Tag Archives: Redeemed

Treasure Hunting

I haven’t written a lot in the last year.  Why not?  Well, I’ve been medicated, which is a beautiful thing (thank you, Jesus, for good meds!), but the same mechanism that stops the downward-spiral of anxious thoughts also stops the creative process of writing. So, you could say, my muse has gone on vacation.

But it’s my birthday and I always post a blog on my birthday.  Sharing these posts has become a daily joy and I can’t imagine 2016/2017 without sharing a new one with you.

It started in 2014:  Moment by Moment  (all that junk – yep, Jesus redeemed that)

It continued in 2015:  Through Heaven’s Eyes  (what does God see when He looks at us?)

And for 2016, I’d like to take a little deeper dive.  Let’s start here.  This fall, my best buds and I joined a Bible study by Angela Thomas-Pharr called “Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better than Before”.  That title intrigued me.  Can we really live every day better than before?  Really?  What if this is as good as it gets?

I’ve been a Christian for 22 1/2 years and today is my 45th birthday, so I’ve been a follower of Christ for exactly half of my life.  After all of these years, why don’t I have this down yet?  Why am I medicated?  What is there to be anxious about?  I know my identity:  I am in Christ and Christ is in me.  “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Rom. 8:31)  So, why can’t I just calm down and enjoy my life?  What am I missing?

CS Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)

Pascal’s quote has been summarized/ paraphrased as, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”

That’s actually the quote that Dave Wilson used in his message in April of 1994, during my first visit to Kensington Church.  That’s what got my attention.  Yes, I had been trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with all kinds of created things and none of them were working.  And for the past 22 1/2 years, my focus has changed, but I’m still searching for something.  What am I searching for?

Angela Thomas-Pharr took a considerable amount of time in her study to teach about the three unique stages of redemption.  I’m so glad she did, so I could share them with you:

  1. The day you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are redeemed, “changed from an unbeliever to a believer” (salvation/justification).
  2. As you live out your life from that day forward, you are being redeemed, “being changed into the image of Christ” (sanctification).
  3. When you leave this earth and go to be with God in Heaven, you are finally and completely redeemed, “eternally changed into the likeness of Christ” (glorification).

The writer of the Book of Hebrews defines Jesus’s sacrifice this way: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” -Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)

We are being perfected (sanctified) every day we’re alive, but we won’t be completely perfected (glorified) until we get to Heaven.  It’s crazy that I spend so much time and effort trying to reach perfection (or at least perfect contentment) here on earth, because I’ll never get there this side of Heaven.  And why would I want to?  Adam and Eve had perfection in the Garden of Eden and they must have found it so boring that they chose to disobey God.  Hmmm, maybe that’s a big part of the deception.

Deception?  Yes, there is an enemy of our souls, the deceiver, the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and his job is to keep us from God, the Father of Truth.  But if we’ve already accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what’s our enemy to do?  If he can convince us that we need perfection on earth, we’ll keep striving for it, wasting our time, wearing ourselves out, running in circles, looking in all the wrong places.

Do that for long enough and a new lie begins to surface.  Beth Moore has said that we can be so paralyzed in our pursuit of greatness that we do nothing good.  If the enemy can keep us busy, distracted, beaten down, ineffective and exhausted, we just might stop trying all together.  Angela Thomas-Pharr describes this way:

“Maybe you know this.  When you are tired and your spirit is heavy, the heart begins to mumble the saddest word:  Whatever.”

Yes, we are being lied to.  If we believe the lie, we’ll get stuck.  It’s an effective tactic.  It works.  And our job is to fight against it with truth.  The truth is, whether we “feel” it or not, we are actively being redeemed by the God who perfects us as we live and breathe.  The Apostle Paul knew this truth and he explained to the philosophers in Athens, ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ … ‘We are his offspring.’  -Acts 17:28 (NIV)

Offspring.  Yes.  We are not children of the enemy, that we should obey him.  We are children of God.  Living “every day better than before” is about knowing who we are and Whose we are, growing closer to our Father until we get to Heaven.  And isn’t that what Heaven is: the place where we are completely and eternally redeemed, fully in the presence of God?

Isn’t that how Jesus brought Heaven to earth, perfectly connected to the Father?  That’s what he wants for us.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  -Matt. 6:10 (ESV)  If we allow Jesus to live through us, connecting us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can bring a little bit of Heaven to earth.  And as children of God, we need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters to keep our focus.

The Apostle Paul taught about this spiritual battle and he encouraged the church of Galatia:  “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Stay connected.  Stay awake and pay attention to every little miracle.  Be a treasure hunter, hunting for every scrap of joy, every gift, every moment, fully engaged.  And be a treasure hunter for others too.  Help them to see the gifts all around them.  Life is hard and we need each other.

That’s why it’s so important that we stay connected to a community of believers; other people who can point us to the truth.  No church is perfect.  How can it be?  The church is made up of imperfect people.  But if all of us, in our imperfection, can point each other to our Perfect Heavenly Father, then we have hope.  And that’s why I love my church.  That’s why I go every week.  Not because I’m a “super Christian”, but because I’m not.  None of us are and we need all of the encouragement we can get.

A few weeks back, my church started a new series called “Heart & Soul”, exploring seven core values that can define our lives.  If you missed the message on the first core value, check it out here: Heart & Soul: Identity

Towards the end of the service, Chris Zarbaugh reads Max Lucado’s “You Are Special”, Danielle sings “Out of Hiding, Father’s Song”, followed by a video called “Identity”, by Dan Stevers.  It was so powerful with each piece building on the other.  And the words of the video tied it all together:

Before Christ
I was a different person
This person was my old nature
My old self
But that person died
And my life is now hidden
With Christ
I am in
Christ
And He is in me
I am a new creation
This doesn’t mean that I will never stumble
Or fall back into old patterns
But I will call them what they are
Old patterns
Old habits of the old person
I will confess them
I will thank God for his forgiveness
I will make amends
And then
I
Will
Move on
Not because I am taking sin lightly
But because I am taking seriously
Who God says I am
Holy
Pure
Unstained
Without blemish
Not because of anything I’ve done
But because of what God has done
For me
He has wiped my slate clean
I am blameless before God
Therefore shame
Has no place in my life
Because I am
A new creation
And all of the ugly parts of my story
The parts I want to pretend never happened
Have been redeemed
And they have become
The moments in my life
When God’s grace is most on display
Thank you God
My mistakes do not define me
My past does not define me
Because God has defined my identity
I am his beloved child
In whom He is
Well pleased
This is my identity

–Dan Stevers, “Identity” preview video (click the red words to see the video)

In Angela Thomas-Pharr’s study, she tells of a man who was asked, “How long have you been redeemed?” He answered:

“I was redeemed by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago when He gave His life to atone for my sin. But I only found out about a year ago.”

Comedian Jeff Allen was on Smile FM a couple weeks ago.  He said he spent a lot of his life waiting for an explanation from God, but what he really needed was a revelation from God. I think that’s what the man in the quote above received: a revelation from God. He is redeemed. I am redeemed. And if you’ve received the gift of Jesus’s forgiveness, you too are redeemed.

I pray that today we might receive a revelation from God.  A revelation that we are redeemed and our identity is in Christ, but it’s going to take a lifetime of “day in and day out” to walk this thing out, together.  Grab your best buds, the ones who point you to the Truth, and hang on tight.  We are brothers and sisters and we need to keep reminding each other:

keep going
keep treasure-hunting and
keep focusing on Dad, our Abba Father.

We are His beloved children and He is well pleased with us.

Want to know more about my “revelation day” back in 1994?  Here’s my story told through the story of my son:  Joshua The Prophet

And those meds, why do I take them?  Well, they help me to drown out the voice of the enemy and to focus on the One and Only voice that matters.  They help me “come out of hiding” and connect with others who can encourage me, so that I can encourage them, and we can treasure hunt together.  We’re blessed to be a blessing.

“Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to me”
Out of Hiding, Father’s Song by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook

Want to know more about the power of community?  Check out Heart & Soul: Community

Money without Meaning

It’s official.  Our $1.5 Billion PowerBall lottery dreams are gone.  All of the hopes and plans for that money, or even just a small part of it, are no longer.  But it sure created a buzz while it lasted.  What would you do with all of that money?

Did you know that Jesus taught more on money than on any other subject?  There are more than 2000 verses in the Bible about money.  That’s more than prayer, more than faith, more than forgiveness, heaven, hell and the Kingdom of God.  Check out some of the “financial” words that God uses to describe His relationship with us:

1) we are redeemed (Is. 44:22, Lam. 3:58, Gal. 3:13),
2) we are reconciled (Rom. 5:10, 2 Cor. 5:18-20, Col. 1:22),
3) our debt is cancelled (Luke 7:41-43, Col. 2:14),
4) Jesus became poor so that we might become rich (2 Cor. 6:10 & 8:9),
5) we cannot serve two masters, both God and money (Matt. 6:24, Luke 16:13).

And that’s just a small sampling.

There’s a hymn that describes the gospel of Jesus this way:

“He paid a debt He did not owe,
I owed a debt I could not pay”
He Paid a Debt by Ellis J. Crum

Let’s take that a step further.  What if Jesus is more powerful than PowerBall?  What if He died so that all of our debts would be forgiven, literally?  What if our mortgage was paid, our cars were paid, we had no credit card debt, no student loan debt, or any debt at all, and all of the food, clothing and shelter we would ever need were provided for us?

Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:24 about not serving two masters and goes on to say:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”
-Matt. 6:25-26 (ESV)

Our heavenly Father knows that we need food and clothing, and He provides them for the birds and flowers.  Why wouldn’t He provide them for us?  We’re so caught up in making money, saving money, spending money, moving money around, worrying that there won’t be enough money, trying to figure out how to get things without money (lotteries, loans, credit cards, getting you to give me something), anxious and distracted.

What if we never had to think about money again?  What if wealth and power and greed had no meaning?  What if I didn’t need to be concerned about what you had (envy, jealously, keeping up with the Jones’s), because I had everything I needed?  What if I were content down to my bones?  What would my life be about?  Would I go to work?  Would I strive?  Would I do anything?  What would define me?

The Apostle Paul says this in his letter to the Romans:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
-Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

What if Jesus is the one who takes away the debt of the world?  What if believing in Him and receiving Him means that we get to see the world through His eyes?  Would our entire focus change?  Would we no longer be slaves to the “stuff that makes the world go round”?  Would we instead be free to love one other, because that’s what Jesus does and that’s what He wants to do through us?  Would that be Heaven on Earth?

The Eastside Vineyard Church started a new series on Heaven a few weeks back.  In Dan Kopp’s 1-17-16 message called Looking (and Praying) Down from Above, he asked two questions:

1) If someone from Heaven could talk to you, what do you think they would say?

2) If someone in Heaven was praying for you, what do you hope they’d be praying for?

Do you think they’d tell us that we should focus on accumulating more while we’re here (“whoever dies with the most stuff wins”?) or do you think they would pray that we would focus on what really matters?  PowerBall or the Power of God?  It’s only by His power that we can truly love one another.  We don’t have it in us.  But if He is in us, we have all we need.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matt. 6:33 (ESV)

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain
All sufficient sacrifice
So freely given
Such a price
Bought our redemption
Heaven’s gates swing wide
Break Every Chain by Jesus Culture

Reconciling Wrath (Part 6)

This is the last part of my “redeemed” mini-series.  How about a recap?  Here’s what I’ve known for the last year:

1) Sin is simply us “turning away” from God
2) Jesus took on our “turning away” on the cross
3) God loves us and isn’t angry with us for being imperfect

So, what’s the problem?  Why has my fuse gotten shorter and shorter all year?  Why have I become increasingly irritated and frustrated, hopeless and annoyed?

One thing still didn’t compute.  If “God is good, all the time” and “All the time, God is good”, what’s the deal with “the wrath of God”?  The Bible has a LOT to say about the wrath of God and I couldn’t see how a Good God could be so full of wrath, yet so loving at the same time.

However, what I was beginning to understand, on Saturday, September 13, 2014, was that I had been redeemed.  God made that very clear all day.  When I sat down at church the next morning, after the pity-party that never materialized, I felt like God had me on “download” mode and I had better get my pen ready.  The first thing I wrote was “Jesus redeemed that”, referring to my desire to have a pity-party.  Then I wrote this:

“What is the wrath of God?  His wrath is the natural consequence of turning away from Him.  It’s MY CHOICE.  Jesus redeemed that.  God wants to love me and He does, but I keep choosing to turn away to hopelessness, self-pity, indifference, whining.  That stuff is His wrath.  Jesus died for that.  He took on my “turning away”.  He turned away from God ONCE FOR ALL.  He redeemed that.  He bought it.  It’s no longer mine.  When I turn away and feel that WRATH, the devil tells me I deserve it.  I turned away and it’s my fault, I’m bad, I SHOULDN’T do that and I SHOULD turn back.  NO!  Jesus redeemed that.  I GET TO turn back because Jesus redeemed it.  I OWE NOTHING.  I don’t owe it to Him.  It’s DONE.”

Sunday afternoon, I watched the “redeemed” part of the Beth Moore simulcast where it had frozen on Saturday.  It was cool, but God kept nudging me to go do my Beth Moore “Children of the Day” study.  My friend and I have been working through that study since July, very sporadically.  When we watched the video for week 4 (out of 9 weeks), we realized that our timing was perfect.  Every session has spoken to us exactly when we needed it.  I’m only on week 5 of the study in the workbook, because there’s really no need to be any further ahead.

Sunday afternoon, I followed the nudging and opened my workbook to the next homework assignment, which was Day 3 of Week 5.  Get this.  It was titled “Wrestling with Wrath“.  Beth had already done the research and gave me lots of scripture about God’s wrath.  His “wrath” in the original Greek is actually, “desire with grief and sorrow”.  Man’s type of wrath is translated from the Greek as “the outburst of a vengeful mind”.  God’s wrath is not like ours.  It is a profound sadness that the people He created can choose to turn away from Him, knowing that our turning away is not what is best for us.  We were made to be in communion with Him, but He is a gentleman and won’t make us.  And robotic love is not real love.  It has to be our choice.  But I was convinced that I owed God something “for all He’s done for me”, and I was so sick of trying that I had turned away.

Since Sunday, September 14, I’ve been telling myself “Jesus redeemed that” with every thought that I think that has anything to do with “should” or guilt over what I did or didn’t do or thought.  AND I BELIEVE IT because my theology is finally reconciled.  It’s not a conflict.  Bard Millard, MercyMe’s head man, said that he got to the point where he couldn’t sell the gospel.  It wasn’t good news.  That’s where I had gotten to.  I couldn’t sell Jesus.  He wasn’t good news.  He was more work.  How could I sell that with good conscience?

I’ve walked around with more LIGHTNESS and joy for the last three weeks, I can’t explain it other than the perfect gift of God.  I can laugh and joke and I don’t have this heaviness that I have to keep dragging around, trying to do better and be better, but always feeling guiltier and guiltier about how I REALLY feel.  How I really feel now is REALLY good news.

Check out the lyrics to MercyMe’s “Wishful Thinking”, which they sang at the concert that Saturday night.  I especially love the first verse and the “better late than not at all” verse.  This song spoke to me so loudly after my 20 year journey with Jesus.  Thanks for reading!

“Wishful Thinking” by MercyMe

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are?
I’m feeling foolish yet relieved as well
Cuz what I bought before, I just can’t sell

But now my eyes are open wide
If this is wrong
I don’t wanna be right

Could it be that on my worst day
How You love me still will not change
What if it’s really not about
What I do but what you did, oh what if

This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is
This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is

Well, I guess I’m better late than not at all
Or did you plan it this way all along
Cuz without suffering grace is hard to see
So maybe I’m right where I’m supposed to be

And now, I’m seeing You so differently
And only I can say is finally

Click here for Part 7