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Posts Tagged ‘Redemption’

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There is much hesitancy in our world today to identify as … anything.

Gender is, obviously, much discussed, but it is not the only issue with great debate.

Interestingly, there are many people who go to church, attend youth or small groups, pray, participate in communion and practise many other activities related to Christianity … yet they struggle to identify as a Christian or Christ-follower.

The most common reasons I have heard for this lack of ability or willingness (or is it a lack of faith?) to identify as a Christian is:

  • they do not yet ‘have it all together’
  • they so not want to identify as a Christian because there are so many ways that Christians have messed up

In the early days of Christendom, identifying with Christ was very public.

Baptism was the initial identifier of those (Jews) who were identifying as followers of Jesus, their Messiah. It was John the Baptist (the cousin of Jesus) who was inviting them to confess their sins, then come to the Jordan River, where they would be symbolically, publicly cleansed or redeemed of their sins.

The Jewish people could relate somewhat to this practise, as the Jewish custom of Tvilah was common. In this ancient practise, people of the Jewish faith went to be cleansed, purified, restored after having encountered something or someone (ie. a corpse) unclean, according to Levitical law.

The baptism that John was inviting the Jews, the early Christians, to was a once-for-all cleansing. It was symbolic of the forgiveness and redemption that Jesus had come to offer …

Forgiveness and redemption for our sins
yesterday, today and tomorrow.

John the Baptist did not invite people who were already purified to participate in the baptism that he was performing, but those who were dirty and who desired to be clean … those who acknowledged their sin-dirty condition, and who were choosing to be identified with the only one who could make them clean for all eternity.

For those waiting to identify with Christ until they ‘have it all together, the identifying comes before the purification … and the having it all together is a goal, not a destination.

For those not wanting to identify with Christ, because of the many Christians who have, are and will mess up … see above. They are not perfect, as you and I are not perfect “not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

Paul said,
“John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance.
He told the people
to believe in the one coming after him,
that is, in Jesus.”
Acts 19:4

 

 

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“I know that I’ll come back to my faith, I just need to figure it out for myself first.”

I am not sure whether those words made my heart sink (for the intentional turning away from God) or start to sing (for the door is not closed).

This person had grown up in a home of faith and in the church. They had received the love, acceptance and blessings of such a life. Having a time of evaluating and reevaluating the dogma that one grows up in, is a normal and even a good process. It is a pruning of what is and isn’t absolute and a polishing of what never changes. It is a process of choosing whether one’s faith is personal, or simply hereditary.

Yet, it still can be like a kick in the gut to hear that one is choosing to turn their back on the faith, even just for a season.

Then, weeks after this conversation, as I was driving to a meeting, a song came on the radio that reminded me of the never-ending pursuit of our heavenly father for our hearts, souls, lives.

“You will never outrun my love
There’s no distance too far, that I can’t reach you
There’s no place that’s so dark, that I can’t find you
Anywhere that you are, if you need proof
Take a look at these scars, and know I love you
Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter what you’ve done
You are never, you are never, never too far gone”

And these words are not just for those who are figuring out where God fits into their life. They are also for those who feel that their choices, their actions and behaviours are far too vile for God to forgive. God forgives. That is why his son had to die, because the debt of the sins of humanity needed a pure atonement, a propitiation, which is literally “a falling or rushing toward” (www.etymonline.com).

We will never do anything, go anywhere, that God is not rushing toward us, offering his forgiveness. It is offered, because he knows we will need it.

If you want to check out the entire song, check out Jordan Felix.

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You awake on a Monday morning, in the midst of the winter season …

got guilt?

You are a mom or a dad …

got guilt?

You are a son or daughter …

a student …

an employee …

a follower of Christ …

got guilt?

Ever feel that you will never measure up?

be good enough?

be smart enough?

be successful enough?

be strong enough?

be

enough?

 

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STOP!

Stop striving!

Stop pushing!

Stop doing,

and working,

and just …

stop!

The best thing we can ever DO, is to realize that the DOING has been done.

“God demonstrates his own love for us, in this:
while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8

He didn’t wait for us to do something. He didn’t wait for us to be better, to be stronger, to be smarter. He did what needed to be done ahead of time, before we even had a chance to take our first breath.

He did it all,
all for us.

He came to do what we could never do for ourselves, be our redeemer, our savior … the eraser of our guilt …

He is the reason we no longer live under condemnation (strong and damning disapproval), the reason we no longer need to live with … guilt.

“It is by grace you have been save,
through faith-

and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God-

not by works,
so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

We cannot ever DO anything, to improve our situation. Our doing is eternally eclipsed by what has already been done FOR us.

This is love …

without works,

without guilt.

Jesus loves us, not as we should be, but as we are …

flawed, weak, sin-filled,

even guilt-ridden.

He loves us unconditionally, but he never pushes himself at us, never guilt-trips us, never demands more that what he has already paid the immeasurable price for …

How he loves us!

“I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
when I think about the way …
Oh how he loves us all”

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In the Pit

IMG_0001.JPGEver been in a pit?

Joseph was once in a pit … actually it was a well, but really, once you are in one what it is called does not matter anymore. It is dark, cold, full of creepy crawlies, and you’re alone.

Joseph had been thrown into the well by a band of angry thugs … his brothers.

Ever felt thrown into a well by someone you loved?

He was just a young man, the eldest of his mother, Rachel, the pride and joy of his father Jacob (Israel). Joseph had done nothing to deserve such a violent act of thoughtless sibling abandonment.

Ever felt that you were an innocent victim?

He was a good son, followed all the rules, even reported to his father when his older half-brothers were not. He had won his father’s favor, simply by being the firstborn of Jacob’s beloved Rachel.

Ever felt like you were being punished for the heartache of another?

He was a dreamer. Joseph dreamed of things to come, dreams that made the eyes of his brother roll, and confirm their ire for he and his superiority complex.

Ever feel like who you are created to be pushed you into the pit you are in?

Did Joseph’s rule following help him in the dampness of the pit?

Where were Joseph’s grand dreams when he looked up from the darkness he had been thrown into?

Where was Joseph’s protective and loving father, as he realized he was being hoisted out, not to end a cruel joke, but because his very own brothers sold him into slavery?

Sometimes, like Joseph, stuff happens in our life and we feel as though we have been thrown into a pit. Sometimes, having the best of intentions, the best of behaviors, the joy of being loved by family and friends, the greatest of gifts and abilities, are not the insurance of being able to live our lives in the light that we might have hoped that they would be.

Sometimes, we fall into the pit.

Sometimes, we are pushed.

Sometimes, the extended hand that lifts us out, is one that lands us in slavery.

That can all be rather dire.

But Joseph was never alone, not in that pit, not as a slave, not in an Egyptian prison.

God was there, and God’s stories are always centered around the theme of redemption, re-making, renewing.

After Joseph had provided opportunity for his brothers to prove that they had changed, after he was reunited with his father, Jacob, and after his father had died and was buried, redemption came for Joseph’s brothers.

Genesis 50:20 tells us that Joseph said to his brothers, “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good …”

When we are in the pit we need to remember that we are not there alone, and we need to remember that God has a plan … for good to come from evil.

 

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I love to know what is next … how the movie or book ends, what is planned for tomorrow, where our next vacation will be, what renovation we will do next on our home. I am into certainty. I plan our meals for a couple of weeks in advance, I countdown to holidays, I scour home stores for ideas to duplicate in our home (I rarely have any time to actually do them), and I sometimes read the last page of the novel before starting it (although I always find it is pointless, because it never seems to tell me anything anyway).

Life, though, is not full of certainty, but uncertainty.

There are hiccups to plans, there are changes in schedules, there are twists in the road, and there are surprises around every corner. The only thing I am truly certain of is that nothing in life is for certain.

I learned this a few years back, on our anniversary. As the days grew closer, our daughters were talking up ‘the gift’ hubby had gotten for me. There is nothing worse for adding pressure, than your kids excitedly telling you that you will love what their dad got for you! I mean, this meant that how I responded could disappoint not only hubby, but our kids too.

I knew that I had to plan my response. And so I went into constant rehearsals … in the van, in my backyard, in the kitchen, in the mirror … everywhere I went for a week I was practicing my response. By our anniversary I was a well-oiled machine (with a rumbly in my tumbly, from the anxiety).

When ‘it’ arrived at the house, I was sequestered to our daughters room, until ‘it’ and our family were all in place. Then I was beckoned to the living room, where they were all excitedly awaiting (and I was hoping I would faint before I got there, and had to act out my response). And there ‘it’ was … I was shocked, I was excited, I was unable to act … I was naturally thrilled! Hubby had taken an old chair that I had paid a dollar for at a junkyard (over twenty years ago), to be refinished and reupholstered. It was beautifully redeemed, and I loved it.

Now that is the kind of uncertainty I can handle!

I was recently in church singing along, and an example of certainty hit me in the face, and caused tears to flow from my eyes.

“No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

As I read and sang those words … no power of hell, no scheme of man … that means nothing on earth, or beyond the earth … nothing, can ever separate me from Christ. There is nothing that any man or woman can do to me, there is no demonic pressure that can sever the tie that exists between my redeemer and me. There is nothing that even I can do to break that tie.

This is certainty! And this is what I hold on to till He returns, or calls me home.

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“Depression is an ink that stains everything it touches
A black hole that swallows all that comes near”
-The Beaver (movie)

I do not personally know the truth or fallacy in the quote above. I do know that as I look back at times when I was sad, when I was feeling downcast those words are so true. Looking back on those periods in my life, I can see the stains that were left on those around me, even today.

It is easy to forget, or not even be aware, that we are part of a bigger world than just ourselves, and that things that happen to us, affect those around us. It is the relational evidence of the scientific fact that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So when we are overwhelmed with pain or sorrow or frustrations, we are not the only ones to feel the effects … all those closest to us feel our reactions, and then they, in turn, also respond.

As a mom (I cannot speak for dads) I am naturally predisposed to guilt. I can look over the well-intended mothering that I have done, and see errors that I made that will surely result in therapy for my kids in years to come. Yes, I have forced them to clean their plates, at times. Yes, I yelled at them more than once (a day). Yes, I sent them to their rooms to await discipline … and forgot them. Yes, I made them clean their rooms. Yes, they are all aware that that their not at all skinny parents have skinny dipped (that one may send them to therapy for longer and sooner than any other, if their faces turning green when they discovered this is any indicator).

There are certain periods in our life together, when I thought I was hiding my own disappointments and sadness with life’s circumstances so well, and as I look back, and look at changes in their lives, I am aware that too were stained by my sadness. It is such a guilt-ridden thing when I see those stains that they wear, because of me. My inability, at times, to manage and deal with events in my life better, have permanently stained my children …

I am coming full circle now, though. And I am looking to see purpose in suffering, I am looking to see good from bad. I am looking to see that something positive, not just negative, can come from those stains. And I am beginning to see it.

I see a daughter’s sensitivity to a friend who is being stained by sadness and illness in her home. I see a son’s expression of his friends need of God. I see a daughter’s desire to go to those in desperate pain and need, in a place I would not want to go, to show love and mercy. Those times of sorrow for me, that were permanently etched into the beings of my children, have altered their hearts. They have been able to take the stains that I have caused, and are wearing them as certificates of accomplishment and experience. And these stains are being used to reach out to others, more desperate than their mother ever was.

The redemptive way that God can take our pain, and mold it into something beautiful for others is something I do not expect to ever understand this side of heaven. But, I am thankful that the stains I may have caused, have not swallowed the futures of my children.

“God Himself will be among them,  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes;

and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;

the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son (daughter).

Revelation 21:4-7

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Summer is a time to think about sun, surf and reading a good book (and chocolate … like that is different from any other season).

I have a chosen reading list 🙂 Yes, I chose them all … last year, when I only read one book! It was obviously a very dry summer! So, the pile of books has been awaiting my attention for over a year now, just inside my closet doors. And I am determined that this summer, no matter how busy, I will take the time to read.

Reading is not something that I have loved since childhood. As a matter of fact, I can only remember reading one or two books, from cover to cover, as a child. It wasn’t until I was about thirty (when I was still young) that I picked up my first fictional novel to read … and when I had finished it, in less than twenty-four hours, I was hooked! So I read everything that author wrote, and then started on another author, and another, and another.

Then I started to read books that my kids were reading, because I had never read them as a child. Books like the Narnia stories, by C.S. Lewis, and Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables, and Tom Sawyer, and Captain Underpants (obviously, I love my son … but it is brilliant, in a boy-sorta way).

I was transported to places all over the world. I was able to live in the past, the present and the future. I was to laugh, to cry and to sigh. I felt emotions while reading that made me feel that I was living in the story. I could pick up a book, and escape the mundane of a regular day for the magical of the story within it’s covers.

The books I have read and loved, from various eras, various age ranges, various genres, all have one thing in common. This one part of each of my best loved reads is the glue that makes the story stick, it makes the story timeless, it makes the story sell.

This glue is the theme of the story, and it is one which will sell a book, or a movie. It is one that makes people recommend it, and re-read it. It is one that makes a simple grouping of words on a page (paper or electronic) a best seller. This glue is the theme of redemption.

Redemption is the act of deliverance, or rescue or salvation.

Maybe this theme sells because, in our busy, guilt-ridden, demanded upon lives, what we innately desire most is rescue. Maybe it provides that thing which we all need to survive … hope.

But maybe, it is also a great sell because, we are born with a need to be rescued, delivered, saved … redeemed. Maybe, just maybe, every fiber of our human being needs to be redeemed. Maybe we seek it in our literature, in our movies, in our jobs, in our families, because we cannot truly live without it. And, if we innately seek it out in our lives, it must be there for us to us to receive … just as our whole body struggles for air to breath, to live, and it is there.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

Isaiah 43:1b

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