The Power to Redeem…(Scripture&Song for the days when we need a reminder of our freedom & hope)

Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of His strength? ‘It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.’…in His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.”-Is. 63:1b,9b

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remember your sins no more.” -Is. 43:25

“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoiced in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness…” -Is.61 10

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! -2 Cor.5:17

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. -Eph.1:7

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.-Col.2:13-15

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.-Heb.4:16

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!”-Lam.3:21-24

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“…it was a testament to how God truly sets us free from everything that the enemy has in store for us. I love the idea that the enemy thinks that he is trapping us, but God in turn flips it on its head and says – ‘Actually, that’s gonna’ be the thing that I get the most glory from. That’s gonna’ be the thing that I redeem them from…even though we all have moments of regret or shame or failure…His love that He so lavished on us, His power has nailed all that to the tree. It’s done, it was finished at the cross and now we can walk in true redemption.” -Lauren Daigle*

*quoted from the Relevant Magazine podcast, discussing the inspiration behind ‘The Power to Redeem’

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Set Free to Live as His Workmanship {a guest post by Jacquie Wagner}

 I am so grateful to have Jacquie Wagner sharing with us today. Although we have never met face to face, Jacquie’s words and prayers have been a source of encouragement in my life for years. The love of Jesus shines so clearly through her – and I see such a beautiful reflection of our Savior in her love for God and for the body of Christ. {You can read more of Jacquie’s words and see her editorial handiwork over at Christian Women Online.}  

I am particularly grateful for Jacquie’s testimony today…because sometimes the most difficult battles we fight are within ourselves and we can lose sight of the victory that is already ours through Jesus. Sometimes we hold onto our pasts, hold onto our sins, hold onto the chains that have already been broken by our Savior’s power. I am thankful for this truth that Jacquie is reminding us of today…submitting to Christ’s authority and receiving His grace over our lives brings freedom and peace, hope and purpose. He overcomes the darkness around us and within us….loving us all the while.

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.-Col. 1:13

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Because Jesus is Alive… I’m not stuck with myself and less likely to be stuck on myself!

We all have them ~those days where we run face to face into who we are in our flesh, with our failings ~ our ugly parts that surface and show themselves to, at, and over others, or our own personal load of sin that shows itself to us: fear, doubt, gossip, laziness, unkindness, meanness, our… Maybe it would be faster to just quote the love part of 1 Corinthians 13 ~ only as the opposite of all those good things. Or maybe snag one or more of Paul’s deadly accurate lists of sins, the makeup of our Self ~ ugh! Apart from the work of God in our lives, we are none of us very pretty on the inside ~ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Praise be to God who does not leave us in our filth!  Praise be to God who gave us Jesus, His only Son, who died to pay for our transgressions, and who rose again and lives at the right hand of the Father interceding for us!  Praise God for the reality of the Blood which cleanses us from ALL sin!  I don’t know about you, but one of the realities of the cross that is hard for me to grasp with any kind of a firm hold is the truth that ALL of our sins ~ our personal “whoops-ities” and “grossities” ~were FUTURE sins at the cross.  We tend ~ in moods of introspection and/or when we’re forced to see it ~ to get hung up on our sin and failures like they somehow make us lesser in that moment or season.  The truth is, though, that our present sins are no more degrading/depressing/dehumanizing/deinflating etc. than our first sin or whatever our last sin will be.  Sin is sin and it was all paid for BEFORE we ever committed them!  We are no less the beloved children of God when we sin than before.

God loves us right where we are now ~ in the midst of a mess or on the high way with Him ~ because the truth is we’re always on the high way with Him. God’s not any more enamored of our times of sin than we are, but He’s FAR less interested in stirring them around than we are. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 Then He drops them in the sea of forgetfulness and would like us to do the same because:

~ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… Romans 8:1

~ For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

~ I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

~  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Which verse brings us to the other half of a “problem” in our lives that Jesus delivers us from daily because He is alive ~

If I’m not unduly wrestling with remorse over my sin (and there is a time and place for that, but not everyday, all day where it paralyzes us in our walk with the Lord), then I’m wrestling with the flip side of things ~ glorying in what an awesome Christian I am for whatever awesome thing the Lord is doing in me and through me.  Whatever good is occurring in my life has zero to do  with me and everything to do with what the Lord is working in my life.  The  verse is so good and so full of truth, let’s do it again ~

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (emphasis mine)

We can follow this up with these good Words of Life ~

…it is God Who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image of glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Not much room in there for me, or you, to be taking any glory for the good! Likewise, there’s not much room to be stuck mourning our sins, for we really don’t have time ~

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-28

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In the Middle of the Mess (Hope for When We Fail)

I could hear it in my daughter’s voice when she called for me – the familiar tone of “uh-oh”. She looked up at me and said, “I was making something for you, but I made a mess. I didn’t mean to spill it…I’m sorry.”

Following her into the kitchen, I saw the problem – glitter, purple and gold, was all over the floor.  She had pulled out the craft supplies within her reach, by herself, without asking for permission. Scissors, glue sticks, and stickers were scattered – sparkles spread over everything.

“I was making this,” she said, and presented me with her artwork – a paper-towel canvas embellished with her name spelled out in glitter-letters. “I’m sorry,” she said again – and I reached down to hug her. I saw her mistakes, yes – but I also saw her intentions. I saw the desire to make something good, something beautiful for me. I saw the love that motivated her actions.

“Thank you for this picture – it is wonderful. I love it. And I forgive you for the mess. You do know that you’re supposed to ask when you want to use all of this stuff. Next time,” I told her, “just ask me so I can help you.”

The smile returned to her face and, putting her masterpiece up, we began to clean up the layer of sticky, sparkly glitter.

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Sometimes we do this same thing. We want to do good things for God – so we make fast decisions and quick moves, forgetting to ask our Father for direction, forgetting to wait on His help. Situations come up—and we speak our minds to others before we talk to Him.

Sometimes we give in when temptations come around. Sometimes we fail to do something that we know we are supposed to do. Sometimes we make wrong choices.

We make mistakes. We fail. We make messes.

But this does not give us cause to give up. This does not give us permission to stop doing good work. This does not mean we are failures. And it certainly does not change God’s love for us.

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I think of Peter, his rash foot-in-mouth ways, and see so much hope for us. This fisherman-disciple was a proficient mess-maker…but he was also a man of bold faith, a man chosen and used by God.

We get a glimpse of his heart in Matthew 16, when Jesus asks His disciples – “But who do you say that I am?” Peter speaks up before anyone else can figure out an answer and says this – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

When Jesus responds, it is with blessing and hope for Peter’s future: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

This moment must stun and thrill Peter – he is being called into the work of God.

Of course, like most of us, he seems to forget at times that only God has sovereign wisdom and power when it comes to the building of His kingdom. Peter has that beautiful interaction with Jesus and, soon after, the Savior begins to talk about how He must suffer, die, and be raised from the grave. Peter is horrified – he actually took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” Jesus then turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

I flinch, reading these words, because I have been guilty of this so many times…when we can’t understand how God is working, don’t we sometimes jump in and try to ‘fix’ it all ourselves? It’s a matter of learning to trust Him. Peter and I have this in common: a need to listen and truly hear the voice of God, understanding that His plans are higher and better than our own. It is our calling to surrender to Him, even when His purpose is unclear.

Peter goes through this again in John 13, when Jesus is washing the feet of the disciples.

Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

What I love here is the fact that Peter does not run away and hide from the fact that he has made a mistake. He does not let pride silence him. He acknowledges his error and tries again – for he could not bear to be cast aside by his Lord. His heart cries out – take all of me!

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Peter’s leap of faith and plunge into doubt in Matthew 14 is a familiar story to many of us – the disciples are out in a boat, a rough wind rocking the sea. Jesus walks out into the middle of the sea to meet them – and they do not recognize Him, fear convincing them that the figure walking on water is a ghost.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

This wasn’t Peter’s last bold declaration to be followed by a plummet into fear. Jesus warns him in Luke 22 that he will be tested…Peter proclaims that he is ready to be imprisoned and even to die for Jesus. “Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Jesus is arrested (Peter angrily cutting off a man’s ear along the way) and just as He said – Peter denies having any part of Him. Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”  So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Can’t you feel the weight of sorrow Peter must have felt? At this most crucial moment – his faith faltered.

But even after this most bitter failure, Peter was loved by Jesus. One of my favorite moments of mercy is displayed in two little words after the resurrection of Christ. The angel gives a message to the women looking for the body of their Lord –

“But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” (Mark 16:7)

Jesus knew that Peter’s heart was in a mess…and He reached out to him in the middle of it. He was not willing to leave Peter in regret and sorrow, in broken shame.

He goes to him, calling him by his full name each time and – asking not once, not twice, but three times – if Peter loves him. For each regret-filled memory of denial, he was given a chance to say – Yes, I love you.

I believe that Jesus wanted Peter to understand that he was known – mistakes and all – and that he still had a place in building God’s kingdom — Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” Jesus lets Peter know that he will, one day, give up his life for the sake of God’s glory, and then He speaks two familiar words to him – “Follow Me.”

Grace, friends. He gives us more than we can even comprehend, doesn’t He?

Yes, Peter misspoke and mishandled…he made promises he couldn’t keep.

But he also kept trying to fully follow his Lord. He believed, even when others didn’t. He may have lost his footing in that water, but for a glorious moment – he was walking on the waves with Jesus.

Peter was willing to take risks. He was willing to learn from his mistakes. Most importantly – Peter loved the Savior. He did not allow self-condemnation, regret, or fear keep him from that beckoning “Follow Me.”

Instead he acted in obedience, the Holy Spirit transforming him into a man that would preach the gospel and stand up in courage, time and again, for the glory of God.

We get to hear from Peter himself in his letters and he reminds us to make every effort be found blameless, spotless, and at peace with the Lord…but I like to imagine that he had a little smile on his face when he wrote the next line in 2nd Peter 3:15 – bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…for he knew it quite well, the patience of our Lord. He experienced the mercy of God and he was well-versed in grace.

Just as we are.

For didn’t He see when our hearts were a mess? He reached out to us – He came, Himself, into the middle of our need to become our redemption.  He has never been willing to leave us broken and in shame.

If you find yourself in the middle of a mess, confess it and accept the forgiveness that He is willing to give. Satan will try to turn your focus to your failures so that you will not live in the freedom of God’s forgiveness. 2 Corinthians 7 tells us this — For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. There is no more condemnation in Christ, not when He has borne the weight of our guilt.

Our actions do have consequences – the Lord disciplines those He loves, helping us to mature and to become more like Him in this world that needs men and women reflecting His righteousness, His unselfish love. But He remains faithful in love and grace, even in the hard harvests of our lives.

Just as He knew Peter’s heart and had a plan, a purpose for His future – He knows you. When we make mistakes, we do our best to learn from them – asking for His help, for His strength to grow in faith as we answer the same call He gave to Peter – Follow Me. You, too, have a work to do in building His Kingdom.

So don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to step out of the boat. Don’t let pride or worry or what anyone else might think keep you from surrendering all you are to all He is.

We are not defined by our mistakes, but by His mercy.

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You know, thinking back to the night glitter took over my kitchen, I just can’t think that it was a coincidence, seeing as I needed this reminder of His grace…as we began to clean, I looked down at the glitter-covered floor and I could see a giant gold heart within the middle of that mess.

And I had to hug my daughter again, a smile on my face.

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When Your Heart & Head are Bowed Low (Encouragement for this Weekend)

As I was getting ready to pick up my kids from school yesterday, a refrain kept circling in my head – Thou, O Lord, are a shield for me…my glory and the lifter of my head…

I went through my cd collection until I found the song that taught me these verses from Psalms by heart and let it play. It is still on my mind today…maybe because that phrase gets to the core of my heart – Thou, O Lord, are the lifter of my head…because so many times we have shoulders slumped in worry, eyes downcast in shame, feeling like it isn’t even worth the effort to hold ourselves straight, to look ahead in courage…

I see this movement – this eyes looking down at the floor, the defeated posture – in my own kids sometimes. When they’re in trouble, when they’re sad, when they tried something and it didn’t go exactly how they expected it to go – they look away from me. Sometimes they try to hide somewhere in the house, alone, and I have to search them out. And then I have to, quite literally, lift their chins toward me so that I can wipe away those tears and reassure them that they are okay….that they are loved in all times, in all things.

I have been there, so many times. I have been the one who didn’t want to look up because I was certain I would only see condemnation. I have been the one who couldn’t lift up my head because my heart was broken, my hope for the future gone. I have felt small in my shame. I have felt afraid in my pain. I have tried to hide away, sure there was no good thing in me.

Have you ever felt this way? Do you, even now, feel too tired to hold yourself up, too worried to look into the future with confidence or hope, too broken down to lift your eyes?

If that answer is a yes, can we take a few minutes to remember the story of John 8?

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There is no hiding the wrong she has done and the price is already set – she will pay for her guilt with her life. As their long strides and firm grips drag her into the temple courts, she does not need to look up to know that all eyes are on her. They all see her shame.

There is a crowd there, gathered around Jesus. The Pharisees make the woman stand before the group and say it loud and clear, making sure everyone hears her crime – she has been caught, yes, with their own eyes. She has sinned in the act of adultery and the law demands that she should be stoned. They want to know if Jesus agrees with their verdict.

Her life is laid bare before this crowd and though I can’t know for sure, I can imagine that she is gulping down tears of humiliation and fear. I can imagine that she is hopeless.

Perhaps she expects this man, who is obviously much-esteemed, to nod his consent and reach down for a stone.

And He reaches down, yes, but does not pick up a stone. He begins to write on the ground.

Maybe you know the rest of this story already…how they keep after Him, asking again and again what He believes her rightful punishment should be. With every accusation, every re-play of her dark moments, does she sink deeper into shame? Does she become more certain that her life is over?

In this moment, she hears the Teacher say – Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

I don’t know if the courts go silent. I don’t know if these men continue to mutter, to condemn. But I do know that they begin to leave.

And, so, after every accuser is gone and it is just this woman, just this woman rooted to the ground in her misery, and Jesus. He stands up and asks her – woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?

Again, I can’t know for sure – but I imagine that her shoulders have been slumped in defeat, her head hanging down as their words piled upon her.

And at His voice – at this question – she must lift her head. She must look up to see her deliverance – and this last One standing – what will He say to her?

Neither have I condemned you. Go and sin no more.

In His eyes, she sees another chance. In Him, she sees hope.

He sees her sin, yes – but He also sees her. He sees a heart that can be changed. He sees a heart that can be free from darkness.

He sees a daughter, redeemed.

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A few more moments come to my mind…I think of the parents and children, rebuked by the disciples – after their reprimands, feeling too unimportant to come into the presence of Jesus – but looking up to see His welcome, too see His care for them….to see that they matter to Him. Come to Me, He says. And He brings the little ones close, blesses them.

I think of the woman we meet in Luke 8. She knows miracles happen when He is near. So, silently and unseen, she reaches for just the hem of His garment. Unclean and broken, she doesn’t call for His attention. She wouldn’t want His eyes on her. For so long she has been in pain, for so long she has been alone.

But this one touch – and the disease that held her captive falls away. But this touch does not go unnoticed as she had hoped – His voice calls out – Who touched Me?

She falls trembling at His feet, ready for whatever chastisement may come, explanation limping out of her mouth.

But He says – Daughter – and she looks up to see compassion.

We could reach back into the Old Testament and walk through the New…always finding the same thing. When the broken-hearted and broken-bodied come to God, they find Love. He lifts their heads to Hope.

And each time eyes lift to His, they meet mercy.

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Sometimes all we can see is what we have done wrong. Sometimes we pull burdens of worry onto our backs and find ourselves bent beneath them. Sometimes we are just plain heartbroken over the hard things of this life and the weariness of it hangs our heads low.

If your head is bowed low, your eyes downcast – I pray that you will feel His eternal hands gently cup your face and lift it toward His.

Can I offer this from my own life? Every time I have cried out to Him, He has heard me. He has lifted my head, over and over again, bringing hope and restoring my heart in ways I thought were impossible. Don’t be afraid to look to Him.

You will see compassion in His eyes. If you have made mistakes and chosen sin, you will find forgiveness and redemption in His grace. He was lifted onto the cross for our deliverance.

You will see the One who saves us when we are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) You will see the One who comforts all who mourn…the One who gives a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, beauty where there was once only ashes. (Isaiah 61) The One sent to bind up the brokenhearted…to give us strength…to sustain us, day by day, is here with us now.

Lift up your head, friend. Look up to the One who fights our battles for us. The enemy, our accuser, can tell us that there is nothing to be done for our shame, for our problem, for our fears – but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Stand and be strong in the power of His might…there is nothing impossible for our God, who supplies all our needs according to His great riches…who heals every disease…who speaks peace to the storms and life into death. Lift up your head, for you are free from condemnation. He has given us His own righteousness. Lift up your head, for in days of trouble we know that He is coming soon to make all things new. In His own words – Take heart, for I have overcome the world! (John 16:33)

Let Him be the lifter of your head, the Father who loves you, in all times, in all things.

Called to Peace (Part 4 of 4)

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When it comes to our relationships with a world that does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord, I fear that we do not always resemble our Savior.

Sometimes we, as a Christian body, are offended by the ways of the world around us.

But does it go deeper than that? Yes, we should be dismayed by the sin and its consequences – but should our eyes be more on the sin than the souls captured in it? Are our hearts truly grieving for our culture? Do we see the people instead of the problems?

We can be indignant and raise our voices and boycott and tweet in all caps – but what are our words really saying to the souls in this world who are still bound by sin? When we want to declare our rights to express our faith – shout from the rooftops what is wrong with this world and debate with anyone who disagrees – are we doing it to glorify God?

I fear that we sometimes justify anger, self-righteousness, and fear as ‘righteous indignation’. When we feel these things, it is probably the time to stop and pray – because our Father is the Holy One, the only Judge, who knows the intentions of our hearts. And He is the one who can help us to be angry without sin. He is the one who can transform our frustrations over injustice and our anger with the destruction of sin into words, actions, and prayers that bring light into the dark places.

I think that – sometimes – we forget that the very people we are condemning and pushing away with our ‘righteous’ indignation are the very people who need us …because they need Him. They need His light to shine through us!

And if we are too busy being appalled by the sinful nature (that used to control us!) to love others in spite of the way they might behave or treat us…then we have forgotten that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Paul says this in Ephesians 2: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.

The words of Jesus remind me, too, that we cannot expect holiness from those not yet redeemed by the work of Jesus: It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17)

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Why do we expect the world to approve of and change for our faith? Weren’t we, too, once far from Him? Simply -we cannot expect righteousness and an understanding from those who are still alienated from God.

We spend a lot of time defending our position and theology to a world that does not yet have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Is engaging in this kind of debate wise? Paul advises this to his friend, Titus – But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless!

James gave us this wisdom: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires…Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Instead of trying to convince with facts and persuade with logic – shouldn’t we be imploring on God’s behalf – be reconciled to God? The Holy Spirit was sent into this world to convict of sin and the Father draws people to Jesus. We cannot convince anyone of their need of salvation in our own power – there is a supernatural beckoning…there is a Good Shepherd going out from His flock to find the lost sheep. What we can do, through His power, is this: live with hearts as letters from Christ, lives written on by the Holy Spirit. We can live holy lives that are different from the world around us – peaceful, generous, loving one another – and won’t our good works shine before men, so that our Father in heaven is glorified? (from Matthew 5)

Christ did not come into this world to condemn the lost (John 3:17) – and neither should we.

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But the end of John 3:17 is this – He came so that the world might be saved through Him.

If we are to be like Him, we will not condemn sinners – but we will not condone sin.

Jesus offered Himself so the sin could be forgiven. He offered Himself so that a heart could be set free. He offered Himself so that the people He loved could be changed by the power of His blood and the Holy Spirit.

Following His example, I believe that peacemaking means offering ourselves in intercession. I believe it means understanding that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers. I believe it is living a life without grumbling so that ‘we will shine like stars in the sky as we hold firmly to the word of life’. I believe it is showing through our actions that we love – wholly, fully, giving all!- because He first loved us in exactly that way. I believe it means understanding that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…and we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.

Peter tells us that we should always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. When we speak out for what is right and true, our voices should sound like His. Our reactions and our words should sound like His. We should be the huios-kind-of-children so that eyes on us will mean seeing a representation, a reflection, of the Father.

I’ve said this before but I think it’s a good time to remember it again – it is not love to ignore sin. It is not love to stay silent when we know that sin leads to destruction. If someone is captive and in darkness, we speak this truth in love – there is a Prince of Peace who is Hope, Freedom, and Salvation. We live as His ambassadors, His witnesses – and then we trust the Holy Spirit to draw that person to Christ. We trust Jesus to do the redemption work only He can accomplish.

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Don’t you love the times in the Gospels when Jesus takes everyone by surprise? I love it when Jesus calls Zacchaeus down from that tree and invites Himself over to dinner. I love it when He re-directs the attention from the woman caught in adultery to those who did the ‘catching’. I love it when He tells the story of a father running toward his prodigal son, arms open to welcome him home.

Because that was me – I have been the one daring only a peek at Him through my shame, I have been the one caught in doing wrong, I have been the ungrateful, self-serving child.

And He took me by surprise with His love. His compassion changed me. His grace was the astounding, beautiful miracle that brought me into His presence. I was welcomed and redeemed.

Jesus told us this: Freely you have received; freely give.

We should be compelled to give because of Christ’s love…because He died for us…and because He died for all. (from 2 Cor. 5)

What would happen if the Body of Christ, in the unity we’ve been talking about, began to pray on behalf of those in need of redemption? What if we began to freely give like we have been given? What if we began to respond to hatred with love, to insults with grace, and with mercy in the aftermath of mistakes? What if we began to be known as a people of generosity, a church of compassion, a Body who will comfort the hurting and provide for those in need?

What if, in a world full of rage – full of noise – full of voices demanding their own way – we could become a people of peacemakers, letting His still and small voice speak through us?

Maybe choosing to end hostilities, choosing meekness, choosing kindness – maybe it doesn’t seem like it would work. Maybe it seems illogical in the face of a loud, frustrated world.

But it’s what He’s called us to choose.

Can’t we trust Him to do His work in this world when we follow Him in obedience?

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What if we humble ourselves and our ‘rights’ are brushed aside? What if we are taken advantage of and mistreated?

It is how we handle those wrongs that will speak volumes. If we are like Jesus, what is the response? He gives us clear direction in Matthew 5:

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

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When it comes to matters of standing firm for the Gospel’s sake – then we must stand in His love, unafraid to bear His name – but remembering what His name means and everything He taught us. I believe we must prayerfully follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in these circumstances – we must be, as Jesus said, wise as serpents and harmless as doves. When it comes to sin and holiness, truth and lies, life and death – we are compelled to hold our ground and contend for the faith…because we love others and want them to see Christ in us! We must still be peacemakers – even while we cannot agree with the world….even when we are hated or persecuted for His name’s sake.

We must remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the spiritual realms…so For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 10:3-4)

Paul talks about the armor we must wear to fight this battle – is it any surprise that our feet…feet that must go out into the world to make disciples – should go wearing the readiness that comes from this gospel of peace?

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving…peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. –Matthew 3:17-18

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He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Eph.2:17-18)

Jesus loved the tax collectors and the sinners. He loved the thieves and the liars, the prostitutes and the self-absorbed. He loved the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the prisoners and the slaves. He loved the Jews and the Gentiles, the Pharisees and the fishermen. He loved me. He loved you.

He invited us to His table, He healed our sicknesses, He touched our eyes and gave us sight. He fed the hungry.

He loved us and gave Himself for us, so that we could find ourselves forgiven children of the Father.

May we examine our lives and ask for His guidance, because we know the One who bore the punishment to bring the peace this world desperately needs.

May we be taught by His Spirit to become like Him, to become peacemakers in His name.

 

A New Week…and Holding Onto Hope

Somehow, Monday is almost here and the new week is already beginning. I don’t know what your week will bring, but I do know who will be with you through every bit of it.  I pray that our ears will be open to the voice of the Holy Spirit and our eyes will be open to the glory of God around us from sun-up to sun-down. I pray that, as we follow Jesus, we will find our rest in His presence and our strength in His joy. I pray we’ll truly believe that we can do all things through Christ…and so remember to depend on Him and not on ourselves

I pray that we will love each other like He first loves us. I pray that we will share the  present and forever hope of His love.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful…put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. (Hebrews 10:23, Psalm 130:7)

Of Cassette Tapes & Garden-Walking

I had no idea how emotional it would be to clean out our attic and garage. This has been a huge project involving lots of late nights and weekends spent going through dusty boxes… has anybody else out there ever been floored by the sheer amount of material belongings that can accumulate over several years?…

Will you join me at Christian Women Online to read the rest of my experience with unpacking old boxes, Sandi Patti, and longing for what is eternal?  

As always, thank you for sharing your time with me. It makes this girl’s heart so happy to remember that we are a great big extended family and that, together, we are pressing on towards the day when we’ll be face-to-face with our Father.