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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The God who Redeems

Redemption… someone stepping in and taking my deserved punishment, leaving me free of guilt.  It's a theme for thousands of movies, and something that each one of us can reach out and take for ourselves.

"...One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.  2 Corinthians 5:14-15 MSG

God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins… We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God."  2 Corinthians 5:19-21 MSG

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.  Ephesians 1:7-10 MSG

The burning question becomes "How am I living?  As caged, or free?"

If I've chosen to remain in the cage, is the cause of that choice worth being bound?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#2 - God is always about Redeeming, Restoring, & Reconciling

The last couple of days I've wrestled with the tension of wanting to stay in my #1 of the Ten Things that say a lot about Who God is:  That He Loves us and Cares for us, and then, on the flip side, desiring to march on ahead with my other nine.  I could probably write 100 posts on how much God loves each one of us!

Yesterday I read what I realize today is the perfect segue between God's unconditional love for us, and #2 in my Top Ten:  the fact that God is always about redeeming, restoring, & reconciling. 

"What we know about God and what we do for God have a way of getting broken apart in our lives.  The moment the organic unity of belief and behavior is damaged in any way, we are incapable of living out the full humanity for which we were created.

"Paul's letter to the Ephesians joins together what has been torn apart in our sin-wrecked world.  He begins with an exuberant exploration of what Christians believe about God, and then, like a surgeon skillfully setting a compound fracture, "sets" this belief in God into our behavior before God so that the bones - belief and behavior - knit together and heal.

"…[Paul] ranges widely, from heaven to earth and back again, showing how Jesus, the Messiah, is eternally and tirelessly bringing everything and everyone together.  He also shows us that in addition to having this work done in and for us, we are participants in this most urgent work.  Now that we know what is going on, that the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe (underscore mine), it is imperative that we join in vigorously and perseveringly, convinced that every detail in our lives contributes (or not) to what Paul describes as God's plan worked out by Christ, "a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.""  - Eugene H. Peterson, The Message, Intro to Ephesians, page 2122

Reconciliation.  Going from far apart to close together, war to peace.  It is God's heart, always… not only between us and Him, but in every human relationship.

Incidentally, the book of Ephesians gives a distilled version of God at work.  If you don't have a Bible, you can read it here.  (I've linked the first chapter of six - just click the right-facing arrow at the bottom of the page to continue on with subsequent chapters.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Janelle's Journey in discovering how much God loves her

Sometimes, another person's story of how God rescued them is - well, there are no words.  I'll let Janelle take it from here.

Janelle's Story

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ten Things that say a lot about Who God is: #1 - God Loves You

How do you know someone loves you?  What are the tell-tale signs?

The list could be as individual as each one of us, and equally as long – but I would venture to guess that if we posed this question to fifty people, there would be some similarities, such as:  when you love someone, you want to spend time with them.  True love is not always feeling warm fuzzies toward someone.  Even if you don’t feel like it, you still do the right thing for them.  If you love someone, you will more than likely sacrifice something for them, somewhere along the line.

If we would take all the evidences of love, stand them up next to each other, and look for the one piece that stands head and shoulders above all others, what would that most prominent piece be?

Personally, the thing that would speak the most loudly to me would be whether someone would lay down their life for me… figuratively or literally.  Instead of being indifferent, they would be invested in me, to the point of sacrificing their life for me.

When I see my husband laying down his life for me – doing things my way, changing his behavior because he knows what I prefer, sacrificing his time for my sake – these actions speak far louder to me than the simple words, “I love you”.  I believe what I see.

When I read the following passage, and verify it against history, the same thing happens to me.  I believe what I see:

 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again."
John 3:16-17 MSG

If I believe that Jesus really was sent from God to die for me… to give me life… if I take that grid and place it over all of life… everything changes.  God is no longer the helpless bystander in a sometimes-ugly world, but now He is my helper in time of need.  He loves me.  He wants the best for me.  He longs to redeem the hurt in my story; the injustices of this world.  He loves.

This notion that God actually loves me is foundational to everything about God.  Imagine a God who didn’t love.  Would that be a God worth following?

Who Is God?

In My Vision, I said “…my greatest desire is to help myself and my readers to fall in love with God and His Word.”

As I thought more about that statement, it hit me:  What happens when someone realizes they love another person?  HOW does that happen?

If a friend of mine introduces me to one of their friends, the typical scene is for my friend to give me a biographical sketch of the stranger.  Through this brief biography, I gain some knowledge of him or her.  And, if my interest is piqued, I will find ways to get to know [her] more.  IMHO, “love” happens at some unexpected moment, when you realize this person is deepening the best parts of you; challenging, supporting, encouraging, loving you.  Love is a many-splendored thing!

But it all begins in getting to know this person more… finding out who they are.  What do they claim to be?  What do others say about them?  Do their own claims line up with their “known reputation”?  And finally, as I investigate this person, am I liking what I see?

If you believe God is worth investigating; if part of you is intrigued with the idea of the God of the universe loving you; if the possibility of having a personal relationship an omniscient, omnipresent being calls you to attention, then I invite you to stay engaged with this blog.  Over the next few weeks I plan to write on the “Ten Things that say a lot about Who God Is”.  These are my top ten; the most poignant characteristics that I see in the God of the Bible.  Hopefully, they’ll give you a little more than a “sketch” of Him.  Maybe they’ll even whet your appetite to get to know Him better…