My Redeemer

I never much cared for English class.  It was probably the sentence structure that did me in.  I still can’t tell you the meaning behind an imperative, participle or conjunctions.  Maybe I was just bored with the details.  I mean, I know how to speak.  Shut up already!  Yes, that was my young naiveté.  I didn’t understand the power of words.  I wasn’t willing to slow down enough to study the details so that I could later appreciate and employ the tools for myself.  For example, do you know how words are constructed?  Let’s look at one simple add on to a verb.  Do you know what happens when you add “er” to a verb?

Consider that I build houses.  It’s my occupation.  When we add “er” to the word, build, I become a builder.  Simple, right?  While this feels like a silly exercise, I have to admit that noticing the two words build and builder together, give me a better picture of who I am.  In fact, when I say that I am a builder, you get a certain picture in your head of what that looks like and how I will act.  That is your picture of “builder.”  Do you need one?

Don’t be offended.  This is not a commercial for my building services, but I do know that if you want to build a house, it’s likely that you will consider hiring a builder.   That is, if you think you need the services of a builder.  I am always amazed at the people that don’t think they need any help.  Apparently, they are experts in building.  On the other hand, many people realize that they are not able to build a home themselves.  If that is you, I hopeful that you would choose me.  Then, I would be your builder.  When people ask you who I am, you will respond, “he is my builder.”  It is a valid description of who I am and what I do.

If today, someone asked you who Jesus is, what would you say?  There are countless descriptions.  He is hope, he is love, he is the Christ.  Have you ever called him a redeemer?   A redeemer pays debts.  Or, according to google dictionary, he “gains possession of [us] in exchange for payment.”  Fitting.  Right?  Thing is, he doesn’t become a redeem-er, until someone allows him to do the work.  Do you need it?  Or, are you an expert at redeeming yourself?  Here’s the thing.  When you do finally call in the expert to root out the stubborn weeds of sin and darkness, he is ready.  In fact, he wants to be your redeemer.  In the end, you will describe Jesus as “my redeemer.”

Today’s scriptures are writing from both David and Job.  Each of them, for their own reasons, found redemption in God.  When calling upon him, or describing him, they use the phrase “my redeemer.”

Psalms 19:14 (ESV) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Job 19:25 – For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth

Majestic Glory

My grandaparents were world travelers.  There was nothing more exciting to them.  They loved the sights and the sounds, the people and probably the cocktails.  Upon their return, they were bursting with excitement.  They couldn’t wait to share all of the amazing things they had done.  So they did.  For a whole night.  With a slide show.  And lots of talking.  Lots, and lots of talking.  That’s right, full descriptions of every picture.  They described who was in it, what it smelled like, how this tasted, how that looked.  You know how it goes.  Problem is, it doesn’t matter how much they talked, they could never relay the full experience.  And, it was worth sharing.  Their excitement was contagious.  I found that when I engaged my heart and my mind, I was able to get a glimpse of how great it was.  In fact, it made me want to know more.

Guess what?  The apostle Peter shares with us his account of experiencing God.  We find the story narrated in Matthew 17:1-6.  Jesus took Peter and two others up a mountain.  Then, “As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.  Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.”  Clearly, this is a unique experience.  I’m betting that Peter was pretty excited to share it.  Wouldn’t you be?  I’ll bet he would have given anything to have a camera.

Of course, Peter did not have a camera.  He could not assemble a slide show and bring it along to share with everyone.  He had only is exuberance and his words.  This is what has me fascinated today.  His eyewitness description of the experience is found in 2 Peter 1:17.  Are you ready for it?  “Majestic Glory.”  That’s it.  Two words.  No flowery description or a nauseating list of adjectives.  Just the simple words Majestic Glory.

My first read through those words was disappointing. “That’s it?” I thought.  How could such an amazing experience be distilled into something so short and simple?  Then, I stopped and tried to consider both of those words.  Majestic.  What does it look like?  How many colors are there?  Does it have a taste and a smell?  When I put my heart and mind into it, I can feel it.  It emits an energy.  So does Glory.  When I focus deeper, I see that it has light and colors.  Its intimidating and inviting.

As your soul soaks into Majestic Glory, remember that you are seeing a picture of Jesus.  A crude one to be sure.  Keep looking and He will make it more clear.

It Is Well….

The following video is making its way around the internet.  It is amazing!  As I listened to it, I was reminded of  John Ortberg’s account of the song’s author in his book Soul Keeping. While the story can be chilling, it provides me a worthwhile perspective.

Horatio Spafford invested most of what he had in real estate. He lived in Chicago and lost everything in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It destroyed his home. They had no insurance. He lost most of his money. In 1873 he put his wife and their four daughters (their son having died of scarlet fever in 1870) on a ship heading to England as he stayed behind to restimulate his business. A few days after the ship departed, he received a telegram from his wife: “Saved alone. What shall I do?” There had been a shipwreck. All four of their daughters perished. Horatio quickly boarded another ship to England, and as it passed over the very same place in the ocean where his daughters had drowned, he wrote these words to as song: When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

Ortberg, John. Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You (p. 48). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I pray that you find peace today, despite the circumstances.  I pray that God’s peace will be established deeply within our hearts so that we may all rejoice in knowing that “It Is Well,” because He has made it so.

 

The Christ

Matthew 16:16

“Who do you say that I am?”  That is the question that Jesus poses to Peter.  Peter responds, confidently, “you are the Christ, the son of the living God.” While I could write pages about the insight that statement gives us into Peter’s heart, today, I want to focus on what it says about Jesus.  You see, it is significant that Peter calls him “the Christ.”

I hate to say it, but I think sometimes we believe that Christ was Jesus’ last name.  It isn’t.  Nor is Christ an important title.  Christ is an attribute of God.  Its who he is.  It describes his essence.  This is what the ancient Jews were looking for.  They were looking for a messiah.  A savior.  Someone to rescue them from their poverty.  Not their physical poverty, mind you, the poverty that lived within their souls.  It’s the hurt that they struggle with every day.  The feeling that their lives are not exactly the way that God planned them and the guilt of failure.  Failing to do what God wants and knowing that their best can never be good enough.  We struggle with the same things.  Truth is, we need a savior that can point us back to who we were created to be.  A messiah that can make us whole no matter what we have done.  We need a new beginning.  A fresh start.  Born again.

Of course, not everyone believed this.  Many of the ancient Jews did not recognize Jesus as the Christ. It holds true today too.  Why not?  Because they are looking for the wrong thing.  The Pharisees, for example,  were looking for a Christ that would promote them.  They wanted more wealth and more power.  Maybe they just wanted happiness.  The savior they were looking for would serve their own needs and fulfill their own dreams.  When they realized that Jesus would not do that, the rejected him.  Sound familiar?

Jesus didn’t come to serve our wants or dreams.  He came to give us life.  This is what Peter recognized and Jesus delivered.  He rescued him from is poverty, he rescued him from himself.  Christ gave him a new life.  A new way.  He saved him.  He was the messiah.  He is the Christ.

Avenger

Who would offer me vengeance against my enemies?  Who would set me free?  There are a few conditions for someone to avenge me. First, the avenger must be more powerful than the opposition.  Second, the avenger must love the oppressed.  Third, the oppressed must be deserving.  Did you know that God is our avenger?

To be avenged, we must be loved.  God’s love for us is well documented.  It is described as unconditional, everlasting and powerful.  1 John 3:1 explains that God calls us his children.  Who among us does not love our child so much that we would avenge them?

If someone is to avenge me they must be powerful.  God is powerful.  So powerful, he handily establishes his own worlds.   He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.  He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them.  He covers the face of the full moon and spreads over it his cloud.  He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.  Job 26:7-10 (ESV)

If I expect to be avenged, I need to be deserving.  This is a problem.  I am not deserving.  I am not innocent.  None of us are.  Its been that way since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.  The Lord doesn’t avenge the guilty, he eliminates them.  Remember Noah?  Genesis 6:5 (ESV) The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  That same fate would await us if not for Jesus Christ.  You know the story.  He died for us.  In his death, he took all of our sins upon himself.  He is our avenger.  We have been set free.  We are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  Romans 3:24-25

When we finally recognize the love that God has for us and we get a glimpse of his unimaginable power and we realize that we are now worthy to be called his children, there is only one response.  Worship.

Who rises up for me against the wicked?
Who stands up for me against evildoers?
If the Lord had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.
Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
those who frame injustice by statute?
They band together against the life of the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.
But the Lord has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.
He will bring back on them their iniquity
and wipe them out for their wickedness;
the Lord our God will wipe them out.                                                                            Psalm 94:16-23

Almighty

Almighty is the attribute that God gives to himself in Genesis 17:1.  It sets him apart.  He has absolute power.  He is omnipotent.  Absolutely nothing can stop him. He controls everything.

We have two options when it comes to hearing God as almighty.  We either accept it or reject it.  Accepting him as almighty means that we place him in a position of utmost esteem.  We worship the almighty by giving him authority over our thoughts and actions.  Alternatively, we can reject him.  Rejecting him says that we are something and he is not.  Rejection of God as almighty is characterized by our unwillingness to yield our thoughts and actions.

This is where I have a problem.  You see, I want to be something.  I always have.  What I endeavor to know better is that being something requires me to be nothing.  Only in my nothingness, can the Almighty breath into me the life of something.

But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding ~ Job 32:8 (NIV)

God Is Abounding In Love

Moses said, “please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18).

When I imagine the glory of God, I have grand and terrible thoughts.  Not in a bad way.  In an overwhelming way.  Moses sets me up for it.  When he asks God to see his glory (Exodus 33:18), God gives a frightening response.  God says, “here, stand in the cleft of this rock so that you are protected and don’t look at my face, because if you see it, you will die” (Exodus 33:19-20).  God’s response conjures up images of wrath, danger, and imminent destruction.  But that is not at all what happens.  God appears in the quiet stillness of a morning on a misty mountain top.  There is peace in the air, not a roaring hurricane.  God shares his abundant love and faithfulness with Moses. It’s who he is.

I submitted a similar question to God, “what does it look like to be in your presence.”  He provided an amazing answer, right under my feet.   

Every morning, I sit in the same spot.  I have a recliner that is the perfect place to drink my coffee and begin my daily reading.  This happens at 5:00 AM, every day.  Most mornings, my son would enter my room sleepy-eyed and dragging his blanket.  Quietly and carefully, he chooses a spot directly in front of my chair, lying down and quickly falling to sleep.  The first couple of times that he did this, I would wake him up, asking “if he wouldn’t be more comfortable on the couch?”  It is, after all, about five feet away.  His response was always simple and always the same, “No, I’m good.”  While he lies there my heart and mind ponder his little body and his spunky personality.  Swelling with pride, I consider how perfect he is.  Truly, I wouldn’t change anything about him.  I consider what he will be like when he grows up, the places he will go and the man he will become.  Of course, some of that is up to me.  The love that I provide him and the discipline that I encourage will help shape him into that man.  I pray for him, asking God to bless him, protect him and challenge him.  I pray for me.  That I might be a good example and, above all, share with him the love of the Father that I know in a meaningful and effective way. 

After several days of this, it finally dawned on me.  God had answered my prayer in the most profound way.  You see, Freddy was not coming into my room to sleep.  He was coming to be in my presence.  The couch, while available and far more comfortable was not nearly as secure and intimate as my feet.  This is how it feels to be in God’s presence.  Always.  He is abounding in love and faithfulness.

Exodus 34:5-7 (ESV) The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Love Is

1 John 4:7-12

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

The deli counter of a crowded grocery store is no place to be standing after a long day of travel.  Facing me, was a middle-aged woman with slicked-back hair and jagged teeth.  My thoughts ran wild.  “This is going to take a while.   It shouldn’t, though.  I just want some turkey.  I’ll make it easy for her.”   As she began her greeting, a huge smile took over her face.  She asks me simply “what can I get ya?”  “I need a ½ pound of honey-roasted turkey,” I replied trying to arrange my face to match her exuberant smile.  “Oh man,” she starts, “I have the best honey-maple turkey you’ll ever eat.”  “Do you want to try it?”  “Sure, I’ll take a ½ pound,” I replied hoping to speed her up a bit.  “you don’t want to try it?  I love cutting it.”  That was the turning point for me.  “Really?” I thought in disbelief, wondering how in the world this particular loaf of pressed meat was better than all the others.  “Sure, why not.  I’ll try some.”  She proudly walked to the slicer and pranced back with a two thinly sliced and perfectly stacked pieced of honey-maple turkey.  I pulled them apart handing one to my daughter, quickly consuming my portion.  She was right.  The turkey was amazing.  She was beaming as she put me in my place “I told you, so.”  After completing my order, she says, “next time you come back, I’ll cut you the cracked pepper turkey.  It’s even better.”

The following day, as I loaded my King’s Hawaiian bread with that amazing honey-maple turkey, I wondered if she knew what she did.  In a few short minutes, she was able to reverse my smug, pompous and impatient attitude.  In turn, she filled me with joy, peace, and love.  This was exactly the gift that I needed this Christmas season.

In my reflection, I wondered, how could so much love come from someone so ordinary, in circumstances so mundane?  How could I come away feeling so special?  The answer, of course, is because that’s the way Jesus does it.  Think about it.  He was born to ordinary parents, in a simple little town.  He picked ordinary people to work with and all of them did extraordinary things.  No fanfare, no fancy parades.  Only love.

Merry Christmas!

Titus

Titus 1-3

For years, Titus followed Paul.  He traveled with him, studied with him and learned from him.  Paul is the model of a Christ-follower.  Only Jesus would be better.  Thankfully, Paul had only one intention with Titus.  To show him Jesus.  We have a word for this process.  Discipleship.

We are first introduced to Titus in Galatians.  Then a young Christian, he traveled with Paul teaching the gentiles.  Since he, himself, was a Gentile, he was the perfect example of how salvation is available to everyone.  This was just the beginning for Titus. As his faith grew, so did his responsibility.  Under Paul’s guidance, he mastered Biblical principles and proved his reliance on the Holy Spirit.  This is why Paul recognized him as a leader.  Discerning that he was ready for more, Paul challenged him to lead.

To help prepare Titus, Paul wrote the letters that we now read as the book of Titus.  They are his instruction.  You see, Paul was sending Titus to the churches in Crete.  He would be their leader.  This was no small assignment.  Titus would need to appoint and guide strong leaders for the church (Titus 1:6-9).  Once in place, Titus was instructed to teach the people.    They needed a wise leader that knew the Biblical principles of marriage, Christian living, and good works.  Clearly this is a huge undertaking.  Thanks to strong leaders like Paul, Titus is able to take on this huge role.  It was his discipleship that propelled him.  More importantly, it was his discipleship that enabled the Church to be Spirit-led and God-honoring.

I have two big questions from Titus.  First, who is discipling us?  Do you have someone that encourages you in the Way of Christ?  Maybe it’s your pastor, maybe a good friend.  Take a minute to reflect on the way Paul discipled Titus.  First, he was an example.  then, he encouraged and finally, he challenged.  The evidence of Titus growth from Paul was obvious.  Your growth from your discipler should be obvious too.

The second question is related to the first.  Who are you discipling? Titus accepted Paul’s challenge because it was his duty as a Christ-follower.  It is ours too (Matt 28:19).  What is your challenge?  How can you server or who can you a disciple?  It might look like serving in the nursery, or joining a small group.  Perhaps, you’ve participated in a group for a long time.  Now, it is time to lead one.  There are countless ways to serve Jesus.  I know that you have heard him calling.  Answer him today.

 

 

Philip

What does the holy spirit do?  In How To Be Filled With the Holy Spirit, AW Tozer says “the Holy Spirit came to carry the evidence of Christianity from the books of apologetics into the human heart and that is exactly what He does.”  Today, we get a clear picture of how the Holy Spirit works.  Acts 8:4-12, 26-40 documents his works through Philip, a committed follower.

Simply put, the Holy Spirit lives inside those of us who are willing to host him.  When we do, only one result is possible.  Transformation.  This transformation exists in the life of the believer.  As Galatians 5:22-24 puts it, the believer gets love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.  Those, however, are only part of the picture.  Philip is proof.  The heart conditions created in the believer by the Holy Spirit lead to greater things.  To put it another way, being filled in that way results in action.

When believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, they will act.  But, appropriate action requires direction.  We see this clearly in Philip.  When persecution went wild in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit scattered the disciples.  This was a safety measure.  It’s not the first time God leads his followers away from danger.  Remember Joseph and Mary?  In Matthew 2:13, an angel of the Lord prompts them to take Jesus to Egypt. There, they will be safe.  Philip wisely listens to the Sprit’s prompting and soon finds himself in Samaria.  Incredibly, the Holy Spirit didn’t just lead Philp to a safe place.  He also sent him to a place where he could live fully.

In Samaria, Philip’s heart overflowed.  He could not contain the joy of Christ and did exactly what Christ-followers are called to do. Share the good news.  Verse 5 says he “proclaimed to them the Christ.”  Guess what?  It worked.  The crowds “paid attention,” resulting in healing and “much joy.”  In other words, an entire community was transformed.  This kind of change is not possible by a man.  Philip may have done the sharing and the preaching, but the Holy Spirit changed their hearts.

As I reflect on today’s scripture, I am captured by ONE thing that explains who Philip was.  You see, this post was supposed to be about who him.  Ironically, this post is about Philip and who he was.  Its just that who he was is best described by the Holy Spirit.  To summarize, Philip gave up everything for God.  He became nothing so that the Holy Spirit could become everything.