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

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.

I Am Hidden In Christ

Reblog: Hiding In Him When I’m Hurt

God, hear my voice when I complain.  Protect my life from the terror of the enemy.  Hide me from the scheming of wicked people, from the mob of evildoers, who sharpen their tongues like swords and aim bitter words like arrows … The righteous one rejoices in the Lord and takes refuge in Him; all those who are upright in heart will offer praise.  Psalm 64:1-3, 10 HCSB

I love King David.  He was so real, and I am so thankful he poured his imperfect heart out in all these Psalms.  Sometimes I wonder if his willingness to tell God everything he felt was what made him “a man after God’s own heart.”  God longs for relationship.  He longs to be my best friend, which means he wants to hear … my complaints.

I complain to my husband, my sister, and my mother.  I tell them the yucky parts of my heart as well as the good.  And here David complains to his creator.  “These people are being really, really mean to me.  They are talking horrible about me, disrespecting me, hurting my reputation and undermining my authority.  And, they are just plain old hurting my feelings, too.  Hide me from them, God.”

That’s the part that drew my attention today.  “Hide me from the scheming of wicked people.”  David sought his solution in God alone.  He didn’t take it upon himself to punish his enemies.  He didn’t go slandering them around town.  He took his wounded heart to God Himself.

And by the end of his psalm, he was feeling better … better enough to offer God praise.  He trusted God to take care of the problem.

May I do the same. May I take my conflicts with others to God Himself, asking Him to work out the solutions instead of trying to manipulate circumstances to “fix” them on my own.  When I am hurt, may I hide in Him.

I Am Hidden In Christ

Reblog: Hidden Under His Wings

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust!” … He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you make seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. Psalm 91:1,4

I grew up in a big city, and it took moving to a bush village in West Africa to familiarize me with chickens.  They were suddenly a huge part of my life – always pecking around underfoot, crowing before the sun even thought about rising, getting all suicidal by running in front of my truck.  African friends gave me dozens.  Poultry was the accepted “thank you” gift, even if all I was being thanked for was a visit and a nice, long chat.

Mostly, I just endured my new feathered annoyances … I mean friends.  But, the one thing I loved about them was watching a mother hen with her fluffy little brood of chicks.  At night, she’d snuggle them down under her wings.  They’d disappear – hidden under her body.  How safe and secure those little ones were. Nothing was going to get them that didn’t go through Mother Hen first.

I loved watching that because of these verses.  Finally, I could picture it – God, snuggling me under His wings, protecting me from predators that would love to dine on my downy weakness.  God, hiding me in his vastness.

That isn’t to say that physical harm won’t assail me.  Jesus made it clear that often, following Him will bring us into danger.  But, those perils can only destroy my body.  My soul, the true me, is safely hidden with God, whether I dwell on Earth or in Heaven.

And Satan’s firey darts, the doubts and fears and faith-snatchers he hurls at me?  If I stay hidden under God’s wings, those things can’t hurt me.

My God is a shield and bulwark for me.  How thankful I am to be hidden in Him.

I am forgiven, Who I am in Christ

Reblog: The Price of Forgiveness

If his gift is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to bring an unblemished male. … He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so it can be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. Leviticus 1:3,4

Every Friday for about a year, I met under the stars with about six African women to tell Bible stories.  We sat in the shadows of their mud huts often until midnight.  It was the only time they had free after a day full of working in their fields, hauling well water, chopping fire wood, and cooking dinner over open fires.  Those dark hours were quiet – except for the occasional donkey throwing a braying fit – so we were able to weave our way through the Old Testament.

My African partner and I explained the Jewish sacrificial system to them, and we told them about this verse – how, by laying a hand on the sacrificial animal’s head, the sinner’s sin was symbolically transferred to the animal.

Friday after Friday, we worked our way through the Bible until we reached the stories of Jesus.  The women were non-literate, and they had never heard the stories before. I was amazed at the spiritual truth they could mine out of the Biblical passages.  Unschooled does not mean un-smart.  Some of them were enthralled with this Jesus. Some just came to listen out of curiosity.  One, I’ll call her “Jill,” was a skeptic.  She asked wickedly astute questions, but it was obvious she didn’t believe anything we were saying

The full moon bathed the whole group in silvery light the night we told the crucifixion story.  I asked a question: “Why do you think Jesus said, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,’ as he hung on the cross?”

I watched Jill’s face, and I saw the Holy Spirit reveal it to her.  She spoke slowly.  “Because that was the moment that God laid his hand on Jesus’ head and put the sins of the whole world on him.”

Indeed.

This forgiveness I enjoy?  It came at a terrible price.  Jesus became a sacrifice – a bloody heap of physical suffering. But when uttered those anguished words, he was separated from God himself. Spiritual suffering.  He’d never been separated before.  And why?  Because my sin had just been laid on his head.  It had just rolled off of me and on to him.

He died in my place.

The wages of sin is death.  Death is separation.  Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.  Jesus endured them both. For me.

So I could be forgiven.

May I never cease to be awed.

I am forgiven, Who I am in Christ

Reblog: A Forgiveness Horror Story

“Charlie Evans, slave number 437, to see the king.” The squire looked down his slender nose at Charlie. “Approach the throne.”

Charlie counted each trembling step. Twelve. Twelve steps to seal his fate. He didn’t dare look up. He kept his eyes on his own bear feet. A pair of yellow, pointed-toed shoes clicked up beside him. The squire rattled his scroll. “His Royal Majesty graciously bestowed upon Charlie Evans, slave number 437, a loan of $500,000 exactly five years ago today. The accounts say the full amount is now due.”

Silence filled the hall. Charlie swallowed. “I don’t have it.”

“Speak up.” The squire’s voice cracked.

“I don’t have it, Sire. I lost it all.” He had been so confident five years ago. He’d had a no-fail business plan, a profit-making promise, a sure deal. He’d won the king’s trust and funding. He’d tried. Truly. And failed. I’m a failure.

The king gave one quiet little snort. “Throw him in debtors’ prison until the money is paid, and sell his wife and children.” The squire’s yellow shoes clicked backward to make way for the guards. That’s when Charlie threw himself and his dignity face down on the palace tiles.

“No!” The wail bounced off the stone walls. “I have been a foolish man, Your Majesty. I owe you a debt I can never repay. Please, please have mercy on me. My precious wife – she trusted me, and I’ve failed her. We’ve only got two daughters, my lord – they are just 2 and 4. Please don’t separate them from their mother. Please allow them the love of their father. Please, Your Majesty, have mercy.”

Charlie lay, nose to the floor, his sobs the only sound in the vast room. And then …

“I forgive you.”

Charlie looked up. The king was leaning forward on his throne, looking him straight in the eyes. “I forgive you. You never have to repay the money. Get up and go home. Be a husband and father.”

Charlie hadn’t run in years, but he scrambled up off that floor and ran now. He was free. Forgiven. Debt cancelled. He threw open the palace doors and ran into the sunshine. The cacophony of that village street seemed a symphony of joy.

That’s when he saw Jacob, slave number 348, buying an apple. Jacob owed Charlie $10. He’d borrowed it to buy a shovel five months ago, promising he’d pay it back when he dug enough holes to earn a profit. Five months. Enough time to dig a lot of holes. Charlie pushed his way through the crowd.

“Jacob.”

“Hello, Charlie.”

“Nice coat. Is it new? You owe me $10.”

“I can’t pay it. I’m sorry. No one has hired me to dig anything.”

“The law says I can throw you in prison for that.”

“Please don’t. I’m sorry. It’s just $10. I’ll get it to you soon.”

“Just $10?” Charlie looked around for a sentry. Ah, there was one. “You there,” he called. The big man turned. “This slave owes me $10 and refuses to repay me. Throw him in prison.”

“Charlie, please. I’ve got a wife and kids. You know I can’t make any money in prison. They’ll starve.”

“You should have thought of that before you took my ten bucks.”

The sentry grabbed Jacob by his collar and hauled him away.

Charlie didn’t see the little slave girl buying bread nearby. He didn’t know she worked at the palace. And he wasn’t there when she told the king. But the next morning, the king’s soldiers yanked Charlie out of bed, ignored the screams of his wife and drug him to the torture chambers. As he hung there on the rack, the king himself swept into the filthy room.

“You wicked man. I forgave you $500,000 because you begged me, and yet you refused to forgive your fellow slave a lousy $10.”

Charlie couldn’t answer. The pain paralyzed his brain, and when he opened his mouth, only a groan escaped. The king went on.

“Shouldn’t you have had mercy? You of all people, shouldn’t you have forgiven as you had been forgiven?”

Again, Charlie moaned.

The king wrapped his wine-colored robes about him and turned to the jailer. “Keep him here until he pays me every last cent.”

“So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matt 18:35 NASB

I didn’t make this story up. You can read Jesus’ version in Matthew 18:21-35.  So, let’s just spell it out here shall we?

Charlie is me. The king is God. The debt is my sin. Jacob is the person who has sinned against me.

This parable is frighteningly to the point: God has forgiven me all my sin, all of it, every single bit of it – a huge, life-time, gargantuan amount of sin.

Any sin that anyone else commits against me is small compared to the amount of sin God has already forgiven me. Even if my offender’s sin against me feels enormous, all I have to do is compare it to my lifetime of sin against God to put it in perspective.

And, if I don’t forgive my offender … God… will … not … forgive … me.

Have you ever said it?  “I could never forgive him.” Or maybe, “Well, I can’t forgive her because she hasn’t apologized.”  You are playing with fire. Anyone want to guess what the torture chamber stands for in this account?   It’s a horror story, and it’s a true one.  We can’t gloss this one over, painting God as a kindly grandfather who will let this slide.

It’s frighteningly important: forgive.  No matter what he or she has done.  No matter how wrong. No matter how hurtful. Forgive. Or you’ll face your God without forgiveness.

Forgive, out of joy and gratitude for your own forgiveness.  Forgive, and forego the prison of bitterness.  Forgive, and find freedom.

Forgive, as extravagantly as you have been forgiven.

I am loved

Reblog: I am Loved by God, I Must Love Others

“This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us.  We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off him compassion from him–how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, me must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth.”  1 John 3:16

God loved me in deed.  He didn’t just sit and heaven and spout pretty words at me.  Nor did he just hang out on his throne and feel tender toward me.  He did something.  He stepped out of the splendor of heaven, strapped on some first-century sandals, and chose a torturous death to become the sacrifice for my sin – just so I’d have a way to him, a way to receive his love.

And he asks me to love those around me the same way.

It’s pretty easy to think about acting out my love to my children or my husband.  I cook, clean, comfort, help with homework, drive to endless basketball practices.  I love them in deed.  Why?  Because I have oceans of loving feelings for them.  I enjoy them.  They love me back.

Ditto for my fun, giving friends.  Easy to feel love.  Easy to act on it.

But what of the people I don’t feel warm and fuzzy about?  Take, for example, women who are struggling in poverty’s clutches or chained by addictions.  They’ve got emotional issues springing from abuses I can’t even imagine.  They’re overly needy.  Clingy.  I am to love them in deed.  I am to do something about it.  Take them to lunch.  Give them a ride. Listen to their hearts.  Love them, when I receive nothing from them in return. Love them when it doesn’t feel fun.

Or … my enemies?  I’m supposed to love them the same way.  I may not be able to muster a single happy feeling toward them, but I am to act out love.  Patience.  Kindness.  Not holding a grudge.  These things are not feelings.  They are deeds.

God passionately loves me, and believing that gives me wholeness.  It gives me peace.  But my emotional well-being isn’t God’s only goal in loving me.  He commands me to take my full cup and pass it on to the people around me, lovely or not.