, back when I heard him speak, back when he was running an organization that touched the lives of thousands all over the world, I can believe that the gospel was the goal. But as the personality and the ego begins to serve one person—James MacDonald— the gospel becomes painfully absent from the mission. Oh, it might take the forefront in word, but in heart, it becomes, shall we say, nonattendant.

The gospel that reminds us of Whose we are and what He did for us. The gospel that reminds us that God is more than enough, that Jesus paid it all and declared “It is finished”, and that what He did was more important than what we do. The gospel that reminds us that we don’t have to go anywhere else to look for our value, worth, acceptance, or fulfillment. 

That’s what James MacDonald forgot, and I am just like him. Because I, too, leave the gospel behind daily in my quest to feel accepted. I have to remind myself of the finished work of Christ on my behalf daily, hourly. I have to bask in the love of a God who cannot ever fail to love me. 

So really, we’re not so different, James and I. Perhaps now that he’s left with a deep, hemorrhaging, gaping, festering wound, he’ll remember why he loved Jesus in the first place. It may mean isolation and a profound loss of relationships and at the very least, the complete collapse of that pathetic little empire he built apart from the gospel. But that would be the greatest thing James could ever do in his life. Return to Jesus and be filled up with Jesus’ value and worth and significance. It’s all about Jesus. 

Because empires built on anything less than the gospel aren’t worth the tiny men who’ve slaved tirelessly to erect them. In the end, what they had put up as a prop for their own inadequacies fails them miserably, and they become slaves to the very things they might have used to point people to Jesus instead of themselves. 

The gospel. That’s what James forgot.

By the way, if this article sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you read my post called What Doug Phillips Forgot or heard our podcast episode called What Josh Duggar Forgot. James MacDonald shares a lot of company, unfortunately. Us, too.

If you happen to be one of those Christian leaders who find yourself increasingly all about yourself, find a place to start here: In Light of Fallen Men: How Christian Leaders Can Avoid the Abyss.

Bible Study for Losers

Bible Study for Losers

affiliate links

Ever feel like a Bible study loser? Me, too.

I’ve been in the big ones that are worldwide, neatly organized, really well written, and push me to get ‘er done. I’ve loved them in the seasons where I could be a part of them.

In other seasons, I have met with smaller groups, in more casual settings, and I’ve also tried to go it alone. I’m highly self-motivated, but going it alone is not a good match for me. I’m a Bible study loser, for the most part.

Last summer as I contemplated what to do about my lousy lack of Bible study, I felt like the Holy Spirit was nudging me to connect with my across-the-street neighbor. I actually just started the text to her with, “I’m not really sure what God is asking of me, but I thought I’d reach out. . .”

Turns out, she thinks she’s a Bible study loser, too. We picked a book we were both interested in, met early on a Friday morning, fumbled our way through it, and forgot to pray.

But it was good. Know why?

God is more interested in the us than the what, why, where, how, and when. He has something to show you, a way to love you more, a window into the goodness that is him. No pressure. No perfection required. Just you, showing up.

We’re still not very good at this Bible study thing, but we are showing up. We can trust God to do whatever it is he has for us and we can rest knowing that he loves us enough to change what needs to be changed. Even if we don’t fill in all the blanks. We can be Bible study losers who get to the end of our lives and still hear God say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”, because all the work is his, and he promises that he will exquisitely finish what he has begun.

Take the pressure off yourself. It isn’t yours to bear.

Great Bible Study Resources (For Losers and Non-Losers Alike)