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Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

Well, it’s just this simple. Whatever it might mean for you or any other, I cannot really know. But when I say this well-worn verse, I understand it quite subjectively for myself because it is to this truth I literally surrendered when I prayed that “sinner’s prayer” so long ago and asked that Jesus become my personal savior, my atonement and my redemption, my portal to the God of the Universe.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [Galatians 2:2]

It’s a contract of sorts because I gave permission to a spirit being, a very specific Spirit Being, to indwell within me. According to that contract, I also agreed, in theory at least, to give over authority to that Spirit, a right that Person actually earned through a blood covenant, the shedding of blood, which has been a symbol of agreement throughout the centuries of humankind. Interesting too, that this bloodletting was done preemptively, before I was even born. Impossible? Perhaps. But this I believe.

However, I am constantly meddling with the authority of this Presence: arguing and negotiating, ignoring and placating, lying and withholding. In essence, I spend a lot of time pulling on the threads of our contract and it’s only by sheer grace that I have not torn the thing to pieces.

And because I know these things about myself, I must often regroup, reconnect, recommit myself to that deal I made over thirty years ago. It’s shameful really, but true. Thanks be to God, there’s been a contingency plan for every misstep I have made.

path crookedToday, I was walking a path I have walked many times but for the first time, I was walking it in reverse. I assume it’s for this reason I had never noticed that moment in the path where it looked like it came to a dead end. It was just a sharp right turn, but as I approached it, my brain didn’t compute that logic. Instead, I stopped in my tracks, pondering how it could be that the path would end. I hadn’t really reached that point yet, but I stopped anyway, thinking I might have to turn back. How often have I done this in life? How often have I assumed something was at the end, when the way was still there, I just couldn’t see it. The calm of knowing and trusting in that “other way,” comes from within, comes from the Presence of the Holy Spirit, who is more than willing to direct me. It is in this way, that I understood my foolishness yet again.

And it is in this small lesson that I remind myself to trust my God and the Holy Spirit yet again.

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futurepicThere are many roads we take in life and it’s best to understand from the beginning, those roads cannot be traversed again in reverse. They are one-way streets. Thus saith the Lord.

” . . . because the Lord told you: “You will never go back by that road again.” [Deuteronomy 17:16b]

I hadn’t really thought about this before but it’s meaning jumped from the page. We may think, like the old adage that were are going “two steps back and one step forward” or we might assume, that one could “backslide” and fall into old bad habits or old friends or old situations. But the truth is that time marches only forward in our human world. And no experience can be repeated in the same way because we are already older because of it.

My adopted Russian daughter often bemoans her inability to return to her native land to see the city of her grandmother and the places where she played as a child. But those places are long gone already, trees that embraced climbing children have been cut down and woods replaced with roads and bridges. That world is gone. Nor will her St. Petersburg ghetto look the same, even if the buildings are still there, she would not be able to see them with the same eyes of childhood.

I, too, experienced this throwback when I traveled to Indianapolis last week for a conference. I walked the old streets, once known for danger and poverty, now filled with brightly colored “painted ladies” and signs announcing the charms of living on the “Near Northside.”

lines_hold_the_memories_by_agnes_cecile-d38y67i

Lines Hold the Memories by Agnes Cecile.

All we have is memories and they are capricious at best, unreliable and re-framed by the world that came afterwards. We color our memories because we have to or because we don’t really remember. We forget on purpose then or we pick through the images most vividly repeatedly in the time capsule we assign to reruns.

Like Robert Frost, we pick our roads as best we can, based on what we know in the moment, on that day. We pick and we walk and sometimes we look back, maybe even run back to try another, but the intersection is no longer the same, the circumstances that added up to that choice have changed.

There is no point either, crying over what has been lost, for we’ll never know exactly what that “would” have been or “could” have been. We only have today, or now, and tomorrow.

Evil sometimes tries to re-write the past to serve its purposes for the moment; that being done by both evil regimes, governments or dictatorships as well as personal evil presence and people. Those false memories have only as much power as we choose to give them.

And so it is, for this reason, that I am grateful for a faith rooted in the God of “new creation” [2 Corinthians 5:17], of redemption and forgiveness. The Christ, who brings hope and renewal. Yesterday cannot be relived but the influence and even catastrophic scars can be absorbed and although the past is not rewritten, it’s power can be mitigated and softened. We don’t need the details of back then. We need trust in what will be and can be.

We are given the gift of possibility through the redeeming work of Christ Jesus. This I believe.

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Art by Little-LadyBee

Art by Little-LadyBee

Reuben, eldest son of Jacob and Leah, has quite a sin in his past. There may be scholarly argument about it, but the NIV clearly states that Reuben slept with Bilhah, who was Rachel’s handmaid and concubine to Jacob and who bore two of the twelve tribal leaders of Israel (Jacob). What Reuben did was a slap in the face to his own father, and somehow, I think he intended it. For it was Reuben who also found the mandrakes for his mother (Leah) in hopes of helping her carve a more loving relationship with Jacob. It never happened. Reuben had some issues with his father.

And yet, it was also Reuben who tried to save his brother Joseph and his many-colored coat, despite his father’s favoritism.

When Reuben heard the plan, he tried to help Joseph.
Reuben: Let’s not kill him. We don’t need to shed any blood to be free of him. Let’s just toss him into some pit here in the wilderness. We don’t need to lay a hand on him.
Reuben thought perhaps he could secretly come back later and get Joseph out of the pit and take him home to their father before any more harm came to him.  The brothers agreed. [Genesis 32:21-22, The Voice]

Reuben had a bit of righteous indignation, whether toward his father, for the way he treated Leah or, in this case, about the impulsive decision of his brothers to kill Joseph. And yet, whether for good or for ill, Reuben was blinded by his own point of view.

This is a good warning for me. It’s a good warning for us all.

hero or villainWe have all sinned or made bad judgments/decisions along the way. That doesn’t mean we can’t choose rightly today or do a courageous and honorable thing. That thing in our past does work to keep us humble. And that’s not a bad thing really.

The hero act does not erase the past but it does give hope that we can change. All have a potential for good. But we must also take care how we view others: villain or hero?

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integrityEveryone around me appears so sure that the Bible is a clear exposition of right and wrong, but I say it is also full “gray areas.” Tamar, betrayed by her husband’s father and brothers, tricks the father into sleeping with her. She conceives a child by him and when she is found out is called a harlot until Judah fesses up to the deed. Then she is proclaimed righteous.

Genesis 38:25-26a
As she was being brought out [to be burned to death], she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I . . .

I understand the concept since the law of that era proclaimed that the brothers should sleep with the widow to procure children in the dead brother’s name and provide a future for the widow. Without sons to protect her, she would be cast out into the street. She would be homeless unless her own family would take her in. It was a complex solution to a societal problem — widows.

Tamar did not have many–or perhaps I should say ANY–resources to repair the damage done by Judah’s offspring. Those brothers intentionally withheld from her what she needed: the seed to create a man-child who would care for her in her old age. They, by not participating honestly in the practice, condemned her. For this, they were undoubtedly killed. They were violating basic human rights, and worse, female rights, of which there were few.

Judah withheld the third and youngest son for fear he would be killed, since he didn’t really know why, only that relations with Tamar brought death. Oh, he promised her the boy when he came of age, but it never happened.

So, Tamar pretends to be a temple prostitute.

In today’s world, this is just another soap opera or bodice ripper romance. This is the clever woman making the man own up to his responsibilities. All true. But in her world? She was taking a huge risk. All that Judah had to do, in the moment of reveal, was deny the “pledge” he gave her belonged to him. This was the same Judah, remember, who just participated in the sale of his brother Joseph.

Judah did the right thing, despite himself.

And this is the message for me then. I can always choose rightly today, even if I chose poorly yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. I can do a reversal. I can do the right thing.

In that act of bravery, God can show up. God can make the switch. God is in the now.

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hamsterPoor Esau. I mean it, really. Loses his birthright at the hands of his clever brother and then loses his blessing. In the natural order, he was “due” both of these things, and yet, at birth, it was prophesied while still in the womb that one would be stronger than the other and the older would serve the younger. Isaac’s blessing merely hammered that one home.

Genesis 27:34-35
When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

So, what is left for Esau? What blessing does he get? Nothing much to write home to Mom about: no fruitfulness from the earth, no dew from heaven, live by the sword and serve your brother.

Like a little hamster on a wheel, much energy with no reward. Esau’s fate was being put through a very narrow opening. He lost so much and did not realize the true seriousness of it until it was too late.

Am I the same? Haven’t there been warnings along the way? Didn’t I know my choices were taking me down the road? Didn’t I sense trouble? I did, but didn’t trust it. I just kept on. Forged ahead. Assumed it was fine. All would be well.

Of course, in some ways, that is true. God showed up and did some circumstantial transformation. But there was a great cost. There were many losses along the way. I didn’t come to the things of God until my late twenties, a failed marriage, a failed career, and an isolation that can be called loneliness in the midst of chaos.

We all make mistakes in those years, don’t we? If only, if only, we had paid attention. Esau didn’t. I didn’t. So, the end has come out better than I deserved. Truly. But I know, in my heart, I know, I missed the blessing originally intended for me. I neglected the opportunity.

But, the grace of God is still greater than my error. I have a life, a family, children, a house, a car, a job. I have a comfort that is beyond anything I expected or deserved. I see that clearly. But I still remember those other days, those days when I lost the blessing intended for me. Not by the deceit of another, but by my own near-sightedness.

Forgive me Father.

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Whatever God gives, it’s given on purpose: salvation, forgiveness, healing, anointing, power, revelation, and more. All of these gifts are given according to his understanding of what is needed, when and why. Our leap of faith is accepting the timing.

Ephesians 1:7-8
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

It’s a trust issue. Do I trust God to give me what I really need or am I always looking for God to give me what I want in the moment?

And why is it so hard for me to remember that what I already have was given in the same spirit? I was redeemed 32 years ago. I had an epiphany, a revelation of the Christ and the necessity for the veil to be taken down. I was offered a relationship with God that was unlike any other relationship I had or would ever have in this 3-D world. I was invited to partake of the universal “Body.”

I needed that moment back then. And now, along the way, oh God, help me to see the other moments. Help me to recognize the gifts you gave and to return thanks. Help me to appreciate this path instead of complaining about the conditions of the way. There are so many other ways things could have gone.

If I were totally surrendered to your wisdom and understanding, I would know true joy. I still can, right? The invitation has never been snatched away. Today is just another example of the story we are making of my life.

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How do we know? Isn’t it highly presumptuous to imagine I can actually know the deeper things of God? The answer: I can’t know, except in one regard, the mystery of a Redeemer given for humankind . . . given for me.

I Corinthians 2:10
” . . . but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”

So many mysteries in our world: some live while others die; some are weak while others are strong; some are rich while others are poor; and some are sensitized to the Spirit while others are not.

Why did it all make sense to me back in 1979? Why did words/ideas from the Bible suddenly jump out to me that day and speak to my inner being? I stepped over the line from unbelief to belief. At first it made no sense and the next day it did. My inner eye was opened. My mind was reset. My spirit found connection.

That place is the first step toward the deep things of God. That was my first mystery revealed. I couldn’t answer any of those other questions for anyone else. I only knew that moment was real for me. I encountered a real God: a real Spirit.

Where is reality? For my work, I just read a book that received the 2009 Printz Award for distinction in young adult literature called Going Bovine by Libba Bray. It’s not a particularly easy book to read nor is it particularly spiritual. But there is a current of thought through it about the world within. The boy is quite ill with Creuzfeld Jakob’s disease (Mad Cow disease) and is confined to a hospital bed and mostly unconscious. During that time, he lives through a great adventure, a quest. Was it real?

And so it is with the deep things of God. These things are also real and beyond our three dimensional understanding of time and space. We must let go to know. We must let go to live that bigger life within.

That which is redeemed is within.

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