I am Free

Free to Glorify

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you out by your name; you are mine!” Isaiah 43:1b, HCSB

Dear Jesus,

I have been set free to glorify you… but how do I do that?

Enjoy you. That’s not really concrete. How?

Often I will take on the qualities of people I admire. I’ll adopt a phrase of theirs. Mimic a habit I find interesting or endearing. Take on a look—perhaps a hairstyle. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Usually when I love a person, I speak highly of them. I share about them—their joys, their doings, or how I got to visit with them.

And, when there is one I call beloved, I miss them when they’re not around. Think on them. Pine for them.

Why all of this? Because I love them. I enjoy them.

If I enjoy you like this, Jesus, does that bring you glory? Is this what it means to have Christ in me? Is this how I fulfill my purpose in you?

Break away the barriers, then. You set me free for your glory; let me glorify you freely.

I am Free

I Am Free

“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36, NASB

Freedom. The cry of all humanity. In every culture, every economic and political fraction there is a drive for freedom. The human spirit thirsts for it. Why?

Because we are in bondage. Held captive by sin, deceived by hearts that are either blind or deceptive, we writhe in our chains.

Unless there is a Savior. I cannot cut loose the bonds that hold me fast. Selfishness. Rebellion. Insecurity. Anger. They have wrapped around me, clasped an impenetrable lock, and hold me captive. But God…what a glorious phrase. Just let’s stop right there for a moment.

But God.

Go tell (him)…the blind can see, the lame are made to walk again, the sick are healed the deaf can hear, the dead live and the poor have Good News.

Their bondage has been broken. And so has mine. I am free, by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Free to love. Free to obey. Free to rest. Free to forgive. Free from sin’s curse–from death’s final victory.

Free to live.

Has the Son set you free?

I am Redeemed

Re blog: From the Mouth of a Sailor

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:6-8, NKJV

What it is about the sea that would harden a man? Isolation, perhaps? The limited company of other seamen who have also been calloused?

Intriguing question, best left to those who specialize in human behavior. Maybe the real question for me would be how does that hardened seaman become a Christian? A flagrant enemy of God, arrogant and derisive. So calloused to both God and man that he takes upon himself the business of slave trading without so much as a tickling in his conscience. What causes such a man to spin a 180?

John told us. Grace. Amazing grace. A grace that pursued him over more than two decades. Across the span of countless ocean journeys, three continents, military service and ultimately into the devil’s work. Think Amistad. That’s John’s business. Cruelty. Cold blooded murder. Kidnapping, human trafficking. Slavery.

Why would the God of love pursue such a man? Why wouldn’t the God of justice strike him dead in his heinous sin? He sent an abyss in Newton’s soul, rather than taking his breath. He demonstrated power in a hurricane, but withheld destruction in the storm. Why would the King of Heaven go to such lengths for one despicable man?

Grace. Unfathomable love. Mercy unparalleled. Favor so Divine it turns the soul from darkness to light. The same unmerited favor that is poured out upon me. That chose to redeem me rather than lose me.

Amazing grace.

I am Redeemed

Re blog: Rules, Rules, Rules

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-14 NASB

I am a copy editor. I do it part-time from home now, but I used to work for a well-known, major newspaper. There, my job was to write headlines and scour articles, catching everyone else’s errors and making none of my own. In short, my job description was “be perfect.”

Are you surprised that I failed?

Whenever I did, the copy desk chief would call me and wake me up the next morning. “Did you edit the article on the city council meeting?” Oh, I hated those early-morning chats. I was so ashamed to admit that yes, it was me who missed the error now in print for the whole world to see. Worse – yes, it was me who made the error, in 45-point type, at the top of the Metro Section. I am so sorry.

To be fair, my boss was kind. And he treated me the same way he treated my colleagues – he corrected us in private and praised us in public. That’s part of made it so difficult. I genuinely liked the man and wanted to please him. All my colleagues did. And, yet, even working together, we could not produce a perfectly, constantly error-free paper. We were just so many humans trying to keep so many rules.

Copy editors are slaves to rules. We have a whole book of them, called the AP Style Book. Grammatical rules. Spelling rules. Capitalization and punctuation rules. Rules about headlines and libel and slander. I have degree in journalism, and try as I might, I could never follow all those rules, every day, all the time.

That must be something like what the Old Testament Jews felt. They must have tried to keep all those gazillion laws. Laws about sacrifices. Laws about purification. Laws about eating and festivals and marriage. And, try as they might, they failed. They were imperfect slaves to the law.

And that is what Jesus redeemed us from. He set us free from that bondage to rules. But, God didn’t just one day wake up in heaven and say, “Hey, you know what? I’ll just repeal all my laws. You guys don’t need to try to keep them anymore.”

No. The laws were necessary, and the consequence for breaking them was far more dire than a 6-a.m. reprimand from a gentle boss. The punishment was death. And so, Jesus redeemed us both from a life of slavery to laws and the consequence of breaking them when he died in our place. He answered the phone. “Yes, I’ll take the punishment for her. Let her sleep. Give me the blame.”

I have been redeemed from a life of slavery to “do’s and don’ts.” I have been redeemed into a relationship, a daughter-ship, a loving friendship with God Himself. I now strive to keep the rules out of a heart overflowing with gratitude, not out of fear of punishment when I fail.

Praise God. I’ve been redeemed.

I am Redeemed

Re blog: The Anchor of Hope

O Lord, You have pleaded my soul’s cause; You have redeemed my life. Lamentations 3:58, NASB

Plucked from the middle of one of the saddest Old Testament books, this verse flashes as a beckon of hope. A reminder of what is true, even still in the midst of the unthinkable.

I watched the Hunger Games and Catching Fire recently. Set in circumstances most of us consider beyond the realm of possible, I read Lamentations and then think ‘oh, no. Way possible. In fact, it could be so much worse.’ Thinking back on the cruel proposition of Suzanne Collin’s books, I wonder what would I do? How could I hold on to joy? Would faith sustain in such a horrible and heart-crushing arena?

In Jeremiah’s case, it was worse. Things couldn’t get much more so. Starvation, desolation, cannibalism, and utter destruction. Hopelessness colors the backdrop of life. And yet, tucked in the third chapter of Jeremiah’s outcry, we read gems so unbelievable and beautiful that even the most stoic are brought to tears.

This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” (Lam. 3:21-24)

You drew near when I called on You; You said, “Do not fear!” (Lam. 3:57)

In Awana, I recently taught on Moses, the baby in the basket. The take away was this: Life can get ugly. Sometimes things are bad. Really, really bad. Does that mean that God does not see? Does not care?

No. No, it doesn’t. Israel was delivered—redeemed from the enslavement of the Egyptians. But it came through pain. It came through difficulty.

Being redeemed doesn’t mean I get to live on ‘Boardwalk’ for the rest of my life. The easy-peasy life of a Christian is generally an Americanization of Biblical theology. It isn’t promised in the Bible. The promise is this: those whom God has redeemed He will hold. His faithfulness is greater than all the bad in life. Stronger than the worse suffering. He reminds us of His sure redemption and calls us to look to eternity.

That is the anchor of hope.

I am Redeemed

Reblog: a Redeemer for The Broken

Therefore tell the Israelites: “I am Yahweh, and I will deliver you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and free you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.” … Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and hard labor. Exodus 6:6-7, 9 HCSB

Redeem: 1. To buy back 2. To get back, recover, as by paying a fee …5. To set free by paying a ransom Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition

Moses told the Israelites God was about to set them free, and they ignored him. What slave would not want to be set free? What forced laborer, sweating in someone else’s fields, building someone else’s pyramids under the unforgiving Egyptian sun, would not welcome a Redeemer?

One who’d been whipped enough to think he deserved it, called a dog enough to believe it the truth. One who had given up hope. One with a broken spirit.

Has your spirit ever been utterly broken? I’ve had some despairing days, but I’m not sure that I’ve been broken the way these Israelites were. It was the kind of breaking that didn’t spring from a one-time tragedy, but from years upon years of misery.

I know some people who are living that sort of slavery. They are men and women addicted to drugs. They are abused wives, too afraid to leave and too afraid to stay. They are children living in homes crawling with rodents with parents zoned out on the couch, waiting for their next fix.

Broken. Often, they are too miserable to believe there is a Redeemer offering to pull them out of that pit.

And sometimes, the misery can stem from situations a bit less graphic, but none the less hope-numbing. An emotionally – but not physically – abusive childhood. A divorce. A lover being thrown away, after trying so hard to make it work. The drudgery of daily facing a hated job.

Spirit-breakers, all.

As Moses told the Israelites, we should proclaim to all those captives: “God says he is Yahweh, and He will deliver you from forced labor and free you from slavery. He will redeem you with His outstretched arm and take you to be his people, and He will be your God.”

And when we are mired in despair, when we, too are tempted to believe all is lost, we need to remember those Israelites. Their Redeemer came for them, even when they were too broken-hearted to believe he would.

Ours will too.